Would you pay the bills of the man trying to sue you?

Love this!! -Matt
Atheist Shocked When Church Helped With Bills.
ATHENS, Texas (BP) — The man who threatened to sue a Texas county for placing a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn has had a shift in perspective, dropped the lawsuit and now plans to move to the county with his wife and cat.

Patrick Greene, an atheist, said he was shocked when a church began raising money to help battle a detaching retina. Greene previously had fought to have a nativity scene removed from a courthouse lawn. Photo is courtesy of the Athens Daily Review.
Patrick Greene, an atheist cab driver from San Antonio, had said he found the placement of the nativity unconstitutional and intended to use the legal system to force a judge to order its removal — that is, until he began losing his vision because of a detaching retina.

With surgery on the horizon, no health insurance and a job that he could no longer maintain with his deteriorating eyesight, Greene realized he needed to focus his energies and finances on life’s necessities, leading him to withdraw his lawsuit.

When Jessica Crye, a member of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens, Texas, found out, she called her pastor, Erick Graham, to see if he had heard the news — not only about the dropped suit but about Greene’s health. Crye asked Graham if their church could help him. Graham’s answer was simple.

“Sure we can help him,” Graham told her.

Graham said he didn’t need to take time to pray about the matter or to mull it over because Christ had already provided an answer.

“We don’t need to pray about it,” Graham said. “We’ve already been given the command to do it.”

Crye began to organize an effort to send support to the Greenes, and Graham explained to the church that they had an opportunity to show Greene the love of Christ.

Greene did not accept the offer of the church to pay for his eye surgery, but eventually agreed to let the church help him with bills and rent, which were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain with medical costs stacking up and no job to bring in income.

Greene said when he agreed, he and his wife never thought the church would actually follow through and send money.

“My wife said, ‘We’ll never see that,'” Greene said. “Two days later, a check for $400 came in the mail. We are totally flabbergasted.”

Donations have not ended there, though.

“The money continues to come in for him as it’s been made more public,” Graham said, explaining that Greene then asked them not to send any more. “But I can’t keep the people from giving. The money keeps coming and it’s not ours to hold onto.”

In the meantime, Greene has changed his mind about accepting help in funding his eye surgery, saying the Christians from Athens have worn down his resistance to outside help. He even set up a website http://gofundme.com/i5htw) to receive donations, publicly thanking Graham, Crye, and the Sands Springs church family.

Greene said in his entire life, he never has had a Christian treat him the way the Christians in Athens treated him. (Athens is the county seat.) The so-called Christians that Greene had encountered had refused to pay their fare in his cab because they did not want their money going to the “devil.” They also had also refused to lease him apartments because of his disbelief in God. But they had never loved him, he said.

“No Christian at all that we’ve ever met in our lives, had ever been nice to us,” Greene said. “No Christian has ever done anything for us. Our own families have totally forgotten our existence, and strangers — Christians and atheists all around the country — are helping us. One of the things Jesus said to was love your neighbor as yourself. These people are acting like real Christians.”

Greene said he and his wife have received enough money to get caught up on rent, bills and taxes and that the surprise of the Christians’ generosity and selflessness has not worn off.

“We are literally still in a state of shock,” Greene said. “I feel like we’re in the Twilight Zone.”

Shock or not, though, the Greenes are moving forward, with plans to make Athens their permanent home with the help of Sand Springs Baptist Church and others who have heard about Greene’s story and wanted to help. In Athens, where the cost of living is lower than in San Antonio, the couple has found an apartment within walking distance to Walmart, meaning they will not need to drive anywhere to get their groceries.

Greene said when he gets to Athens, he plans to become friends with the very people he once fought against.

“I’ve already invited [Jessica] and her family to dinner,” Greene said. “I want to get together with everybody. We are not isolated anymore.”

Though Greene has not changed his beliefs, Crye said Greene told her he would come to some of her church’s services when he and his wife move to town.

