worshiping an idol

Category : faith

I struggle with football because I love it so much.  There are few things (maybe nothing) that I get more excited about than football.  I’m so passionate that I physically feel the anguish with the Steelers lose.  Which they did this weekend.  I’ve wondered if loving football is a sin.

And I think for me, at least, football is a sin.  Not because football itself is evil.  But because I worship football.  It’s my own personal idol.

That’s not something you hear a lot of people say.  But I realize that my emotions are too tied up in a game.  I live and die (thankfully just metaphorically!) by the Steelers.  And whether I mean to or not, I’ve come to believe that a great Steelers victory can make me happy.

It can’t.

Nothing can make you happy, truly happy, in this world apart from God.  That’s why I take solace in what Martin Luther once said about overcoming guilt.

“It all depends on this great and grand miracle, that I believe that God gave His Son for us. If I do not doubt this, then I am able to say in the midst of my trials: ‘I concede, devil, that I am a sinner burdened with the old Adam and subject to the wrath of God. But what do you, devil, say about this: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life? These words I believe!’”

–Martin Luther

God is the one who saves us.  Who gives us happiness.  Who makes us complete.  Football may be the greatest sport ever invented, but it pales in comparison to what God offers.

The Unfair Treatment of Ben Roethlisberger

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Category : faith

The following is a post I made on a Steelers football blog.  It seemed more appropriate there, than here.  However, it was deemed “too religious” to stay there, so they deleted it.  No hard feelings on my part.  But more on the experience next week. In the meantime, I thought it was too good to end up in the delete bin of some random server.  So here you go….

This is one of those posts that I’ve been putting off.  I keep thinking I should write it.  But then I don’t want to.  Partly because it violates my “don’t talk about people” rule for blogging.  And partly because it’s just opening a can of worms.  But with my beloved Steelers making it into the Super Bowl, I think it’s time.  And as you can guess from the title, we’re going to talk about Ben Roethlisberger.

Now before we get into the conversation I want to say two things to set the stage.

1.        I have no idea what he did or what happened in Georgia or in Nevada.  Obviously whatever happened wasn’t good.

2.       If Ben (or anyone) assaulted someone, then the correct punishment is jail.

However I want to set those points aside and talk about something else.  I want to talk about us.  The fans.  The nation.  The media.  In other words, I want to talk about everyone who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger.  Specifically what are we supposed to think?  Should we hate the man because of alleged crimes?  Should we hold him accountable even when a court doesn’t?  Does winning make a difference?  Does winning mean Ben needs to work harder to redeem himself off the field?

Reading around the web we see points of view all over.  We see Gregg Doyel saying he believes Ben’s changed.  We see Joe Starkey saying, who knows?  We see others saying that we’re all a bunch of racists because we’re treating Vick and Ben differently.

So how are we supposed to act?

Well in my mind, Ben has answered this question himself.   He claims he’s changed.  He claims he’s different.  He claims he’s learned his lesson.  But most importantly he claims he’s re-found God.

It’s that last one that really matters to me.  Because as a Christian, I need to take seriously anyone’s claim to believe.  Now obviously I don’t know Ben.  I have no idea if he’s changed or if he’s really found God.  Politicians, mobsters, athletes and actors have all “found” God just as the press was getting a bit uncomfortable.  For all I know it could be a scam.  Perhaps Starkey has a point.

I pray with all my heart he does believe in God.  In fact I pray for Ben a lot.  I pray that his life is so changed that people can’t help but notice God’s power.  Is that unfair?  Absolutely.  It’s not fair that Ben can redeem himself through playing winning football.  It’s not fair that he can be a millionaire and live in luxury, while so many of us make smaller mistakes and have our lives destroyed.

But who claimed life was fair?  Certainly not God.

When I look at the Bible’s list of prominent people, three of the most important were Moses, David, and Paul.  All three have something in common.  They all either directly or indirectly murdered people.  Heroes of faith, murderers all.

Yet God used their failures as platforms for their redemptions.  They all died with a greater appreciation for God.  They worked harder, trusted more, and ultimately made more of a difference to history because of their terrible sins.

Is Ben going to be the next Moses?  I have no idea.  I don’t even know who’s going to win the game next week.  But if he’s truly changed, if he truly believes in God, then why not?  God has done crazier things in history.

This brings us back to our response.  Some people are going to fully embrace Ben because he’s “behaved” for 10 months.  Others will embrace him because he’s winning.  Still others will hate him all the more because he’s winning or because he hasn’t “suffered” to their level of satisfaction.

When you have reporters, alleged un-biased, bringers of truth say things like, “By the time Super Bowl XLV hype is done, and the Big Ben redemption stories have been told, we’ll all be confusing him with Tim Tebow” on Twitter, there is anger out there.   Anger at God.  Anger at Ben.  Anger at the unfairness of it all.

Some of you may be angry that this is bringing faith into the conversation.  But I don’t see any other way to answer the question of Ben’s redemption.  How else do you know when “enough is enough?” 

