Category Archives: Series

Sports – Part 3

“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

This is the final article in a series discussing sports and the Christian family. If you haven’t already read the two previous Corners on this topic, it is important that you do so, because they are necessary for the full understanding of the context of this discussion.

As I said previously, this series is written to dads who sincerely desire God’s best for their families and want to make their decisions based on the Word of God. Some readers may be tempted to bring up justifications for team sports based on their personal positive experiences with sports. Remember, though, if we are committed to living according to God’s Word, no matter how strong our justifications might be due to positive experiences or emotion, it doesn’t make it right if what we are justifying is contrary to Scripture.

An excellent example of putting “good justifications” in their proper place is from Matthew 16:21-23: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Here Peter was rebuking Jesus because he loved Jesus and didn’t want to see Jesus suffer on the cross. In return for Peter’s “kindness,” Jesus rebukes Peter with the same rebuke He gave to Satan when Jesus was first tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).

How could Jesus rebuke Peter like that when Peter appears to have had wonderful motives? What could be wrong with not wanting to see someone you love suffer horribly? (Or what could be wrong with wanting your children to have fun?) Jesus showed us that life in Christ isn’t about good motives but rather obedience to the Father. Peter was attempting to hinder Christ from following God’s will for Jesus’ life. Can we begin to see how serious ANYTHING is that takes us away from following the Lord’s will for our lives? Can we see how it often is the savoring of activities and things of this earth that quickly draw us away? Sports may be one of the best examples of “things that be of men” and draw their hearts away. If anyone doubts this, just look at church attendance when there is a Super Bowl game on at home. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Even if a person can’t bring himself to the point of saying sports are bad, surely it can be seen that they are not edifying in the Lord Jesus. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Paul says he won’t be involved in anything that has the potential of bringing him under “its” power or is not edifying. I can’t help but wonder if anything else has more men in bondage to it than sports.

Quite a few years ago, we were visiting a church, and my family was shocked at what we heard the pastor say. That Sunday morning the preacher shared how he was really looking forward to the Super Bowl because it had been years since he had seen a Super Bowl game where the blood really flowed. The two teams scheduled to play were tough, and he couldn’t wait to see the blood flowing. We all hoped he didn’t mean that literally, but it was obvious that he wanted to see a violent, hard-hitting game. How can we give our children appetites for things like that? Even if we are watching these games in moderation with our children, it will likely fuel a passion in our children that does not know the same limits.

Christians are called to lay down their lives for others, while team competition fuels a child’s pride and the desire to put himself first. This is contrary to Scripture and the command to love one’s brother. “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).

One dad e-mailed me the link to a news documentary about what was happening to professional football players. Apparently, the shock to their brains is so violent that their life expectancy is, on average, over twenty years less than that of a normal person. It would be good for dads to evaluate all competitive sports they are watching or involved in as to whether they are giving their children a thirst for violence. Is this consistent with the command to every father to bring his children “up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)? Jesus lost so that others might win.

I was asked about other pastimes that many Christian families spend their time participating in such as board games, non-organized “friendly” basketball, football, and volleyball games or even spelling bees. Are they wrong or beneficial? I suggest that each dad evaluates them based on Scripture and family goals. For example, in light of 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” I ask myself these two questions concerning the activity: “Is there nothing better to do with the time? What appetites might be developed?”

I personally would avoid shooting baskets or playing football with my children. Why? Because those sports are addictive, as evidenced in many men’s lives. I wouldn’t want to cast a potential stumbling block in the path of my children. Some dads may have the maturity to limit it to just time with the boys, but children often won’t. While Dad may control it in moderation and not be tempted to tune into “the big game,” children won’t have that same level of self-discipline. Their exposure to sports during times together “shooting hoops” is likely going to give them an appetite for watching the pros and learning from them. I have observed in some families how this “innocent” use of time became a major appetite in their sons’ lives. So for us, I would rather avoid it.

