Make Your Home a Refuge
"In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." Proverbs 14:26-27
God wants your home to be a safe haven where sons and daughters can grow and flourish successfully. Our hearts as Christians can’t help but be grieved at the ever-increasing abuse in homes today. There is sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse and spiritual abuse at every turn. Too many children don’t even get a fighting chance at a good start.
I recently saw a disadvantaged little guy heading to school. He had shoes on that were far too big for him, no socks and was being drug along by what was likely one of his older siblings. As I viewed this scene I thought to myself, “I’m sure there’s a good chance that his mother was sleeping off a night of drinking. He probably left the house with no food in his belly…man, what a rough way to start a day!” Sadly, his case is not uncommon in our society today. That’s one reason why we go out knocking on doors and inviting people to church. God says the fear of the Lord makes the home a refuge.
Too often today, I’m afraid, having godly fear is misunderstood. There is some misinformation out there that says fearing God is legalism. The definition of legalism is salvation by works. Having a healthy fear of God is NOT legalism – it is wisdom!
There are Two Versions of The Fear of God:
1. Guilty Fear
This can’t be a good thing. I would totally agree with anyone who would say that being afraid of God in this way is not healthy. The fear of God, when it arises out of a guilty heart, is an enslaving fear. In Hebrews 2:15, the Holy Spirit explains that humans become slaves when they are afraid of standing before the judgment, “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” That’s one underlying reason I think our government passes so many safety laws (many of which are absurd) – because most people are afraid to die and face God. We should establish and regard reasonable precautions in society of course, but as believers we’re ready to go when death happens. Believers should look forward to facing God, like the gifted, vision-impaired hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, who wrote, “I shall see Him face to face!”
2. A Healthy Fear
“Is this a good fear?” you might ask. Yes, healthy fear is the consciousness of being in the presence of God every moment. We may think we’re in private when we are all alone in front of our computer looking at inappropriate things, but God is there. A healthy fear is an awe, a reverence, an adoration, a worship, a confidence, a thankfulness, a love, and a fear of failing God. The spiritually minded apostle said, “O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). That is good fear.
The healthy fear of God is first, a fear of displeasing a loving father. It is like a loving child who cares for his dad so much, that he watches everything that he says and does. It is being careful of, not even in the slightest degree, displeasing dad. Not because he’s afraid of getting beat, but out of a reverence for his father.
Secondly, a healthy fear of God is having respect for a coming judgment. As a believer I know that my relationship with God is secure. I will never be in God’s court as a criminal, but I certainly can be before Him as a disobedient child, and have to endure divine discipline.
As a child I was always afraid of displeasing my dad. It was a healthy fear though. I think this is one reason that I, personally, have never had a hard time reconciling the justice of God and the love of God. I know some folks who have come from abusive family backgrounds maybe, or that were raised in some kind of false religion might feel condemned, but thankfully, I never have had to experience that. I certainly did have a father who was captain of the ship, and I’ll tell you what, I always had a fear of displeasing him. I knew if I were to take a few verbal liberties with my mom I would soon be picking myself up in the next room, and rightly so! I learned not to cross that man out of respect and a healthy fear of judgment.
The 4 Rewards That the Fear of God Produces for Families:
1) Peace of Mind “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence…” (Proverbs 14:26).
God gives people that fear Him a boldness to come to Him. The fear of the Lord allows me to come to Him in prayer; to come boldly before the throne of God. We are told it is the fervent prayer of a righteous man that avails much (James 5:16), not the haphazard, lackluster, wavering prayer of a nominal Christian. God wants people to pray in faith. When we have a fear of the Lord and we know that we have consciously tried to serve God it produces a peace of mind. Truth wins. That is to say if we will do right and be people of the Word, then somehow it’s going to be okay, somehow God’s going to make it work out all right.
The question we must ask ourselves is, “Am I doing right?” God says if we do right, it produces confidence for our family. Children have their confidence built when they know dad and mom are doing right. When grandfathers, grandmothers and siblings are doing right, it adds strength and stability to the home as well. The opposite is also true; when people are out doing things they shouldn’t be doing...it is disturbing. Police are sometimes called into situations where there has been a “disturbing of the peace.” Those that live in families should never disturb the peace of that society. Homes aren’t just individuals living isolated lives, we’re a group and one affects the whole.
2) A Blessing “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
Hopefully, Christians want to be conscientious and involved parents. Whether they are taking care of physical, educational or relational needs; they want to make a difference. As soon as a child is born, and even before, godly parents begin programming hearts and minds with the Gospel and with good truth. They try to help children grow up dependent upon the Lord to be strong and successful. Parents do what they can to shelter them from negative issues, they want their tender little plants to grow and get as strong as they can, before they get transplanted out into this world. God gives a great promise here. When parents have a Christ-centered home, when they are Bible-believing people, when they have a church loving home, then they are going to bring about blessings into the lives of children.
