9 Reasons to Watch the 2014 World Cup


Should Christians Watch the World Cup?

The short answer (for me) is “Yes.” Whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God.  Can the 2014 FIFA World Cup be watched to the glory of God?  Each Christian will want to answer that question for himself.  As for me, I have answered the question with 9 ways to watch the World Cup to the glory of God. (By the way, we are planning World Cup parties both for fellowship and outreach purposes). Here we go…

World Cup Christians Glory God

(c) Getty Images

9.     The World Cup—like no other sport really—focuses our attention on the world.  I have a tendency to be “parochial,” meaning that I tend to think like an American, but Christ is reigning over all the earth.  So, watching Brazil, Iran, and South Korea play soccer causes me to think of the Christians I have met from those places, remembering the sweet fellowship we share which cannot be separate by oceans, skin color, language, or cultural peculiarities.  Soccer unites the world like no other sport, (though such unity is but a dim reflection of that secured by the Christ of John 17).

8.    Soccer is more fun when watched in a group.  Bars and pubs everywhere draw great crowds for futbol cheers.  Christians can join together, too, to watch soccer.  While doing so, Christians join together with fellow believers all over the world.  Just imagine that in every country represented in the World Cup, there are Christian brothers and sisters.  Even in Iran, for instance, there are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Indeed, it might be a good reminder when we see those countries to pray for the believers who certainly are alive there.  They are often in grave danger from persecution.  Christians can be found in each of the 32 countries of the World Cup because Christ has purchased them from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

http://www.espnfc.us/fifa-world-cup/4/video/1870852/united-states-chances-at-the-world-cup

7.    The World Cup provides a very stiff level of competition, and competition is indicative of the reality of life in a fallen world.  Concentrating on the defense and the incredible power and precision necessary to break through it allows me to think of the manner in which Christ has broken through the most potent forces marshaled by the prince of the power of the air.  Competition and struggle are but dim reminders of the one Christ who has defeated all enemies—including sin and death—and is now waiting as they are becoming a footstool for His feet.

6.    The World Cup is not shy to pronounce a winner.  As in most sports, the goal is to be the champion.  The World Cup will not allow everyone to go home a winner.  There is but one trophy.  There will be one winner, and the other 31 teams go home losers.  The reason this is helpful to me is that it reminds me that Christ was tolerant in many ways that His fellow religious leaders were not, but, in the end, He made it plain that there is 1 way and 1 way only that leads to life (John 14:6).

5.    Related to the “1-way” post above is the reality of triumph.  As Christians, we tend to shy away from concepts of triumph, thinking that we ought not to gloat.  While it is certainly true that we must not gloat, it is also true that triumph itself is glorious.  Christ has triumphed over His enemies and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15).  I hope the U.S. triumphs over the competition in the 2014 World Cup.

4.    Related to triumph is glory.  One of the greatest lessons in all sports is the lesson of glory.  If sports is about anything, it is about glory.  While it Brazil World Cup Christian Glory Godmay be true that most of the athletes in the 2014 FIFA World Cup have their eyes fixed on a “perishable wreath,” nevertheless, glory abounds. There are so many stories of athletes like Julio Cesar (goalie for Brazil) who had to overcome injury, defeat, and rejection, but now seeks redemption and gives glory to God.  In truth, most of the FIFA athletes are pursuing glory, while more than a billion people are watching—hoping to see it.

3.    Related to glory is the suffering required to achieve it.  In Christ, the greatest suffering resulted in the highest glory.  The stories of agonizing workouts and overcoming both enemies and injuries reflect—even if only to a small extent—the glory of the triumphant Christ.  These World Cup athletes are suffering injury and ridicule in their pursuit of glory.  By the time the U.S. wins the World Cup (!), there will have been many trials suffered through and overcome.  Their perseverance will be exalted along with their skill.  No matter who wins, perseverance will prove to have been a key element of their glorious triumph.  And, again, this perseverance is what Christ calls us to and what He Himself modeled perfectly in overcoming sin, death, temptation.  According to Philippians 2, this perseverance ends with his being exalted to the highest place of Heaven.