What about many other family pastimes such as board games? There are a lot of board games that seem to really foster a spirit of competition. For us we would prefer to avoid those. However, there are some we have found that enhance thinking skills, are educational, or are Bible related, where someone “winning” just brings closure. Then the goal is mostly to learn in the process of spending time together.

What about spelling and geography academic competitions? To me they are just another way of taking a test to determine who scores the highest, unless some form of “hard-hitting” violence breaks out :-). I seriously doubt that children would find spelling bees to be addictive, so activities of that nature would be of little concern.

And what about the coed volleyball games that are pretty popular with the church youth? I haven’t observed any, but I suspect that winning could be a major thrust with some. If that is the case, then it becomes the opposite of loving my brother. Even if it is a noncompetitive time of fellowship, is there nothing better for the youth to do? What about using that energy to minister to others or do upkeep on the church? Frankly, coed teams are likely going to foster relationships between the boys and girls. That is why each parent needs to evaluate if their children are ready for marriage and whether this is a positive or negative thing.

What if a child is “gifted” with physical abilities, and the parents visualize him being a pro star who would give all the glory to the Lord? If people would be honest about it, I suspect the chance of that happening is on the order of winning the lottery. I believe there is the far higher probability of the child being drawn into the drugs, alcohol, and immorality that surrounds college and pro sports.

Nathan and Christopher were both gifted athletically, but based on what I have observed in others and read in Scripture, the last thing I would think is that God wanted them to play sports. Physical abilities just mean that God intends for them to use those talents to serve others, certainly not for fun and games. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). God gives us talents to be used in accordance with His will.

Look at the apostles and their ministry. God took uneducated men (with the exception of Paul) who were surrendered to Him and empowered them by His Holy Spirit. God does not need the fame a man gains for himself to prepare or use that man for His service. Even if someone is gifted physically, it highly unlikely that God intends to use that giftedness in sports.

Sports consume a tremendous amount of time both in practice and competition. Soon after I was saved, but before I came to these convictions on sports, I ran three marathons. That experience made me well acquainted with how much time sports training takes. If we value our time on earth as being precious and desire to redeem the time, then we will want to make sure we use our time as the Lord directs. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

Maybe you still are not convinced that the essence of competitive teams sports is the opposite of the life God has called us to live. Maybe when you or your children play or observe sports you aren’t crying, “Kill them!” and it is a simple pastime you enjoy. But what is the most valuable thing we have on earth? Isn’t it our time? Think about how much time sports robs the Kingdom of God of every day. Isn’t it time to put away unprofitable things and be busy for our Lord? “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Sports – Part 2

In this series discussing sports and the Christian family, it is important to emphasize that this Corner is written for families where the 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

It is expected that with any negative mention of sports there will be a few who protest and insist that the Apostle Paul would not agree that sports were the antithesis of the Christian walk. Then the verses where Paul refers to sports will be listed as proof Paul endorsed sports. Therefore, it would be good to objectively look at those verses briefly.

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Paul was using an example to which the Corinthians would relate. Corinth was where the Isthmian games were held in a staggered yearly timing with the Olympic games. Since the Isthmian games were in honor of the Greek god Poseidon, there were sacrifices to this false god as part of the festivities.

The competing athletes were so committed to their sport that many were willing to give their lives for a corruptible crown. Paul had a terrific example of a worthless crown because the crown they were competing for was woven out of celery. Think how long that celery-crown would have looked nice before it wilted and rotted, unlike the fancy chrome trophies of today that sit on shelves gathering dust.

Some of the “games” were horrifically brutal and often resulted in the maiming or death of one of the opponents. In one competition, which involved a combination of boxing (“beateth the air”) and wrestling, the only two rules were no biting or gouging out of the eyes, but breaking bones, dislocating joints, and choking to the point of death were all fully acceptable and encouraged. Would Paul have attended, encouraged participation in, or endorsed such things? Not a chance.

Paul used these games as an example of how foolish for a man to spend his time training, competing, and possibly giving his life for something that has little value. How much more we should discipline our flesh and follow hard after things that have eternal benefit, not pursue the games of the world. We are to invest our time and lives in pursuing the crown that everyone can win and doesn’t fade or decay.

