Sports – Part 1

Here is an e-mail I recently received:

“I read your last article about the grandparents, and you said that your family doesn’t do sports. I am very interested in this philosophy and would like to know if you have Scripture that backs this up, or is it just your family’s preference? I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I know you have very good family values and back up your writing biblically. I was wondering if you could give me the reason your family doesn’t do sports or possibly is it just organized sports that you are talking about?”

From discussions with families, I have found that any negative mention of sports can be a very hot topic. I remember presenting the session “Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family” (we also have a book with the same title) at a homeschool conference where I made one brief comment about sports being a hindrance to a young man learning vocational skills.

After the session, one mom cornered me as I left and expounded on all her reasons why sports were wonderful. For the next thirty minutes, she was the buzz-saw, and I was the wood as she vented her justification for spending large amounts of time on their passion. There have been other professing believers who have let me know in no uncertain terms how important sports are in their lives.

If you are a Christian and committed to sports, I’m not trying to pick a fight, because I have more profitable things to do with my time. If you can’t read this with an open mind, then please simply stop reading now. Each of us will give an accounting to the Lord Jesus for the way we use our time and the decisions we make, so let each be persuaded in his own mind. This Corner is for those families who would like to hear what Scripture says about sports as the writer above has requested. Please pray that I will be faithful in sharing the Lord’s heart in this matter.

This Corner is not written to the lost because, frankly, for them sports may be a better use of time than many pastimes in which they could be engaged. However, even for those who don’t base their lives on the Bible, logically speaking, sports may still not be the best use of a child’s time, provided the parents have normal, vocationally-related, long-term goals for their children.

Therefore, it is important to clarify that this Corner is written to families where Dad is:

  • saved
  • striving to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord
  • deeply committed to leading his family consistently with Scripture
  • sincerely desiring God’s best for his family
  • not simply avoiding sin

We need to begin by defining sports for the purpose of this discussion because there are a wide variety of activities that are called sports, and some are beyond the scope of this Corner. The first use of the word “sport” in Scripture is found in Judges 16:25: “And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.” According to Strong’s Talking Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the Hebrew word for sport is sahaq and is also translated to play (10 times), laugh (10), rejoice (3), scorn (3), sport (3), and five other words. To play and have a good time is a primary thread woven into the fabric of why sports are important to families today and a key aspect of its definition.

Next, I went to a number of resources to see what our modern English definition of sports would be. Merriam-Webster primarily defines sport as “a source of diversion, recreation, a physical activity engaged in for pleasure such as an athletic game.” To compete is the heart of most athletic games, and compete is defined as follows: “To strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective (as position, profit, or prize): be in a state if rivalry.” Finally, rival is defined as “one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess.” So for the purpose of this discussion, let’s define sports as “physical activities that are fun or pleasurable where the purpose is to compete and win against another person or team.” Whether the sport is officially organized and whether a score is kept have some bearing, but we won’t make that part of the definition.

Now, let’s consider a couple of verses that present the foundation of the Christian faith. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). Might we sum up the Christian faith in the words self-sacrifice and love for others who don’t love us? Briefly put, it means, in response to the Father’s great love, Jesus obediently gave His life so that sinners (losers) might be made righteous (winners) and have a relationship with the Father through Jesus. Glory!

That is why Jesus would say to His disciples in Matthew 16:24: “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” If fun is our motive in activities, no one is going to take Matthew 16:24 seriously because there is nothing fun about self-sacrifice and self-denial.

Now compare the above Scripture to sports. If my readers can be open minded, it is seen that sports are the antithesis, the exact opposite, of the Christian faith. The basis for sports is that we have fun as we compete against others with the goal to defeat them, resulting in me being number one and my opponent being the loser. Sports are all about winning and making someone else the loser. My rival is crushed in defeat so I can be the best.

On the other hand, the Christian faith is where we can all be winners, and we are all trying to attain the crown together. I help you, and you help me. We all win together. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Sports train us to receive pleasure in putting ourselves first and others down. However, life in Christ is all about putting ourselves last while we attempt to lift others up.