2.    Related to suffering and perseverance is the constant reminder in soccer that we live in a fallen world.  So often, referees will get the calls wrong.  They are human, and they fail.  Unlike in other sports, soccer leaves these errors in as part of the game, and I am glad they do.  They are part of life.  If you can’t overcome the errors made by yourself and others, you won’t accomplish much in this fallen world.  In other words, FIFA allows injustice to be part of the game because it forces teams to overcome.  This is real world stuff.  Life does not offer us a “further review.”  Once a word is spoken or a deed is done, it cannot be overruled or undone.  Thankfully, it can be redeemed.

1.    And speaking of redemption, the number 1 way to watch the World Cup to the glory of God is to watch for the cross.  The cross makes soccer “the beautiful game,” as Pele was quick to call it.  I agree.  Soccer is a beautiful game.  A central aspect of that beauty is the cross, which causes one player to expose himself to the defense, then sacrifice his ability to score so that someone else receives the goal and the glory.  What could be more beautiful?  Christ drew the enemy to Himself, took all the venom and poison the enemy could muster, then, at the cross, he sacrificed Himself so that others might become partakers of His glory.  Not even soccer is more beautiful than the cross of Christ.  Soccer is the beautiful game, but Christ is the beautiful Savior whose light eclipses all the lesser glory of sports.

Watch a beautiful cross here:

Who Is Right About Tim Tebow, Me or President Obama?


The NFL season begins in just one month. So, plenty of stories will be generated from how well (or how poorly) Tim Tebow plays.  Getting a jump on the competition, President Barack Obama told a radio audience yesterday that he thought the Tebow trade was a mistake (See President Obama Weighs in on Tebow, Sanchez).

I have re-posted an article below in which I explain why Tim Tebow is a high caliber NFL quarterback (despite his shortcomings).  I have made a few corrections and updates because the original article was written while Tebow was a Bronco.  The data still holds true, and I still believe the Jets will be glad to have Tim Tebow. –I offer one piece of evidence in MY favor at the end of the post.

TEBOW NOT THE BEST, BUT NOT BAD AT ALL

Tim Tebow is not the best quarterback in the NFL. He isn’t even in the top 5 of NFL quarterbacks. –And I am not a hater!  I love Tim Tebow. I have enjoyed following him since he entered the Swamp as a freshman at Florida. Tebow supporters have an obligation to be honest about his abilities and his limitations. So, here is my attempt to assess the value of Tim Tebow to the Denver Broncos New York Jets and to the NFL.  Tim Tebow is the 6th best quarterback in the NFL..

You read me rightly. Tim Tebow is the 6th best quarterback in the NFL right now.  You may wonder about the basis of such a statement.  My assessment is not the result of some strange, sports calculus. Unlike both the BCS ranking formula and the ESPN QB Ranking conundrum, my assessment is simple and straightforward. My assessment of a quarterback is related directly to how effectively the quarterback scores touchdowns.

There is no need to lock this secret formula into a vault somewhere; it is both simple and transparent, something that cannot be said of typical QB rankings and passer ratings. Here is a very simple way to assess an NFL quarterback.  How often does he score a touchdown?  On average, on plays in which he is handling the ball, how often does he get the ball in the end zone?

A long, long time ago (it seems now), before Tim Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Broncos signal caller, I made the assertion that Tim Tebow gave the Broncos the best chance to win games—much better than Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn or the guy throwing mile-high peanuts in Denver’s stadium.  Tebow was reportedly demoted to 14th string quarterback or something like that before last season. Yet, I made the assertion then that Tebow had something invaluable for an NFL quarterback: Tebow had a nose for the end zone.

