Play ball! Opening Day, 2018!

We’re going to take a little detour from theological discussions with this post. Or are we? Today is Opening Day of Major League Baseball and my favorite team, the San Diego Padres, will be hosting the Milwaukee Braves. But first, a little background:

As I’ve related before, I first began following football (bear with me) in 1969 when I watched the San Diego Chargers beat Joe Namath and the World Champion New York Jets on television and I became an instant fan of the Chargers. What 13-year-old boy could resist those lightning bolts and the Chargers’ entertaining Hadl-to-Alworth aerial attack, even though I lived 2700 miles away? The following Spring, I enlisted as a San Diego Padres fan as well. I figured, as long as I was following San Diego’s football team, I might as well follow its baseball team also. The Padres entered MLB the previous year as an expansion team and outside of slugging first baseman, Nate Colbert, there wasn’t a lot to cheer for.

I’ve followed the Padres for 48 years and over that span there’s been A LOT more leanness than abundance. There were the World Series appearances in 1984 and 1998 and three other playoff years (1996, 2005, and 2006), but outside of that it’s been a rough ride for Padres fans. San Diego is restricted by its geographic location and, with so many other leisure options, the locals do not support their sports teams like in other cities. In addition, unlike most professional sports leagues, MLB does not enforce a salary cap, meaning teams in smaller markets like the Padres cannot compete for talent with teams in larger markets like the Dodgers and Yankees. If a young Padre develops into a decent ballplayer, chances are the team will offload him rather than pay the huge salary that comes with free agency. On Opening Day, most baseball fans are optimistically hoping their team makes it to the playoffs, while Padres fans are just hoping for a .500 season.

We all have our personal interests and hobbies, but many sports fans take it to the next level. Their favorite teams become their idols and the center and focus of their lives. Those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord try to fill the spiritual vacuum in their souls with SOMETHING and many turn to entertainment and sports. Even believers can allow their interest in a sports team or something else to become idolatry that eclipses their Christian worship and service.

Some may wonder how a Christian who regularly writes about the errors of Roman Catholicism could be a fan of a team named the “Padres.” I actually contemplated the same thing after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983, but I decided not to get wrapped around the axle over it. After all, California has a deep history involving Catholic missions, which resulted in many cities being named after Catholic saints – San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, etc. Believers can become ensnared in these kinds of exacting legalistic scrupulosities rather than just acknowledging them for what they are.

Yes, it’s Opening Day and with a record of 0-0 the Padres are tied for first place with Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado, and San Francisco in the National League West! But that won’t last for long. Just like every season, I’m hoping for an 81-81 record, although it will be fun to watch free agent pick-up, slugger Eric Hosmer, in the batting order with Wil Myers (photo).

Play ball!

For a believer, getting emotional about grown men chasing around a field after a ball can seem ludicrous. The Lord surely wants us to have periods of relaxation and fun, but that should not be our focus. Let’s keep all things in the proper perspective.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1


Observations on two current news items

A couple of topics come to mind on this lovely Monday morning that I would like to discuss:

As most of you know, the 2018 Winter Olympics are currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympics will conclude this coming Sunday, February 25th. I must admit that I’ve watched very little of the competitions up to this point. But some of the athletic skill that’s on display is absolutely amazing. These Olympic athletes train incredibly hard for four long years in order to qualify and compete in contests that are sometimes decided by a margin of nanoseconds. One must admire the athletes’ complete dedication to their goal.

The striving for an Olympic medal reminds us of the apostle Paul’s words in First Corinthians:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul’s Christian walk was disciplined and purposeful. What about us? Is our Christian walk even one-tenth as disciplined as those Olympic athletes who compete for a temporal medal? How much time do we spend in God’s Word. How often do we commune with the Lord in prayer? How often do we seek opportunities to share the Gospel and build up other believers? It’s a matter of the heart and desire. These Olympic athletes put us to shame, brothers and sisters.

