Being chosen

chosenBastian Schweinsteiger had no lack of confidence going into the World Cup Final. Sewn onto his boots, he the words “the chosen one.”

No one can complain. He ran an extraordinary 15 kilometers into 120 minutes of play to stymie Argentina’s dominant midfield. Argentina fouled him repeatedly and seriously in an attempt to slow him down by roughing him up. At the end, his sacrifice contributed to Germany’s 1-0 win to lift the cup.

Previously, only Coach Jose Mourinho had dared to call himself “the special one.” A tactical genius and a relentless braggart, Mourinho drew more titters than respect for being full of himself.

bastion is a bastionI’m not hurling stones today. Instead, I want to remind us Christians that we are both “chosen” and “special.” These soccer stars don’t crack under pressure. They perform because of a seamless confidence.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9 NIV.

bastianGod wants us to out-perform the competition, to win (souls). For Germany, Bastian was a bastion. May we likewise brings victories to Christianity.

The prize goes to the most consistent

mario goetz world cup goalIt wasn’t Mario Goetze’s sublimely chested reception of a lofted center or his twisting left-footed volley that won the World Cup for Germany. It was the consistency of its team.

A feat of artistic football perfection, Goetze’s goal will doubtless be chronicled along with the works of Michelangelo. But the mind-boggling shot that beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time was only the fruit of a team that has made soccer into a science.

Goetz World cup 2014

Probably the Argentinians were expecting to go to penalties. Or maybe they were just plain tired. But they left Goetze unmarked late in extra time for him to execute a logic-defying goal.

Germany was the first country to apply America’s sports science (from baseball, football and basketball) to soccer. They scout nationwide talent from 8-year-olds upwards. They methodically develop stars. They rigorously analyze strengths and weaknesses. They practice meticulously every possible play in the free-flowing sport that has no huddle, no time-outs, no plays called from the sidelines.

Argentina seemed only to come to life in semi-finals. With flair and an energetic midfield, Argentina showed moments of brilliance in the final but were unlucky to not finish.

In the end, the Sons of Science beat the Kings of Creativity.

14-germany-cup

The $10 million chunk of goal goes to Germany for the fourth time in history.

Germany defended tenaciously and waited, waited, waited for just one defensive lapse, a moment that came deep in extra time when substitute Goetz found himself unmarked in the area. The baby-faced wunderkind bounced the ball perfectly off his chest and confounded ace goalie Sergio Romero by spinning and smashing the ball into the opposite side of the goal.

The gem of a goal only crowned a winning system.

Bastian Schweinsteiger consoles Messi.

Bastian Schweinsteiger consoles Messi.

I was disappointed because I wanted Lionel Messi to win the only trophy missing from his war chest. I admire Messi for his humility and ability. Plus, he plays for my favorite club team, FC Barcelona.

But I can’t moan much. Germany deserved the final.

Actually, their win answers a great Christian dilemma. If all sins can be forgiven, why try to serve the Lord? Why not consent to your flesh since you can still make Heaven?

The reason is prize goes to the consistent. While you can always make Heaven with some repentance, you miss so many blessings in your life through your disobedience. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not condemning anyone. We all flub. But I encourage — myself included — to strive to do better. Let’s all (Christians) strive to be more consistent in our service to God. WE will reap the benefits.

Win or lose, give glory to God

david luis praysNobody expected the embarrassing 7-1 loss of Brazil to Germany World Cup semi finals. But as critics groaned and Brazilians cried, another unexpected event transpired. Brazilian defender David Luiz dropped to his knees and prayed.

Amid a gaggle of self-lovers, braggarts and primadonnas who make up soccer’s elite, it’s refreshing to see genuine Christians.

To thank God publicly for a victory is admirable. To thank God for a defeat is maturity.

david luis supergoalAfter all, it’s only a game, though the way people follow it — and the way money is thrown at it — you’d think it was god.

