To Fear or Not to Fear

I spend a fair amount of time advising my boys not to fear things:  outside noises at night, vaccinations, terrorism, etc.  Though the objects of their fear vary, my approach is usually the same. We talk about the sovereignty of God and how He, in His infinite power, controls all things. Because God is good, we can find comfort in His providence and not fear things that might hurt us.  Andy and I can and do provide cuddles, but God is the only One who can relieve them of this type of fear.

Though I spend a fair amount of time talking with the boys about what not to fear, I am far less diligent about discussing Whom they should fear. The Scriptures are filled with references to what we should not fear (man, death, etc.). They are also filled, though, with admonitions to fear God. When I think about the fear of God, my mind first races to our worship song “We Choose the Fear of the Lord” and then to the passage in Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov.1:7a).  This passage tells me that, if I desire to be wise, I need to fear God. If I desire to please Him in my role as wife and mother, I need a proper fear of God. I cannot teach the boys this fear without knowing it and living it myself.  But to live with a biblical fear of God, I need to understand what this looks like.

To try to understand how the fear of God is fleshed out, I think about Genesis 22, where God commends Abraham for being willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. As Abraham raised his knife to kill Isaac, the angel of the LORD called out to him, and said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen 22.12). Isaac was Abraham’s promised child, from whom God planned to grow Abraham’s descendants into a nation. Abraham had waited for decades for this child, and he loved him dearly. Yet, he reverenced and trusted God so completely that he was willing to kill this precious child, knowing that God would be faithful to His promises. This is the fear of God: placing His will for my life above my own. It is loving and honoring Him above my comfort, my family, and my own life. I do not fear God as I ought—Lord, please forgive me.

LORD God, You are awesome and mighty and worthy of reverence and honor. Forgive me for often fearing man more than I fear You, and for treasuring my comfort and my family more than I treasure obedience. As I seek to follow You, God, please help me to humble myself so my will is that Your will is done.  Please help me to trust You with my husband and children and to remember that You are always faithful and that You cannot lie. Help me to fear You rather than man and to teach my children about Your majesty and magnificence, about the need to worship You and to pursue You above all else. Please open their eyes and change their hearts so that they might fear You.

Love, Anxiety, and Finances

Last February, I took stock of my love for Christ by examining how much of my thoughts and activities were occupied with Him in comparison to material possessions. I found that, while this fruit of the Spirit was present in my life, my affections were too often tied to temporal things, including “stuff.”

When I think about love and its relationship to finances this year, one convicting term immediately comes to mind: anxiety.

Anxiety is an issue repeatedly addressed in Scripture. We are cautioned to be anxious for nothing, told that we cannot serve both God and money, admonished that anxiety will not enrich our lives or add to our lifespan, and reassured that God will provide for our needs as we seek His kingdom and righteousness. I am familiar with these passages, and you might be too. So then, why do I struggle with anxiety when it comes to material things? It’s not because God’s Word is vague. It’s not because I love feeling anxious. I think it may be that I love comfort, and when I feel that my comfort is being threatened, I start to worry. I’ve never been hungry for lack of food. I’ve never been without shelter, nor without a host of other items that would be considered luxuries to many people. God has proven Himself to be faithful without exception and exceedingly generous to me. Yet, when appliances break down, clothes wear and get holes, and income is delayed, God’s faithfulness is the farthest thing from my mind. Without fail, I get anxious, wondering if this is the time we won’t be able to pay our bills. In my heart, this translates to questioning, “Is this the time God is going to forsake me?”

I’m not suggesting that anyone who struggles with anxiety does not love God. I do love God, and I want to obey His command to be “anxious for nothing.” To do this, I need to pray that God would remind me of the love poured out at Calvary’s cross, which is infinitely more valuable than any feeling of temporal comfort or security. I need to confess my anxiety to Him and trust Him to grow me in believing that He knows my needs and will provide for them all. Loving God means submitting to Him my own ideas of what my needs are and letting Him cut away things that draw me away from Him. Loving God means recognizing that my ties to material things are stronger than I’d like to admit and imploring God to help me not love the world, nor the things of the world.

Lord God, I love you. Please help me to love you more. I do not want to love things that thieves can steal and moths and rust can destroy. Work Your will in my heart that I may seek Your kingdom and righteousness and not material security. Amen.

