Archives For belief

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

In the wake of Saturday’s massive earthquake near Kathmandu, Nepal, Christian workers asked for prayer for the devastated country:

• Pray for basic shelter, water and food. These necessities are a high priority right now since no one is allowed back in their homes.

• Pray for God’s people to deeply know His comfort and peace during this time. Pray they will share Him with people around them.

• Pray for people in Nepal and surrounding areas during the continuing aftershocks and aftermath of this disaster. Southern Baptist assessment teams will began the damage Monday to find the best ways to respond.


Potential presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson will not address the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference this summer as scheduled, Baptist Press reports. Several Baptists, including the Baptist 21 group of younger SBC leaders and pastors, had expressed concern about Carson’s membership in a Seventh-day Adventist Church, and that his appearance at the conference could look like a political endorsement.


Three years after the death of Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, Russell Moore reflects on media coverage surrounding the Watergate conspirator’s life and eventual conversion to Christianity. For those who were cynical about Colson’s transformation, writes the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “…we shouldn’t be angered by those who don’t get the full measure of the man. We should instead hear in some of this cynicism the cry of every human heart, a disbelief that there can be any such thing as final and total forgiveness of sin.”


Zondervan announced last week Charles Colson’s last book, “My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter Most,” will be released Aug. 4. Topics in the collection of writings will include “the rise of Islam, same-sex marriage, the persecution of Christians, crime and punishment, and natural law,” The Christian Post reports.


Atlanta-area pastor Andy Stanley says local churches should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

“We just need to decide, regardless of what you think about this topic–no more students are going to feel like they have to leave the local church because they’re same-sex attracted or because they’re gay,” said Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, at the Catalyst West conference April 17. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

A controversial Houston ordinance is now in effect, following a judge’s ruling on a petition drive led in part by some pastors in the city. HERO, or Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, made headlines last year when the city subpoenaed the sermons and other communications of five pastors who were against the ordinance. (The subpoenas were later withdrawn.)


Religious leaders are encouraging President Barack Obama to appoint a special envoy to monitor religious freedom in the Middle East and parts of Asia. The special envoy position has been vacant since it was created last year in the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, Baptist Press reports.


Are you one of the many football fans bent out of shape since Tim Tebow’s exit from the NFL? Good news: A Philadelphia pretzel company has created a way to celebrate his return. The “Tebowing” pretzel, shaped like the quarterback kneeling in his famous praying pose, started as a publicity stunt but soon went viral. The New York Daily News reports the Philly Pretzel Factory plans to donate proceeds from the pretzels to a charity involving Tebow, who has signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Friendly mergers

nateadamsibsa —  April 27, 2015

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Recently I attended a memorial service in Dupo, Illinois, for Wendell Hooks, who was my grandfather’s cousin. Wendell was 96 when he passed, and was a longtime member and deacon at the First Baptist Church there in Dupo.

Nate_Adams_April27I could certainly write more about Wendell and his life of dedication to his family, his work, his church, and his Lord. But I didn’t know him long. In fact, he was 90 when we first met in person at a Baptist associational meeting, just about the time he was transitioning from his home to an assisted living facility. It was there that we got acquainted over the past few years.

I didn’t have to spend much time with Wendell to realize that we were of the same family. From years of observing my mother and my grandparents, I quickly recognized the Hooks sense of humor and the familiar twinkle in his eye whenever he was
expressing it. I recognized the strong work ethic, the personal disciplines, and the tenacious dedication to both church and pastor. Yes, he was definitely a Hooks.

And he helped me remember that I am a Hooks too. Most people probably think of me as an Adams. I look like my dad, and I’m in a ministry profession like my dad, and I write pieces in this paper, like my dad did.

But cousin Wendell reminded me again how much Hooks is merged in to my Adams. My personality, my drive and discipline, my organizational bent, and yes my sense of humor, are all probably more Hooks than Adams. And I could have just as easily been a Sunday school teacher or deacon as an executive director, because it is really a layperson’s commitment to church and pastor that motivates me, more than a desire for ministry vocation. That’s the Hooks in me.

Chances are you enjoy that same “friendly merger” of family traits in your life. You are a blend, not only of your mom and dad, but also of grandparents and even generations before them. Some of those traits you recognize, and some of them you are still discovering.

I like to think that same sort of positive “blending” is happening in my spiritual life too, and in yours. Each of us is the unique, eternal person that God “knits us together” to be in our mothers’ wombs. But that person is also born in sin and needs redemption. Once I come to know Christ, he doesn’t discard my human identity. He simply redeems it and transforms it. He returns it to his image, to what it was supposed to be.

I love it that the Holy Spirit allowed the writers of the Bible to continue expressing their own unique identities and personalities and styles. Yet they also wrote with a perfect consistency and harmony, demonstrating that their individual voices were each inspired by the Holy Spirit.