And God is not a game. If we lose, let us remember that God doesn’t favor any team. He wants people to get in relationship with Him, starting now and continuing on into Heaven.

david luiz free kick“My faith in Jesus gives me strength to keep on going out onto the field and to do my best, but I also want to inspire others – that is what God inspires me to do,” Luiz gold Christian Today. “For me, true life is found in the relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that everything in life belongs to God and he has a clear plan for us if we follow him.”

I like that more than seeing Argentina win tomorrow.

Brazil lost, as expected, to Netherlands today. Defense was shoddy. But Luiz is winning at a game that is much more important than soccer.

Another Argentina showed up

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

What I saw previously of Argentina in World Cup rounds left me doubting. They were flat. They struggled to beat easy opponents. They lacked the flair that carries teams from the Americas in the Americas to lift the gold trophy.

But fizzless Argentina showed up to play today against Holland and shattered my predictions. (After witnessing the Orange Machine demolish former champ Spain with aggressive defending and laser-sharp passes with unthinkable finishes, I speculated they’d win their first ever).

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

It was a different Argentina. They looked like electrons shooting around the midfield, dominating most of the game. Unstoppable Arjen Robben met his match in the superb defender Javier Mascherano, whose millisecond-pinpoint tackle deprived Robben of his best chance. Argentina just couldn’t pick the lock of the Dutch defense, and so the game had to go to penalties.

Incredibly, Argentine Goalie Sergio Rojas stopped two shots and thus stifled Holland’s hopes.

It reminded of Samson. Ever flubbing, Samson showed up strong on game day. We live under grace to forgive our sins. When we are needed to step up to the plate, let it be a different us — a Holy Spirit empowered us — that shows up.

The best offense is a good defense

Brazil's defeat

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Brazil was supposed to crown itself king in its own country. Its brand of soccer an irresistible wave of yellow. Eleven players who dominate possession, who dance past defenders, who weave intricate webs of passing, who strike with precision from close range or with power from distance.

But Brazil was eliminated from the 2014 World Cup by the Germans, who have reduced soccer to a science. Brazil played its usual, open soccer. Defenders were free to making bombing runs forward in attempts to overrun opponents with sheer numbers of quality players. But Germany foiled their plan, finding more holes in their defense than a net designed to hold water. At the end, the greatest humiliation in soccer had been done: 7-1.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Now more than before, criticism leveled against the U.S. coach should be silenced. The U.S. lost to Germany, but only by 1-0. Jurgen Klinsmann played a tight defense and achieved a respectable result.

Brazil’s trademark of open soccer got repudiated. If you want to win, you had better defend. If you don’t defend all your lanes, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to attack.

If we want to execute an attack against the devil, then we had better defend. Defend our marriage and our children. Defend our heart with a guard against worldly entertainment. Defend our soul with persistent prayer, Bible study and church attendance.

Instead of raising the trophy, Brazil crashed and burned in ignominy.

Poetic justice at World Cup

I don't own the rights for this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights for this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Algeria scared expected-winner Germany in extra time of octavos knockout stage of the World Cup 2014. Had the northern African nation upset Germany, it would have been justice.

In the 1982 World Cup, over-confident, prideful, and racist West Germany players trash-talked the upstart Algeria team. The Algerians were nomads out of the desert. The Germans would dedicate their seventh goal to their wives, their eighth to their dogs. One player boasted the game would be so easy to win, he would smoke a cigar while playing.

But the Algerians won 2-1.

The West Germans were shocked. In their subsequent game, they colluded with Austria to play a game of 1-goal difference, which was the only option to send Algeria back home and allow both Germany and Austria to move on to the next round. After the first German goal, both teams essentially dilly-dallied with the ball for 80 minutes and never tried to score. Fans, who had paid their tickets to see a great game, were outraged. West German soccer officials recognized it was a “tactical game” and unleashed more racist comments.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

I was rooting for Algeria this time. It would have been payback for the evil, the corruption, the arrogance. Unfortunately, not every score will be settled in this imperfect world.

