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.

Fear: The New Brave

My adult children and I communicate almost daily—via Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, or text. It’s a daily practice that we’ve developed to keep tabs on each other and to know that everyone is alive and well. With my business travel, my daughter’s various travel nurse assignments, and my son’s work throughout the valley and state, it works for us.  If more than two days pass without any communication, I will often text, “Are you still alive?” This is usually followed by a quick “Yes, Mom…Just busy with work,” and I breathe a silent sigh of relief.

However, nothing can strike fear in my heart as when my phone rings at midnight or later and caller ID shows one of them calling. Good news isn’t usually delivered at that hour. I’m immediately wide awake and ready to rush to wherever they may be. One memorable moment: “Mom, the tornado sirens are going off and we’re taking cover in the basement of our apartment building. I don’t know what’s going on but I’m scared.” It was my daughter, who was more than three hours away from me. I tried calming her as I followed the tornado’s path online and on the Weather Channel. Texting became the best option to stay connected. My heart was racing. And I felt intensely helpless.

Fear has a way of bringing out the part of us that we don’t want seen—helplessness, hurt, rejection, not being in control.  Fear will lie about the truth and tell a different truth that isn’t truth at all:

I’m not good enough.

             I’m not equipped to do that. 

                        She’s so much better than I; more blessed than I.

                                     I can’t…

But God can.

And He will, if we let Him work in us and through us. It’s not about us, anyway. Not our glory. All for His glory. Always and only His glory. With this promise and knowledge, do I still get fearful? Yes! However, I’m reminded of how God told Joshua, not once but three times, to be courageous (Josh.1:6-7, 9) and this gives me comfort. God knows we will become fearful and yet it doesn’t have to be a negative thing or a place we stay. In fact, fear may just be the “new brave” because no brave person has not known fear. In our fear, we find strength we never knew we had. Strength from the One whose strength alone is all we need. In our weakness, He is strong (2 Cor.12:9-11).

Today, my daughter lives about 20 hours away from me, as she works in another country for the next three months. I’m learning and sharing with her that fear can be healthy when we give it to the One who can do something about it. Every time we give our fear to Him, He puts it to rest so we can move forward in His grace and for His glory. Every brave soul has faced fear. The brave just choose to give their fear to Christ, and then rest in His promise to “fear not (Is.35:4).



Which Way Do I Go?

The will of God. For people who are concerned about knowing it, it often becomes the source of much anxiety. Many people get worked up about knowing God’s will for their lives, as if He has an exact roadmap that marks out every moment of their existence and if they don’t know it or follow it, they are outside of His will and are displeasing to Him. They stress out about finding the exact person whom God has “willed” to be their spouse, or the perfect job that He has designated for them, or the best car to buy, etc.; it is some great mystery that they are always trying to discover. For them, the will of God brings no rest, no comfort, and no joy. If this describes you, I’m sorry. Believe me, I’ve been there too. However, it’s not that complicated. Seriously.

The first place we must look when discerning the will of God for our lives is His Word, the Bible. God has spoken quite clearly about what His will is and what He desires for our lives; it’s all in The Book. As John MacArthur points out, it is God’s will that you be:

  • Saved (1 Tim.2:3-4; 2 Pet.3:9)
  • Spirit-filled (Eph.5:17-18)
  • Sanctified (1 Thess.4:3-7)
  • Submissive (1 Pet.2:13-15)
  • Suffering (Phil.1:29; 2 Tim.3:12)

He goes on to say, “If all those things are true in your life, you may do whatever you want.” No roadmap. No mystery. No stress.

Whom should I marry? If I’m a believer, Paul tells me to marry only in the Lord (1 Cor.7:39), meaning another believer; nobody specifically, but a Christian in general. What house or car should I buy? Ones that fit within my budget after I’ve made provision to give a tithe and offering to the work of the Lord (Mal.3:10) and ones that don’t cause me to fall into enslaving amounts of debt (Prov.22:7). Where should I work? Preferably anywhere that does not violate some moral or ethical principle of the Bible or anywhere where an employer does not do the same.

So does God have a detailed plan laid out for me? Well, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev.1:8; 21:6; 22:13), which means that He knows the end from the beginning; He already knows the way that we will take. So I guess that is a roadmap of sorts, but it’s one known only by Him that we unfold daily throughout our lives. It’s a map that He knows, but that we chart with the help of His Word. So do you really want to know God’s will for your life? Then you gotta get in The Book.