Thank God Without Ceasing

Last year, I wrote a blog post on gratitude. In it, I confessed that I often bemoaned the lack of genuine gratitude in my young, unsaved boys, while I unfortunately modeled this same attitude. While I would be lying if I said that I have demonstrated perfect repentance and lived this year in a constant state of gratitude and contentment, I think the Holy Spirit has convicted me of this sin and driven my heart to the cross when complaints creep into my heart and, sometimes, into my speech and body language. I thank God for His infinite patience with me as I seek to live a life in light of receiving eternal life and unmerited favor at the cost of His Son’s life.

This year, my desire is to be more intentional about speaking aloud my gratitude. While I seem to be pretty adept at speaking aloud my complaints, my thoughts about the greatness of God’s mercy do not pass through my lips nearly as often as they should, and I need to share them more—including with my family. I do not want to model a “one and done” attitude towards thanking God for the specific ways in which He is gracious to me. For instance, there are times when we pray as a family when the boys thank God for the same thing repeatedly, and I have found myself thinking “Can you think of something else? We’ve already thanked God for safety at sports five days in a row now.” While I don’t think I have said that aloud, shame on me for thinking it. Because I thanked God for safety yesterday, does that mean I’m covered in that area and can move onto thanking Him for something else? That sounds ridiculous as I write it, but sometimes I act that way—as if I am saying, “I thanked God for my health last week, check, I’ll thank God for our missionaries this week, check, I’ll thank God for my family next week, and then in another month or so, I can go back and start over.” God, forgive me for any time when I feel like I have thanked You enough for anything.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. We should thank God without ceasing, and while we will not worship and thank Him perfectly until we are glorified, we can grow in our gratitude. I can do this by pausing as I look around throughout the day. I’m typing on a laptop. Thank you God for work that pays the bills for the electricity and for providing the means to buy this machine I so often complain about. I am looking at pictures of my husband and boys. Thank you Lord for providing me with a husband that loves You and loves me and our kids. Thank you for my boys and for allowing me to raise them and love them. I see a beautiful morning sky through the slats of our blinds. Thank you, Lord, for creating this Earth and sovereignly orchestrating everything that occurs on it. I see canned food piled in the boys’ room. Thank you, Lord, for providing for our physical needs and providing the means for us and others to help people who need food. There is no lack of reminders of God’s graciousness to me. I just need to look around and take the time to thank Him.

Gracious Father, I do not want to grieve your Spirit when He reminds me of specific ways in which You have been immeasurably good to me and my family. ­­Assist me to look to You and see with the spiritual eyes You have given me, that I might humbly bow my heart to You in gratitude for Your grace and mercy, Your protection and provision, Your compassion and patience, Your forbearance and discipline. Help me to speak of Your greatness to others and to model this more consistently in my home.

Loving Christ More Than Stuff

Last year, my son Stevie was asked to write about how he knew that his parents loved him. He responded that we tell him and show him by giving him hugs and kisses. He also mentioned that we spend time with him and take care of him. I like his definition, and it made me think about my relationship with Christ. By the young Stevie Lack standard, does it seem like I love Christ more than I love my stuff?

First, how do I love Christ with my words? Do I praise Him in song and in prayer? Yes, but not as I ought. Do I praise Him openly to others and with exuberance, as one who is overflowing with gratitude for the one who has purchased me at the expense of His Son? I fall pitifully short here. When I think about the content of my conversations with others, believers and nonbelievers alike, I know it more often addresses “stuff” than God. To be sure, I don’t run around with a megaphone professing my love for money, but I do talk a lot about things that are purchased with money. Even more, I can sure complain when material objects break or wear out or when I feel I have a lack of money. I need God’s forgiveness for not telling Him, and especially others, how much I love Him, and I need His grace to loose my lips so that people will clearly hear whom it is I serve. I also need Him to help me bridle my tongue, which can lead me into frequent unfruitful conversations about money, or the things purchased with it.

So far, I have been found guilty of wasting too many of my words on finances and material “stuff.” What about time and care? When I look at my schedule, do I spend more time and care attending to my job and its needs or to my relationship with Christ? Does it bother me more if I am struggling to meet a deadline more than if I am struggling to meet in quiet fellowship with Christ each day? I in no way am trying to imply that we should not work heartily, as unto God. The Bible tells us to do so, and we need to be responsible. However, if my time and efforts to please my boss (and procure money) are greater than my efforts to spend time with the one I claim to love above anyone and anything else, there’s a problem. I am guilty here too. Thanks be to God, who provides forgiveness and new mercy every morning, for I need to confess that my tie to finances and material goods, though they are temporary and have no eternal value, often occupy my time and efforts more than my Lord.

Indy Race-Style Gratitude

Here is a typical dinnertime scene at the Lack household:

We all sit down to our kitchen table. It’s time to pray. Lack boys, start your engines! 3-2-1… “DearGod Thankyouforourfood Jesus’nameamen.” Elapsed time: 1 second.