What blessings are brought to children? Solomon reminds readers that one great blessing is a hiding place, a refuge - hallelujah! Our family will need a refuge as they grow up, because life brings many issues and hardships. When the heart of a youth gets broken because one of their friends stabbed them in the back or someone they loved turns away; they need a hiding place. They need a place that they can come back to and feel accepted when they are persecuted at work because of their stand for God. They need a place to find strength and new resolve after they have chosen not to cheat at school or when they are looked at as weird or strange, because they believe the Bible. When we hear news, like we did with our 19-year-old daughter Elizabeth, that our child has terminal cancer, we need a safe place to run to! God is saying that the homes of truly Scriptural parents are blessed because of the example that they set, because of the instructions that they give and certainly, because of the prayers that they offer.
A praying father and a praying mother is the greatest refuge of all. If you were privileged to have had a praying mom or dad growing up, you ought to thank God. That is the best possible gift. The apostle Paul said, “I travail in prayer until Christ be formed in you” (Colossians 4:19). Travailing is giving birth. Giving birth to a child is incredibly hard, but travailing over that same child in prayer when they’re two or even 32, is like giving birth over and over and over again. Children are a challenge to parents physically when they are young, but as they get older they’re a challenge emotionally and spiritually. What a refuge it is when a child can call dad up and say, “Dad would you pray for me right now?” When one of my children texts me and says, “Dad, pray for me”, heaven and earth stops for me at that moment, because I go to the King of the universe and say, “My son needs you right now, my daughter needs you!” What a refuge to have a praying parent. Nothing could be sweeter.
3) A Comfort “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27).
Ice cream only goes so far, movies only last so long, going out to dinner is only so much fun, going to the mall is only so nice. There’s got to be a better place for sons and daughters to go to get some positive strokes. God says that a home where Christ is the head, a home that loves the Bible, a home that has a vibrant church life, a home where prayer is central and the Word goes forth, is a home where there’s true joy, life and comfort.
Everything comes and goes in this world. The world is so full of hype. What’s hot today is as cold as a mackerel tomorrow but Jesus makes my home consistently good. There’s something about the fear of the Lord that is like a constant fountain – it is energy giving, refreshing and always a joy to be in that kind of a home. To those of you who might still be in the home and you have mom and dad that are trying to do right, don’t ever buck them, don’t ever do anything against them because they are giving you a great and rare blessing…trust me.
4) Protection from Evil “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27).
God says there are “snares of death” out there in the world today. A godly home will protect you from many destructive influences. It is a protection from evil when children and grandchildren are experiencing a personal walk with the Lord. When they see dad happy to go to church and joyfully writing out that tithe check, or mom happily making cupcakes for children’s church, they learn what are real priorities in life. They become less likely to fall for the devil’s bait. The devil’s lies are full of glitz, glamour and goods. Christians know where the real deal is – it’s in the manger! There’s something real there and that knowledge gives discernment and protection from the lies and deception in the world that lead to death.
6 Practical Suggestions to Make Your Home a R.E.F.U.G.E.:
R - Routines Are Kept – Too many homes today are like plates of spaghetti – you never know where it begins or where it ends! It’s important for everybody to know what the day holds. I know that when I go to a concert or other event, I like receiving a program in my hand so I can know the agenda and what to expect. The same concept is helpful for our family. It builds stability when they know that in your home at 7:30 a.m., it’s Bible time. Before everybody runs out for the day, we are going to gather together and get into the Word. We want to have schedules that include a set dinnertime where we all sit down together over a meal and connect to share the day’s events, as well as provide opportunities to practice manners.
Our daily schedules should also include times of cleaning and orderliness. We don’t want it to feel like a museum but a refuge should be neat. Kitchens should not have dishes stacked up to the ceiling. Rooms must not have junk piled up everywhere. Throw that junk away! If you need to keep some “important” printed information that you just can’t access easily, then just write down the vital facts on a calendar (or electronic calendar) somewhere and throw away the 100-page magazine that takes up so much space. The truth is this…a lot of homes would do well to back up a dumpster and start tossing. No one will ever know what they are missing. Get rid of that stuff!
Someone once said that having routines are kind of like striping a parking lot. Imagine a parking lot where there were no stripes. If you’ve got a hundred cars and people are parking everywhere, it’s hard to fit them all in. However, if you stripe that parking lot and every car finds a place, it’s so much easier and more efficient. When every duty has a set time and there are healthy routines, everybody flourishes.
E - Eyes and Ears Are Open – The devil never quits! He is constantly trying to get into our homes. We have to consistently monitor the television, computers, music and friendships. I’m telling you, parents always have to keep their eyes and ears open. There should be a rule of no closed doors during the day for more than about 5 minutes at a time. Always ask questions of your children, “What do you have on your iPod? What are you looking at?” Every computer, or iPod, or iPhone are open to a parent’s eyes. Nobody has the right to absolute privacy, other than for modesty reasons of course. One alert dad said to me, “I can tell when my son is into something he should not be. I can just look him in the eye and I know.”
