Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tim Tebow: Creative, Consistent and Prepared

Tim Tebow is the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback of the Florida Gators. He is the son of missionaries and he’s an outspoken advocate of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Having led Florida to two national championships in three years and having won most of the awards that college football can bestow, Tebow considers all the success but a platform that God has given him so that he can tell others about the good news regarding Jesus.

In last year’s championship game Tebow inscribed the most known Bible verse, John 3:16, on the black under-eye marking that most quarterbacks wear, in order to draw attention to God’s saving work in Christ. Remarkably Google registered over 94 million hits on that verse following the game. Guess it wasn’t that well known but it illustrates the creativity of Tebow to get his message out.

Recently Sports Illustrated featured Tebow and reported about the work that he has done in ministry not only in other countries but especially in the prisons across Florida. These stories are not exceptional for Tebow but rather the consistent carrying out of his life mission across the years.

The Orlando Sentinel covered a recent press conference where Tebow was asked if he was saving himself for marriage. Apparently Tebow knew that question would be asked some day so without hesitation he answered yes. The reporter was so stunned by the quick and decisive response that he began stuttering in attempting his follow up question. Tebow laughed that he was prepared for the question but apparently the media was not prepared for his answer.

Tim Tebow is young, talented, winsome and especially clear about who he is and where he is going. Football is not his life. Fame is not his essence. Jesus Christ is Tebow’s Lord and therefore Tebow rightly orders his life around the call of God.

I enjoy watching Tebow play football and I marvel at how well he handles being a celebrity. I pray for God’s continued favor and might upon Tebow’s life and that many would find and follow Christ because of Tim’s witness.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God Is On the Move

Those of us that live in the US often forget that we’re not the epicenter of God’s activity in the world. In fact according to recent research I found at it is now the case that Christianity is no longer primarily found in the global north and west but rather in the global south and east.

In the newly released book, “The New Shape of World Christianity” by Mark Noll, he points out that as our nation collectively turns its back on God, God begins fresh work in other parts of the world. Consider the following from Noll’s research—

1. This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called "Christian Europe." Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China; only in 1971 did the communist regime allow for one Protestant and one Roman Catholic Church to hold public worship services, and this was mostly a concession to visiting Europeans and African students from Tanzania and Zambia.

2. This past Sunday more Anglicans attended church in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda than did Anglicans in Britain and Canada and Episcopalians in the United States combined--and the number of Anglicans in church in Nigeria was several times the number in those other African countries.

3. This past Sunday more Presbyterians were at church in Ghana than in Scotland, and more were in congregations of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa than in the United States.

4. The past Sunday more people attended the Yoido Full Gospel Church pastored by Yongi Cho is Seoul, Korea, than attended all the churches in significant American denominations like the Christian Reformed Church, the Evangelical Covenant Church or the Presbyterian Church in America.

5. This past Sunday the churches with the largest attendance in England and France had mostly black congregations. About half of the churchgoers in London were African or African-Caribbean. Today, the largest Christian congregation in Europe is in Kiev, and it is pastored by a Nigerian of Pentecostal background.

6. This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.

7. For several years the world's largest chapter of the Jesuit order has been found in India, not in the United States, as it had been for much of the late twentieth century.

These observations are cause for celebration as God draws the nations to Himself and cause for concern as the US continues to drift from our moorings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing My "Last Letter"

A few days ago I was asked to write my “last letter”. Last letter is a movement that is calling for a revolutionary lifestyle inspired by individuals willing to offer every breath to fulfill the passionate call of Christ.

The movement has the gall to ask, “What are you willing to die for?”

Historically it is an ancient tradition of soldiers and missionaries who as they board a ship, write their family and friends a letter that they think might be their final communication! The resurrection of this ancient tradition is to inspire a new generation to think and pray through the reason for their life—and possibly the sacrifice of their life for a cause greater than themselves.

A few of us that have given our life to Christ in ministry and mission were asked to write our “last letter” with the idea that it might stir or inspire others. I have no idea if my letter will ever mean anything to anyone but I know it meant a lot to me.

The moment I sat at my keyboard and began thinking about what to say, all that was in me was stirred. It was powerful to be reminded about the millions of choices I have made over the past 35 years in order to continue to give my life away. And, it was deeply satisfying to know with all my heart that if I had it to do over again I would without hesitation.

If you had 5 minutes in which to write a final word to those you love, what would you say about how you chose to live your life?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Church, Concentration and Relevance

The past month I’ve been teaching on Sundays the Doctrine of the Church. (Click here for audio links). In my reading and reflections I’ve come across a great deal of commentary from those disgruntled with the church and have chosen to leave the church.

There are a lot of reasons for church leaving but one of the common themes has something to do with “church is boring and irrelevant”.

Ted Kluck responds to that cry in his book, “Why We Love the Church”. Ted points out…

“Relevance isn’t a posture you affect that has more to do with lights, music, candles, mystery, or space than with the gospel. Church, to us, should be as relevant as the gym is to the boxer…We wouldn’t go into a fight without training.

A few summers ago I trained as a boxer, mostly so that I could experience what the fighters experienced who I interviewed for my first book, Facing Tyson. I had never concentrated harder in my life than when I was in the ring, alone, with another guy who wanted nothing more than to knock me unconscious…

Church is boring because we neuter it of its importance.” (p. 104)

When church is a place of training my life for fighting evil, the evil one and the sin within me I also find it takes concentration and whole-hearted engagement. If it is not that important to my daily battles then it does become boring.

I suggest the question is not, “Is my church relevant?” but rather, “Is my life fighting the good fight?” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Economic Storm is Worsening

This morning I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by a couple of state legislators who serve on economic related committees. The preview of coming attractions was very dire. Everyone is aware of how busted the state of California is. Apparently Oregon is not far behind and Washington may be bringing up the West coast rear.

Spending for transportation projects (just to name one) and projected revenues to cover the costs don’t match up for the next 5 years. What’s more, other states are seriously courting our major industries with lucrative incentives which further threaten revenues. We are already aware of the losses we’ve incurred on property values and retirement plans and the rise in unemployment. It’s going to get worse.

While listening to the presentation and feeling the mood of the room getting darker and angrier I was immediately transported in thought to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sound bizarre?

In the moment I was grateful that I have not founded my life on my income, economic worth or possessions. Though these things are important they are not my foundation. Therefore if they collapse I don’t. I’ll feel the impact and have more life challenge but I founded my life a long time ago on a relationship with Jesus Christ and He’s not in a crisis or in danger of collapse.

I want our representatives to work and figure out sound solutions to our collective economic challenges. Given the politics of the day I have little confidence that different interest groups will actually put the good of the people before their interests. Nevertheless, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (old hymn).

I can hear how foolish I sound. It is the kind of foolishness the apostle Paul declared was in fact the wisdom of God. (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25)