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Points to Ponder: The Family Alter

Points to Ponder
The Family Alter

While driving home one damp night, a misty drizzle prompted me to turn on my wipers to the intermittent setting. Being early spring, it's dark at 8:30 p.m. Right about that time our daughters (ages 5 and 10) would be getting ready for bed. So I wanted to get home soon to be part of the evening ritual.
As I'm thinking about this, I drive by a brightly-lit baseball field. There was a game going on. I was shocked. "Is this a good thing?" I wondered.. It was a school night, it's cold and damp, and it's bedtime. Why are these children in full uniform, playing sports at night?
When I was a kid, the parks closed at dusk. We would play outside after school; maybe for a brief time after supper. But after sundown, on a school night, most kids are with their families settling in (powering down) for the night's rest. You get set what will be needed for school the next day, and you're together at home with your family.
Why do our children's ball fields need expensive bright lights? Why is a ball game so vitally important that it's got to be played at night in a drizzle? The school bus is less than twelve hours away from picking them up the next morning. Will these ballplayers be rested and awake in their classes the next day? Most importantly, does it really matter to us?
In clergy circles (behind closed doors for fear of the parents), pastors from a variety of denominational backgrounds will usually agree on the challenge we all share in common: the "sport's god." It's this generation's family altar.
I played Little League and Pony League. I had dreams of someday being in the Major Leagues. But night games never happened; there were no lights and no one talked about getting them. On Sunday, we went to church and Sunday School. There were no games scheduled. I think they weren't scheduled on Sundays because families went to church and Sunday school. It would have created a conflict. Of course, there is no conflict now - just skip church. I guess even God would rather go to a ball game than sit through church. But, who knows what God thinks?
Ah, there's a point to ponder. What does God think? What would happen if all the Christian families stood firm and refused to participate in Sunday games? If there weren't enough players to play, would officials stop scheduling them? What would God think of that? Does He care? Does it really matter?
Maybe what we ought to do is just face the reality of how important sports has become. Let the church leaders and the sports leaders sit down and work out a compromise. Instead of several families skipping church and Christian education and Bible study to play on Sunday, let's just not have church on those days. The pastor can come to the ball field, have a little prayer, something that's politically correct and won't offend anybody. (We can invoke Jesus' name
every other week.) Have you ever thought about it? If it's okay to choose the ball field over the church service, suppose every congregant did that at the same time? It would be pointless then for the pastor to work on a sermon that week.
So, if we can all agree that times have changed and priorities are relative and fluid, certainly God will understand. We must believe He's okay with it. Right?
This is not to cast judgment, but to cause thinking. One could say that the first and fourth commandments apply here; to have no other gods and to keep the Sabbath (or the Lord's Day) holy. But how about the New Testament. Jesus said you can't be His disciple if He's not your first love (Matthew 10:37-38; Luke 14:26-35). Here's the standard:
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
What does that mean - to you? Author Bruce Larson says, "Our cross is that difficult thing we choose to do because we are His people...It's doing things we don't have to do because we feel it's God's agenda for us." You have to deny yourself (what you want or love) in order to pick up your cross. What would be your cross today? Should today's family altar be altered?

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles (and sermons) are also found at Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am.

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