There is a strong pull in our day to conform to some kind of cultural ideology; to get on board one kind of ship or another, and then bad-mouth anyone not on your ship.
The problem is this: all of the ships sailing around aren't good vessels. They may have a stripe of something good here and there, but they all lack, because they aren't built by the right manufacturer - and they sure ain't captained by the right people.
In order to judge right from wrong, you've got to have a standard, else you're just spouting your opinion. You can't just decide capital punishment is wrong or right by yourself. You can't just say we have to go to war with that nation or this nation, or that we need or don't need the government's help in schooling our children. People go round and round about matters as these, and you hear one opinion after another. One "solution" after another.
In order to make a decision about your marriage, or family, or job, or whatever... you've got to have some kind of blueprint to go by. Some say that blueprint is what you feel is best, but then comes along another person with a "what-they-feel-is-best" blueprint, that doesn't match yours.
Some people think the Democratic Party is the blueprint. Others think it's the GOP. Then you've got the Libertarians poking fun at both of them, while trying to build an industrial hemp plant.
The reason there is so much bickering is because most folks have somehow made the decision to NOT allow the Creator to make all the decisions. They've decided what He says might be alright sometimes, but when they run across something He says that they don't like, they run back to some other level (or un-level) measurement.
The other day my wife was showing me some amendments that people could vote on here in Georgia (our home state). As I read through each one of them, the only thing that crossed my mind is: what does the Creator say in His law? I've trained my mind to think like that. It's taken a while, but it helps to be a creature with a heart that's being written on by the Almighty Himself. He's helped me get to where I am today. I think like He thinks, because He has made me think like He thinks.
There was one amendment that was about alcohol sales on Sunday (before noon I think I was). I remember when you weren't able to buy alcohol on Sunday, and I get where that comes from here in the southern "Bible belt." But... the Creator doesn't say anything in His law about buying a 6-pack on Sunday. He doesn't forbid it, so that was an easy one for me to vote on. Plus I like to drink, so there's that. (In moderation of course... for all you people who think drinking means getting drunk.)
My point is that I have a standard, and that standard is the law of Yahweh, the Creator, and the author of the Torah, His instructions and guidance for humanity. I'm pro capital punishment, because He is. I'm anti-homosexual practice because He is. I'm pro helping widows and orphans and foreigners because He is. I really couldn't care less about what anyone else says. All other arguments are mute to me. You might as well talk to a telephone poll if you are trying to get me to okay something that He forbids, or to forbid something that He allows. I'm not listening. I'm closed minded.
It makes life easier to have such a standard. I'd argue that it's the only standard in the universe, but regardless... I have one. It's not me. It's not my feelings. It's not a political party. It's not a denomination. It's the holy law of the Creator of all things. He created us, so I let Him call the shots. I go by what He says.
What's your standard? What do you judge everything by? Why do you think the way you do? What makes something a sin to you? Why do you allow some practices and forbid others?
Everyone judges by something. I'd suggest making that something Yahweh's Law, else you'll always end up changing with the whims of the culture.
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.
Last evening I had the privilege of listening to a sermon on James 1:19-21. A good friend and brother of mine is currently doing an expository teaching through the book. I'm always encouraging him to take his time and not rush through anything. Last night was a perfect example of why. He threaded that needle in a way that I've never seen.
The teaching centered in on being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. What I had never gleaned though was the contextual meaning. It was all dealing with hearing the Word, Law, or the Message of Truth. I always took the text to be speaking in a general way, but that's what often comes when we take "one liners" out of context to make them say something they were never intended to say.
We should be swift to hear the Word. Eager. Ready. Willing. On the edge of our seat. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11). We should want to listen in order to learn. When the Word is taught or read or sang, our antennas should go up for reception.
We should be slow to speak the Word. This is the context, branching out of James 1:18 and falling on the heels of being swift to hear. What does it mean, slow to speak the Word? Well, it means being careful and cautious. One doesn't need to try to explain something they don't understand. We must be willing to diligently study a matter out and understand it before speaking. This takes time. It's a slow process.
We must also be slow to wrath. Wrath (or anger) here means resentment when hearing the Word that "rubs us the wrong way" or "cuts." We may listen to someone speak from the Word and it may be the first time we've ever heard it. It may just go against our grain, but we must be slow to resent it before examination. When the Word cuts us, when the law kills us, when our sin is exposed, we must not try to stop the knife, but allow it to do what it needs to do.
As I was listening to this all be taught last night, my mind was racing. I knew it was all truth. It resonated with my spirit and was exegeted properly from the biblical text. The problem was that my mind always has the tendency to focus on others that I think need to hear the sermon. I sit there hoping that this brother or that sister, "gets it."
As I sat there last night and my mind wandered in this direction, I was rebuked by the Holy Spirit. I soon began thinking of myself. See, I'm not in charge of who else sees, but I know when I can see. I can't prick another's heart, but I know when my heart is pricked. I can't decide to obey with my neighbors mind, but I can make up my own mind. My focus must be on me. Not in a selfish way, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that instead of worrying about who else follows through with the teaching they've just heard, I should focus on making sure I make an effort.
I have learned (and am still learning) that people really aren't ready to listen until they are ready to ask. What I mean here is that I've been in places where I have tried to make someone see a biblical truth, and it's like trying to feed a steak to a newborn baby. However, if over time they observe me practicing my beliefs, they usually come to me and ask questions. The key is that this only happens if I've been focusing on myself. Focusing on myself enables me to be more effective in helping others. I tend to think it should be the other way around. "Let me focus on others. This is the way I will help THEM." But that's not how it works. You help others by focusing on yourself. I can't remove a speck from someone else's eye when there's a beam in my own eye.
I want to focus more on what Matthew should be doing. It's easy for me to point fingers at other people. It's easy for me to condemn and be judgmental, but that's pretty much doing no good. It's a mark of self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness.
I'm sure I'll continue to struggle with this. Yahweh teaches us all lessons by allowing us to struggle, go through trials, and take tests. I'm just glad my conscience was pricked of my own sin last night. I never want to be in a place where I'm not sensitive to my sins and failures to measure up to Yahweh's perfect standard.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.