A Few Thoughts on the 2018 World Cup

Related imageI confess my love of the world’s game: soccer. Though we American’s haven’t quit caught on, I am confident American mothers will ensure that soccer will continue to grow in popularity. Most mothers, simply put, don’t want their little boys to turn their brains into mashed potatoes on the football field. Advantage futbol.

Regardless, the 2018 World Cup has been much anticipated. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while and have watched as much of it as I could. Although I am no soccer pundit, I thought I would offer a change of pace for the website and offer a few thoughts on this run of the World Cup while we wait for next years women’s World Cup.


There Was a Lot of Parody

By the end of the round of sixteen, the powerhouses of Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Portugal were all eliminated. Early favorites Brazil would fall in the next round. This surprised everyone. I had Germany winning it all and yet they did not make it out of the group stage. My reasoning was simple, having watched them demolish every team they faced in a major international tournament last year without any signs of being slowed down and then being put in a group that favored them, they looked like a clear favorite. Yet, they placed uninspired soccer and were rightly punished.

Like Germany, Argentina played poorly. I suspected they would not go far, but I doubt anyone thought they would play as poorly as they did. The beauty of soccer is that it is truly a team game. Having the world’s best player isn’t enough. Argentina was abismal and advanced by the skin of their teeth.

This makes sports fun, but eventually we stop watching if there is too much parody. March Madness is the best example of this. We love upsets, but not too much. Germany and Brazil draw eyes because they have quality players, Russia doesn’t. So unlike previous World Cup, the tournament was very unpredictable, but in the end, four of the best teams playing their best soccer made it to the quarter finals.


The Celebrated Stars Performed Poorly

Most would agree that the three best players in the world are Leonel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, and Neymar. Of the three, Ronaldo had the better tournament, followed by Naymar. I’m not sure Messi ever arrived in Russia.

For the most part though, these three, and others could be added to the list, played poorly. Ronaldo’s best game, the first one against Spain, included long periods of being absent. Neymar became a parody of flops and overdramatic whining. And Messi played with the same energy as the rest of his team.

This is bad for the game of soccer. What is worse is there lacked other quality players of their age that played at their levels. There was no Robin or a host of other players in the tournament. Much of the press on was these three and when they either didn’t play well or were eliminated, it was a disappointment.


The Young Stars Performed Brillantly

The big three may have played poorly, but the young stars did not. Perhaps the star of the tournament was Frenchman Kylian Mbappe. The world is beginning to wonder if he is the next Messi/Ronaldo. When they finally retire, someone young like Mbappe will be at the right age to carry the mantle.

Another name worth mentioning is the Golden Boot award winner Harry Kane. Coming off of a successful season with Tottenham, Kane carried England to the semifinals. England was a hard team to figure out before the tournament. The talent was there, but could they finish strong. England, like Mexico and the US, tend to show promise but ultimately lay an egg. Not this time and Kane was a major reason why.

One other name worth mentioning is Christian Eriksen from Denmark. Perhaps no one carried their team to success more than him.


The Tournament Suffered From The Teams That Didn’t Qualify

There were some notable teams that did not qualify for the World Cup. These include the Netherlands, Italy, Chile, and, of course, the United States. The Netherlands were the most exciting team four years ago. Italy has a long history of success in the World Cup. Chile is highly ranked and armed with great talent. And then is the United States. Having finally become a staple in the World Cup, they failed miserably in qualifications. Unable to even tie Trinidad and Tobaggo, the US were kept out of a tournament they could have found success in.

The stories are already out that ratings are down the World Cup. This isn’t surprising. Most of the games were in the morning and early afternoon and without the massive appeal of Italy and the US, ratings were bound to be down. The World Cup will increase the number of teams next time around which will almost gaurantee these teams will be a staple.

But then again, the US men’s team never seem to disapponit.


The Tournament Benefited From Exciting “Underdog” Teams

Though the tournament suffered from poor performes of Germany and the rest and the absence of Italy and others, multiple teams filled the void. Mexico, it pains me to say, was fun to watch until they faced Brazil. Croatia proved to be a team of real talent. And there was the biggest surprise of the tournament: host Russia. No one played with the sort of heart and want more than Russia and understandably so. They slayed Spain, kicked the tournament off with style, and almost beat Croatia. Hats off to our political enemies. Tournaments often bring the best out of teams like these and we enjoy every minute.

And Iceland was fun.