Some also might think that these verses from Hebrews could also be used by those endorsing sports for Christians, so let’s investigate them.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

The author of Hebrews is using an example of a foot race involving a crowd watching to see how determined and prepared the participants are. He calls special attention to a runner’s weight. If you haven’t noticed, a competitive runner is smaller than he might be because every pound of extra weight is a great hindrance to his performance. Additional body weight will not disqualify the dedicated runner, but it will burden him, perhaps causing him not to win.

The writer of Hebrews is trying to convey how easily we are entangled in the things of this world that weigh us down, that hinder or prevent our service to the Lord Jesus. He is not suggesting we get involved in a foot race. He is cautioning us not to be burdened with things that will impede our spiritual performance, and he is encouraging us to patiently run the spiritual race set before us.

A direct application of this verse would be our time usage. We all have only twenty-four hours in the day to be busy about what the Lord has called us to do. I don’t think I’ve met a man who will disagree that sports are a horrendous stumbling block to many men (usually never themselves). These “other” men squander vast amounts of time to the idol of sports in their lives. Even if we ignore idolatry, just the wasting of the most precious commodity in life—our time—is serious in itself. Sadly, sports has to be one of the greatest examples of a weight that burdens men down today. In those homes where there is time for the “big game” with the cheerleaders and beer commercials, there is likely little time for family Bible and one-on-one interactions with the children.

I would like to give you three sections of Scripture showing how Paul uses examples from daily life to help his readers understand a spiritual concept, but he isn’t directing that they live out the actual example.

“If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

Paul is not suggesting that we die in the arena by the wild beast, nor is he endorsing living an indulgent life of being merry with food and drink. He is saying that there is no benefit if we give our lives in service if there is no resurrection.

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

Paul is not telling us to enlist in the army, wear helmets, and carry guns as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. He is strictly making a spiritual analogy relating soldiers being prepared to endure difficult situations to Christians not being distracted by the affairs of this life. We are to be fully committed to the service of the King. In fact sports would be a good example of “affairs of this life” that entangle so many men today.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

Paul is not promoting that we give everything we have to the poor, nor that we volunteer to be burned at the stake. He is making the point that extreme self-sacrifice is of no profit if we don’t have charity.

Another section of Scripture that will be suggested to justify time spent on sports is 1 Corinthians 9:22-23.

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

Is Paul saying we compromise truth and what he teaches in other verses to win the lost? Is Paul saying that if the world pursues sports, then Christians are to pursue sports so that they can reach the world? The world also pursues alcohol. Should Christians pursue alcohol as well? Is Paul suggesting that we go to the local bar and share a “brew” with someone in hopes of leading him to Christ?

I have yet to read a verse that indicates we compromise truth in our lives. If that was the case, then there would be no need for Scripture because the “silver bullet” excuse for not living according to God’s Word would always be, “I was doing it to reach the lost.”

A sports example consistent with this verse would be if we have a neighbor who is crazy about sports and he spends all his time at home watching them. One would not shun him because of this. When interacting with him, one would not tell him he is wrong or wasting his time. One would listen to the things he wants to share about them. Listening will not compromise truth, and it will not defraud. On the other hand, to go to the sports bars, watch the game, and drink with him would be a compromise, a snare to ourselves, and something we couldn’t do. For the sake of matters of preference, we seek to win the lost. However, we never compromise on matters of integrity or purity.

I trust that it is clearly seen that Paul was in no way promoting that believers should participate in sports. Just because David had several wives, it does not mean that Scripture endorses polygamy. Sports is a prime example of something that greatly hinders believers’ service of the Lord Jesus. As I mentioned previously, we need go no further than to look to many homes where sports take precious time away from the family being in God’s Word every day. Clearly, sports are no friend of the serious believer. For more information on this, I suggest you listen to our audio Sports-Friend or Foe?. We continue this series next month.

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?

Protecting Against Deception – Part 9

To begin, if you haven’t read the full series on Protecting Against Deception, we would encourage you to do that.