During cousin Wendell’s memorial service, I was able to reflect for a few moments on the Adams and Hooks families that have blended into me, and for that matter the Adams and Schultz families that are blending into my children. With each new generation, there is consistency, and yet uniqueness.

And the same is true of my spiritual identity in Christ. I am not a clone of any one person, or even of God. I am a one-of-a-kind blend of both God’s unique workmanship and his redemptive work in Christ. Like David in Psalm 139, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And so are you.

I’m grateful to cousin Wendell for reminding me that I am a friendly merger of both Adams and Hooks. And we can all be grateful to God, for giving us identities that are unique, and yet that enjoy a friendly merger into His likeness, day by day.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Illinois_map_AprilCOMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

Just outside my office door, there is a large map of Illinois with each county outlined and labeled. Every county has been shaded in to represent the percentage of the population who are Southern Baptist.

When I heard about the April 9 tornado outbreak and where it occurred, my thoughts immediately went to the map. The northern part—the region most affected by the storms—has counties in white (no IBSA churches), dark green (one IBSA church), and a particular shade of orange denoting that just 0.5 to 0.99% of the population belongs to an IBSA church.

Disaster Relief spring callouts like the one in northern Illinois after the tornadoes are nothing unusual. In April 2013, chaplains and mudout teams responded to the Peoria area after widespread flooding. March 2012 saw a tornado strike Harrisburg, destroying homes and businesses. Chaplains and chainsaw teams were called in to comfort and to clear debris.

But this ministry opportunity is different. The previous spring callouts in our state have served areas with a much higher ratio of IBSA churches. These most recent tornadoes touched the northern part of Illinois, the part with little Southern Baptist or other evangelical presence.

In Ogle County, where the town of Rochelle is located, there is just one IBSA church to serve the county’s 52,000 people. In DeKalb County, home to the Fairdale community that was devastated April 9, there are just three IBSA churches with fewer than 300 resident members. DeKalb’s total population is 105,000.

Illinois Baptists now have an opportunity to reach out to the unreached in new ways. Chainsaw teams from four associations of churches—Fox Valley, Quad Cities, Sinnissippi, and Three Rivers—worked in Rochelle the weekend after the storms. Disaster Relief coordinators monitored the situation in Fairdale, but found it was completely destroyed, leaving nothing large enough for chainsaw crews to remove.

Not only were IBSA Disaster Relief teams at work, but teams from other evangelical denominations also were on the scene. Their presence is something new for an area that consists mainly of Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.

Illinois Baptists have a unique opportunity to share Christ’s love in a unique time of need. My prayer is that we take this opportunity to minister to the peoples in these and surrounding communities, sharing Christ—perhaps, as never before—in this region of our state.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

After an unarmed man was shot and killed by a South Carolina police officer, urban ministry strategist D.A. Horton advocated “radical righteousness” instead of retaliation.

The_Briefing“Radical righteousness is lived out when we work to see a criminal receive proper punishment, instead of private revenge; public order instead of personal retaliation; and respond with practical righteousness in place of our personal rights,” said Horton during a chapel service at Charleston Southern University April 8. The North American Mission Board’s national coordinator for urban student missions said the church must pursue the “radical righteousness” Jesus prescribed in Matthew 5:38-42, according to Diana Chandler’s report for Baptist Press.

“I was not present for Mike Brown [in Ferguson, Mo.], for Tamir Rice [in Cleveland, Ohio], for Eric Garner [in New York City], for Ezell Ford [in Los Angeles] and for the multitude of names that have been going down. I wasn’t there when the officers got gunned down in Brooklyn,” Horton said.

“… But what I do know as a believer, there was a real world with real hurt. There [are] real issues going on out there. And if believers cannot look to the words of Christ, and be words of comfort and clarity to our culture, then we don’t need to be claiming to be the church.”


The American Humanist Association has dropped its lawsuit against a New Jersey school district, allowing students to continue saying “under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.


A prayer written by Southern Baptist pastor Jack Graham will be read around the country on May 7, the National Day of Prayer. Graham is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas metro area.

“We repent of our sins and ask for Your grace and power to save us,” says Graham’s prayer, which will be read at Day of Prayer celebrations. “Hear our cry, oh God, and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may walk in obedience to Your Word. We are desperate for Your tender mercies. We are broken and humbled before You.”


The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is urging Christians to promote an April prayer emphasis with the hashtag #PrayforMarriage. Last week, the Southern Baptist ethics entity issued a challenge to pray at 10 a.m. (Eastern time) on April 28, the morning the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in several same-sex marriage cases. The web page ERLC.com/article/prayformarriage includes a sample prayer guide.


A majority of Americans believe politics would be more civil and effective if politicians read the Bible more. Read more in Christianity Today’s report on the 2015 State of the Bible study from the American BIble Society.


