Athletic Theologians

Scottie Scheffler won the Players Championship this month, becoming the new world No. 1 golf professional. After his Masters win last year, he explained that winning at golf is not his ultimate purpose. “The reason why I play golf is I’m trying to glorify God and all that He’s done in my life. Having the God of the universe on your side just makes things a lot easier.” His wife Meredith keeps him grounded. “If you never win another golf tournament again,” she told him, “I’m still going to love you, you’re still going to be the same person, Jesus loves you, and nothing changes.”

In other news, Derek Carr signed on as the franchise quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. At his press conference he said, “I have a very strong faith in God. He is the reason I play football.” Anticipating some pushback he added, “I’m not gonna sit up here and throw Bibles at everybody, but I do have faith and I do believe. That’s how we raise our children, and that’s the basis of our marriage. I love my wife because of the way that I am loved and how I learned that love.”

Turns out, athletes can be rather good theologians! I’m proud of these Christian young men for using their platforms to glorify God. The foundation of their comments is the reality of a Creator God. Philosophers explain that since everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe must have been caused by a non-material being who always existed. Theologians agree. “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1:1).

Embedded in the athletes’ comments is the truth that God is personal and relevant to us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God is love, and His love compels us to love one another. Even more poignant, God is FOR us (“on your side”). That’s grace. Because Christ died for us, “We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:9).

These athletes’ personal faith informs their public identities and private family lives. They may not “throw Bibles,” but if these young men weren’t motivated to winsomely represent Christ, they wouldn’t have spoken about faith. That does invite increased scrutiny. They know scoffers would enjoy seeing them fall into the hypocrisy of moral failure. The scoffers do well to learn the repentant life is far more likely than a perfect one.

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).


G.K. Chesterton was a writer and philosopher of the early 20th century. The memory of trench warfare and mustard gas lingered as he considered the future. “When men choose not to believe in God,” he wrote, “they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

The ideologies that emerged soon thereafter proved his point. Fascism promoted centralized control of society and brooked no dissent. Marxism goaded the exploited and oppressed workers into taking up arms to control government and economy. Both ideologies subjugated the rights and beliefs of the individual to the unity of the state. Neither had room for God. That set the context for a century in which ideologues mastered efficient mass killing.

During those years, the Soviet Union produced a man who would have none of it. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn served in the Soviet army during WWII and observed atrocities against the German people. After the war he weaponized his pen to criticize his government and its ideology. After punishing him with prison and the gulag, the Soviets tried to assassinate him, then expelled him in 1974.

In 1983, Solzhenitsyn accepted the Templeton Prize in London for his work in restoring religion to atheist countries. “If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century,” he said, “I would be unable to find anything more precise than: Men have forgotten God. The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century.” And here we are in the 21st century and I wonder if anyone heard him. On an individual level, my heart hurts for people who have become capable of believing anything, even things that hurt themselves and others.

Now is the time to remember God! Look around. We live in a beautiful, purposeful world that logically and scientifically could not have created itself. That posits a Creator. It follows that He created you for His purposes. You live your greatest and most sublime life when you connect with that purpose. You can’t do that until you acknowledge who God says you are. He created you in His image, so you cannot fashion a meaningful identity apart from that, even if you try.

When you tether yourself to the truth and promises of God by faith in Jesus Christ, your world is a better place. I admit Christians don’t always get it right but when we do, both neighbor and enemy are loved, the poor and disenfranchised receive mercy and justice, the fallen have reason to repent, and life is deeply meaningful. So, don’t forget God. Remember Him!

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psa. 46:10).

Goat Man

Charles “Ches” McCartney (b.1901) had quite a following in small Georgia towns along the old Dixie Highway. He was a preacher known as the Goat Man. His circuit was along those tree canopied, two lane highways adorned by old barns with “See Rock City” fading on their rusty tin roofs.

For decades, beginning in the 1940’s, he traveled via homemade wagon pulled by goats. His goatskin apparel and transport apparatus were quite the smelly, noisy spectacle. He camped along the road and in nearby fields. Locals offered him and his critters sustenance along the way. Schools would release the pupils and townsfolk would flock to see the Goat Man passing through again. He sold postcards of himself and his herd to raise pocket money.

It’s hard to sort which stories are true, and which are only legends. He may have influenced author Flannery O’Connor. He may have taken his goats on a barge to Cuba. He may have sold a wife once. He may have woken up in a funeral home after being thought dead. What we do know is that losing the family farm in Iowa and having some kind of religious awakening motivated him to escape the monotony of an ordinary life.

McCartney placed signs along the roadway like, “God Is Not Dead,” and “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” Some characterize his message as “hellfire and brimstone.” He was as likely to utter a swear as a prayer. He was coarse, but that attracted curious people. On Sundays he would preach a sermon, sometimes accented by a scrap tire fire belching black, acrid smoke. His lifestyle drew attention to his message.

That’s true for you, too. For followers of Jesus, it matters because ultimate truth is at stake. “Keep your behavior excellent,” Peter writes, so that as people observe you, they “glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Paul writes, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5-6).

Jesus is our model for living like that. His words, deeds, death, and resurrection aligned for one purpose. “For this I have been born,” He said, “and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). What is truth? “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he said, “no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). That is the invitation of a lifetime.

The Goat Man’s lifestyle gave him a hearing in bygone days. I’m not advocating his goat-themed wanderlust, nor can I vouch for his message. But this I can say: today, your lifestyle is the platform for your life’s message, just like the Goat Man.

Draw Near

Woodstock was a high tide of countercultural revolution in the late 1960’s. The rock concert in New York was a hedonistic parade of reckless abandonment and self-worship. The older folks feared that all younger folks would become irresponsible, dope-using, draft-dodging, free sex hippies.

That’s why the older folks were shocked when those hippies knocked on the church door seeking another kind of revolution – to follow Jesus. The church took a minute to figure out how to handle that. The 2023 movie, “Jesus Revolution,” is a portrayal of that early 1970’s movement. It became a spiritual awakening, which gave rise to contemporary Christian music and multiple new denominations, not to mention thousands of new followers of Christ.

Fast forward to 2023. Sam Smith’s Satan-themed performance at the Grammy Awards was startling at the least. CBS promoted the mood, tweeting just before the performance, “We are ready to worship!” Some dismissed it as harmless caricature, arguing the devil isn’t real anyway. That’s Satan’s best deception. In Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis imagines demons strategizing about their “patient.” One says, “The fact that devils are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you…Suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that, he cannot believe in you.”

Whatever that whole Grammy episode signals about our culture, another story eclipsed it. Three days later, students at Asbury University lingered after chapel, sensing the presence of God in an unusual and unexpected way. News spread on social media most notably among Gen Z, described as the most irreligious generation in U.S. history. Tens of thousands traveled to participate in the gatherings of spontaneous worship and declarations of faith in Christ.

Something similar happened on the Asbury campus in 1970 during the Jesus Movement. Notice that now, as then, even as people struggle with confusion, worldviews, and immorality that only further their angst and emptiness, the Holy Spirit quickens hot-hearted seekers. He beckons whosoever will to repent, draw near, and find grace.

Such an awakening is not limited by geography or denomination, but only by your openness to hear God’s still quiet voice. His presence is near and His call is clear, right now and right where you are. “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14,16).

Evil does not have the final say. Even now God in His goodness invites you to recognize your need of a Savior and by faith, draw near.