LOVING AND FEARING MY FATHER
As a boy growing up on the north side of Kenosha, Wisconsin, I had the great fortune of two committed, Christian parents.
It was by no means a perfect family.
Two parents, and 3 kids...a family with all the warts. Financial pressures, social hurts, job changes, siblings that loved each other but also fought and scrapped, parents who loved each other but who also fought and scrapped. There were moments of great joy, and there were moments when it felt like the family fabric would shred irreparably. Moments of sinful selfishness, other moments of repentance and forgiveness.
Still, I loved my family and I loved growing up in Donald Staff's household. I went through a phase where I was afraid to grow up, simply because I loved my life as a boy and didn't want the joy to diminish.
This was also true. I loved my dad, and I feared my dad.
His commitment to us was steady, his daily effort at work to provide for us was never questioned. He delighted in his children, and they in him. I loved my dad.
At the same time, his willingness to discipline us was also clearcut. When we disobeyed, when we mistreated each other, when we frustrated my hardworking-in-the-home mom, we knew what was coming. The measured discipline was physical and painful...and deserved. I feared my dad.
In all of this, I learned much about the character of my Heavenly Father. So that when I read the Apostle John's words, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18), I understood what John meant. God's perfect love for us meant that through Jesus's sacrifice, ultimate punishment for sin has already been satisfied. We need not fear eternal punishment; God's love for us has dealt with that matter.
But it is also correct to fear the God we know loves us. He simply loves us too much NOT to discipline us.
Like a good earthly father, our Heavenly Father will discipline us...sometimes severely if necessary, if we choose to live disobediently and sinfully (Hebrews 12:5-6). His discipline is to be feared; His passion for our holiness is not to be underestimated. He knows, even when His children willfully forget, that living in holiness brings life's greatest joys. Living sinfully destroys everything good that could be. No truly good father wants that for his beloved children.
Storm-strong parents understand the security that they themselves experience in their own relationship with God. A God who by loving grace birthed them into His family, who has satisfied the awful penalty for their sin through Jesus. But also a God who will also discipline them as they grow...that they share in His life-giving holiness.
Storm-strong parents wisely provide the same love-fear security for their own beloved children.
(from May 5th's teaching)
What is an example of living out this fear of God in our everyday lives? For our children?
I would offer the short article (above). Quite honestly, we would do well to read Scriptures with our children about the "fear of the Lord" (for example, in Proverbs) and the great love of the Lord (for example, in Ephesians 2:1-10, and in the letter of 1 John).
Why would anyone want a storm strong family? Why have God "in the middle" of a storm-strong family?
By "storm-strong," I mean a family that is able to successfully withstand the family-destructive forces that have been unleashed in our modern culture. I provided a list of the "storms" in the first message of this series. Our culture's communications, its entertainment, much of public education's approach, and so much more has disregarded what God has revealed about His plan, presence, and power in the family. When we disregard what our Creator has revealed and provided for our families, and simply take our cues from the culture, we shall see the "storm" begin to take down "our house."
The Bible is very clear that for any Christian, and for any Christian family, the presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, is what is needed to live with joy and obedience in God. When individual family members, and when a family as a "team," invites the Holy Spirit to begin producing the life of God in their lives and home (cf. Ephesians 3:14-21), a family can be truly transformed.
What is a biblically defined family?
Scripture consistently teaches that a family consists of a wedded male and female to whom the Lord has granted the fruit and reward of children (cf. Psalms 127 and 128). This family "grows" and enlarges as grandchildren and great grandchildren are born. And, when a married man died prematurely without his wife bearing children, a provision in the Mosaic Law directed that his brother shall "perform the duty" for his brother and raise up offspring for his brother's name (cf. Deuteronomy 25:4-6). Here (it seems) you have the possibility of a single-parent family; the key element is the presence of children.
This Biblical portrayal is not far from a definition we commonly use, namely that a family is a group of parents and children living together in a household, or "the descendants of a common ancestor."