Sometimes this frustrates me, and I find myself thinking “How thankful can you be if you can’t give God more than a second of your time before you start eating the food He has provided for us?” It does not take long, though, before the Holy Spirit convicts me of displaying the very same attitude, moreover, of modeling an Indy race-style gratitude towards God for my children. I can see a lack of gratitude in at least a few areas in my life:

In our family prayer time: Am I expressing gratitude for who God is and what Christ has accomplished on my behalf on the cross, or does my “thanksgiving” sound more like a redundant list that I repeat without much thought day after day because I am tired and in a hurry? Christ warned us about praying with vain repetition, and He urges us to cast our cares before Him “with thanksgiving.” How can I be frustrated when my unregenerate young boys seem not to express genuine gratitude towards God when I, who am a new creature in Christ, often express lukewarm thanksgiving at best?

In my speech: I have, on many occasions, chastised my sons for not being thankful for what God has provided us. Yet, what do they hear more from me—complaining about the disorderly appearance of our house, or thanksgiving for the comfortable roof over our head? Frustration with work deadlines, or gratitude for God’s faithfulness in providing me with a job? Complaining how tired I am, or gratitude for a comfortable bed and a body that has very little trouble falling and staying asleep?

If you can relate to any of what I have said, be thankful that God is infinitely forgiving, and we can come to Him at any time, in prayer, to thank Him for His forgiveness and to ask Him to help us reflect the new life that He has created in us. I also want to try this: when I find myself complaining, I will stop and think about God’s grace as it relates to the source of my complaint. Then, I will ask Him for forgiveness and thank Him. So…instead of grimacing at my floor that needs sweeping, I will seek to thank God for the floor he provided, as well as the broom and the food that produced the crumbs that need to be swept up.

My God, as I read through this confession ashamed of how poorly I can model gratitude for my children, I am thankful for Your unfailing patience with me. Though I can be woefully thankless in my speech and even in my prayers, You remain faithful. You provided Your Son to die for me, a self-centered sinner. Even my gratitude is a gift from You, and I pray that You will help me to give You the thanks You deserve.

Secure Your Own Mask First

I was jogging a few weeks ago when I started to think about the oxygen masks that pop down from above people’s heads in emergencies on planes. In particular, I started wondering whether parents follow the rules regarding the masks. Almost all of us are familiar with the directive given by flight attendants: “In the event of a change in cabin pressure…secure your own mask first, and then help your children.” By God’s grace, I have never had to use the masks on an airplane flight, but I would guess that most parents would go to any lengths possible to ensure their kids’ safety if an emergency occurred. In other words, kids’ masks go on first, and the parents attend to themselves later.

This probably seems like an odd thing to think about. However, it painted a vivid picture in my mind about how I seek to love my family. As a mom, I often attend to the various needs of my family (especially my children) first, and then seek to address my own needs later. This, to my shame, can result in neglecting my spiritual needs. While I feel like I am showing love to my family by sacrificing my own needs to meet theirs, what I am really demonstrating is a lack of wisdom. Sacrificing time spent in private Bible study, prayer, and meditation in the name of serving my family is like starving myself of oxygen in the name of loving my family and assuming I can still function effectively.

By refusing to make my spiritual nourishment a priority, I am becoming weaker and will have less to give to them. Most importantly, neglecting spiritual disciplines in the name of serving the needs of my family demonstrates a lack of love for Christ. He is our salvation and the source of all the strength we have. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that resides within us, and when we strive to spend time in study and prayer, God, our source of life, will give us the refreshment and energy we need to serve our families. He will sustain us so we can meet their physical needs. He will teach us and humble us that we might lovingly serve our spouses and children and shine as a Gospel light in our households.

This is a difficult thing for me to practice. Too often, in order to attend to far less important matters, I push off study and private prayer until later in the day, which sometimes means it doesn’t happen. It can be easier for me to serve my yelling children before spending time with my Savior. I need to realize that taking time for private devotion is one of the greatest ways in which I can love my family. I will feel awful if my kids grow up knowing I loved them dearly but not being certain of my love for Christ because, too often, I pushed time with Him aside for them. May that never be!

Father, please forgive me for not prioritizing time with you as I should. Please help me to show love to my family by taking time to commune with you, to receive grace and to be refreshed. My family is a gift You have given me, and I need You to help me to love them as I ought. Please help my love for You to always supersede my love for anything else.


This guest post is from CASM member Sara Lack, wife of Pastor Andy Lack.  They have two sons:  Stephen and John.