(Note: Some of this was adapted from Pastor Brian Borgman's series on pride and humility. I highly recommend it. It can be found at SermonAudio.com)
Last night, our grandson spent the night with us. He's just over two months old, and he is as precious as it gets. My youngest child is now almost 10, so it's been a while since I've had that little of a person in my arms.
I woke up during the night. I heard him wiggling, and making all these baby noises. My wife (the Queen) knows exactly what to do to comfort him. She amazes me. She'd quickly get him back to peaceful sleep.
At my third time waking up - LOL - about 4 a.m. I decided it was time to stay awake, so I laid there and meditated a bit. I thought about how little he was. How he knows nothing about what's going on in the world. How he has no responsibilities, no worries, no... pretty much anything. He's just a brand new, little human.
I don't remember much from birth to about five years old, but my wife and I have raised five children of our own, and there's something special about little children. To them, everything is amazing. You show them how to color... amazing. You sing them a song... amazing. You take them outside and look at birds... amazing. You lay them on the couch and tickle their tummy... amazing. They are completely into whatever is going on.
I remember when I could do no wrong in the sight of my children. I was still me, flaws and all, but I was their big, strong, perfect daddy. They were little. They had all the confidence in the world in me. They'd look at me with those eyes, and I would melt. There's something special about really little children.
There was a time when the disciples of the Messiah asked him, "Who's gonna' be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Yeshua set a little child in the midst of all of them, and said:
"Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4, WEB)
The characteristic to be pointed out here is humility. Little children are humble in the sense that they don't care what anyone thinks. They get dirty in the yard, don't brush their teeth, share their juice box, pat you on the back when you cry, tell you they love you, and say the sweetest things.
They aren't perfect. I understand that we are all fallen sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, so don't get crazy and start rebuking my theology, lol. But Yeshua said what he said for a reason. If you're interested in being great in the kingdom, you gotta' become like a little child. You've got to humble yourself and live, and love, like a little 1 year old that's just learning to talk.
So... I think all us adults focus on too much stuff we have no control over, because we want control over it. We bicker and fuss and argue about things that make us feel validated. It's a mess y'all. It's a stupid mess. We could spend all that energy reading and studying the Bible, praying, helping the poor, being kind to our neighbors, and living in amazement and awe of all that we've been given in the here and now for a short while.
We aren't gonna' live forever in this life. Don't kid yourself. It'll be over before you know it, and what will matter are the humble things. What will matter is how you treated your neighbor. How you helped someone who didn't have the means to help you back. What will matter is how you spent time seeking your Creator. How you looked for ways to please Him more, and just lived a simple and peaceful life.
Life isn't about being first. It's about being last. Let everybody ahead of you. Don't go for the gold. Just be what you can be. That's all a little child does. Be quick to forgive. Be quick to say "I'm sorry." Don't be afraid to cry, and don't be afraid to get dirty. If life hasn't thrown you a curve ball yet, get ready for one, and the just roll with it. Trials build character. Tough times produce soft hearts.
My little grandson has the best times of his life awaiting him for the next 5 years, and he doesn't even know it. I'm gonna' do my best to have fun with him, and watch him live and love as a little child. And then, I'm gonna' try to be like him.
My children don't play organized sports much anymore, but they did a lot when they were smaller. I was big into sports as a kid. I loved basketball, and have so many fond memories of my coach and teammates. High school ball is a highlight of my life.
I do think sports can become an idol (like many things). A person can put a sporting activity or event above service to Yahweh. That's dangerous. When a parent is constantly on their child to do better and practice more, the child feels overwhelmed and pressured. The parent has then idolized the sport to the point that it takes over their own life and their child's life. Life becomes about how good the child is at basketball, or football, or softball. That's not a healthy way to live.
I think that an organized sport can be good for a child, if it's kept in its proper place. The child learns respect and how to work with a team. They learn about ups and downs. They learn discipline. These are good things.
I would always tell my children that there were 3 rules to a sport. Yes, I'm about to get spiritual here, so hold on to your hat. I think everything we do should be filtered through Holy Scripture. If you don't see things that way, you might want to stop reading here.
Rule 1: Put Yahweh First
I didn't let my children play a scheduled game if it was on the weekly Sabbath. I was teaching them priorities. When Yahweh's holy time came around, His time came first. His time was prioritized over our time and recreation. I was trying to instill in my children that Yahweh is number 1, not number 2. No matter how important a game was, Yahweh took precedent.