So taken by the generosity was Greene and his wife that they purchased and gave a star to Henderson County for the very nativity scene they sought to remove.

The Greenes said they expected the Christians only to help them if and when they decided to convert to Christianity and were surprised by their unconditional gifts. Crye said Jesus has called Christians to love not just their neighbors but also their enemies — and to love both without condition.

“That’s what God called us to do,” Crye said. “It’s very against our nature to one, love people, and two, to love them unconditionally. If we’re not, the world is not seeing what Jesus is like. They’re seeing that view that Patrick has always seen.”
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Sharayah Colter is correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, online at http://www.texasonline.net.

Do We Really Love People Who Aren’t Christians?

I saw this post by John Acuff and had to share it with you.

“Dad, stand up so everyone can see what I’m going to look like in 20 years.”

That’s how I introduced my dad during the devotional meeting at work. And it’s true. I’m going to look like him, which means I’ll look like Anderson Cooper or Steve Martin. Those are the two people folks always think my dad looks like. (At Lowe’s one day someone approached my dad nervously, because they thought he was Anderson Cooper, and if he was in town a natural disaster must be about to hit the area.)

After, what I think was a pretty awesome introduction by me, my dad and I got to hear a guy named Al Andrews talk about dreams.

Al wrote an amazing children’s book called The Boy, The Kite and The Wind. In his speech, he said, “A dream never makes sense. We’re supposed to have crazy dreams. If what you dream is fairly possible, it’s probably not the dream you’re supposed to have.”

It was a really inspiring/convicting message. My dad and I talked about it in the car later that day, and here is what he said:

“I think my dream is to get Christians to love non-Christians.”

My first thought was, “That’s kind of silly. I’m great at that. That’s not a dream. We already do love non-Christians!” But then my dad continued to share his idea.

“We think we do. We think we’re doing a good job at that, but how do you really show someone love? You spend time with them. You stand with them. You be with them. I think that’s a big part of what love looks like.”

And suddenly, I could no longer judge the validity of my dad’s dream. The truth is, by that definition, I don’t love non-Christians.

I started to look at my life and realized I don’t spend a lot of time with people who aren’t Christians.

I work with Christians.

I live in a neighborhood that is largely Christian.

I go to church with Christians.

I go to dinner with people from church.

I go to breakfast with Christians.

Save for the person who cuts my hair, I was shocked at how insulated I had become from the world. If spending time with non-Christians is one of the signs you love them, then I’m not doing a very good job with love.

Now the easy response to this is “Yeah, but you live in the south. It’s different where I live.”

And maybe it is. The south is considered the “Bible Belt” after all. But even when I lived in Massachusetts, I didn’t live my life that differently. I worked with a lot more people who weren’t Christians, but I don’t necessarily know that I spent time with them. I tended to be the kind of Christian who liked to pray for far off people in far off lands, to say “God, give me a mission field! Give me people to reach!” And then I would sit down in my cubicle completely blind to the reality that God had already given me people to reach.

There was a building full of them. They were my coworkers. But it’s easier to pray for fictional people or the people you meet on a one-week mission trip than it is to pray for the messy, 3D people you work with.

What’s the fix? What’s the solution? To tell you the truth, I don’t know yet. This is a fresh thought that is unresolved. But someone did tell me a story that I thought was pretty interesting in the context of this challenge.

My friend knew a father who wanted to reach his local community. He wanted to step out of his Christian circle and spend time with non-Christians. We often think that’s complicated or difficult, but he found a really easy way to do it.

Every Monday night he and his son, who had graduated from college, went to a local pub in their neighborhood. For three hours, every week, they sat in the same spot. Week after week, month after month, they sat and talked. My friend went with them one night and said it was amazing. In three hours, dozens of people at this local bar came and sat with them. They talked, they shared, they listened, and they became friends. Weddings, funerals, unemployment, all stages of life passed through that small booth, and slowly but surely everyone there learned that these two guys wanted to spend time with them.

