Archive for December, 2011

I hope this time of year you look for ways  “Go Tell it on the Mountain” to your friends, neighbors during Christmas. That is, telling about the Good News of Christmas. I hope you don’t think that just wishing somebody “Merry Christmas” does that.

Christmas brings a natural opportunity to share with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and other people God has placed in our life about the true meaning of Christmas. All of us have folks around us that are not Christians or they are not following the Lord as they should. As a pastor I want to equip the people at my church with helpful ways to lovingly share this Good News.

One resource that I make available at our church and encourage people to use through a bulletin insert or handout are some strategic questions that Don Whitney gives us to help talk about Christmas with others. Check it out here:  “10 Questions to Ask at Christmas Gatherings.” The questions are:

1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
3. What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

Another more lengthy help is a book by Randy Newman called Bringing the Gospel Home. It is a book that is meant to be “a resource meant to equip Christians in how to talk about the gospel in their closest relationships” Crossway is making it available as a free download (in a variety of formats: PDF, Kindle, etc.) during the month of December. So if you can’t read it now go ahead and download it for later. Just reading in the opening of the book about the testimony of Randy’s Jewish mother coming to faith (in her 70s) in Christ as he shared with her for over twenty years will encourage you and remind you of the power of the Gospel to save.  The link is here:

http://www.crossway.org/blog/2011/12/free-download-bringing-the-gospel-home/

While I encourage you to download the book (it’s not only free, but very helpful), you can read quickly through upstate native’, David Mathis, summary to help you (he posted it close to Thanksgiving but the main focus is applicable at all times of the year).

I hope you will pray for those you know need salvation around you and look for opportunities to point them to Christ during this Christmas season. They greatest gift they could get is salvation, but “how will they believe, if they have not heard”. Wishing you a great Christmas and that these resources will help you “Go Tell it on the Mountain!”

originally posted  December 22, 2011 and edited December 20, 2012.

Tebow is a winner.

Posted: December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tim Tebow is a winner, plain and simple. Before the Tebow haters, in whatever capacity they come in, start firing away let me say I am talking primarily about what Tebow does off the field (though he does a lot of winning on the field). Whatever your feel about Tebow’s football skills or faith, we should all be able to agree, he is a winner (and not in the Charlie Sheen use of the term). How Tebow lives life off the field has shown he is a great role-model for us to hold up to our children in a society that lacks them (at least in pop-culture).

In the words of the Footloose soundtrack classic: “I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero… He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.” Meet a modern American “hero”: Tim Tebow. He is all of those things (in the lyrics listed previously) and more. In the football world, winning is everything (just review the recent NFL head coach firings to confirm this). Despite what the supposed “experts” thought and said he didn’t have the physical ability to do, Tim Tebow is doing just that: winning. Not only is he winning but he is doing it in the most dramatic of fashions: in come from behind 4th quarter (and overtime) wins.

(A brief  note to say this was written before the Broncos loss to the Patriots but my editorial staff failed to complete it in time to post on what I was originally calling: Tebow Thursday )

Many have written more articulately than I ever could about Tim Tebow’s faith and his football skills (the good, the bad, & the ugly).  Bob Costas waxed eloquent as only he can, local minister/sports talk radio host @TheRev78  echoed a sentiment I can agree with (the problem is with some over-the-top Tebow fans) and young theologians comment on if his wins are miraculous or not. All these are worth your time to read (especially if you are following Tebow mania). As a minister I may not agree on all things theologically with Tebow or at times his certain methodologies of proclaiming Christianity. But I certainly love his motivation, work ethic, and passion (for Jesus & football). I will leave arguing about his young on-field abilities to the “experts” (though they can’t deny this comparison to Elway).

I would like to just  briefly share why I think Tim Tebow is a great “hero” and role-model for our young people.

I love watching sports (before turning 35 I really enjoyed playing them), too much so at times in the past.  On one hand what basketball great Charles Barkely used to rant “I am no role-model” has much wisdom to it (yes Sir Charles, I agree that parents should raise their kids). On the other hand we live in a sports-crazed society and unfortunately sports becomes the primary place that the upcoming generation gets their heroes and role-models. Short and sweet: no matter what your faith or love of football, Tebow is a worthy contemporary role-model to hold up to our kids.

