Shaken – Tim Tebow

shakenTim Tebow, Shaken. Austin: Waterbrook, 2016, 209 pp. $13.21

A roller coaster is a fitting term for Tim Tebow. As a Heisman Trophy winner and with two national championships under his belt, his future appeared bright. Tebow was originally drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He was subsequently traded to the New York Jets and did short stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

While thousands of people flocked to see their hero on the gridiron, not everyone was as enthusiastic about Tebow’s performance. He was criticized from the start and endured the scorn of people who rejected his outspoken Christian faith.

Tebow underscores the events of his life as a professional athlete and guides readers through the emotional rollercoaster in his latest book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms. The book is a window into the heart of Tim Tebow as he shares about his bumps and bruises along the way.

Tim Tebow is the “Dan Quayle” of the sports world. Here is a man who works harder than most athletes and has exemplary integrity to boot. Like Dan Quayle, though, Tebow has been treated unfairly. He has been unjustly criticized by the media. And his Christian convictions have been cast aside by many.

But Tebow does not write as a martyr. He writes as a fellow-traveller. He writes to inspire young people. And he succeeds in achieving his goal. Shaken is packed with inspirational stories that provide a much-needed perspective in an entitled world. The book reminds readers that they are significant in the eyes of God; that they have a contribution to make. Tebow’s wisdom and enthusiasm are contagious and will no doubt encourage many young athletes.

I respect and admire Tim Tebow. His love for the Lord Jesus Christ and people is worth emulating. And his character is above reproach. Indeed, Tim Tebow is a worthy role model for America’s young people. However, a few critiques are in order as one who desires to fairly review a book. First, the emphasis on the “unconditional love of God” should be modified and re-articulated. Readers are encouraged to see David Powlison’s book, God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional . Powlison’s book is the best starting point and will offer a better explanation that conforms to the pattern of Scripture.

Second, while readers are urged to trust in Christ and accept his gift of salvation, there is a missing element of repentance.  It is certainly true that Scripture invites/commands sinners to believe but saving faith always includes repentance.  Signs of repentance are absent in this work.

Summary

Shaken is a basic biographical account of a well-known sports icon. As such, it is written with the student-athlete in mind. Christian athletes will be inspired and touched by the testimony of Tim Tebow. The author’s worldview is spelled out in clear terms here:

Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Tebow has been unfairly caricatured and criticized. He continues to move forward, despite the abuse that his critics hoist upon him. Indeed, he has been shaken, but he has not been moved. He continues to use his gifts to glorify God and encourage many people. His newest book is a testimony to this fact.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

“I’M BETTER THAN LANCE ARMSTRONG”

IMGP2383Lance Armstrong’s recent admission of using performance enhancing drugs has led to an all out assault on the most famous cyclist in the world.  Armstrong not only violated the rules, he lied repeatedly, and some would say even betrayed his country.  This high profile case has emerged as the most talked about scandal in sport’s history.  Talk around the “water cooler” is brutal.  His fans feel betrayed.  His competitors are outraged.  And the media is ruthlessly attacking a man who is struggling to regain some sense of composure as he confesses his sins.

As I listen to people weigh in on the Armstrong confession, I hear the gavel slamming relentlessly on the bench.  I hear the drone of a prosecuting attorney who seeks to cross-examine a defendant into the corner until he breaks.  I see the executioner who prepares the “rope” which will execute final justice on an unrepentant miscreant.  However, today it struck me: Each time one of these well  meaning people casts a vote of no-confidence for Armstrong, they are in the final analysis making a proclamation: “I am better than Lance Armstrong.”  Bottom line: “My righteousness surpasses Lance Armstrong.”  Or does it?

There is no question, that the man who founded Livestrong should be held accountable.  The more important matter,  however, concerns his position before a holy God.   The God of the universe is holy and righteous.  As such, he demands his creatures be holy in their behavior:  “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV).  Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).

But Jesus gets to the heart of the matter when he tells his disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  How can anyone exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?  Lance Armstrong has proved that he can’t do it.  He has failed the test.  But here’s the rub.  I have failed the test.  You have failed the test.  Each of us has failed the test.  We have all lied like Lance Armstrong.  In fact, Scripture says that even if we keep the whole law, yet fail at one point, we become accountable for breaking all of it (James 2:10).  Each of us are sinners by nature and choice.  Jonathan Edwards said that “sinners would kill God” if given an opportunity.  Scripture is clear on this matter.  Apart from grace, we have no righteousness.  Apart from grace, we would freely lie, cheat, and steal.  And we would enjoy it.  Listen to the prophet Isaiah:

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6, ESV).