This past Wednesday, a troubled teenager killed 17 people and injured another 14 in a shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I chose not to include this tragic story in the last Weekend Roundup. Why not? We live in a fallen world and it’s reported that 150,000 people around the world die every single day, many from tragic circumstances. I believe we should focus on spreading the Gospel rather than constantly reacting to the circumstances around us.

But I don’t have a heart of stone. I’m saddened for the victims of the Parkland shooting and for their families and friends and for all the children at the school who survived the mayhem. A nineteen-year-old with a well-documented, troubled past should never have been allowed to purchase a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle. It’s my opinion that no one needs to own a semiautomatic assault rifle, but the freedom to buy any type of firearm is so sacrosanct in this country that we’ll even allow an extremely troubled teen with a checkered record access to them.

When we board an airplane, we expect all proper precautions have been taken to ensure none of the other passengers have brought aboard a firearm or explosive device. We’re rightly concerned about our personal safety. Something also needs to be done to curtail these ongoing school massacres. Some type of restrictive measure needs to be in place to deny very troubled people like Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz (photo right), and Adam Lanza a basic firearm let alone an assault rifle! This is a difficult issue but this latest catastrophe demonstrates once again that politics trumps rational precautions at the expense of children. Guns should not be absolutely sacrosanct.


That said, let’s get back to the only thing that will save any soul, the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Broadway Joe” Namath – An idol from my past

We all have our childhood memories, both good and bad. Who knows why we hang onto certain ones.

I have vivid memories of our family sitting around the dinner table and my father ranting about pro football quarterback, Joe Namath. He didn’t rant on just one occasion, but MANY times. Ugh! It was torturous. Namath had led the Crimson Tide of Alabama to a 29-4 record in three seasons and a national championship in 1964 and was highly prized by both the National Football League and the American Football League (the two leagues would eventually merge in 1970), not only for his athletic prowess but also for his Beaver Falls, PA charisma. Namath chose to sign with the New York Jets of the AFL for $142,000 per year. Such an amount is “chump change” in professional sports these days, but back in 1965 it was unheard of. I believe Namath may have been the first athlete to earn over $100K per year.

My Dad was absolutely incredulous! The average American salary was only around $5000 per year in 1965 and my Dad probably didn’t make much more than that. He wanted to know how some “dumb football player” could earn $142K per year when the President of the United States was paid a yearly salary of only $100K. We heard Dad’s rant over, and over, and over again for at least a couple of years. Unlike today, kids back  in those days were not allowed to say, “Yeah, Dad, you made your point. Time to move on.”

The reason I bring all this up is I came across a video of Joe Namath on You Tube yesterday waxing nostalgic over his career. We have our sports celebrities today, but Joe was a “cultural phenomenon” back in the late 60s and early 70s. Not only was he a good quarterback who led the Jets to victory in the 1969 Super Bowl, he also stoked his off-the-field persona as a high-living ladies’ man, the toast of Gotham City, “Broadway Joe.” Joe was a rebel with his long hair, Fu Manchu mustache, and [gasp!] white cleats. Joe was cool. Boys wanted to grow up and be the next Joe Willie Namath while men dreamed of being Joe for just one day. My best friend was a Jets fan with posters of Namath on his bedroom wall. As a San Diego Chargers fan, I couldn’t go that far, but I also thought Namath was very cool.

But the marketing image never reflects reality. Joe has struggled throughout his adult life with painful injuries from football. He worked hard to find his occupational niche after retiring from football in 1977, but nothing would come as easily to him as calling plays in the huddle. The country’s most famous bachelor finally married in 1984, but would divorce 16-years later. Joe also battled alcohol addiction for decades. We envy celebrities their lifestyle, but their headaches are often much bigger than the “average” person’s. Joe’s now 74-years-old. How much longer does he have to live?

We humans like to idolize celebrities. That’s our nature. We have a vacuum in our soul and we need to fill it with something or somebody. And consumer marketing exploits our penchant to idolize sports heroes and movie stars. The Jets were willing to pay Joe Namath $140K per year fifty years ago because they knew he could fill all the empty seats in their stadium and raise television ratings dramatically.

