Tag Archives: Christianity

This was my life | Adorable kids sing Guatemala’s national anthem


Four years ago, I was sent home from the mission field when criminals assaulted my family. Since kidnapping was likely subsequent to the assault, I realized God was sending me home. Today, I am supporting my mother church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica.

From time to time, I visit the Guatemalan church and school. These are kids I labored 16 years for as a missionary. I hope their song warms your heart like it does mine.

They call him Messiah

sad messiLionel Messi doesn’t talk trash, boast, swag in front of media. He won the most prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or four consecutive years (2009-12) — the only player to ever do so. He is consistently called the best on the planet.

When the Argentine takes to the field, it is assumed he will make the difference. He will win break the deadlock, befuddle defenders with bursts of speed and magic from his feet. Among those who idolize football, he is called Messiah, a pun on his last name.

But Messi found out he is NOT the Messiah at the World Cup final. Unlike Maradona and Pele, he was unable to carry his team to victory over the German squad. (They aren’t messiahs either, but Maradona thinks he is.)

messi fail

With the German keeper, who won best goalie.

It was evident that Messi found no flavor in winning the Golden Ball for best player. It was said that the only trophy missing from his cabinet was the World Cup, and he returned home without it. When he had chances to score, he struck wide (uncharacteristically).

In a classy display of good sportsmanship, German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tried to encourage Messi, who looked rigid and uncomfortable listening to him. Maybe he was trying to keep from crying.

messi schweisteiger

Messi and Schweinsteiger

It is a good moment when we humans realize we are NOT God. There is a God who loves you and wants to bless you, but the whole universe doesn’t center around you. We are the creation of God, not the other way around. We need to praise Him, and not receive the praise of man. If you don’t believe in God, then naturally, you are your own god. Enjoy the destiny you bring yourself. You are cheating yourself of the destiny God wants to give you (Heaven, for example).

I feel bad for Messi because he’s generally such a humble (and talented) guy. I also want to pray for him to get to know the true Messiah.

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.

 

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.

 

The hero of the World Cup

ronaldo haircut

With his World Cup buzz. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about U.S. sharp shooter Clint Dempsey. Never mind the incredible saves by Tim Howard. The U.S. men’s national team advances, while Portugal limps embarrassed back home.

Kyle Beckerman's wild hair. (I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.)

Kyle Beckerman’s wild hair. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

The hero of the World Cup is Cristiano Ronaldo. This is the Hollywood-ready pretty boy I’ve sent to the itamae often for diving, cry-babying and basking in his own image on the replay screen at the stadium.

No longer.

I’m now his enthusiastic admirer. I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m not thinking about how his injury-induced tepid play helped the U.S advance out of the Group of Death, nor how his timely goal ensured Ghana’s defeat (that also helped us).

The pretty boy image.

The pretty boy image. (I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.)

I’m talking about his haircut.

Football players are famous for crazy cuts. You’ve got Kyle Beckerman’s shock of dreadlocks. You’ve got mohawks and numbers buzzed into the side and all kinds of things. When Cristiano Ronaldo showed up with a zig-zag pattern, fashionistas groaned.

Then people found out it was more than just a racing stripe. CR7 mimicked a scar on the head of Erik Ortiz Cruz, a Spanish boy whose $83,000 brain surgery he paid for.  It was tribute and solidarity.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. "He's just trying to get attention," they say.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. “He’s just trying to get attention,” they say. (I don’t own the rights to this picture, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about who ultimately lifts the gold trophy. The Real Madrid superstar is the biggest winner of all those brats who disgust with their entitlement and unthinkable salaries. Once and for all, the 2013 Ballon d’Or winner shatters his image as Narcissus.

I can just turn my computer screen off now. I’ve seen the best the World Cup has to offer.