When the son later graduated from grad school, the guys at the bar threw him a party. They had become family. Why?

Time = love.

It’s a pretty simple equation, and it’s one we see Jesus live out in the Bible. I’ve written about that before. Jesus was a pretty ineffective communicator by our modern standards. He could have been speaking to thousands of people on hilltops every night. Instead, he “wasted time” on slow, long dinners with a handful of people everyone looked at as sinners. Why? Because time = love. And Jesus knew how to love people.

Question:
How much time do you spend with people who aren’t Christians?

Good stuff.
Serving Alongside,
Matt

Lessons Learned from a Texas Ranger.

Saw this article awhile back. Thought there were some good lessons to be learned. Life is a learning process…
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was seen drinking in a Dallas area bar Monday evening, according to reports dominating the local news this morning. Teammate Ian Kinsler came to the pub to persuade Hamilton to return to his home. The Rangers said they are aware of a “situation,” but have not commented further. This was Hamilton’s second alcohol-related relapse in three years.
Drug and alcohol abuse led to his suspension by baseball for the 2003-05 seasons. Hamilton has credited his conversion to Christianity as the reason for his sobriety and resulting success on the field. He is a four-time All Star and was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2010.
Skeptics will undoubtedly cite Hamilton’s recent relapse as evidence that faith is inadequate or irrelevant to life’s greatest challenges. Here’s my question: where would he be without his relationship with Jesus? According to Hamilton, he’d not only be out of baseball–he might be dead. After he relapsed in 2009, he formed an accountability teamthat became a model for other athletes. Now God wants to redeem this week’s setback for good as well.
What can we learn from Hamilton’s relapse?
Lesson #1:
Any of us can fall. Hebrews 12 speaks of “the sin that so easily entangles” (v. 1)–Puritans called this our “besetting sin.” Most of us struggle with a particular temptation that is more difficult for us to resist than other sins. Yours may not be mine, but mine may not be yours. I am not tempted by alcohol, but Josh Hamilton is likely not susceptible to some of the temptations I face.
Lesson #2:
We must remain vigilant. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urged his disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). His command could be paraphrased, “Continually stay alert to temptation and pray the moment it appears lest you fall into it.”
Satan knows and employs those temptations we cannot defeat in our strength, so the moment you face his attack, admit that you need your Father’s help. Erasmus, the 16th century scholar, encouraged us to develop the habit of turning every temptation into prayer. Nothing vexes the enemy more, he said, than when his evil strategies are used for good.
Lesson #3:
We should pray for Josh Hamilton. Oswald Chambers was right: “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.” I’m praying for the Hamilton family this morning, asking God to redeem this setback for his glory and their good. And I will “watch and pray” today, lest I fall into my besetting sins as well.
Will you join me?

–Jim Denison is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

Is There Really One True Religion?

It’s a question that is often asked. How can we know that what we believe is really the “right” way? And, too, if all religions lead to the same God, why do we not all even believe that we are all heading to the same place in the end? And have you noticed that most religions, not just Christianity, are pretty “exclusive?” We talked about these questions and more at The Fellowship this past Sunday.

Click here to see what we learned. The law of Non-Contradiction, Hindus, Buddhists, Islam and more. We touched on quite a bit.

This coming Sunday, join us for Vision Weekend. We’ll be looking deeper into the exciting days ahead for The Fellowship.

Worship starts at 10:45am. See you there! For more information, check out our website www.thefellowship.cc.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

The One Thing We Can’t Talk About…

Here’s a great word on sharing about the one thing that matters. Saw this and wanted to share it with you…

The One Thing We Can’t Talk About
His name was Ed and he liked to talk.

The administrator down the hall was one of those guys. He had a story for every situation. He’d been everywhere. He’d done everything. Ed had driven trucks for 12 years. He ran a pool hall for six years. He served as a hunting outfitter for four years and had been in
his current job for 21 years. When I did the math, he was well north of 80 years old — but I never challenged him on it. No need to ruin a good story.

