Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Refuge from fearIf I were a fly on the wall in your kitchen, or if I scrolled through your texts, what would I learn about how you’re handling the news these days? Banter over the news might sound less like afternoon tea with the Queen and more like a barroom brawl.

It is easy for frustration over what we cannot control (namely, most news) to degenerate into fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the enemy of our souls. As parents, we are concerned for our children that disturbing news not lead to fear.

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us? Following are four ideas.

First, restrain “conversation” about fearful news.

Note that I did not say to not talk about the news. These days our children often know the news before we do, and we must talk about it with them. Isn’t it hard at times to find the line between righteous indignation and angry outbursts? At times, it feels justified to just vent. Afterall, I should be able to say exactly what I think in my own home. Right?

Overwhelmingly negative emotions are often a warning about where our confidence really is. I am not suggesting that a right response is easy. It is a struggle as we all know. By being mindful and restraining discussion when needed, we model the godly leadership our children need and set up the second way we can stop fear from gripping our homes.

Remind your family where our confidence is.

In writing to persecuted Christians, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:23. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These believers were enduring far, far worse things than any bad news we have heard. The encouragement is to hold fast to Christ! We are not alone. God is with us. He is our confidence through to the end.

As the temperature rises, stop, and say something that breaks the emotional vortex and turns our attention back to God. “Wow, I am really struggling here. I/we need to remember that God is in control of all this.” Or “God is our refuge and strength.”

This morning as the conversation turned again to the news, I reminded my myself and my teenage son, that we are sojourners here on this earth. This is not our home. In the moment, it can be hard to say these things. My failure to say these things usually comes when I fear that saying them will sound preachy or out of touch. I have to be honest with myself and realize I also need to hear what I’m about to say. I will tell my kids, “I need to hear this too. I need you to help me remember what is true.” These are things we should be saying anyway! It is part of speaking the truth to one another in love.

Read the Word of God together.

The Word of God endures forever. It is unchanging Truth. It equips us for every good work. It is powerful. In it we find the accounts of many who have gone before us and overcome fearful challenges by faith in its promises.

Perfect love casts out fear. The word testifies to the perfect love of God. When we read it together out loud it brings calm to distressing situations. Developing a pattern of reading the word as a family prepares us for obedient living—especially in the next news cycle.

There are many Psalms that talk about God being our refuge. Over the next week, consider reading the following: Psalms 34, 62, 71, 91, 118, 142, 144 to your family. Each of these Psalms provide mental rest and emotional peace in the face of fear.

Pray for the salvation of our enemies.

It helps reorient our thinking away from people we don’t like by praying for them. This requires us to first remember our own place. We are sinners saved by grace. We need grace as much as the people we would otherwise hate in our hearts. Our sin is no less odious in God’s eyes and we have done nothing to earn anything but his judgement. Yet, we are undeserving recipients of his mercy and grace. This realization humbles us and fills us with compassion.

Last week there was a news article about a state law that would make it legal to deny care to babies that survived abortion. As I scrolled down and read the comments one particularly stood out to me:

…BABY KILLERS, DEMONIC, GOVERNMENT WORSHIPPING MARXISTS, AT LEAST WE WILL BE FREE OF THESE SOUL-LESS MONSTERS WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD’S GRACE INTO HEAVEN (All caps in the original post).

Certainly, a law like this is wrong and stirs righteous anger! But it’s hard to find anything redemptive in that comment. Its bitter and self-righteous. No grace there. Only judgement. God commands us to pray for our enemies. When we are humbled by our own debt and the mercy we have received, we see them differently and then we pray. Isn’t it harder to disparage someone we are praying for?

In many cases, they are afraid although that fear is masked by hostility. They act the way they do because they have no hope or feel that what their hope is in is being threatened.

This more than any other thing has helped me when I’ve wanted to stew or vent my frustrations about others. Would that I always remembered this. Pray for our enemies to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I doubt that’s a newsflash. But are we doing it?

Remember who we are.

Because we are objects of mercy, we can be messengers of the hope we have in Christ. We will lose opportunities to bring that message of hope if we allow our conversations at home to be driven by frustration and fear. Hope is needed everywhere, beginning in our homes! Speaking hopefully in our home equips our children to be ambassadors of hope to their friends.

Bad news will continue. But praise be to God that we have an eternal hope in Christ! Do we really believe that? Does it impact how we discuss bad news? It must so our homes will be refuges from fear.

Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

family worshipIf I asked you to list the five most important activities that a family could do together, what would you say?

A few highly rated articles about activities families should do together reveal some interesting answers—and non-answers. For example, one article said to visit museums, take a hot air balloon ride, have a picnic, go treasure hunting, or start a YouTube channel for its top ideas.

Another article, this one published by a popular Christian ministry, listed 30 ideas but did not include reading the Bible as a family. One idea was to read books together but didn’t mention the Bible as one of those books.

While the ideas presented in both articles were useful, the reading of God’s word was highly conspicuous by its absence. Was it just an oversight? Or was it representative of how families value the place of God’s Word in the home?

For me, this is a concern and not just because reading the Bible as a family is the right thing to do. It is a concern because reading the Word is such a joyful time together as a family to meet God and see his infinite greatness and unconditional love for his people. It saddens me to think that any family could miss out on such a blessed experience!

The Irreplaceable Value of God’s Word

Jesus said in Matthew 4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Paul says in II Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

What can be a more valuable family activity than reading the Word of God together? On the plains of Moab before entering the Promised Land God commanded Israelite parents to teach the Word of God to their children… day and night. In Psalm 78, the second-longest Psalm, God commands fathers to teach their children and their children’s children the works of God.

