If you’ve been reading The Devotional Guy for awhile, you know that my blog reports events and records experiences that I have living as a Christian in 21st century America. I strive to be transparent and authentic, allowing you a glimpse into my life story–the good, the bad, and the uglies (or at least the not-so-pretty). In many ways, I’m no different than you. I’m a simple man trying to live my life in light of being saved by grace through faith. I can’t claim that my story is the norm. It’s not. But, it’s the story God gave me, so it’s the one I choose to share.
During our free time, Sweet T and I have been taking in the FIFA World Cup, the soccer world’s quadrennial global contest celebrating national pride and athletic will. Soccer is a sport promoted by individual stars but won by cohesive teams, as we’ve witnessed by the early exit of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and their respective teams. Meanwhile, unified units like Croatia, France, England, and Russia, relying on the combined skills of the collective playing at their peak, continue advancing.
The 2018 edition of the World Cup takes place in Russia. One of the Russian cities hosting matches is Kaliningrad, formerly known as Konigsberg, the city where my late Father was born and the birthplace of philosopher Immanuel Kant, author E.T.A. Hoffmann, and a sea of mathematicians, artists, musicians, and scientists.
“Why should not a writer be permitted to make use of the levers of fear, terror and horror because some feeble soul here and there finds it more than it can bear? Shall there be no strong meat at table because there happen to be some guests there whose stomachs are weak, or who have spoiled their own digestions?”
― E.T.A. Hoffmann
Back then, Kaliningrad, known as Konigsberg, was a burgeoning metropolis, and a place where they once crowned kings. The city was founded in 1255 A.D. To the best of my knowledge, my Father’s ancestors populated what is known today as the Kaliningrad Oblast, for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They made their living as fishermen and skillful wood craftsmen near the coastal village of Pillau, now called Baltiysk. Today, the entire area serves as a key military center and naval operations base for Russia, whose borders are nearly 200 miles away. The pictures shown during the telecast of games played during this year’s World Cup are the first I’ve seen of my ancestral home, aside from the occasional photos that crop up the web.
“Soccer is simple. But it is difficult to play simple.” Johan Cruyff
Soccer played an important part of my early youth, as I remember my Opa Bruno’s passion for the game, especially the World Cup, or as he called it “Die Weltmeisterschaft.” Opa Bruno, loved sports, particularly international competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics. It is a love that my Mother’s father passed on to me.
Soccer has also played a huge role in my Sweet T’s life. Having played soccer for 30 years, Sweet T spent much of her career playing with the legendary Sting franchise, founded here in Richardson, by soccer Hall of Famer, Bill Kinder. Back in 1976, the Sting Soccer Under-19 team played before 35,000 people in the Mexican National Championships, becoming the first women’s team to travel outside of the United States as well as the first American team to ever travel to Mexico. Having become the most successful women’s team in the United States, the Sting Soccer team was the only American team invited to compete in the first international women’s soccer tournament in Taipei, Taiwan in 1978, a precursor to FIFA’s first Women’s World Cup a few years later. Sweet T and her teammates played in front of 45,000 fans, losing to Finland in the Final. She and her teammates were trailblazers in advancing the game in the United States, as well as promoting women’s athletics in the United States.
This year’s World Cup has delivered unexpected results as surprising as recent global political elections. I believe we are seeing a wave of voters expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo, similar to the dissatisfaction that brought down the Berlin Wall, and eventually the U.S.S.R., in 1989; gave rise to the Arab Spring in 2010; paved the way for the election of President Trump in 2016; and established the road leading to this week’s election of a new president in Mexico. In places that hold free elections, we are witnessing candidates elected that are populists, similar to Teddy Roosevelt, favored and gaining the support of the Far Left or Far Right, in their respective countries.
I think people are looking for leaders willing to stand for something, who lead based on the attitudes of their supporters, whose beliefs and values they share and mirror. Admittedly, the dissension and division between people is great and unsettling. Yet, we all seem to agree that things can’t continue going on the same way. Years of undelivered promises, systematic corruption, and nothing getting done has left people disgruntled and full of discontent. People on the left and to the right of the political spectrum want leaders who actually take action and deliver change.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
Romans 13: 1 (ESV)
I think the winds of change are just beginning. I believe much is yet to come.
So, how do we respond as Christians living in a chaotic world?
“Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”
Their mouths hung open, speechless.” Mark 12:17 (The Message)
I think we must look to the Early Christians for an example as they lived under the rule of the Romans. In a world often hostile to them, the Christians continued to gather with one another and serve as salt and light, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During a time when they were often met with hate, they strove to respond in love. Surrounded by people disobedient to God, they desired to obey God, while being respectful of the laws of the land. While they gave to Caesar that which was Caesar’s, they knew were the line in the sand was drawn before they ever had to cross it. They would not disobey God in order to obey man.
Living as a Christian in the 21st century undoubtedly has its challenges. If we stay rooted in God’s Word, commune together with Him in prayer, and strive to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then we can persevere and prosper until Christ returns.
By the way, I’m thinking France and England will be playing in the Final on Sunday, July 15, with France prevailing 4-3 in an offensive barnburner.
“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.”
Mark 13:32-37 (The Message)
Please checkout my recent guest appearance on Gary Miller’s WorshipMinistry.com podcast exploring “Everythingness.”