Let me backtrack and say to some of the nay-sayers out there that I am a father of  3 (1 boy & 2 girls that are aged 7,5, & 3.) young children with our 4th child (a boy) hopefully making his “out of the womb” debut before Christmas! I believe there are usually more worthy role-models and heroes to hold before our children. First should be our example as faithful parents. Next I believe committed teachers, law-enforcement officers, firemen, doctors, nurses, ministers, missionaries, and soldiers (this list is just for starters) all are the great role-models to hold up for our kids. These are people who make a lasting impact on our society and in our world that our kids can actually become. My 7-year-old daughter wants to become a librarian: she loves books, loves to learn, and has heard numerous stories from her granddad about her great-grandmother that was a librarian. We want to nurture that desire that is a worthy one.

I didn’t try to look up the stats but very few of our kids will grow up to become professional athletes. Another little nugget of wisdom from Charles Barkely was: “And what they’re really doing is telling kids to look up to someone they can’t become, because not many people can be like we are. Kids can’t be like Michael Jordan” I hinge to even use the word “hero” to describe most professional athletes because I believe it is a word that should be used of those showing incredible courage and often making the utmost sacrifice. But the reality is in our society professional athletes are put on a pedestal, whatever you call them:(hero, role-models, examples, etc.); and Tim Tebow is one to encourage your kids to emulate.

The primary reason I believe he’s a great role-model is how he lives his life off the field. These things don’t make the home page of major websites often. The first notion people think of when they think of Tim Tebow’s Christian faith is his newly famous “Tebowing,” giving praise to Jesus after a win, or Bible verses wrote on his eye black. While these various verbal expressions of his Christian faith begin to spread the message I think one of the most important expression of his Christian faith is how he is striving to live out his faith by putting it in action. James 2 in the New Testament of the Bible tells us:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible does teach we cannot earn salvation by our good works but if we have genuine faith then it will lead us to do these good works(see Ephesians 2:8-10).  I believe Tim Tebow is doing just that. His most notable effort is with his foundation that he started right out of college, the Tim Tebow Foundation, is partnering to build a children’s hospital in the Phillippines.

Just ask yourself, how many first round draft picks are doing this when before their professional career is starting? Not many. Tim Tebow has used the popularity he achieved from college and carried into the NFL (his Denver Broncos jersey quick rose to the number 1 selling). His popularity has now achieved an all-time high as he has captivated the nation in the Broncos 7-1 run. He is wisely and unselfishly using this for the maximum good. As Tebow continued with late game dramitical wins he led on the field, he led an effort off the field to try and raise the remaining the money he could to secure the financial support needed to complete the hospital.

Many will say well sure he can do that he is a multi-millionaire, but he started doing this when he was in college, his University of Florida coach, Urban Meyer said Tim was making “volunteering time and raising money for worthwhile causes fashionable on our campus.”

Looking beyond these great acts of service you see the character of young man that we should hope all our kids can be shaped by. The leading virtue that’s first noted by many, is his humility. We all know this is so rarely seen in sports, even in athletes that call themselves Christians. While the Bible gives is clear instruction and encouragement to be humble: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Any casual football observer knows it is not normal to see this kind of humility. In a helpful book for Christians that are sports enthusiasts, Don’t Waste Your Sports, C. J. Mahaney (And yes this came out before Tebow was the Broncos starter) lays out ways players can cultivate humility:

–         The humble athlete welcomes critique and correction from coaches and teammates. If we’re humble, we realize that we have weaknesses, so we welcome correction. If we’re humble, we know we need to improve, so we want others to show us where and how.

–         The humble athlete acknowledges the contribution of others. No athlete accomplishes anything alone.