One day I was having coffee with him and I mentioned that my Life Group at church was talking through some interesting discoveries, that the cosmos and the world around us suddenly weren’t so small. He put up a hand to my face. “Not gonna go there,” he said sternly. “Can’t be talking about that stuff.”

Here’s a man that talk about just about anything and anyone, but he simply was afraid to walk down the path that a simple conversation about God might take him.

This scene is often replicated in today’s society in one way or another. We can talk about our kids, our grand kids, our parents and our weird Uncle Al, but we can’t talk about the Father. We can talk about history, places we’ve been been and plans for the weekend, but we can’t talk about eternity. We can talk about what we think about politics, the workplace and the community, but we can’t talk about the King.

Today’s Christians are in a quandary. We know the divine imperative to live out our faith and we understand that living out our faith involves talking about our faith. Hiding who we are goes against our calling. So, just what are we supposed to do?

Many of us try to walk the middle ground by dropping non caustic code words like “higher power” and “faith.” We display cozy spiritual things on our desks like rainbows and angels. But they fall short because they don’t do a thing to help improve the human condition of those around us. Eventually, we have to talk about it.

Even though Ed didn’t to talk about it then, eventually he did.
You can’t keep a good story to yourself.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

Are Churches Really Failing?

I saw this article and thought I’d share it with you. Let me know what you think.

Study Says God-Connections at Church are “Rare”
Are churches failing, or are our expectations too high?
by Skye Jethani

Let’s be honest for a minute. Most churches expend the vast majority of their resources on weekend worship gatherings. It’s when facilities are most utilized, when programming is most robust, when volunteers are most required, and what many pastors spend the majority of their time preparing for. This great emphasis on Sunday is often justified because it’s when people gather to meet with God.
But new research released this week from Barna reveals that most churchgoers rarely experience God in worship services. While most people surveyed can recall a “real and personal connection” with God while at church (66%), they also reported that these connections are “rare.” Among those who attend church every week, less than half (44%) say they experience God’s presence. And one-third of those who have attended church report never feeling God’s presence in a worship gathering.

But “experiencing God” is a wishy-washy, emotional, and subjective idea, you might argue. We’re in the business of transforming lives. Well, the Barna study has a dose of reality for you too.

The survey also probed the degree to which people say their lives had been changed by attending church. Overall, one-quarter of Americans (26%) who had been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another one-fourth (25%) described it as “somewhat” influential. Nearly half said their life had not changed at all as a result of churchgoing (46%).
A closer look at the breakdown of the survey participants is also illuminating. Generally, the older generations (Elders and Boomers) reported more positive church experiences than younger generations (Busters and Mosaics). The report says “There were significant gaps between young adults and older adults when it came to feeling part of a group that cares for each other, experiencing God’s presence, knowing the church prioritizes assisting the poor, and being personally transformed.”

What should we conclude from this report from Barna? That is going to depend upon your own setting and congregation. But here are a few of my wonderings:

-Many (perhaps most) churches still have structures/values that appeal to those 50+. Despite all of the rhetoric since the 90s about “emerging generations” and new models of church, there is little evidence it has been implemented broadly or effective.

-Is the problem really our worship services, or what we expect from them? Some might look at these numbers and respond by updating their music selection, adding some icons or candles, and getting younger leaders up front. And that might be wise. But I wonder if most people aren’t “experiencing God” in these gatherings because they aren’t experiencing God Monday through Saturday either. Perhaps we (church leaders) have over-emphasized worship gatherings because they are something we can control, when we ought to be training people to commune with God apart from formal services.

