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~ Written by Lorena Oplinger

My brother Kevin is 15. He looks like a typical healthy teenager. When Kevin was four, however, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.

Kevin was a healthy baby boy. He was born without any complications. However, during the early stages of his physical and mental development, something inside his brain began to change. In preschool his teachers started noticing some distinctive behaviors and attitudes in him. Kevin was having a hard time understanding and following their instructions. His learning and communication abilities decreased gradually to the point he could no longer keep up with his classmates.

I never saw my parents so heartbroken. It was painful for my mom to absorb the news and accept my brother’s medical condition would prevent him from reaching his full potential. It is hard for many moms, including mine, to embrace the challenges of raising kids with disabilities.

There are times when we just can’t explain or understand why things happen the way they do. But regardless, God’s grace is so abundant! He has shown us his grace by giving my parents the peace, patience, and persistence to endure this challenge for the past 11 years.

Kevin struggles with anxiety, stress, mood changes, and some other behavioral issues produced by social environments. He is also experiencing the physical and emotional changes caused by puberty. He is a very smart boy and is becoming more self-aware of his medical condition. A couple of days ago, he told my parents that he is asking God to make him normal because he wants to be like the other boys. He doesn’t want to deal with mental or psychological issues any more. My parents are surprised to see that Kevin is now communicating his feelings, desires, and thoughts; something he never did before.

My parents are strong believers, and for them this is a huge sign of hope from God. My mom even said, “I know that God is working in Kevin’s life. He is answering my prayers!”

My family has realized both the blessing and challenge of raising a child with disabilities. Through this, they have learned God has a plan and purpose for all of us. Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture and understand why things happen the way we least expect. Perhaps we only need to recognize that God is sending us undercover blessings.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s hard to process the thoughts that have accompanied the much-publicized comment by Dr. John MacArthur when asked what words he associates with women’s Bible study leader Beth Moore. His response was “Go home.” This response has filled me more with grief than with anger. After 50 years in leadership, this brother seems to be working in the opposite direction from Christ’s prayer that His followers would love each other and be united as the Godhead is.

Some of my concerns include:

1. I believe most confidently that God has called me to help women and girls deepen their understanding of and obedience to Christ. Why else would Titus 2:3-5 instruct that the older women should be taught to train the younger women? The clear call to show them how to love their husbands and children requires a rich understanding of doctrinal truth in order to learn to love appropriately. It makes no sense to try in any way to restrict women from immersing themselves, both brain and heart, in exploring God’s Word to increase their understanding of Him.

2. Nothing healthy is accomplished for Christ when a believer shows disdain for another believer. It may be possible that MacArthur has concluded that she is not a believer, but even in that case, he has demonstrated public contempt for another human being created in God’s image. Believers and non-believers alike are only confused and frustrated with that kind of behavior from a well-known leader.

3. MacArthur seems to assume that it would be impossible for God to ever raise up a woman like Deborah again. He apparently has concluded he knows God’s rules and can discredit the calling of anyone who doesn’t follow those rules. It’s similar to the smug attitude that led the Pharisees to reject Jesus, whom they concluded was breaking God’s laws.

4. In this era of people viewing Christians as hateful and intolerant, John MacArthur has unfortunately proved their point in a matter that belies even the beliefs of other Christians. The rest of Titus 2:3-5 talks about the importance of women’s behavior not maligning the Word of God, but I believe men, too, can cause God’s Word to be maligned.

While I don’t claim to be a Beth Moore groupie, I am very appreciative of her gracious response. She reminded all of us that her job is to do what God has called her to do. Just because another member of the body of Christ says, essentially, that our ministry is worthless does not mean God sees us that way.

My greatest wish is that those who have varying views on the role of women would not consider it their job to prevent women from following God’s call. Rather, church leaders should invest their energies in helping each woman God has called them to shepherd discover her role in God’s great plan for humanity.

~Written by Samantha Freds

A few weeks ago, my brother and I visited my parents on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We had hoped to enjoy some outdoor activities before the summer was behind us, but Indiana weather had other ideas. Not wanting to spend the entire day on the couch, the four of us ventured over to the gym at my dad’s church.

We played a little basketball and threw a few rounds of corn hole before Dad disappeared into a storage closet. He soon reappeared, bringing more dodgeballs than I have ever seen in one location. An all-out war ensued. It was every one for themselves, and not even Mom was off-limits. Spontaneous dodgeball makes for an exciting afternoon!

It wasn’t until later that evening I saw a spiritual lesson hidden in that simple game.

Most people use one of two tactics when they play dodgeball. Some players try to catch any ball thrown at them while dodging the ones otherwise too risky to catch. Others continuously hold on to a ball at all times so they can block anything thrown at them. I prefer the second tactic. Unfortunately, that is also the way I often approach temptation.

I stay in the game, trying to make a block at the last second.

But while dodging and blocking may be an effective dodgeball tactic, it isn’t the way we are told to handle temptation. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray they would not even be led into temptation. And Paul told the Corinthians God would provide a way out when they encountered it.

Essentially, we need to use a flight, not fight, response to temptation!

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Out of all twelve disciples, I’m the most like Peter, I think.

In John 6, Jesus asks his followers, “Are you going to leave me, too?” Peter pipes up with an interesting mix of conviction and frustration replying, “Where else would we go? You have the words of life.” My heart lurches in empathy at Peter’s attitude. To leave Christ means leaving life itself, but would I have ever guessed how difficult pursuing Life himself would be?

Probably not.