He proved (in only 3 starts the prior season) to be willing and able to find pay-dirt.  The classic picture of him in the end zone against his college nemesis Florida State with blood-red paint from his face to his feet was no fluke. He burrowed his way into end zone after end zone in college, and he proved early to be able to do the same thing in the NFL.

TEBOW’S NOSE FOR THE GOAL

In fact, Tim Tebow is the 6th best quarterback in the NFL at finding the end zone.  That is one of the main reasons he and the Broncos were 6-1 over his starting stretch.  Tim Tebow scores a touchdown—on average—for every 18.5 plays for which he is responsible (updated after 2011 Season, Tebow scored a TD for every 17.9 plays on the field).

In other words, when he runs or throws the ball, there will end up being a touchdown (not a field goal) by the 18th play.  There are only 5 quarterbacks in the NFL with better numbers than Tim Tebow.  In order, these 5 are (not surprisingly) as follows: Aaron Rodgers; Tom Brady; Drew Brees; Matthew Stafford; and Matt Schaub.

Before his injury, Matt Schaub was getting 6 points for every 18.06 plays in which he was a primary player.  Peyton Manning’s lifetime number is 18.16.  So, the Broncos did not win in spite of Tim Tebow. They won largely because of the contributions of Tim Tebow (whose TD numbers equal Manning).

The supposedly inept, unorthodox Tebow is scoring more efficiently than Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger.  His efficiency is neither a freak show nor a prep school fad, as some have suggested. It is, instead, basic football well played. “Hey, quarterback, get the ball in the end zone.”  The NFL is not so far removed from the prep school game if one remembers the basic goal of the game—which, for a quarterback, is to get the ball over the goal line.  Tim Tebow reaches paydirt better than most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Jets logo from Wikipedia

So, in favor of my position, I offer the following evidence from the Jets Training Camp:

Rich Cimini of ESPN, “Team insiders say the plan is to use Tebow in the red zone, where they can replace Sanchez with another player/blocker to bolster the running game. “

See Also, Tim Tebow Dominates at Goal Line.

Who is right, me or President Obama?

Follow me on Twitter.
Find me on Facebook.

Super Glory (Don’t Miss It)


For some, the Super Bowl will slip by with barely a notice.  For the uninitiated, the Super Bowl seems to be the epitome of a hyped-up overemphasis of testosterone in tights.  For others, the Super Bowl is the crowning achievement of the glory of sports.  In the favor of the latter group, fans are paying $200 or more to watch the game from OUTSIDE the stadium and up to $80,000 to watch the game from a suite INSIDE the stadium.  More than 100,000 fans will attend this glorious spectacle.  And it is glorious.

From the story of Clay Matthews’ perseverance to Donald Driver’s determination, the Super Bowl showcases the triumphant.  These are the best athletes America has to offer slugging it out on a global stage to earn the right to say: We are #1.  We (alone) did it.  The glory of triumph is alive on Super Bowl Sunday (which is not the real Super Sunday, of course, that would be Easter).

So, I thought it would be helpful for us to think about how we might watch the Super Bowl to the glory of God.  I think we do that by, first, not dismissing the glory that exists in the game.  There are countless chess matches being played out between receivers and defensive backs, between quarterbacks and linebackers, between blockers and tacklers, and between all the coaches who are working with all the players at all these positions.  There are mind games at work, and there are muscle games at work.  Sometimes, the smartest player or shrewdest coach will win the battle.  Other times, the strongest man closest to the ball will claim the crown.

At the end of the game, one team will take the trophy to the locker room.  The other team will ponder what might have been.  To the victor go the spoils—it is as true in football as it is in war.  Happily, in football, the losers don’t bleed to death.  They just go home.  All the agonizing workouts, the unceasing repetition of pushing 300 lbs. or 400 lbs. up and down and up and down.  The leg stretches and the running—sprints, distance, endurance—all the agony of off-season, pre-season, mid-season, and post-season training—all come down to a 60 minute survival-of-the-fittest slugfest on Sunday night.  One team will overcome the sacks, the fumbles, and the injuries.  The other team will not.  There will be 1 winner and 1 loser with no one in between.  For one team, the glory will erupt as the last second ticks off the official game clock.  Glory, indeed!