-Finally, a friend of mine has vented in the past about all of the “transforming lives” talk that permeates ministry gatherings these days. “Transformation isn’t our job,” he rants, “it’s God’s! All we can do is lead people to him.” Granted, my friend is highly Reformed, but he has a point. Might it be time to consider what Paul said about ministry in 1 Corinthians 3? Some plant the seeds, others water it, but ultimately it is God who causes the growth. I don’t believe we should ignore outcomes or allow lazy, ineffectual discipleship to take root in our churches. But we must also admit that life transformation is more mysterious, more God-driven, than making widgets in a factory.

I welcome your responses to the Barna study.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

You Asked!

This week at the Fellowship we started a new series based entirely on your questions, called Your Questions Answered. 

We kicked it off yesterday talking about why there is pain and suffering in the world.
Check out what we discovered [here].

So what are your questions? What questions do you have about life, God, the Bible? Let us know. And come join us this Sunday at The Fellowship.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

 

What are Your Expectations for 2012?

Here we are in 2012 and I hope you are entering this new year with high expectations of what God can do in you and through you. Here is a great list of ways to be engaged and growing in 2012:

1. Be in God’s Word.
Plain and simple, apart from this you cannot grow. Pick a great reading plan, many are available online for free (YouVersion.com and the YouVersion app are great tools for this) and stick to it!

2. Join a Life Group.
At The Fellowship, LIFEgroups are where relationships are formed and connection really takes place. To really feel a part of this body, you need to be in a small group!

3. Find a Ministry.
Use the Spiritual gifts that God has given you to help build His church and to fulfill His plan for your life. We want every Ministry Partner (member) at The Fellowship to serve. Get out of the stands and into the game!

4. Come to Church.
Lets be honest, if you’re not here, its easy to drift away from God. Attendance isn’t about being legalistic (e.g., if you don’t go to church you will go to hell!), it’s about growing and being a part of the body. We become better and stronger when we’re together. We are encouraged and re-energized when we worship together.

This list of course isn’t exhaustive, but it will go a long way toward helping us accomplish our goals of becoming more like Christ in 2012.

Serving Alongside,

Matt

Tim Tebow: Driving People Crazy!

This is a great article on Tim Tebow and why he drives some people crazy!
If you’ve lost interest in thinking about Tim Tebow, don’t read the rest of this article. It will only make YOU crazy.

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I’ve just watched the Denver Broncos defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 35-32. Tebow was awful in the first half, passing for just 13 yards. He was quite good in the second half, finishing 10-of-15 for the game and completing three passes of more than 20 yards, a minor achievement he hadn’t accomplished all year. The Broncos won by intercepting a pass in the final minute and kicking an easy field goal, so it would be misleading and reactionary and inaccurate to say that Tebow won them the game. But Tebow won them the game.

When the score was deadlocked at 32 and the Broncos were kicking off with 1:33 remaining, FOX idiotically broke away from the tie in Minneapolis to show us the opening kickoff of the Giants-Packers game. Since I couldn’t see what was transpiring in Minnesota, I just had to sit in my chair and wonder what would happen next. Did I believe Denver would win? I shouldn’t have. Minnesota was getting the ball with multiple timeouts. It’d been the better team for most of the afternoon. Chris Ponder had outplayed Tebow, and the best athlete on the field was Percy Harvin. The worst-case scenario for the Vikings should have been heading into overtime with a home-field advantage. Yet I believed Denver would win.

My reasoning?

I had no reasoning. And I did not like how that felt, even though I’m trying to convince myself that it felt good.

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Imagine that you’re a detective, assigned to investigate a murder in a community of 1,000 people. There’s no established motive for this crime, and no one saw it happen. By the time you arrive, the body has already been cremated. There are no clues. There is no forensic evidence. You can’t find anything that sheds any light whatsoever on who committed this murder. But because there are only 1,000 people in town, you have the opportunity to interview everyone who lives there. And that process generates a bizarre consensus: Almost 800 of the 1,000 citizens believe the murderer is a local man named Timothy.