Who is the Next International Star?

Here is the question everyone is asking. Who is the next Ronaldo and Messi? The two leading candidates coming out of the World Cup is likely Mbappe and Neymar. We can’t forget Salah who had an unfortanate tournament for Egypt. Some point to Toni Kroos but that seems unlikely. Harry Kane? Christian Eriksen? Cavani? I’m a fan of Dembele from France (who mostly sat on the bench) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal FC, but then again, I’m an Arsenal fan.


What’s Next?

The beauty of being a soccer fan in America is there is no off season. In the fall and winter Europe is in full club season. The English Premier League along with Serie A and La Liga offer plenty of material. In the summer, the MLS kicks off. In between all of that are various international matches.

Next year is the Women’s World Cup which means the US women’s national team will start their qualifying soon. The women’s game is exciting and underrated. Come World Cup time, expect a lot of interest in America as they have solid chance of winning it again.

Until then, we find ourselves in the midst of a competitive MLS season that now features Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimović and soon the EPL begins on August 10. Go Gunners!


Image Credit


All Around the Web – July 20, 2018

Denny Burk – Theologian wants to take the Bible out of the hands of Christians

Doug Wilson – This Cavalcade of Concupiscence

WORLD – Rolling into barbarism: Today’s pro-abortion propaganda is increasingly anti-woman and extremist

Evangelical History – Is the Wall of Separation ‘Bad History’?

John Stonestreet – Oregon’s Hypocrisy

Desiring God – How to Leave Porn Behind

Jason K. Allen – Four Reasons to Pray for Your Pastor Daily

Chuck Lawless – 7 Indications that a Pastor of a Declining Church Has Stayed Too Long

Desiring God – The Most Dangerous Place to Live: The Subtle Perils of the Past

Thom Rainer – Five Future Developments Coming to the Church – Rainer on Leadership #450

Babylon Bee – Joel Osteen Reminds Viewers That Opinions Expressed On Program Are His Own And Do Not Reflect Those Of Jesus Christ

The Apostle’s Creed: The Ascension

IMG_4991I believe in Jesus Christ . . . [who] ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty.


When it comes to Christ’s finished work, his ascension is often overlooked. Yet we dare not do that. Years ago while enjoying breakfast with friends of mine, a modalists interrupted our conversation to defend his heresy. It all ended when one of my friends simply asked, “do you believe there is an embodied man sitting at the right hand of God the Father as proclaimed in Scripture?” That simple question rests not only on the doctrine of Christology (for that was what we were defending), but on the ascension itself.

The Bible offers four narrative passages that show us that Christ ascended.

Mark 16:19 – So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Luke 24:5-5250 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

Acts 1:6-11So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Since Scripture is clear that Jesus ascended into heaven, why does it matter?


We Have an Incarnated Advocate with the Father Sitting Next to God.

In 1 John 2:1, the apostle notes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Likewise, in Romans 8:34, Paul notes, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

This is indeed good news. There is, right now, a man who is like us in every way, yet without sin, who serves as our eternal Advocate. This is particularly important to remember in moments of suffering and prayer. We are never alone and we worship a Redeemer who is sympathetic to our sufferings.


Jesus’s Ascension Results in the Descension of the Holy Spirit

Jesus told his disciples in John 16:7, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Likewise, in John 14:16, Jesus states, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”

Much as Christ is our Advocate, so is the Holy Spirit who takes our prayers to God (see Romans 8). The Holy Spirit matters and will be explored more later in the creed. When Jesus ascended into heaven, the redemptive and missional work of the Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost. And the world hasn’t been the same since.


The Ascension of Jesus is the Final Nail in the Coffin of Death

Christians believe that death, an unnatural reality of our fallen world, is our ultimate enemy (along with the Devil and our own depravity). Jesus’s ascension is the final nail in the coffin of death. Death has no jurisdiction at the throne of God. The story of Christ will become ours. Christ was raised to a glorified, eternal body. So will we.