God’s Word, not our word, is powerful. God’s Word, used by God’s Holy Spirit, is able to accomplish what we need and want the most: our families to know Jesus personally and to walk with him in a way that others come to know him, too.

Many families know they should read the Bible together, but struggle to make it a reality. Therefore, it is the first pattern of four that I write about in my book, Real Hope for Your Home.

Following are four encouragements to help you establish or re-establish family worship as a pattern in your home. (I use the term “family worship” to represent the activity when the family gathers to read the Bible and pray together.)

  1. The goal is to see God’s love for his people

The goal of spending time in God’s Word as a family is simply to learn about how much God loves us. In other words, it is about developing a relationship with God. When this is our guiding principle, we will read Genesis to Revelation in a whole new light. The Bible becomes intensely interesting void of the boredom that comes from looking at God’s word as an encyclopedia, a theological textbook, or onerous list of dos and don’ts. When we see God’s love for us, it compels us to live obediently to him and all that entails, confession and repentance.

  1. Take a long-term view

There will be bad days. You will not want to read. Your children will complain. The discussions will be very dry and forced. You will get stuck in a place in the Bible and become bored. You might even just hit a bad patch in the family calendar when you will miss meeting days or even weeks. Guess what? God knows this! Because you are in Christ, he still rejoices over you and your family. If you are faithful, the pattern will prevail and consume all the bad days and weeks. But you can’t allow the bad days or no days to stop you.

  1. Vary what you do

Be wide-open to trying new ways of doing family worship. Read a book of the Bible, then read a devotional or other Christian book. Have different people read the passage of the day or pray. Share what you learn in your personal devotions. Or, have a family member share what they learned. Meet in a different room in the house. Meet at a different time of the day. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Family Worship Podcast Season

To build on those three points, we offer a four-part podcast season on how families can establish time together around God’s word. Topics include: “The How and Why of Family Worship”. “How to Read the Bible with Young Children”, “How to Read the Bible with Older Children”, “Your Family in Worship at the Church”. Each podcast is only about 25 minutes long.

We are excited to provide this encouragement and equipping to families especially today as biblical foundations are under relentless attack. We need the solid foundation of God’s word in our homes now more than ever.

  1. Don’t give up!

The final point of encouragement is this: if you fail, remember that your righteousness is complete in Christ! His love for you has not changed. You have no reason to give up! Stay on the path! Believe what is true about you in Christ and let that compel you to keep seeking to be faithful.

 

Precious Freedom

Precious Freedom

is satan stealing your freedom?Thinking a bit more about your freedom these days?  A little frustrated?  Anxious?  Freedom is back in the national conversation.  Although that conversation is 100% political, I was predisposed to think about it spiritually in what may seem an unusual place, Mark 5.

Jesus and his disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee.  Upon arrival in the Gerasenes, they were met immediately by a man possessed by a legion of demons.  The conversation between the demon and Jesus is fascinating:

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud   voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”  For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”  And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are   many.”  And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,  and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”  So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

This passage provides refreshing peace and rest for our weary souls.  About this, I will make two points.

First, in the exchanges between Jesus and the demon, we see that Jesus is in full control of Satan and his dark forces.  Satan must submit to God!

It helps to remember this at a time when so much evil is on public display.  It is a powerless feeling to watch what is happening to our nation.  But God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and is still in control.  We need not be afraid.  God is not the author of evil.  That God allows it is a deeper conversation beyond the scope of this article.  But we know from Scripture that God’s redemptive plan is not stymied by evil.

While we rest in his sovereign control, we can be thankful for the opportunity we have as the Church to creatively and powerfully give testimony to the hope that is within us.  Certainly, this is one way that God is using the current crises.  There is a great opportunity for people to come to know God personally.

If you are looking for a place to read in the Bible, please consider Mark, especially the first nine chapters.    These chapters are full of examples of Jesus’ absolute power over Satan and his demons, the forces of nature, sickness and death.  This is a perfect place to read during these times when the world seems to be spinning out of control.

Second, how many times have you read a passage like this and thought, “Why can’t change in specific areas of my life be as immediate?  Why can’t I be like that person?!”

It is in this kind of self-talk that Satan slithers in and does some of his most effective work.  He gets us to think about our battle with sin as something yet to be accomplished that WE must do on our own.  Indeed, we must apply effort but the effort is more in applying THE victory that has already been accomplished by Jesus Christ through his life, death and resurrection.

The power of Satan to force us to sin is already broken!  Jesus’ work with the demoniac did not make him sinless but it miraculously freed him from possession and sin as a controlling condition.  Those who are in Christ are like the demoniac in that we have been freed from sin’s tyranny.  How are we freed from sin’s tyranny in our lives?

Attracted as we are to our idols, the pleasure they offer us is replaced by a much greater pleasure: the pleasure of knowing The God Who loves us so much He died for us.  Do we remember that and act on it?  This is the locus of work in our daily battle with sin.  It takes Holy Spirit energized faith that is grounded in Jesus’ once for all victory.  Like the demoniac, we are free indeed!  Like the demoniac we are filled with the same joy.

We are free and might not know it.

When I listen to Christians talk about their struggles, sometimes it sound as if Jesus never came.  I wonder, “Do they know they are already free?”  I find myself asking this question in my own struggles at times.  Now, certainly we struggle with temptation and it is painful.  But Jesus has already accomplished the victory we need over our present sin.  Do we really believe that we are already free?

Ultimately, mercifully, and gloriously the freedom we need most is not given by politicians, but by God alone.  He alone has the power to free us from what troubles us most: our sin.  This is the only real message of freedom there is for us personally and as a nation.  We need it now more than ever.