Over and over again, you hear different versions of the same sentiment: “Timothy did it.” No one saw him do it, and no one can provide a framework for how he might have been successful. But 784 people are certain it was Timothy. A few interviewees provide sophisticated, nuanced theories as to why they’re so convinced of his guilt. Others simply say, “I can just tell it was him. I know it.” Most testimonies fall somewhere in between those extremes, but no one has any tangible proof. You knock on Timothy’s door and ask if you can talk to him about the crime. He agrees. He does not seem nervous or distraught. You ask what he was doing the evening of the murder. He says, “I was reading a book and watching a movie.” He shows you the book. You check the TV listings from the night of the murder, and the film he referenced had aired on television. You say, “Many people in this town think you are responsible for the killing.” Timothy says, “I have no idea why they would think that.” You ask if he knew the man who died. “Yes,” he replies. “I know everyone in town.” You ask if he disliked the victim. “I didn’t like him or dislike him,” he says. “I knew him. That was the extent of our relationship.”

After six months of investigating, you return to your home office. Your supervisor asks what you unearthed. “Nothing,” you say. “I have no evidence of anything. I did not find a single clue.” The supervisor is flummoxed. He asks, “Well, do you have any leads?” You say, “Sort of. For reasons I cannot comprehend, 784 of the citizens believe the killer is a man named Timothy. But that’s all they have — theirbelief that Timothy is guilty.”

“That seems meaningful,” says your supervisor. “In the face of no evidence, the fact that 78.4 percent of the town strongly believes something seems like our best case. We can’t arrest him, but we can’t ignore that level of accord. It’s beyond a coincidence. Let’s keep the case open. I feel like we should continue investigating this Timothy fellow, even if our only reason for suspicion is the suspicion of other people.”

Do you agree with your supervisor’s argument?

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A survey by the Pew Forum on religious and public life suggests the 78.4 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.

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I’m not interested in forwarding a pro-Tebow or anti-Tebow argument. I have my own feelings, but I don’t think they’re particularly relevant. What I’m interested in is why he’s so fascinating to other people. I’ve spent the past two months traveling around the country, and Tebow was the only person I was asked about in every single city. I even had one debate over whether or not the degree to which Tebow is socially polarizing has been overrated by the media, a debate whose very existence seems to provide its own answer. I feel compelled to write about him, even while recognizing that too much has been written already.

The nature of sports lends itself to the polarization of celebrity athletes. But this case is unlike any other I can remember. In 1996, when Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to face the flag during the national anthem, it was easy to understand why certain people were outraged (and why others saw that outrage as hypocritical). It was predictably polarizing. There are certain (crazy) things about human nature that everyone accepts, and Abdul-Rauf’s controversy fit into that understanding. But this “Tebow Thing” is different. On one pole, you have people who hate him because he’s too much of an in-your-face good person, which makes very little sense; at the other pole, you have people who love him because he succeeds at his job while being uniquely unskilled at its traditional requirements, which seems almost as weird. Equally bizarre is the way both groups perceive themselves as the oppressed minority who are fighting against dominant public opinion, although I suppose that has become the way most Americans go through life.

This, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb).
Obviously, religion plays a role in this (we live in a Christian nation, Tebow is a Christian warrior, non-Christians see themselves as ostracized, and Christians see themselves as eternally persecuted). But the real reason this “Tebow Thing” feels new is because it’s a God issue that transcends God, assuming it’s possible for any issue to transcend what’s already transcendent. I’m starting to think it has something to do with the natural human discomfort with faith — and not just faith in Christ, but faith in anything that might (eventually) make us look ridiculous.

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Just because a bunch of people believe something does not make it true. This is obvious, even to a child. People once thought the earth was flat.1 But here’s a more complex scenario: If you were living in Greece during the sixth century, and there was no way to deduce what the true shape of the earth was, and there was no way to validate or contradict the preexisting, relatively universal belief that the world was shaped like a flat disc … wouldn’t disagreeing with that theory be less reasonable than accepting it? And if so, wouldn’t that mean the only sixth-century people who were ultimately correct about world geography were unreasonable and insane?