Watch the Super Bowl for the glory that is in it.

But even more, watch the Super Bowl for the glory that is beyond it.  The sacrifice of these players and the agony of their endurance will only fit them for victory against another team of roughly equal men.  Yes, it is mortal combat, but it is merely mortals in combat.  Though the Super Bowl will display the greatest glory of sports, including the storied histories of 2 fabled franchises, this game’s limits are obvious when compared to Christ.

Christ—the king of all glory—has triumphed over the grave, over death itself.  Forget taking a block from a lineman, Christ did real battle with sin, with Satan, with every evil in the world—and he won the fight.  Christ stretched out his arms while Satan hurled false accusations; he stretched out his arms while Pilate and the Jews enacted execution; he stretched out his arms while the Father poured out his wrath against sin; he stretched out his arms and swallowed death.  And death was not enough to stop him.  Being the resurrection and the life, Jesus Christ arose victorious over sin and over death so that any who would flee to his outstretched arms would find for themselves eternal life in his name.

There is true glory well beyond that of the Super Bowl.  Think of it as you watch the game.  Apparently, some of the players have run to the outstretched arms of Jesus to find forgiveness for their sins.  They see both the glory of the game and the greater Glory of life in Christ.  The story linked here speaks about Aaron Rodgers and the glory he sees in Christ (and the way his teammates respond).   And, on the other side of the ball, there is true glory in view for some of the Pittsburgh Steelers, too (see here).

So, enjoy the game to its fullest measure of glory with the players who know the difference between the perishable nature of the Lombardi trophy and the imperishable crown of life.

Should Christians Watch the World Cup?


Should Christians Watch the World Cup?

The short answer to the question is “Yes,” provided that we want to and that we can watch it to the glory of God.  Whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, we must do all to the glory of God.  Of course, the issue is whether or not the 2010 FIFA World Cup glorifies God.  Does it?  It seems to me that each Christian will want to answer that question for himself.  As for me, I have answered the question with 10 ways to watch the World Cup to the glory of God.

10.     The World Cup—like no other sport really—focuses our attention on the world.  I have a tendency to be “parochial,” meaning that I tend to think like an American, but Christ is reigning over all the earth.  So, watching Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon play soccer causes me to think of the Christians I have met in those places, remembering the sweet fellowship we share which cannot be separate by oceans, skin color, language, or cultural peculiarities.  Soccer unites the world like no other sport, but it cannot unite people like the Christ of John 17.

9.    Soccer is more fun when watched in a group.  Bars and pubs everywhere draw great crowds for futbol cheers.  Christians can join together, too, to watch soccer.  While doing so, Christians join together with fellow believers all over the world.  Just imagine that in every country represented in the World Cup, there are Christian brothers and sisters.  Even in North Korea, there are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Indeed, it might be a good reminder when we see those countries to pray for the believers who certainly are alive there.  They are in grave danger from persecution.  But Christians are everywhere because Christ has purchased them from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

8.    There is also fellowship with some of the players in the World Cup.  If you do a little homework, you can find the names of the believers in the World Cup.  On the U.S. squad, for instance, the starting goalie, Tim Howard, is a believer with whom we share fellowship.  It is always fun to cheer on a brother or sister.  (I think that is one reason so many folks became fans of the Florida Gators).

7.    The World Cup provides a very stiff level of competition, and competition is indicative of the reality of life in a fallen world.  Concentrating on the defense and the incredible power and precision necessary to break through it allows me to think of the manner in which Christ has broken through the most potent forces marshaled by the prince of the power of the air.  Competition and struggle are but dim reminders of the one Christ who has defeated all enemies and is now waiting as they are becoming a footstool for His feet.