Who do you idolize? Who do you “worship” with your time and attention? Nobody is worthy of that kind of devotion. No one “has it all together.” It’s all a marketing façade. But there is one Person who is worth following. He walked the streets of Palestine 2000 years ago, but He and His message are as important now as back then. He had no failings. No skeletons in His closet. No false facades. And He offers you the gift of eternal salvation and fellowship with God.

You’re a sinner. He was not. God the Son came down from Heaven, put on flesh, lived a perfect life, and paid the penalty for sin on the cross of Calvary. But He beat sin and death when He rose from the grave. He’s reaching out to you now. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Follow Him. He is a firm foundation who will never fail you. He’s not a false idol. He’s absolutely worthy of all of our worship.

Why are there so many tragedies among celebrities?

Play ball! Ruminations on the frivolity of sports


I used to be a huge sports fan but my enthusiasm has gradually waned over the years. I started following the New York Knicks in 1968, the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers in 1969, and the San Diego Padres in 1970. All three teams have had some good runs here and there but there’s only been a total of two championships between all three teams in 50 years (the 1970 & 1973 Knicks). If you enjoy winning, these three teams would definitely be the wrong teams to ride.

The opening of the baseball season began Monday with the usual results. The

Here’s Padres’ first baseman, Wil Myers’ Twitter profile. That’s Myers on the right.

Dodger$ ($230 million payroll) clobbered the Padres ($69 million payroll), 14-3*. Ho-hum. What else is new? General Manager, A. J. Preller, couldn’t win with past-their-prime free agents (e.g., Matt Kemp, Justin Upton) the previous two seasons, so now he’s going with the kids (the Pads have the 2nd-youngest team in MLB). The only “star” on the team, 26-year-old first baseman, Wil Myers, is outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ. Now that’s what I’m talking about!!!

But what about the Padres’ mascot, the Swinging Friar? I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the Padres’ name, their mascot, or their nickname, the “Friars.” Isn’t it ironic that an ex-Catholic saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone would follow a team named after the Catholic mission priests of California? Oh well. I don’t think it’s all that objectionable. Similar things like this are scattered throughout our culture like the days of the week and the months of the year being named after pagan gods.

The prognosticators don’t expect a lot from the young Friars this season but that’s par for the course. The last time they had a winning record was 2010.

Many of America’s men have made sports their religion. They look to their favorite teams for their identity, pleasure, and fulfillment. Even some Christian men have made sports into an idol. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sports or other forms of entertainment but when they take a preeminent place in our hearts, that’s a problem. When we get to glory we certainly won’t care one single iota about what team won the last Super Bowl, World Series, NBA championship, or Stanley Cup. Some guys can’t comprehend that. Ladies, I didn’t forget about you. You’ve got your idols, too! There’s a lot of things we take extremely seriously here in the world that won’t amount to a hill of beans in Heaven.

*Postscript: The Padres actually beat the Dodgers, 4-0, in the second game of the opening series.

Taking the NFL thing a little too far

I’m not a big fan of “Good Morning, America” but it comes on right after my favorite localboys morning news show and about 15 minutes before I leave for work. This morning, one of GMA’s lead stories was about how a church in Dallas, Texas had shown the first-place, 8-1 Dallas Cowboys versus the Baltimore Ravens football game on one of their big screens “during” the church service. Are you kidding me? Have evangelical churches sunk that low?

From the article below, we learn that the church in question was Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, but according to a comment from a church member the game was presented “after” worship service and before some other event. GMA strikes again!

Dallas Church Plays Cowboys Game During Service

I know football is religion for many people. Even many Christians get more worked up about the NFL and/or college football than they do about Jesus Christ. Men, if we only had a fraction of the passion for Jesus Christ and lost souls that we do for weekend football!

Now, I’m not going to begrudge anyone a little entertainment. Far be it from me! I certainly have my own hobbies and interests. But let’s get our priorities straight. As for showing a football game in the sanctuary between events so the fans can go to church and still get their ‘Boys fix…well, you might call me a legalist but that strikes me as a bit off kilter.