I think maybe guardian angels reveal things. I know, for a fact, the Holy Spirit tells me things about my children. For example, if your son or daughter is normally a cheerful person and they start getting quiet and reserved; something is not right and you need to check that out. If they are normally well kept, but now there is a decline in appearance parents need to ask, “Is everything okay?” Parents must constantly be keeping eyes and ears open. Why? Because we want to provide a refuge of godliness for them. Somebody needs to do it, and someday they’re going to say thank you for being aware and for caring.
F - Fellowship – If our homes are to be refuges, moms and dads need to be at peace with each other. Because they are human, every husband and wife will occasionally have disagreements. There must not be constant contention, however. Children pick up on it almost immediately as if they have radar. Lynette and I very seldom had issues between us, but one time we had this “talk” and I think I raised my voice. Anna and Elizabeth, who were probably eight and ten years old at the time, started crying and thought we were going to get a divorce right there and then…those poor little devastated girls!
I am amazed however at the number of Christian homes where there is constant friction. The kids may be sitting there quietly on the outside observing, but their hearts are being torn up…it is like someone is stabbing that precious little heart. Children and youth deserve something better than a mom and dad fighting all the time. So, mom and dad, you have got to find a way to have peace. Bury that hatchet (not in each other’s back)! Whatever it takes to have peace you simply have to do it. You may have to call in late for work or stay up late, but get the matter settled. Somehow get peace in Christ.
U - Uphold Traditional Roles – Titus 2:1-10 should be a guiding rule for roles in a family. It gives roles for men, women, youth and friendships. Among other duties, it says the woman is to be a “keeper at home.” Everybody can say what he or she want to, but it is my firm belief that if you want your home to be a refuge, then mom needs to be at home the great majority of the time. That doesn’t mean she can’t bring in an income or have a part time job outside the home, but what that does mean is that the dad is the breadwinner. I’ve never seen the “Mr. Mom” concept work out well. God has designed and ordained women to care for the things in the home. It just works best that way.
I had a funeral for a woman in her 90’s. Her 60-year-old son wanted me to say one important thing about her. Think about this now. This woman lived almost a century. She did and said so much, but what is the one thing the son wanted me to say? “She was always there.” That’s it! “She ironed my t-shirts, she helped me fold newspapers for my route and when I would come home from school, there was mom.”
I can recall in my own life after coming home from school, and mom making me to sit down for a moment to talk. She would say, “How was class? What did you have for lunch?” She would ask me all kinds of questions and then when she was satisfied she would say, “Okay, you can go now.” She was there!
Nothing could be more healthy or wonderful than for a mom to be there for her children and husband. Obviously, there are situations where a mom is forced into working a full time job outside the home. Maybe they are a single mother or have an ailing husband that cannot work. These matters, of course, change the typical roles, but the overwhelming majority of the time traditional roles for mom and dad create a refuge.
G - Gentle Words – It is so important to have gentleness as a law in the home. A family rule must be made that nobody speaks unkindly in the home. It’s just not going to be tolerated. We’re not going to be short with each other, we’re not going to raise our voices, we’re not going to be smart-alecs, we’re not going to be mean in this home. This home is a kind home – it’s a law. I love that verse in Proverbs 31, which speaks about a virtuous woman. It says that kindness was a law to her. Her kind tongue was a law. There are no harsh tones allowed. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be directness at times. The Bible talks about an angry countenance driving away a backbiting tongue (Proverbs 25:23). But that’s an atypical response because of repeated back talk. That’s not the rule of the home. Gentleness of tone has to be the plan.
E - Eat Meals Together – For at least one meal a day, every body needs to sit down and eat together. Usually the best time is dinner, but whatever works. Families need to eat together and use dishes – remember what those are? You need to have the table set on time, with glasses, silverware and napkins. Turn off distractions like the TV and phones (no texting at the table) and have soft instrumental music playing and eat dinner together…you can do this! We can stop our business long enough to eat. I know sometimes there are things that come up which cannot be avoided. Also when children get to be of young adult age they will have their own lives as well, but we still need to try and eat together as often as we can. When you look in the Bible, eating together was one of the main activities that everybody did together. Jesus spent much time going somewhere to eat with somebody.
In 2012 Iran suffered a terrible earthquake where 300 people died. As they were going through all the rubble and taking rocks away looking for survivors they found a mother who was hunched over, dead. But underneath her lifeless body she was cradling a baby that was still alive! Thirty-seven hours after being buried, this precious little baby was alive, refuged by her precious mother.
I’m sure every man and woman reading this would give their life to protect their family during a tragedy. Parents must also do what they can to guard against the moral earthquakes of this world. My friend, it is not going to get any easier as you journey through these next years. The devil is coming into our lives like a flood and we need to work to create a refuge for our sons and daughters in our homes.