All Around the Web – July 19, 2018

AATWJoe Carter – 9 Things You Should Know About Russian President Vladimir Putin

Quillette – I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me

John Stonsetreet – Abortion, Bias, and Babies with Down Syndrome

Sam Storms – 10 Things You Should Know about the New Heaven and New Earth

Gospel Coalition – How the Gospel Has Affected Don Carson

Chuck Lawless – 7 Truths about the Weeds of Sin in Our Lives

Thom Rainer – Baby Boomers Are Returning to Church

Tim Challies – Kids and Technology

Bible Gateway – Infographic: The Status of Christianity Around the World

LifeWay Pastors – Turning Your New Pastorate Into a Long-Term Pastorate

The Guardian – I tracked my iPhone usage for a week and this is what I learned

Babylon Bee – Socialist Professor Refuses Salary, Frees Himself From Bonds Of Capitalism

Babylon Bee – More Protective MAGA Helmets Now Available For Trump Supporters Brave Enough To Go Out In Public


Some language. But this is why we homeschool.

All Around the Web – July 18, 2018

AATWWall Street Journal – Let’s Talk About the Black Abortion Rate

Federalists – The Thailand Cave Rescue Shows Why Men Are Necessary

Denny Burk – What is “desire” in James 1:15? Sin or temptation?

Sam Storms – Can God’s Existence be Proven?

Gospel Coalition – What I Wasn’t Ready for in Pastoral Ministry

Baptist Press – Survey: 2/3 of churchgoers invited someone to church

Tim Challies – A Sober Warning from the Earliest Christians

Thom Rainer – Six Considerations for Selecting Mission Partners – Rainer on Leadership #449

Chuck Lawless – 8 Reasons Evangelism Programs Often Don’t Work

Baptist Press – SBC messengers ‘getting younger,’ Dallas report shows

Christianity Today – World Cup Evangelism Has Flourished. What Comes Next?

Babylon Bee –  RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM: Kavanaugh Caught Serving Food To Homeless

Babylon Bee – The Bee Explains: Democratic Socialism

A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Drama in the Queen’s Court, Part 1

If you enjoy stories of power, wealth, politics, murder, and love (like any Johnny Cash album) you’re going to enjoy the events of 1565-1567 in the ministry of John Knox which he records at the end of book 4 of his History of the Scottish Reformation. But it can be confusing.

First, there is Mary, Queen of Scots – the greatest foe of Knox and the Scottish reformers. She fills the page of History and very little of it is good. It is she that Knox infamously made cry.

Secondly, there is Henry Stuart, the Lord Darnley – Mary’s second husband. This marriage was largely political as he was related to both royal houses in England and Scotland. If Queen Elizabeth in England died, this marriage insured that Mary’s children would assume the throne of England which happened when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. That James became the James of the KJV.

Thirdly, there is Patrick Hepburn, the ear of Bothwell whom Mary’s welcomes back from exile. He will be at the heart of the drama.

Finally, there is David Rizzio – the queen’s influential and disliked secretary. His story is short lived.

Before long, the marriage between the Queen and the new king (Lord Darnley) was on the rocks. His behavior became more erratic; he began visiting brothels and became a drunkard. He was an embarrasment to the throne. Then the rumor reached him that his wife, Mary, Queen of Scots, was committing adultery with David Rizzio. Darnley believed them and thus was easy prey for some Protestant leaders who sought to take Rizzio’s life. In March 1566, David Rizzio was assassinated in front of the pregnant queen and then dragged to a nearby window and thrown out of it.

There is much debate regarding the role Knox played in Rizzio’s assassination. Little evidence suggests he was involved in the plot, but he certainly was not sad to see him gone. Rizzio’s death radically reshaped the political landscape especially for the reformation cause.

Shortly thereafter, the King, the Lord Darnley, was in the final stages of syphallis while Mary, Queen of Scots was fornicating with Bothwell. In their lust, they plotted to assassinate Lord Darnley. On February 10, 1567, at two o’clock in the morning, a large explosion killed Darnley and one of his servants. Bothwell was immeditely suspected.

The King’s death left an opening – oneBothwell swiftly took. One of his primary strategies was to rape Mary forcing her to marry him. The wedding took place three months after Darnley was murdered and less than two weeks after Bothwell divorced his wife on shaky grounds.

If you’re still trekking with me, so goes the way of the “beautiful people.” Mary’s court is an utter mess and on the side is the Reformed church pressing harder and harder against Mary. In his History, Knox is shocked by the blazen evil of the court and openly condemns Mary, Bothwell, Darnley, and the rest of them. Then again, he already considered them idolaters and children of Ahab and Jezebel.

There is more to this story.

