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316, Tim Tebow, and hope

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow prays after the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the NFL AFC wildcard playoff football game in Denver, Colorado, January 8, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Marc Piscotty)

Why is “316” the most-searched term on the Internet this morning?  Because Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards yesterday as his underdog Denver Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He set an NFL postseason single-game record with 31.6 yards per completion.  And John 3:16 is Tebow’s favorite Bible verse.  As you may recall, he wrote “John 3:16” on the black beneath his eyes at the 2009 college football title game, which his team won.

Tim Tebow-related topics are four of the top-ten most searched online terms today.  Why is he so popular?  I think the Tebow phenomenon goes beyond his magical success this season.  He’s a great “feel good” story at a time when we need something to feel good about.  Here’s evidence that hope is the commodity of the day.

A year ago, a gunman in Arizona killed six and wounded 13, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Yesterday a candlelight vigil was held to remember the victims.  The Republican presidential candidates debated again Sunday night.  Unlike Saturday’s mostly-civil discussion, last night’s debate soon turned into a moderated brawl.  The candidates reflected the mood of the country.  According to a recent poll, 71% of us say the nation is on the wrong track; 48% say members of Congress are corrupt; just 5% think Congress is doing a good job.

Last night, Janet and I watched Oprah Winfrey’s interview of Joel Osteen.  Oprah marveled at the size of Lakewood Church and the popularity of Osteen’s books and stadium events.  A member of his church, when asked why he comes every week, explained: “I get another tool for my toolbox.”  Osteen correctly identifies our greatest need: practical hope.  Whether his messages point effectively to Christ or offer pop-therapy encouragement is a debate that will continue.

Jesus Calling is one of the most popular devotional books in print today.  It’s sparked a devotional Bible, an album, and even an app.  A dear friend gave me a copy for Christmas; I’ve added it to my morning readings with great profit.  Each day, Sarah Young turns biblical texts into statements from God.

Here’s yesterday’s reading: “Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to heaven.  The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus, you are lightened.  Heaviness is not of my My kingdom.”  One of the texts that inspired her essay is Romans 12:12: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

I invite you to read that verse again, slowly.  Then cling to the hope that God loves you and wants to bear your burdens this morning.  Why do you need that “golden cord connecting you to heaven” today?