These Kids Are Driving Me Crazy

“Kennedy, you are driving me nuts,” says my 4 year old son, Kai, to his 6 year old sister. Um, where did he learn that from? That would be me, his mama. I have told my kids they are driving me nuts, crazy, insane! Parenting is not for wimps. Or, if you are a wimp, parenting will shake you out of that. It’s so tough constantly dealing with my own sin, let alone the sin of two little people in my home. There are two things I want my kids to see in our home: 1. They need Jesus; and 2. Their parents need Jesus. And, not necessarily in that order! As we go throughout our day, I often say to my kids, “Choose kindness! Choose love!” And then we talk about how it’s hard to choose kindness and love. And, really our natural bent is to choose to be mean and hateful. In those moments when my kids are at each other’s throats and I’m frustrated to no end dealing with attitudes and actions (my own and my children’s), right then is the perfect divinely appointed time for me to show my kids: 1. You need Jesus; and 2. Mommy needs Jesus. This is how I will pass down the Gospel to my children.

There is a children’s song I heard that has a line in it that says, “Love, love, love, love. The Gospel in one word is love. Love your neighbor as yourself…” Oh how wrong that song is. I don’t want my kids to think if they reach this expectation of always choosing kindness and choosing love, that makes them acceptable to God. No, no. I say, “Choose kindness! Choose love! It’s hard to do that, isn’t it? And this is why we need Jesus.”

So, when attitudes are flaring (including my own) and we are all driving each other nuts, THAT is the place where Jesus will meet us and where the Gospel will become real. After all, the Gospel is meant for the broken.

Leisure and Recreation in the Family

Time spent creating memories with family is priceless. Those pictures and stories provide feelings of a tender sweetness and laughter for years. As our loved ones are taken away, tales of those moments become a source of solace and salve for a hurting heart. Our fondest memories tend to be forged when we are simply relaxing and/or sharing in some sort of fun activity. Leisure and recreation are necessary components of family time.

God Himself established a pattern of rest after speaking the world into creation (Genesis 2:1-2). He declared that all the work that He had done was “very good” and then He took some time to rest. When he sent Moses down to the people with the law, He reminded families to labor six days, but to keep the Sabbath hallow (Exodus 20:8-11).

Modern culture has evolved to include times for recreational activities. We can do a wide variety of things together indoors or out, local or abroad. God’s provision and grace allow for these “down” times and we can still honor Him by taking advantage of them (Colossians 3:17; James 1:17). Discipline and obedience guard us against exercising liberties that can lead to sin or those that can be viewed as stumbling blocks to the weak. We are checking out from work, not worship…worship is continuous.

Take time to renew your perspective and to refresh. Family members need time to take a break from the demands and struggles of their personal worlds. Cherish the time spent together and create positive memories.

To Err Is Human

I learned this phrase as a young lad. The older I get I have come to learn how deep it goes. I was raised by a single parent (like 25% of US households today). I remember answering a judge’s questions with many tears at my parents’ separation/divorce proceedings around the age of five. I remember failed relationships in high school and college.

How can our families thrive with so much failure, which shows itself with so many mistakes? Do we just chalk it up and say, “everyone makes mistakes?” Do we say, “everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”

I remember sharing Jesus with a co-worker, and one of their responses frighten my inner most being. They made the comment, “I would forgive Jesus.” As I went to further explain to them, how can God be God, if He needs forgiveness? Jesus doesn’t need forgiveness, because Jesus is God, and God cannot fail and therefore cannot err. This simple statement of truth is how my family will thrive in a world surrounded by so much failure and mistakes.

The prize is relationship with the all perfect, all powerful, all amazing, all knowing, everywhere present, all loving, all righteous, all just, Triune God! I was made by God and for God, therefore I have no purpose without receiving it from God. God has given it to us in His Word. His Word, the Bible, is infallible (cannot fail) and inerrant (because it cannot fail, it does not err). The authority of the Bible rests on the authority of Christ; the sinlessness of Jesus.

Below are just 7 scriptures relating to family. Consider, and talk with mature believers about application in your life!

  1. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” For this reason man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
    Gen. 2:18
  2. House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
  3.  An excellent wife, who can find?…The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
  4. Fathers, do no provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
  5.  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on earth.
  6.  Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
  7.  A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.


Are My Kids Christians?