Again in Mark 10, Jesus tells the disciples a parable of a rich man; explaining that no one can come to Christ on their own. Peter again, somewhat argumentatively, protests, “We’ve left everything for you!” Translation: “What, Master? What else can we leave to be worthy of gaining Heaven? We’ve left family, jobs, expectations, security, all of it.

“What. Else. Do. You. Want?”

It’s easy to focus on where I fall short as a follower of Jesus. I wish I trusted him, loved him, and hoped in him more fully. But despite my attempts, I find myself weeping like Peter does after he denies Jesus, muttering, “Jesus? Why do you love me? Why do you want me?”

But it’s then I realize I’m putting the focus on the wrong Person in these snapshots of my life. I’m not the main character; Christ is. It’s not about my lack of faith; it’s about His faithfulness. It’s not about my lack of trust; it’s about his insurmountable love which accepts me where I am.

I may be the most like Peter, but Peter and I know the same Jesus. And that’s what matters.

~ Written by Viki Rife

I ran into him in the doctor’s waiting room. I was a young mom bringing in yet another sick child. “Jack” was several decades older. I had taught his children some years ago; recently I’d heard he was terminally ill. He updated me on his family and asked about mine. Then he started to talk about some mutual friends.

“I hear they’re starting their own business,” he said. “I’ve begged them not to do it.”

He must have seen the surprised look on my face. He explained, “I’ve seen what this particular industry does to you. I understand the draw of financial success, but I also understand what it will take to make a success of it. They have young children, and I can guarantee someday they’ll regret giving up this precious time with them.”

For the next 20 minutes he talked wistfully about the regrets he carried at this stage in his life. “I was too busy for my family. My kids didn’t really have a father. My wife didn’t have a husband. I was so determined to make a success of it.”

He sighed. “I did! My wife will be fine financially. But I have failed in what mattered the most: investing in my own heart and in the hearts of my family and those around me. I was a Christian, but didn’t have time to invest in my own spiritual growth, let alone in that of others. I have very little to show when I stand before the Lord. It grieves me deeply.”

The nurse called him and Jack started toward the exam rooms. Then, very deliberately, he turned and added, “I’ve put off the significance of Mark 8:36: ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ I can’t undo it.”

I think of him whenever I hear that verse. It has especially been on my mind in the context of the Soul Care class we offer in various parts of the country. The care of our souls is the wisest investment God calls us to make as humans, but so often we push it to the background or think we can save it for later. But the time to invest is now!

If you are interested in more information about the Soul Care class, or if you would like your church to host it, go to www.ignite3126.org

~Written by Samantha Freds

I grew up under the impression that to be a good Christian I had to develop a daily routine of “quiet time” with God. This period of time should consist of personal Bible reading and prayer. It should last for no less than thirty minutes, but a full hour or more would be admirable. Furthermore, it would be best if my “quiet time” was in the morning, otherwise I was telling God that He wasn’t as important as whatever else I chose to start my day with. Maybe you can relate?

Now, I’m not denying the importance of daily connection with God. We do need to spend time in the Word! I even see the value in intentional connection in the morning. It’s a good way to set the tone for the day. But I think the idea that everyone has to connect to God through quiet, morning Bible reading is unfair. God created each of us uniquely and He is not limited by our traditional ways of relating to Him.

Gary Thomas wrote a book called Secret Pathways where he presents nine modes of connection with God. Several of them lend themselves to the expectations engrained in me as a child. But several others break the mold in a very powerful way. Some individuals connect to God most naturally by taking a walk outside – admiring the little details of creation and the Creator. Other people find connection by caring for a person in need or by fighting injustice. Still others find connection with God through the liturgical traditions and rituals of the church.

These things count! There is no “right” way to connect to God. In fact, Jesus demonstrated many different ways of connecting to the Heavenly Father during his earthly ministry. He spent time in quiet prayer, he fed thousands, healed hundreds, studied the Scriptures and cleared the temple, to name a few.

May you be freed to connect to God in a variety of ways.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Sis? A little help, please?” My brother puffed out behind his stack of books while he attempted to open the door to the stairwell. His grunts made it obvious he wanted me to treat his predicament with urgency. Usually, I would’ve jumped at the chance to get an atta-girl from my eldest sibling, but not right that second.

“Ty, can’t you see I’m reading my Bible?! Ask someone else.” I remember looking back at my Bible absolutely peeved Ty had dared take me away from its sacred pages. I knew Ty needed me, but wasn’t my time with Jesus supposed to take priority over all else? Couldn’t Ty appreciate my attempts at becoming a more pious saint?

Although the memory still makes me cringe, it now makes me chuckle at my childish perspective on what it meant to spend time with Jesus.

Over 15 years later, I constantly find myself revisiting my “Devotions corner” and huffing out a quick, “Sorry, Jesus. Where were we?” Seemingly on a daily basis, just when I’m sitting down to spend time in the Word or my prayer journal, my husband needs help with a project, my phone rings with an urgent need, or I need to get the cookies out of the oven for Sunday’s fellowship time before I can focus in the Throne Room.

It’s easy to feel guilty about those moments; especially if you grew up in the “Quiet Time” culture where your 15 minutes in the Psalms came first. But if we treat our time with the Lord as a checklist, we forget the heart of God—the ultimate Servant.

What would it take to see our acts of service, the times we sacrifice our moments of peace for a need in front of us, as a way to spread the love of Jesus by our actions? What if more times than not, Jesus is nodding at the person asking for our focus and saying, “It’s okay. I’ll teach you my heart while you serve them”?

How much more sincerely would people see the Body of Christ if we saw our mundane service as worship to the invisible Audience of One?

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