So if you don’t share my faith, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t have advice to offer you as to how you should look at Ben.  I don’t know what defines “enough” for you.  But as for anyone who calls themselves “Christian” I think there is only one path.  And that’s to welcome him back.  It’s to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.  If it was good enough for Moses, David, and Paul, then it’s good enough for Ben.

For me the journey ends here.  I will forgive Ben.  I will pray for Ben.  And I will let God decide if Ben is sincere or not.

Is football a sin?

Category : faith

I love football.  I get fired up on game day.  I’m never more emotional, excited, scared, and pumped up than during a Steelers game.  During each game, like millions of fans around the world, I feel the pain and thrill of loving an NFL team.

I’m lucky because I’m a Steelers fan.  Depending on the outcome of the game this weekend the Steelers may well be on their way to their 8th Super Bowl appearance (and hopefully 7th win!).  Not something many fans can enjoy.

But when I watch football there is a nagging question in the back of my mind.  It’s a question I don’t like.  It’s a question I’d rather not ask.  But deep down it’s a question I must ask: is football a sin?

I’m not talking about the violence or the cheating or the cheerleaders.  I’m not talking about the money or the fame or the trash talk.  What I’m talking about is my emotional involvement with football.

Why is it when the Steelers lose I’m in a bad mood for a week?  Why is it when I think back to previous seasons that ended in a playoff loss do I feel a pit in my stomach and hatred in my heart?  (I’m looking at you Neil O’Donnell.)

I think about this every time I watch football.

Why is it that I’m more fired up about football than my relationship with God?  Why do I block out 4 hours every Sunday for Steelers football, but not for church?  Why is it that I’m more excited by a last minute touchdown than the thought of feeding the hungry or curing the sick?

I’m not always like that.  In fact I’m involved in a lot of different things at my church.  Things I really care about.  Things I sacrifice for.  But none of those really come close to the thrill of a Steelers victory.

And I don’t think I like that anymore.

i’m a loser

Category : Jesus, Mark, choice, failure, faith, taking action

 

Success.  Failure.  We all experience these things.  Even if you’re Bill Gates or Tom Brady you will have both highs and lows in your life.  That’s just the way it is.  In fact, we’re all losers – we all have more failures than successes. 

In the AFC championship game a Steelers rookie dropped a pass that was a guaranteed touchdown.  He was so wide open it was embarrassing.  And yet at the moment that would have crowned his rookie year, he blew it.  A moment that would have sealed him in Steelers history, he choked and took his eyes off the ball.

We’ve all been there.  Well, ok, maybe we haven’t screwed up before a live TV audience.  But we’ve all screwed up in public ways.  And we have all wanted to lie on the ground and pretend we’re injured, just like Sweed did.  We think, “well if we’re injured, at least we have an excuse.”  Which feels so much better than admitting you’re a loser.

We live in a world that pretends you can be successful 100% of the time.  We’re told that life can be easy.  That it can be safe.  That the worst thing that can happen to us is to be placed in danger.  But the truth is, that’s a lie. 

The world is filled with failure.  And we are all losers. 

The question isn’t, “will I fail?”  The questions is, “will I get back up again?”  Limas Sweed almost didn’t get back up.  He almost stayed on the ground.  But something changed his mind.  Something made him get back up.  And you know what?  He became a winner.  He had two key plays that changed the course of the game.  He unleashed a devastating block and had a key catch.

In one game Sweed was both a loser and a winner.  That sounds a lot like our lives, doesn’t it?   

Peter had days like that too.  On the day Jesus was arrested, Peter put his best foot forward and declared,  ”even if all fall away, I will not!“  I think most of us would be thrilled to make such a bold statement.  We’d love to take a stand for Jesus that many people refused to do.  Yet, within a few hours Peter was hiding in fear, denying his relationship to Jesus. 

Peter was a loser.

But that’s not where his story ends.  And it doesn’t have to be where our story ends.  Peter went on to change the world with his life.  He got back up.  And because of that was able to do something amazing. 

That’s what God wants for all of us: to get back up.  We may be laying on the ground, just like Peter, but we don’t have to stay there.  We can get up and keep moving forward.  That’s the whole point of grace. 

There may be no better definition of faith then getting up one more time – especially when we don’t feel like it.  That’s what it means to live out a life of faith. 

reverse psychology & God

Category : God, faith, hope, humor

 

Have you ever tried to use reverse psychology on God?  That’s where I found myself last night.  In the midst of an up-and-down Steelers game, I kept trying to find ways to get God to allow the Steelers to win.  I didn’t want to pray for a victory.  (I don’t want footbal to be too important in my life, plus I recognize that no matter what a victory would mean for me, there’s someone on the opposite side feeing the same way about their team.)

Yet, in the heat of the moment I couldn’t seem to stop myself.  I kept trying to find ways to “trick” God into allowing the Steelers to win.  I’d say things like, “God, if the Steelers win this would be a good lesson in why we should never give up and always have hope.”  Or “God, if the Steelers win I would better understand your grace.”

Yeesh.  Or as Myron Cope might say, double yoi!

As I thought about my behavior I began to wonder – how often do I try and manipuate God without realizing it?  How often do I blame God for things, when in fact I never asked for something, instead I tried to manipulate God? 

Sadly.  Too often.