I have two young children. My wife and I have tried to teach both of them the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus faithfully (though far from perfectly) since their births. Yet, when it comes to a profession of salvation, one is quite confident while the other perpetually wallows in insecurity. Does this mean one of my children is regenerate and the other is not? No. Does this mean that neither is regenerate, despite their professions? No. Does this mean they are both regenerate, but simply have different levels of assurance? Not necessarily. What this means is that kids, like us, are complicated, and we need wisdom and discernment when it comes to the matter of their regeneration.

The doctrine of regeneration, or the new birth, is central to Christianity. For the Christian parent, therefore, it is an issue of great concern. If we care about our kids, which we tend to do, we spend a lot of time wanting them to be saved, wondering if they are saved, and/or waiting for them to be saved.

It is important, however, that we parents be careful about falling into one of two extremes.

On the one hand, we can assume our children are what they say they are simply because they say so. However, if we understand the doctrines of regeneration and conversion rightly, we know that a mere profession of faith if meaningless. It would be extremely easy for most parents to lead their young children in a “sinner’s prayer” any day of the week, wipe a “phew” from our foreheads, and check the salvation box. In so doing, we run a great risk of implanting a false security in their minds that will become more and more difficult to supplant with age.

On the other hand, we can be so close-minded about salvation in our young children that we never even entertain the possibility that God may have genuinely regenerated them. One thing that is clearly absent in Scripture is the notion of an age requirement for following Christ. Jesus certainly welcomed the children, and rebuked those who would keep them from Him.

So, what do we do?

  1. Live out a Christian life in front of your kids. No one listens more closely to your words, sees more consistently how you react, and watches more carefully what you do than your kids.
  2. Preach and teach the Gospel clearly, accurately, fully, faithfully, and joyfully. We must be diligent to teach the full counsel of God—His attributes, our sin, His judgment, His salvation, our response. And pay attention to that last word “joyfully.” If the Gospel doesn’t excite us, why should we expect it to excite them?
  3. Discourage sin and disobedience. Be consistent in discipline, and take as many opportunities as possible to point out what the Bible says about that sin.
  4. Encourage them when they show signs of understanding, obedience, and faith. Do not disregard professions of faith, or imply they are lying about it—but encourage them by using Scripture to affirm or modify their vision of what true faith looks like. Show them that genuine salvation is a work of God alone, and encourage them to continue to seek after Him.
  5. Never cease praying for your children’s salvation. Never cease praying for yourself, that you would be a faithful witness and guide into God’s truth for them.

Does God’s Immutability Affect the Family?

“Change is the only constant in life.” You may have heard a saying like this at some point in your life. This quote is said to have come from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who lived from 535-475 BC. So what is change? Webster’s dictionary defines it as: to make different. When we think about change, it can be for the better or for the worse. For example, I have made the decision to change my eating habits. I have a sweet tooth like nobody’s business; but I have chosen to cut back on the number of sweet treats I enjoy. Most would agree that this is a change for the better. On the flip side, due to my profession, I regularly see people who fail to take their prescribed medications or even take too much of their medications and unfortunately their health takes a turn for the worse.

I would agree that change is the only constant in life. It’s all around us and is a part of every aspect of life. One area of life that experiences changes is the family. I remember when my wife and I got married, we went from singleness to starting our family and experienced the change in responsibility and accountability to each other when two people come together in marriage. Families with children know this all too well—parents deal with changing countless diapers, changes in their children’s growth and development, and when their kids get old enough, the constant changing of their little minds. Change is a constant thing in the context of the family.

Even society’s view of what makes up a family and how a family looks has changed or become progressive—meaning that the historical and traditional sense of the family is no longer the only way or even perhaps not even the right way to understand what family is. In today’s culture the changing view involves the idea that two women or two men can constitute a marriage.

I would like to offer the biblical perspective or God’s viewpoint of the family. Although I agree that “Change is the only constant in life,” I also believe that there is One who is constantly without change, in other words One who is immutable. God says of Himself that He does not change: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). God is perfect in all His attributes and knowledge; He does not need anything added to Himself. If He could have some attribute or knowledge taken away or lost, He would no longer be perfect; therefore, His immutability is an inevitable result of His perfection. Since God does not change, God’s ordained concept of family has never and will never change. He told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28). From a plain reading of this verse in context, we can glean that God established the family to be made up of a marriage union between a man and a woman and in this context, children are to be raised (Cf. Genesis 2:24). This is also seen in the New Testament book of Ephesians, where Paul explains that the family is to be a husband who loves his wife, a wife who honors and respects her husband, and children who are raised up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-6:4).