Some may think that when a team works together to win they are helping those members of the team who are less able or skillful to all win together. Again, an open mind will see that the spirit of competition and being first is predominant inside the team itself. From our experience and from others’ feedback, even in fairly noncompetitive leagues, within each team, the good players “win” the best positions and opportunities. The poor athletes are given token playing time and become champion benchwarmers. The reality is that sports are all about winning and defeating the opponent. Jesus is the One “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Jesus gave the example of “losing” (death on the cross) to win us away from the penalty of our sin.

I want to share just a few other verses that highlight ways in which sports are the antithesis of the Christian walk.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)

We are to teach our children to love others—wanting them to succeed before us instead of crushing them for our pride and recreation. I expect almost everyone has heard belittling comments addressed to the opposite team. Anger is rampant among spectators, and in doing research for this topic, I read Internet news articles stating what a problem anger is for organized youth sports activities.

“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)

Paul was willing to go to hell, the ultimate defeat, so that others would win a relationship with the Father.

“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Romans 13:9)

Sports fuels pride in that to be a champion I must defeat my neighbor.

“Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:6)

If one team gave themselves so that the other one would win, it wouldn’t be fun any longer, and no one would come to watch.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)

I can’t help but wonder how many marriages have been ruined because of husbands having this spirit of competition so ingrained in their hearts. They don’t understand that Paul, by the Holy Spirit, is teaching us that we are to give our lives for our wives, not compete against them.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

If I am bought with His blood, purchased to be a righteous instrument in the hands of Almighty God, then I am to give myself for others as well.

There is so much more to this topic that we will continue it in the next Corner. The first step is understanding how deeply contrary sports are to the life of Christ. Will we have the mind of Christ or the heart of the world? Are we raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord or in the “me first” way of the world?

Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 4

When I received several e-mails asking questions about Scripture memory and Bible copying, I thought they would be good topics for a Mom’s Corner. As I got started, I discovered that there was much more to say about memorizing Scripture than I could fit into a normal-length Mom’s Corner. This month’s article will conclude the series, finally reaching the subject of Bible copying. Next month I plan a related follow-on subject.

From the beginning of our homeschooling, we have used Scripture verses for our children’s handwriting work, as they learn first how to print, then practice it, and finally move to cursive penmanship. However, it is only in the past three years that we have begun having our children do actual Bible copying.

In Deuteronomy we find some beautiful verses that describe how the king of Israel was to copy Scripture and the benefits that copying and daily reading the Word would have for him. “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

So far we have used spiral notebooks for the children to copy into. However, we have seen how using a 3-ring binder with loose-leaf paper would be an option as well. In the spiral notebooks, the children are limited if they accidentally skip a few verses. There is no way to insert an extra page, and that option would be available if they were writing on loose-leaf paper. This would also allow them to redo a page and insert it in if we wanted them to do that. We like the spiral notebooks because the pages stay together, and when a child completes a notebook it is already bound together.

Our children have done their Bible copying with pencil rather than pen. That is because when they make a mistake, the pencil allows them to erase and redo it without making the page look bad. They will make errors as they copy that they will catch, and I find things that they have missed that need to be fixed.

Steve started the children in Genesis with their Bible copying, but after a few weeks they jointly decided to move to Matthew. Often if a child is working on memorizing a chapter of Scripture, he will use that chapter for his Bible copying until he completes it and then move back to his other copying. That is another advantage for copying into a 3-ring binder on loose-leaf paper versus a spiral notebook, because the chapters can then be placed into the 3-ring binder in the correct order.