Trust the insane!

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Tebow is a faithful person. He’s full of faith — filled to the top and oozing over the side. It’s central to every part of him. When someone suggested that he mentions God too frequently (and that this repetition is what annoys his critics), Tebow said, “If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only tell your wife that you love her on the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is probably the smartest retort I’ve ever heard an athlete give to a theological question. What possible follow-up could the reporter have asked that would not have seemedanti-wife?

And this, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb). My guess is that Ryan Fitzpatrick or Aaron Rodgers would blow him away on the GRE, but Tebow has profound social intelligence, at least when he speaks in public. It’s not that he usually says the right things; he only says the right things, all the time. As a result, he fuels a quasi-tautological reality that makes his supporters ecstatic, even if they don’t accept it as wholly valid. This reality is as follows:

1. Tebow is a good person who loves God.
2. Tebow throws many incompletions and makes curious, unorthodox decisions.
3. The Broncos’ defense keeps every game tight. Underrated RB Willis McGahee eats the clock.
4. The Broncos inevitably win in the closing minutes.
5. Tebow humbly thanks God for this achievement (and for all achievements), thereby crediting God for what just happened (and for what happens to everyone on earth).
6. Tebow connects God to life.
7. Tebow is a good person who loves God.
I doubt many Christians believe that God is unfairly helping Tebow win games in the AFC West. I’m sure a few hardcores might, but not many. However, I get the impression that especially antagonistic secularists assume this assumption infiltrates every aspect of Tebow’s celebrity, and that explains why he’s so beloved by strangers they cannot relate to. Their negative belief is that penitent, conservative Americans look at Tebow and see a man being “rewarded” for his faith, which validates the idea that believing in something abstract is more important than understanding something real. And this makes them worried about the future, because they see that thinking everywhere. It seems like the thinking that ran this country into the ground.

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It’s difficult to take an “anti-faith” position. There’s no pejorative connotation of the word faithful. The only time “faith” seems negative is when it’s prefaced by the word “blind.” But blind faith is the only kind of faith there is. In order for someone’s faith to be meaningful, it has to be blind. Anyone can believe a hard fact that everyone already accepts. That’s easy. If you can see something, you don’t need faith. Faith in the seeable is meaningless. But meaningful faith is dangerous. It simplifies things that aren’t simple. Throughout the 20th century, there were only two presidents who won reelection with a bad economy and high unemployment: FDR in 1936 and Reagan in 1984. In both cases, the incumbent presidents were able to argue that their preexisting plans for jump-starting the economy were better than the hypothetical plans of their opponents (Alf Landon and Walter Mondale, respectively). Both incumbents made a better case for what they intended to do, and both enjoyed decisive victories. In 2012, Barack Obama will face a similar situation. But what will happen if his ultimate opponent provides no plan for him to refute? What if his opponent merely says, “Have faith in me. Have faith that I will figure everything out and that I can fix the economy, because I have faith in the American people. Together, we have faith in each other.”

How do you refute the non-argument of meaningful faith?

You (usually) don’t. You (usually) lose.

Since Tebow was installed as the Broncos’ starter, they are 6-1.

Trust the insane?

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The toughest quarterback in the NFL is Ben Roethlisberger. He’s not the best, but he’s the toughest. He stands in the pocket longer, absorbs more punishment, exhibits a higher threshold for pain, and plays his best in the clutch. Roethlisberger is also, by all credible accounts, either a jerk or a “former jerk.” At best, he has a highly checkered past and an unsympathetic persona. He’s the least popular player in the league who hasn’t slept on a prison cot.

It’s difficult to separate those qualities. “Toughness” and “meanness” are always intertwined, often coalescing into “grit.” When I think about my own life, the toughest people I’ve known have (often) been bad, bad citizens. Would you rather fight two super-nice guys simultaneously, or one solitary, diabolical reprobate? It’s not a difficult question. So when I see Roethlisberger unfazed by a busted nose or a broken foot, it makes sense to me. He seems like the kind of semi-terrible person who is flat-out harder than those around him.