So even in the progressive climate of our society, God and His Word are unchanging; therefore, we can be confident that what God has ordained concerning the family will never change. And as long as we stand with God, we will always be on the right side of change.


Where’s the Love?

If you’re a guy like me, there are probably many humorous images or past examples that you can point to when you hear the words, “Where’s the love?” We use this expression in a number of different situations. It can be used when you make a sarcastic, albeit timely, comment that is under appreciated, or when you accomplish something significant in the presence of your friends that you think deserves commendation that isn’t given. It is at that point that you subtlety help your friends try to appreciate what they are clearly not appreciating by saying, “Where’s the love?”

All kidding aside, these are the last words you want to hear in the family context. What this means that is we need to learn how to love our spouses and our children. You’ve probably heard of the Five Love Languages. This is how they look in my family.

My wife’s love language is acts of service. The interesting thing about acts of service is that it manifests in so many different ways, from the minuscule to the magnificent. From her perspective, it simply denotes teamwork and gives her a sense of connectedness. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It gives her a sense of being appreciated when I invest time in doing things that are important to her. This is her way of feeling loved.

My son’s love languages are words of affirmation and quality time. There is a significant change in his attitude, a willingness to please, and an overall disposition change when he is being encouraged. Quality time also ranks right up there, so long as the time is free of instruction or teaching. I’m still learning that there is time for practice and instruction and I have to remember how to separate the two so that we can just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

One of my daughter’s love languages is quality time. We have a nightly routine after our devotional where we spend focused time talking, acting out various characters that we’ve created over the years, and just spending time together. These are very precious, creative times of bonding. Her other love language is receiving gifts. She loves to receive pretty much anything with sugar.

The point is this. God exhibited no restraint in order to demonstrate His love towards us (Rom.5:1). His actions were purposeful, awful, and extreme in order that man might not question His love, His loyalty, or His commitment to him. The giving of His beloved Son to be a sacrifice for our sins was motived by love. If God is willing to do this for us, shouldn’t we also seek to understand how we might love those around us? What sacrifices of time, effort, or gifts are too much to show those whom God has given us that they are loved? Show your family that you love them, for they are a gift from God!



At Least She’s Not Dead

Maybe you’ve heard the definition of fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. Recently in our home, there’s been a small undercurrent of fear running through me personally. It started about two weeks ago when my wife developed flu-like symptoms. No big deal, right? Now fast-forward two weeks later after a trip to Urgent Care, another to a family doctor, a host of prescribed antibiotics/probiotics, cough syrup with codeine, followed by some X-rays that reveal she now has pneumonia and you can begin to understand my concern.

Let me provide a little more family context. My wife and I have two small, energetic boys. One is five and the other is three. I work full-time, while my wife splits her time working from home and caring for our children. Her illness has been debilitating for her and has crippled our family these last two weeks. However, that’s not the part that has caused fear to swirl around like a deep eddy in the recesses of my mind. It was two comments made on separate occasions by my 5-year-old and my wife.

Referring to my wife’s condition, my son, who was attempting to comfort me, bluntly said, “At least she’s not dead.”

On another occasion, while seeing me near exasperation, my wife asked plainly, “What if I were chronically ill?”

These two statements sat with me for a while. I pondered them. What if either one of them came true at this point in our lives? False Evidence Appearing Real.

My first reaction was to think that there’s no way I could do it. There would be no way for me to carry on without my wife, the mother of my children; she is the glue that holds our home together. However, that’s the flesh talking. God calls us to walk by faith (2 Cor.5:7). We’ve heard it preached that the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot sustain you. That sounds good, but it’s not in the Bible. Is there a biblical text supporting this idea? Sure there is.

1 Corinthians 10:13“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

There are a few truths I need to remind myself of from this verse:

  • My temptations (trials) are ordinary, my family is not suffering extraordinarily; every family suffers some illness at times.
  • God is faithful!
  • He will not allow the temptation to overwhelm me. He is sovereign over everything—the trial itself and the degree to which it extends. He knows what my family and I can handle.
  • He promises grace to endure the trial (the way of escape); His grace will sustain me wherever He leads.

Fear crushed by the truth of God’s Word.