The Bible copying is part of the children’s school time. When they are Bible copying, they are easily able to set their minds on things above as Colossians 3 tells us to do. They also are receiving spelling, handwriting, and grammar practice. One of our children was completing her spelling curriculum well each week, but it wasn’t transferring to her daily writing. We decided to have her stop her spelling curriculum and increase her Bible copying time to see if that would help her with her spelling skills. For a younger child, I will read over his Bible copying every day during my one-on-one meeting with him. Then if there are any errors, he will correct them right then. For the older children, either Steve or I will occasionally look over their Bible copying for neatness and accuracy.

After the first Corner on Scripture memory, a mom wrote to me telling about how they had begun working on memory verses at mealtime after asking the blessing on the food. Here is her experience:

“Thanks for sharing the tip about reciting a Bible memory verse after saying grace. My three-year-old daughter is now learning her memory verse in couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.” Mom A

When I wrote to ask this mom for permission to use her testimony, not only did she give me her permission but she also gave some more details about how the memorizing was being facilitated by this method.

“We have been learning a verse for each alphabet letter. We’ve been struggling with the verses for letters A-L because they were only recited once a day, and often I would forget to do even that. When I read the Mom’s Corner, I was quite excited because I knew this would be an easy system to implement and would give practice several times a day.

“I started last week with ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). We said our prayers before eating, and then I taught the verse verbally. The first day it was mainly my husband or I reciting the verse for my child, but by the end of the second day my three-year-old child could recite the verse.

“The reference seems to be more challenging for my child. We continue to recite it, but at this point I am happy with getting God’s Word into my child’s heart and references being learned later.

“The verse for this week started with the letter K, and it is, ‘Keep my commandments, and live. . .’ (Proverbs 7:2). This verse was also learned in two days, so I should try some longer verses. I also want to do a review week to review past verses.” Mom A

This family decided to use meals to give them a consistent time to work for a couple of minutes on memory verses. They had good success because of the consistency of the study. If it is important to learn the references, then slowing the pace down will allow for that. In not much more time, the reference will be learned as well. For a three-year-old child, that might mean he isn’t learning a verse every single week, but when the verse is down pat with the reference, the family can start on the next verse. We set whatever pace we choose.

Another family e-mailed and told how they had implemented using a whiteboard for memorizing Scripture. Here is what she said.

“Teri recently shared about using a whiteboard for Scripture memory. I loved the idea, and yesterday my husband bought me a whiteboard for this purpose. We have a built-in microwave in our kitchen but do not ever use it, and so it always bothered me being there. I hung the whiteboard right over it.

“We are working on the first section of Psalms 119 right now, and having it so central to where we spend much of our day has already been a blessing!!! My husband and I sat and read it several times last night when we were visiting after the kids were in bed, the children were reading it first thing this morning, and the non-readers were asking the older children to read it to them. I love this and look forward to it always being a central part of our kitchen. Thank you for sharing the idea!!!!” Mom B

I had a mom e-mail me and share with me her personal struggle with pride because of how young her child was and what she had helped him to memorize. The Lord convicted her of her pride, and drew her heart to focus on the truth of why one would memorize Scripture. Scripture memory is an empty discipline unless what is memorized is utilized in a life. It could lead to pride and hypocrisy—a knowledge of the Word without the life of the Spirit. However, if we are using what we memorize to help us walk in grace and obedience, Scripture memory is a powerful ally for us and for our children as we walk in the Spirit.

One other thought I want to share with you comes from a mom who wrote to me and told me what her husband says about Scripture memory. I loved the analogy, and I wanted to pass it on to you as well.

“My husband always says, remember that God’s Word is our sword, when we physically have it in our hands it is like having the sword in its sheath, but when we have it memorized it is like it is out of the sheath ready to do battle.” Mom C

Psalms 19 and Psalms 119 are beautiful passages of Scripture detailing the benefits and value of the Word in our lives and our children’s lives. Here is part of Psalms 19: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:7-14).

Because I have that desire for the Word of God in my life, I want to have the Word not only available when I can get a Bible out to read but also embedded in my mind, available anytime, anyplace. That is important for my children as well. May we be women who memorize the Word ourselves and also help our children memorize.