But try to imagine Tebow as a jerk. Let’s say his performance on the field was unchanged, but his off-the-field personality was totally different. Let’s say he was alleged to have sexually assaulted a few coeds and electrocuted a few dogs and fired an unlicensed handgun in a nightclub. If all this were true, he would not be polarizing; he would just be unpopular, particularly with the people who currently adore him. Sales of his jerseys would fall through the floor. But what would happen after he guts out an ugly 17-13 win against the Jets? What would be the perception? The perception would be that his victory was due to histoughness. That’s how the media would explain it. It wouldn’t necessarily be true, but it would immediately make sense to people: We are comfortable with the idea that extra-bad people possess something intangible that helps them win football games. There is a long history of this, especially in places like Oakland.2 But it’s less comfortable to think that extra-good people possess such qualities, because that suggests they’re being helped by virtuous forces outside of corporeal reality. And that’s too much to handle/accept/consider, unless (of course) you already accept that premise unconditionally in every day of your life.

Right now, whenever Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway3 gets asked about Tebow, he effectively says, “We have no choice but to play him. He wins games.” It’s not really a compliment. It’s almost a criticism. But if Tebow did all this with a prison record, Elway would say the same thing in reverse order: “He wins games. We have no choice but to play him.” Which is similar, but not the same.

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There are quantifiable aspects of Tebow’s game that get ignored, mostly because everything else about him is so uncanny. His proficiency as a short-yardage bulldozer on third-and-3 compensates for his defects as an intermediate passer on third-and-8. The fact that Tebow only runs selectively gives Denver a psychological edge (for example, they seem to believe he simply can’t be stopped on two-point conversions). More than anything else, he’s very hard to tackle. All of these qualities are significant in the Broncos’ success. But they’re not revelatory, and I don’t think they have a big impact on why people feel so passionately about this person.

The machinations of his success don’t matter as long as they’re inexplicable.

The crux here, the issue driving this whole “Tebow Thing,” is the matter of faith. It’s the ongoing choice between embracing a warm feeling that makes no sense or a cold pragmatism that’s probably true. And with Tebow, that illogical warm feeling keeps working out. It pays off. The upside to secular thinking is that — in theory — your skepticism will prove correct. Your rightness might be emotionally unsatisfying, but it confirms a stable understanding of the universe. Sports fans who love statistics fall into this camp. People who reject cognitive dissonance build this camp and find the firewood. But Tebow wrecks all that, because he makes blind faith a viable option. His faith in God, his followers’ faith in him — it all defies modernity. This is why people care so much. He is making people wonder if they should try to believe things they don’t actually believe.

Chuck Klosterman is the author of six books. The Visible Man is in stores now.

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We Don’t Need More Christians…

This is a great post by Matt Chambers. Catchy title. What are your thoughts?

We don’t need more Christians who are trying to be radical.
We don’t need more Christians who are trying to stand out.
We don’t need more Christians who are trying to be celebrities.
We don’t need more Christians who treat other Christians like celebrities.
We don’t need more Christians who don’t listen.
We don’t need more Christians who look down others.
We don’t need more Christians who think they’ve arrived.
We don’t need more Christians who fight about things that don’t matter.
We don’t need more Christians who exclude.
We don’t need more Christians who intrude.
We don’t need more Christians who make promises they can’t keep.
We don’t need more Christians who turn a blind eye.
We don’t need more Christians who are better at politics than community.
We don’t need more Christians who pretend.
We need more Christians who look and live like Jesus.
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“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” // Ephesians 3:14-21
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The days are short. The fight is hard. The journey is worth our lives.
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This post today was a reminder for me. I hope it is for you as well.
What does it mean to look like Jesus?