This wasn't always easy. I specifically remember one game my two oldest sons missed. It was an important tournament game, and my sons played first base and short stop. I almost gave in, because I didn't want to hurt the team. But I had to stick with what I had been teaching them. Yahweh comes first.
(I haven't been perfect in this area. Sometimes activities have arisen, and I've allowed my children to do them on the Sabbath. Some of this, I'm okay with. Others, I kick myself for putting Yahweh on the back burner. It's a learning process when you have children.)
Rule 2: Be like the Messiah
This is a rule that goes against the main tenant in organized sports. I taught my children that it didn't matter who won the game.
Now you've got to realize something: I'm a very competitive man. I like to win. I like to be first in everything, and I do think it's okay to try to win, but ultimately it is just a game. I have to remind myself of this when I watch the Atlanta Falcons play, because I'm a huge fan. My wife has "helped" me for years: "Matthew... remember it's just a game. It makes no real difference honey." I shake my head and mumble. (She's right you know.)
I would tell my children to be kind to everyone on the field. I'd tell them to tell the players on the opposing team "good play" when they made a hit, or caught a fly ball. I would tell my kids that when they lost, the other team had the chance to have that good feeling of winning, so they should be glad for the other team. No matter how bad you felt because you lost, rejoice because your friends got to win one.
I know that's not easy, but I didn't want my children making their life all about winning, because that's a big, fat lie. In life, there are so many losses; so many heartaches; so many disappointments. You don't always come out on top. I wanted to prepare them for that, and let them know that they are still great people even when they lose. It's no big deal, especially when it's just a ballgame.
Rule 3: Have Fun
I'd always end by telling my children to have a good time. Laugh, high five, encourage everyone, and be an example of fun. Sports are fun, if you approach them rightly, but you can't let a game steal your joy. You can't let a missed ball or a strike out make you bitter for the whole game. You've got to go into it with a mindset that you are there to enjoy some recreation with your friends.
I'd encourage any Christian parent to re-evaluate their priorities if their child is active in sports. It can be a good thing, but don't turn it into the main thing. Don't neglect the Creator who gives people their talent and ability in the first place. ✌🏼
I was working with two of my sons the other day, and thinking about how I have two aims in life. Not only two aims, but two aims in relation to my children, and myself.
The older I get the more I realize that I am only here for a short time. Statistically speaking, I'm about half way finished. Death is coming. It's just what happens. I've watched loved ones die; some in old age, some at a younger age, and some completely unexpectedly.
When death comes, life is over. It doesn't matter what I accumulated here on earth. It doesn't matter how much money I made working an extra job that one day. It doesn't matter how much land I had. It doesn't matter how many square foot my house was, or how vintage my pickup truck was.
What matters at that point is what I did for Yahweh my entire life. Salvation is by grace, yes, but grace is not a license to live as I please (Romans 6). I'm bought with a price, so I'm to live for my Master. I'm to live in such a way that when someone sees me they know that I'm a child of Yahweh.
Plus, there are rewards in the kingdom of heaven. Yeshua talked about some people being great in the kingdom (Matthew 5:19). I believe that's what Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 3. What you do has an impact on whether your reward will be big or small. And it's all about spiritual matters and obedience to the commandments. My earthly possessions do not equal great rewards. My spiritual discipline will.
So if this is what I'm really to live for; if this is my goal, why am I busying myself with working so hard for material gain? Well, I could stop here and say it's all for nought, but that wouldn't be taking all the Bible teaches into account.
For starters, I'm told to provide for my family (1 Timothy 5:8). I'm told to labor for six days each week (Exodus 20:8-11). I'm told to work if I expect to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). I'm told that a good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22), and I'm given righteous examples of men that had houses, lands, and riches, but used all of it for the glory of Yahweh (Abraham, Job, David, etc.)
So that's why I work hard for material things. Not because I don't love Yahweh, but because I love what He has told me to do. He's told me to take care of my family, and even look into the future for my grandchildren. I want to leave something for these sons of mine that work hard beside me. I want to make sure my wife is provided for. I want all my children to be able to say, "Daddy loved Yahweh, and he was also a hard worker."
In the end, what you did for Yahweh is all that matters, but that doesn't mean providing for your family is of no concern. That *is* Yahweh's work, in the sense that you aren't working to "keep up with the Jones'," but instead to make sure your loved ones are taken care of, both now and in the future.
This life is not about the material, but also is about the material, in different senses. So long as we don't confuse the senses, we'll be okay.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.