In this Dad’s Corner we finish our look at one of the greatest deceptions that professing believers have embraced wholeheartedly. This deception is that “fun” is something reasonable for a believer to pursue and invest his time into.

Someone recently asked me, “I wonder if your family avoids all entertainment?” Maybe answering that question is a good way to begin this Corner.

I love amusement parks, especially those with the fastest, highest, most thrilling rides. I have always loved them, and it is still in my blood. So of course when our children were old enough to take along with me, I delighted in giving them the same appetite for thrilling rides. Teri would get motion-sick, so she didn’t enjoy these types of activities, but she could do other things by herself, right? In addition to amusement parks, I love small two-man airplanes, sailboats, and motorcycles. If it moved, I found it fun and a worthwhile use of my time and finances. A big problem with that type of adventure, though, was coming up with the cash to keep the fun flowing.

Years ago, when we lived in Florida and then in Washington State, we had great fun going to professional baseball games. This was something that we could do together as a family. However, it was expensive, so we couldn’t do it very often. As I look back now, I’m troubled that I took my young, impressionable family into an atmosphere of drinking and immodesty. Sadly, I don’t remember being troubled by it then.

When we lived in Florida, our two oldest boys joined Little League baseball as soon as they were old enough. We loved going to their games and watching them play. We considered it a great family activity. As they grew older, they continued to play baseball and were very good at it. For almost six months of every year, our lives revolved around baseball practices and games (including all-stars). We were the typical American Christian family.

Also during those years we watched TV, but we found that we were becoming increasingly troubled by what was being broadcast. Over time we became more and more selective in what we watched. Through no coincidence, Teri and I were reading the Bible individually every morning. Looking back, we can see the correlation between our time spent in the Word and our growing disdain for the worldliness of television. We finally dropped all normal TV broadcasting and went to very selective Christian video watching for a time.

However, the more our family read the Bible, the more we came to see all entertainment as chaff. Understand that this really wasn’t our idea or plan. Our flesh loved entertainment. We often found ourselves trying to justify spending time being entertained, but the Holy Spirit kept using God’s Word in our lives to reveal how empty entertainment was compared to those things “above.” The Apostle Paul had no time for things which did not edify. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We were finding ourselves of Paul’s persuasion concerning entertainment and fun. We began leaving behind the amusement parks, baseball games, and television.

The next reasonable question you might ask me would be, “Does the Maxwell family ever have enjoyable times?”

YES, YES, YES!!! The root question really is, “What does the Maxwell family take pleasure in doing?” I will begin by sharing what brings our family joy. I will first list each in an overview fashion and then go into more detail. We love our time in the Word, individually and as a family every day. We love being together and talking. We love ministering as a family and working together.

As stated many times over the years in these Dad’s Corner articles, our family takes great enjoyment in reading the Bible every day. We each read individually in the morning when we first get up. Teri, Christopher, and Sarah have separate rooms they read in while the other children and I gather in the living room. We all have our “spots” and sort of “snuggle in” for our personal Bible reading time. When I put my Bible down, the other children who are with me do the same, and then we pray individually. Even though we aren’t reading out loud, just being together thrills my heart.

Our evening time reading the Bible is equally special and treasured. I have shared much detail about family Bible time in my audio called Feed My Sheep, so I won’t go into the same detail now. Every night we take turns reading two Bible verses as we go around the room and then discuss what we read of a chapter or two of Scripture. We also share a particular verse that stands out to each of us that we want to apply to our lives. We then have a time of asking forgiveness if we have wronged others in the family but had not set it straight earlier in the day, and finally we close with a hymn. Teri prays with the girls at bedtime, and I pray with the boys. Our days would be so empty (non-edifying) without that time in the Word.

Our family takes great pleasure in fellowshipping as a family. At mealtimes and in the evening, we simply enjoy being together and talking. Jesse, my youngest son, calls these times “chatteries.” We don’t have to have something entertain us to get us to want to be together. We actually like being together. We love sharing what our day has been like and what we learned in speaking with others. Often this is when we will tell the family about opportunities we had to share Christ during the day.

