He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, May 29, 2017

Do We Have Other 'gods'?

          My friend posted recently she was excited that baseball season had begun again.  Both her sons were on teams, as well as her nephew.  Four to five times during the week they will be at a ball field for one of the games and this includes Saturday and Sunday.   “I love it,” she said.  “It’s what we do.  During baseball season we live at the ball park.  We don’t get much else done, but hey, who cares?  I get to sit, watch the game, drink tea (or other drink) and relax.  What a great way to live!”

            In some ways, I was completely appalled at the perspective.  It’s great kids enjoy sports.  It’s wonderful exercise and competitive recreation. The problem begins when our lives are driven by a calendar revolving around sports as the most important thing in our lives!

            In a convoluted kind of way, we've made sports a ‘god’.  Anything we put before Him, is idolatry.  God doesn’t want to be second in our lives.  He requires his rightful place of first.  But, say the nay sayers, “I'm part of the team.  I have to be there.  They count on me!  If I don’t show up, I’ll be kicked off the team and besides, there isn’t an “I” in team,” we are reminded.  “It’s about everyone who signed up!”

            There’s a lot to be said for loyalty.  It’s important to be part of a team, doing our share, and contributing in whatever way we are able.  But our spiritual lives get neglected when we have our priorities skewed with sports (or anything else) we put ahead of God.  We are instructed in scripture to not neglect meeting with other Believers for fellowship.  Our spiritual exercise is as important – more important – than any physical exercise.  Our Spiritual health will fail if we don’t recognize the need for keeping God in the forefront of our lives.

            As adults, we are quick to turn on the television to catch a game, race or other sports match we enjoy.   Sports rule in many homes during the week and very often on the weekend, including Sunday.  This concretes in our children’s minds how important sports are to us.  For our children, who often want to emulate us, decisions become complicated because we are sending mixed signals. 

            When our young ones are interested in playing sports, they should participate when they can, and be part of a team. Sometimes, however, we must get creative with choices.  We need to make sure our child understands spiritual priorities; then a conversation with the coach might need to take place.  It certainly doesn’t mean he’ll cooperate or respect our priorities, but it’s worth trying.  Sometimes, it requires a hard decision, both the coach and child, will not be pleased with.  It may take finding another sport or activity to replace the one that directly affects worship time or a spiritual activity.  Other times it requires making the decision that we spend time with our children in an activity or sport, even though it is not part of an organized team.

            I encourage you to evaluate your connection with sports—or anything else that comes first—before God.  Does your ‘relationship’ interfere with your relationship with Christ?  Where does your ‘loyalty’ reign?  Does your ‘devotion’ send mixed signals to your children?  Can they see your allegiance to Christ as being first…….or is He second…..or third, below a sports event or other activity?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ministering to the Disabled

         I attended a disability conference a couple weeks ago and was astounded at what I learned!  I was invited to share my “Paxton Series,” children’s books with disabilities, with the attendees to the conference. (www.paxtonseries.com) I admit my knowledge of disabilities does not come from firsthand experience.  Most of what I know is from talking with those who have a personal stake in this arena.   The rest of my understanding comes from research directly related to writing my books. 

            The conference was held to educate leaders from churches how people with disabilities are a largely ignored, tolerated and misunderstood “people group.”  The teaching for the workshops took on a Biblical view, which I’d never considered.  As you read scripture, countless times, they record that Jesus, when he walked on this Earth, healed the lame, deaf, demon possessed, crippled, blind, paralyzed and more.  Even when every other person in the area was headed for the Festival celebration, Jesus made his way to the colonnade where people lay in agony and pain wanting to get into the water to be healed.  (John 5:1-16)

One in five people have a disability with statistics indicating 15% of the world’s population having some form.  That number climbs to 19% in the United States. That insight is staggering and disconcerting!  But what is more disconcerting is how churches largely, like most other segments in society, do not minister to this large people group!

            As my husband and I chatted about the number of people in our own home church who we know have a disability, I was stunned at the count!  Over the past ten years we have had Down’s Syndrome, autism, those who need a breathing apparatus, a walker, wheelchair, a limb amputated, knee replacement, open heart surgery –with residual complications, and many more.  While each of these situations were individual, there was no structured ministry for these folks.

            Those who knew these conditions, and as a congregation, certainly accommodated these folks, and in most forms, I’d like to think even had a fair level of acceptance.  But I can’t help but wonder if we loved these people like Jesus did?  Jesus searched these individuals out to let them know he loved them.  He ministered to their needs.  He created an environment where they could minister to others.

            Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a network within each church that not only saw to the needs of each person with a disability, but also minister to them and disciple them, so they could go out to also be a person who could serve and minister and ultimately disciple someone else?  Would it be challenging?  Absolutely!  But it’s what Jesus did! Aren’t we supposed to live our lives like He did? 

            This idea is not my own; not nearly!  This is what the conference wanted those leaders who attended to take home to their churches.  The conference changed the way I think about disabilities.  When we exclude them, we are not working at our full potential.  The Bible says even the least significant part of the body is important.  These seemingly unimportant people have much to give and not only want to be served, but to serve. 

           I encourage you to look into your own congregation.  Are those disabled in your church loved and accepted, taught and discipled to be the ‘minister’ they were meant to be?  Are there ways you can minister to them?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Esau's Birthright

       A relative of mine and I were chatting recently and she shared she was shocked at the amount of newly married couples who are buying or building large houses.  “It’s just the two of them,” she said.  “It doesn’t make sense. When Phil and I were married, we started in a small house, saved out money and later built our house.  Instant gratification seems to be the mindset of the newer generation.”

            “Agreed!” I replied.  “I’ve seen young couples end up losing their home because they couldn’t afford it.  But I found it so odd.  They bought a house, realized they couldn’t pay for it after living it in for two or three years, and then literally just walk away.  They let it go back to the bank.  I don’t get it!”

            Our society has created the mentality that relies on credit cards, that often numbers several and each are maxed out, leaving a staggering debt balance.   When stress and anxiety take over, and all seems lost, walking away, which seems to be the quickest solution, becomes the answer. 

            It’s interesting to know, however, this generation is not the first with that perspective.  The story in Genesis of Jacob and Esau is the Biblical perspective, that had huge ramifications! Esau was so preoccupied with feeding his stomach he ignored what was important.   Jacob, desiring the blessing from his father, that should have been Esau’s, since he was the ‘first born’ (even though they were twins) ….  tricked Esau into giving him his rightful birthright inheritance. 

            This story lends itself to a valuable lesson.  Our society with its ‘have it now’ mentality, skews the mindset of all that is important.  We measure our worth by how much material possessions we have to show the world!  We work to exhaustion to have all we can accumulate.  These material goods are temporary.  When we are gone from this life, and we all will be, none of those items we thought important, will have any value.

            Our value should not measured in terms of wealth in this life.  Our treasure is best stored in what we have done for God’s Kingdom.  Ultimately that is all that matters!  When we stand before The Lord, the weight of our ‘stuff’ and what we’ve accomplished, including works, mean absolutely nothing, if we don’t a right heart.  It’s our relationship and what we done for God, that carries the true weight.

            There are those who believe because they are a good person, do good things and keep the Commandments, have a place with Jesus when their time here on Earth is done.  It’s true, being a good person, while doing good things and keeping all the Commandments is absolutely important.  But the most vital thing is to know Him as Lord and Savior.

            If we reject what is right, remain unconcerned with God, including being sure our souls are safely in the hands of Christ, we will be left with nothing, just like Esau.  Our relationship with God is where we find wealth.  By choosing Him, we accept our birthright, to be part of the family of God.