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6, ESV).

If we are to think clearly about Lance Armstrong, we must remember that we too are sinners.  We are totally depraved.  Apart from grace, we are lost without hope and without God.  The Westminster Larger Catechism rightly refers to sin as, “that corruption whereby man is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all that is spiritually good.”  Think Saul of Tarsus – a murderer.  Think  Aurelius Augustine – a fornicator.    Or what about C.S. Lewis – an atheist.  Think about a vile sinner and stand in awe of this fact:  God is in the business of transforming liars and cheaters  (people like Saul, Augustine, and C.S. Lewis) into worshippers; worshippers who are forgiven of all their sins;  people who delight in God and make Jesus their highest treasure.  Jesus died on a cross and bore the wrath of God for everyone who would ever believe.  He endured the wrath that we rightly deserve.  And  he rose again on the third day to secure eternal life for everyone who believes.  Jesus came to set sinners free; to liberate them of all their sin; to forgive them.  He came to offer hope for the hopeless and a new life for the desperate.

Here’s the problem.  Somewhere along the way, Christians began to think that the gospel is for the unconverted.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The gospel is for not only for the unconverted.  It is for the follower of Christ.   This gospel has the power to transform lives and marriages and businesses and churches.  This gospel is the only hope for lives and marriages and businesses and churches.  When we buy the lie that the gospel is only for the unconvinced, we embrace a small gospel, a weak gospel, a comfortable American gospel.  This is not the gospel that Jesus proclaims!

So followers of Christ: Let’s give Lance Armstrong a break.  Better yet, let’s extend some grace.  Instead of casting stones, let us share the love of Christ.  Here’s the reason why.  When you judge Lance from afar at the office, imagine an executive who is stealing money from the company.  Imagine a young secretary who is tangled up in an immoral relationship.  Imagine an attorney who cheats on her taxes.  When we play judge and jury with Lance Armstrong, we play judge and jury with every other sinner.  And these people hear the message loud and clear: “I am better than Lance Armstrong” – which is to say, “I am better than you; you have no right to the grace of God.  You deserve to go to hell!”  May we root out this Pharisee-mindset.  May we freely extend the grace of God to sinners like Lance Armstrong.  Perhaps God will use this horrible situation for good.  Perhaps God will extend grace to Lance Armstrong like he extended grace to this man – for I am not better than Lance Armstrong and neither are you!

THE LOST ART OF LOYALTY: LEARNING ABOUT LIFE ABOVE THE RIM

Ohio Governor John Kasich made a stunning announcement on June 13, only hours after the Dallas Maverick’s whipped the Miami Heat and claimed their first NBA title.  Kasich proclaimed, “Now, Therefore, I, John R. Kasich, Governor of the State of Ohio, do hereby name the Dallas Mavericks organization, friends, family and fans as honorary Ohioans, with all privileges and honors therein, for the day of June 14, 2011.”

Kasich, never one to mince words, was apparently communicating a message to LeBron James, former star of the Cleveland Cavaliers who jumped ship and fled to Miami in order to claim an NBA title.

The Kasich resolution placed a clear stake in the ground: “NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki chose to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2010, forgoing free agency and keeping his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career …”

It is true that professional athletes are traded every day, often to the bitter chagrin of the player on the block.  However, too often, players sell out for their own glory.  The net result:  Cities that feels disenfranchised and thousands of little kids who feel let down.

It is also true that professional athletes are businessmen who have the right to earn what the market will bear.  But at what expense and whose expense?  And should the all-mighty dollar ever dislodge loyalty?

Where are the athletes like Cal Ripken, Jr. who played his heart out for twenty-one years with the Orioles?  Or what about a class act like Edgar Martinez who quietly and faithfully endured eighteen years with the Mariners (and many of those years were losing years)?  Where are the heroes like Steve Largent who played fourteen years with the Seahawks or Bart Starr who gave sixteen years of his life with the Packers?  And where are the players who stick it out with one team like Bill Russell and Larry Bird who both played thirteen years for the Celtics?

Some probably think that Governor Kasich took a cheap shot at LeBron James.  My own view is that the good governor simply wanted to make a point about the importance of loyalty – or lack of loyalty.  Perhaps the greater lesson is Nowitzki’s decision to remain loyal to his original team, the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki will never have a drawer full of rings like some NBA stars.  But he can proudly wear at least one championship ring – and he didn’t have to sell out to earn the right to wear it.

My late grandfather used to warn young pastors, “Never sell your soul for a mess of pottage.”  That lesson wears well in the ministry.  And it works just as well on the basketball court.