Volume 1
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Introduction
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Lollards of Kyle
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Patrick Hamilton
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – English Bible
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Reformation Articles
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – We Shall Prevail

Volume 2

A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Prayer of Thanksgiving
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Scots Confession
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Education
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – John Meets Mary
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Mary Cries
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Introducing John Craig
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Preaching Before the King
A Year in Scotland: Blogging Through The Works of John Knox – Drama in the Queen’s Court, Part 1

All Around the Web – July 17, 2018

AATWAlbert Mohler –Before the Lease Runs Out: Summer Reading List for 2018

Joe Carter – Clergy Consider Handing Out Abortifacients in Church

Justin Taylor – Why It Is Highly Unlikely That the New Supreme Court Will Overturn Roe v. Wade (Though They Should)

Doug Wilson – On the PCA Getting French-Kissed by the World

Thom Rainer – How to Prepare for a Long-term Tenured Revitalization – Revitalize & Replant #049

Chuck Lawless – A First Step Toward Evangelizing More


Tim Challies – The History of Nothing, No One, and Nowhere

LifeWay Pastors – How to Thrive as a Type-B Pastor

Medium – The Tech Industry’s War on Kids

WORLD – No left turns?

Reason – Starbucks Bans Plastic Straws, Winds Up Using More Plastic

The Blaze – Is your necktie killing you? A California mayor wants to ban the accessory after he read a new study

The Cut – The Extinction of the Middle Child

Babylon Bee – New ‘Left Behind’ Action Figures Just Empty Boxes

Babylon Bee – Washington Post Reveals Its Main Source Of Information Is The Babylon Bee


“Becoming a Welcoming Church” by Thom Rainer: A Review

Image result for becoming a welcoming church

Many of our churches look like they don’t expect company. (53)


Every guests represents potential church growth. It’s as simple as that. Without guests visiting your church, you will never grow. As such, welcoming guests is crucial to the church’s future. How, then, do we welcome people to our worship? That is the question Thom Rainer seeks to answer in his book Becoming a Welcoming Church.

Rainer’s recent books have all been short volumes intended to offer simple, almost blog-like aides to churches and ministers. This work is very much in that same line. Those familiar with Rainer’s other books or his blog will find much similarity in the writing and argument here. The book is short and can easily be read in a single setting.

What is some of Rainer’s advice to churches? Though some of his emphasis seems trivial (emphasis on the lighting, for example, though valid is given more time than it deserves) much of the book is a helpful introduction to the subject. Some of his points of emphasis include, but are not limited to, a quality website, a quality greeter ministry that begins in the parking lot, and an informative welcome center. Though other points are emphasized, this gives a flavor for some of Rainer’s advice.

I must confess that of all of Rainer’s short books, this one disappointed me the most. It reads more like a series of numerated blogs (5 reasons why signs are important, etc.) than an actual book. He says little about drawing people to worship and taking the next steps with guests. Most of his advice is surfacy and barely goes beyond asthetics. It is the sort of argument I would expect from a Purpose Driven text than Rainer.

With that said, there are nuggets throughout the book worth receiving. He regularly reminds the reader of the importance of anticipating and preparing for receiving guests. As the quote above suggests, too many of our churches are genuinely surprised when someone new enters our sanctuary. Likewise, his emphasis on the church website is worth remembering. People log on to our website before they visit our campuses. Why wouldn’t we want to provide the sort of information they need to join us in worship? Then there is value of being sensitive to the experience and needs of guests. The stand up and greet time, for example, is uncomfortable for the far majority of guests (and most members by the way) and it may be best to part with such practices. It is highlights like these that made the book worth reading even with some of its weaknesses.


Image Credit

All Around the Web – July 16, 2018

AATWJoe Carter – 9 Things You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

John Stonestreet – Brett Kavanaugh

Denny Burk – Is temptation sinful?

Chuck Lawless – 8 Reasons Confession to One Another Matters


Thom Rainer – Five Reasons a Wave of Revitalization of Churches Is Likely

Tim Challies – Are You Living Worthy of the Gospel?

Bible Gateway – The State of the Bible 2018: Most Americans Want to Read the Bible

Jim Hamilton – A Fresh Translation of the Nicene Creed

WORLD – Linking arms and walking forward

Gospel Coalition – 5 Dangers for Missionaries in Honor-Shame Contexts

Babylon Bee – Democrats Accuse Trump Of Sexism For Not Nominating Female Justice They Promised To Block

Babylon Bee – New Study Reveals Humanity Just One ‘Coexist’ Bumper Sticker Away From World Peace