At least this time, the Germans stayed mum before the game. They respected their opponents.

Not until extra time could Germany break through a well-organized and determined squad this World Cup. They scored two goals, but Algeria struck back with minutes of play. It ended a reverse of the 1982 score line: 2-1 in favor of Germany. Algeria did respectably. We ought to respect our adversaries always.

 

Please don’t tarnish your memory as a hero

donovan lashes out

Pic from Yahoo Sports. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Landon Donovan came off bitter.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann omitted the notable U.S. star. Up until the U.S. loss, Donovan, who was my hero, was mum about the snub. He was supportive of the team.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

No sooner did the outgunned U.S. squad get booted (logically) by a Belgium team glutted with top club stars than Donovan unleashed a rant against the coach. According to Donovan, he mismanaged the team.

Landon, please, don’t do this…

julian-green-usmnt-soccer-player1

Julian Green wowed everyone with an extremely difficult lobbed ball over his shoulder that he hit squarely into the net, foiling the competent German goalie. This pic belongs to USMNT (I think). Thanks for letting me use it! I’m not making any money on it.

As the top goal-scorer for the U.S., you are an icon, an inspiration. You’re huge, but when you lash out, you make yourself small, immature, full of yourself, etc. It’s not pretty. Many of your followers will give you credence. But a whole other slew of us are going to leave you alone, a blathering brat.

If Donovan’s omission was the demise of the U.S team is material for lambasting comment threads. Klinsmann marshaled the U.S. team to success out of the very difficult “Group of Death.” He limited the German victory to one goal.

He’s locked down talented stars for the future. His recruit, 18-year-old Julian Green smashed home his first World Cup goal after only a two minutes of play. A coach can only bring so many players on his squad. Had he not brought Green, the dual-citizen starlet might have opted for Germany permanently.

Donovan, you’re not young anymore. We’re sorry. We love you. But go in grace. Don’t pile shame upon yourself. We want to hear your expert analysis, not your vented bitterness.

Why I teach at Lighthouse


Only one minute video. No further words needed. This is what we strive untiringly to do.

Put your failures behind you

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Chilean Mauricio Pinilla commemorated his World Cup failure — a late strike that would have defeated Brazil had it not bounced off the bar — with a tattoo on his back titled: “One centimeter from glory.”

Why would he immortalize a painful memory? It’s on his back.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

As Christians, we must be forward-looking (I don’t think Pinilla is Christian). We must put our failures behind us and strive for better things in the future.

 

Build

Julian Green's late strike

Julian Green’s sensational strike sparked a rally that had people believing. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Don’t go glum over the U.S. elimination from World Cup. The run was the impossible dream. Just to make it out of the group stage showed prowess.

Amid the tears, there is one glimmer of hope. That was a 19-year-old kid who only played a few minutes of World Cup soccer and scored a sensational neck-stretcher wild-sideways-kick goal that sparked an emotional U.S. rally in their 2-1 loss to Belgium.

A resident of Germany since age 2, Julian Green only recently defined his desire to serve the red, white and blue. He was recruited also by Germany.

sensational Tim Howard

U.S. Goalie Tim Howard made scintillating save after save to keep the U.S. in the game. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was wise to sacrifice Landon Donovan for Julian Green. Recognizing that USA’s chances were unrealistic in 2014, Klinsmann’s taking the long-term approach to build U.S. soccer. Build, don’t burn, your program. Come back stronger. Make a squad with a realistic chance at winning a World Cup. Until now, our only flourish was a 2nd-place finish in the Confederations Cup in 2009.

Julian Green over shoulder kick

An astonishing over-the-shoulder one-touch fires home to spark U.S. hopes. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

If you are church leader, it matters little how badly you’re getting beaten (by lack of finances, by apathy, by attacks on your health). The only thing that matters is how you marshal your resources to build God’s kingdom. If this doesn’t appear to be the year of revival, maybe next year.

The impossible dream is not over. It’s just extended.