–         The humble athlete is gracious in defeat and modest in victory. When the humble athlete loses, he recognizes that his opponents played better, and he sincerely congratulates them on their win. And when the humble athlete wins, there are no excessive celebrations, no inappropriate victory dances. He realizes that victory is a gift from God and is an opportunity to draw attention to God, not himself.

–      The humble athlete honors his coach. He doesn’t rip the coach in private, he doesn’t slouch when on the bench, he expresses gratitude and accepts the role the coach chooses for him.

–     The humble athlete gives glory for all his athletic accomplishment to God. He knows that all of his athletic skill is ultimately a gift from God.

No when you read this who does it make you think of? Tim Tebow, right.

Many of us are easy to think, is this guy the real deal? I have thought the same thing often: Sure in the press conferences he appears humble and God-focused but what about on the field against the opposition, in the huddle and sidelines with teammates, or off the field and away from the limelight. Many of us have had similar questions, but watch and listen to this from when he played Chicago and judge for yourself.

He is the real deal I’m told by my brother-in-law, Preston Mack, who has done 6 personal photo shoots with him said “he is easily the most polite and humble famous person that I have met.” That is saying a lot because I know that Preston is a photojournalist who has photographed political leaders , big name pop celebrities, and tons of major sports stars. You can read about his last interesting photo shoot with Tim Tebow and take a look at his website.

Preston Mack, who has been in the industry for close to 20 years, also commented that Tim is: “Always friendly and sincere. Not an act. As a journalist, I think that I am a fairly good read of people and their character. Nothing infuriates me more than a hypocrite –  a fake. I would have no problem telling people if Tebow’s act was a fraud. I don’t think it is. He is always polite, and he ALWAYS thanks the assistant on the shoot. No one else ever has thanked my assistant after a shoot! No one ever remembers to, but Tim always does.”

The guy is giving, humble, polite, and just all out nice! Famed sports columnist Peter King of Sports Illustrated says Tim Tebow is “the most polite interview in NFL history.” He interviewed Tebow following the comeback 2 weeks ago against the Vikings. King asked if there were any memorable quotes that stuck out after the game , Tebow mentioned that in a post-game interview he was able to mention about Blake Appleton, a child with cancer then he said “That’s what I’m proud of today,” Tebow closed his interview with King: “Have a good day, Mr. King. And God bless you.”

Tebow appears to be an athlete we can hold up to our kids with confidence (based on his past actions) as a role-model that he won’t let us down in a major way off the field.  Do I need to even go in to detail about current football players that have done the opposite of this:

  •     Ray Lewis actions at Super Bowl XXXIV   .
  •      Ben Rothesburger’s dangerous attraction to much younger ladies (not to mention motocycle safety).the list could go on from how players can’t behave at parties (Julian Edelman), forget and bring their guns to night clubs (Plaxico Burress), or those who, shall we say can’t own pets anymore (Michael Vick).

We won’t even go into past athletes (O.J. Simpson). With Tim Tebow we have a sports hero that as parents we are hopeful that we will not have to make a difficult explanation about a huge scandal (Tiger Woods, Koby Bryant, etc.) rather criminal, immoral, or absolutely horrible (Penn State). I grew up like many kids:

  • giving a 10-second count down in my backyard basketball goalwhile I scored the game winning 3-pointer for the championship (pretending I was Dominque Wilkins, Larry Bird, or Air Jordan)
  • making a game-winning homerun for my Braves (we never imagined winning championships in those 100 loss years) being Dale Murphy, throwing a game winning strike-out as Pascual Pérez , or making the game-saving catch like Otis Nixon (and yes, this is one of the greatest catches EVER).

Now two of those last three Braves players had horrible off-field trouble, one was and is a great role-model, Dale Murphy(who should be in the Hall of Fame). And sources say Otis has cleaned up his act and trying to steer young people clear of the addictions he battled. I want my kids to have those same imaginary MVP moments in the backyard. I would love for them to imitate a player that has great ability off the field as well as on. Certainly in the midst of this Tebow mania more could be shared and I am sure more will but let me close with what 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

While Tim Tebow keeps trying to do this I hope his life will encourage and challenge us all to live our lives that way.