6.    The World Cup is not shy to pronounce a winner.  As in most sports, the goal is to be the champion.  The World Cup will not allow everyone to go home a winner.  There is but one trophy.  There will be one winner, and the other 31 teams go home losers.  The reason this is helpful to me is that it reminds me that Christ was tolerant in many ways His fellow religious leaders were not, but, in the end, He made it plain that there is 1 way and 1 way only that leads to life (and most would not find it).

5.    Related to the “1-way” post above is the reality of triumph.  As Christians, we tend to shy away from concepts of triumph, thinking that we ought not to gloat.  While it is certainly true that we must not gloat, it is also true that triumph is glorious.  Christ has triumphed over His enemies and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15).  I hope the U.S. triumphs over the competition in the 2010 World Cup.

4.    Related to triumph is glory.  One of the greatest lessons in all sports is the lesson of glory.  If sports is about anything, it is about glory.  Granted, most of the athletes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup have their eyes fixed on a “perishable wreath,” while Christians seek the greater glory of eternity.  Nevertheless, glory abounds as most of the FIFA athletes are pursuing it, while more than a billion people are watching—hoping to see it.

3.    Related to glory is the suffering required to achieve it.  In Christ, the greatest suffering resulted in the highest glory.  The stories of agonizing workouts and overcoming both enemies and injuries reflect—even if only to a small extent—the glory of the triumphant Christ.  These World Cup athletes are suffering injury and ridicule in their pursuit of glory.  By the time the U.S. wins the World Cup (!), there will have been many trials suffered through and overcome.  Their perseverance will be exalted along with their skill.  No matter who wins, perseverance will prove to have been a key element of their glorious triumph.  And, again, this perseverance is what Christ calls us to and what He Himself modeled perfectly in overcoming sin, death, temptation.  According to Philippians 2, it ends with his being exalted to the highest place of Heaven.

2.    Related to suffering and perseverance is the constant reminder in soccer that we live in a fallen world.  The U.S. goal in the game against Slovenia is only the most glaring example of bias and/or error; it isn’t the only example.  So often, referees will get the calls wrong.  They are human, and they fail.  Unlike in other sports, soccer leaves these errors in as part of the game, and I am glad they do.  They are part of life.  If you can’t overcome the errors made by yourself and others, you won’t accomplish much in this fallen world.  Landon Donovan got it right when he said that these things are part of soccer.  Sometimes you benefit from them.  Sometimes you suffer loss because of them.  But every time you must press on to overcome them.  In other words, FIFA allows injustice to be part of the game because it forces teams to overcome.  This is real world stuff.  Life does not offer us a “further review.”  Once a word is spoken or a deed is done, it cannot be overruled or undone.  It can, however, be redeemed.

1.    And speaking of redemption, the number 1 way to watch the World Cup to the glory of God is to watch for the cross.  Central to the game of soccer is the cross, a move in which the competition is lured outside to the ball so the player can quickly cross it back into the box and threaten the defense with a goal-scoring opportunity.  The cross makes soccer “the beautiful game,” as Pele is quick to call it.  I agree.  Soccer is a beautiful game.  A central aspect of that beauty is the cross, which causes one player to expose himself to the defense, then sacrifice his ability to score so that someone else receives the goal and the glory.  What could be more beautiful?  Christ drew the enemy to Himself, took all the venom and poison the enemy could muster, then, at the cross, he sacrificed Himself so that others might become partakers of His glory.  Not even soccer is more beautiful than the cross of Christ.  Soccer is the beautiful game, but Christ is the beautiful Savior whose light eclipses all the lesser glory of sports.

Ultimate Goalie


Tim Howard of the U.S. Soccer team shares his testimony at this site.  I think it is a good and sober testimony of the reality of life in Christ beneath fame, fortune, and competition.  He is obviously a wealthy celebrity to many; yet he does not appear to link his identity to the fleeting pleasures of this life.  You might enjoy his brief testimony.