One of our family’s favorite topics is discussing what our nursing-home church members have told us when we were together. Once that gets started, it may be awhile before a new topic begins. Even though there is not a non-family member within forty years of their ages, the children love ministering at our nursing-home church. They delight in talking with the residents before and after our service.

We love to minister to others because it gives us great joy. Even though our road trips involve a lot of work and can be exhausting, everyone loves them. For hours of driving time after a conference, the children take turns telling what they learned from those with whom they spoke.

We especially love to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for us. An excellent place affording that opportunity is the homeless shelter where we go one Saturday afternoon a month. Nathan, my oldest married son, is the one who introduced us to the shelter. Frankly, I would be happy not to go because I’m out of my comfort zone there, but it is always a blessing once we go. We also delight in sharing Jesus with telemarketers, store checkout personnel, and the people we meet while traveling.

I believe having no entertainment in our home is one clear reason why our children take great joy in helping others. If Nathan, who lives across the street, is doing a project for Grandad, who lives next door, and needs some help, our children will delight in taking their personal time to assist. They are quick to want to help other neighbors as well, as time permits. However, if one raises children on a diet of fun and entertainment, that is what they will seek, and they will most likely shun being a servant because it isn’t fun or is boring to them.

When I go to visit my mom, who lives three hours away, I take one of the children with me, and we have a great time together. It is a blessing as I have time with one of my children, and we minister to my mom. It is a joy for me to be with my children and for them to be with me. We don’t have to do “fun” things to enjoy being together.

There are occasional bike rides together with my boys. The purpose of the ride is not to have fun, but rather to spend time with them while getting some exercise. We often take family walks together, and regularly this includes Grandad and Grandma along with my children and granddaughter. We enjoy these walks greatly because we are able to fellowship and exercise.

Working together as a family is also a great blessing. As book titles were being added to our family ministry, we came to a crisis point with no place to store more books. As we discussed options one day, we learned that Christopher was happy to buy our current house so that we could build a house with a bigger basement that could be walk-in accessible. This meant that we no longer would need to carry the many boxes of books down into and then back up out of the basement.

The family wanted to work together to build the new house because that is the only way we could afford it. In between speaking trips and school schedules we spent many enjoyable, but hard, often sweaty hours working side-by-side. We have posted numerous pictures on our blog along the way. I believe it is by God’s grace and by not developing an appetite in our children’s lives for entertainment that we have the privilege of having children who enjoy working. What a blessing!

Fun is the world’s alternative to joy. Joy costs us nothing while the pursuit of fun through entertainment is both costly and addictive. Instead, may we be addicted to ministering. “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)” (1 Corinthians 16:15). The joy of the Lord comes through obedience to Him and yields eternal fruit, while fun lasts only as long as the money holds out.

Do those professing faith in Christ deserve entertainment? The world has deceived believers into thinking that fun is an acceptable use of time, something to be sought after and deserved for hard work. Sadly, every minute that is wasted on fun is time stolen from something profitable and the duty to which we are called. Listen to Jesus’ example of an unprofitable servant: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Today I hear such gross exaggeration of what we are free to do. The reality is that we are servants of Jesus Christ, and we are to be busy about His business.

Jesus said, “. . . I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and He has overcome the world with His life’s blood. If this is true, then why do so many professing believers spend so much time pursuing the world and its entertainment? James tell us, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The more someone invests his time in fun, entertaining things, the more his heart is drawn to the things of this world. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately” (Luke 12:34-36).

Let our joy, our delight be in the things the Lord has called us to do. Then our hearts will be drawn to things above. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). My heart is saddened when I hear people attempt to justify their fun entertainment. Paul is so clearly saying we are to set our affection on those things above, not on things of the earth.

The deception is that we deserve to have a fun time and that it is an acceptable use of our time. The truth is that we deserve hell, and by God’s grace He gives us eternity with Him. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). Will we be found ready when the Master returns?