More news from the State of Bible report: Of the nearly 7,000 languages used as first languages, more than half lack a completed Bible translation. At the same time, 72% of Americans believe the Bible is available in all the world’s languages. Read more at Barna.com.


By the year 2050, Pew Research has forecasted, 38% of the world’s Christians will live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, Europe’s share of the global Christian population will continue to decline, from 66% in 1910, to 26% in 2010, to 16% projected for 2050.

COMMENTARY | Nick Rynerson

“Pop culture” is often treated like a dirty word in the church—thought to consist of mostly irredeemable entertainment produced to make money off the masses. A common approach is to avoid secular music, films, art, and television, or at least to not admit to consuming it all that much.

But that isn’t often what our real lives look like. Most of us are at least closet pop culture consumers—we indulge in one or two sitcoms, a favorite secular radio station, or a superhero movie every now and then.

And maybe that’s okay.

Nick_Rynerson_March15Popular culture is not the enemy; first and foremost, pop culture is a place for storytellers to, well, tell stories. Moral discretion is important. (And biblical! See 1 Corinthians 8:7-9.) But we miss a wealth of spiritual and theological depth if we chalk up all entertainment created by non-Christians as irredeemable and misguided; we also miss out on the opportunity to identify and empathize from a distinctly Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).

Stories offer us insights into our culture’s longings, revealing God’s truth in the world around us. In his excellent book “The Stories We Tell,” Kentucky pastor Mike Cosper reminds us that a story is never just a story—it’s a window into our culture’s imagination and longings (see Romans 2:12-15).

“Storytelling—be it literature, theater, opera, film, or reality TV—doesn’t aim at our rational mind . . . It aims at the imagination, a much more mysterious and sneaky part of us, ruled by love, desire, and hope,” Cosper writes. “When people, against their better judgment, find themselves hooked on a show, we can trace the line back to find the hook in their imagination.”

Stories, according to Cosper, can reveal much more about a person, people group, or culture than a strictly informative presentation or a list of facts. Stories communicate what people truly desire.

Take, for example, a certain Best Picture nominee from last year. The movie contains some strong language, an ambiguous ending, and other elements that might lead some Christians to believe that it has nothing to offer spiritually (and for some to wisely not engage the film). However, if we look closer, we can clearly see some distinct things the storytellers—the director, writer, characters, etc.—believe about God, life, and themselves.

Without spoiling the film, which centers on the relationship between a talented young jazz drummer and his demanding/abusive instructor, the characters have a very human desire: to be great. The devotion of the characters to the pursuit of greatness, and its sway over their future happiness, is deeply identifiable. Like the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the characters sacrifice their life for the pursuit of self-glory, predictably leaving themselves and others miserable.

Ever since the Fall, man has been trying to claw his way back to perfection. Everybody longs for his or her flaws to be taken away, and many of us think that if we just work hard enough, we will reach the promised land of perfection.

As Christians, we know this is vanity (Romans 3:23), but the characters in the film sacrifice their lives and their sanity to meet every iota of their own personal law. This pursuit is hardwired into us and until we find personal and entire perfection in Christ, we will always fall short.

That’s serious, biblical truth, communicated (probably unknowingly) in a 2-hour movie produced with a secular audience in mind. The next time a movie, song, or TV show comes on that you are tempted to write off as irredeemable, consider if it might have something to teach us about God, the creator of all things.

In Acts 17:22-27, Paul not only quotes Greek poetry, but also alludes to the radical truth that we’re put where we were (i.e., in our cultural context) to speak eternal truth into subjective cultural contexts. In his book, Cosper uses this example to illustrate a distinctly Christian way of story-listening.

“As Christians living in the midst of these stories, we have an opportunity to both learn and bear witness. Stories teach us a lot about ourselves and our neighbors, and they provide windows into how our world is wrestling with the effects of the fall.

“They also present opportunities to respond with the truth.”

Nick Rynerson is a staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture and works for Crossway in Wheaton.

COMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

Recently, I’ve had several opportunities to talk in IBSA meetings about “modern families” in our communities. I often ask the group I’m speaking to if they know anyone who is gay. Some say no, but others, especially younger people, begin to tick off a list.

And a fair number choose to say nothing. They appear uncomfortable. But then, aren’t we all?

When we hear about a florist being sued for declining to provide services for a same-sex wedding, or former megachurch pastor Rob Bell telling Oprah the church is just “moments away” from accepting gay marriage, our heads spin. We’ve come a long way from the early 80s when we were trying to figure out if singer Boy George was indeed a boy.

As I share how the Illinois Baptist newspaper has covered the rapidly changing marriage culture in Illinois, I tell how I’ve met same-sex couples at the Capitol eager to be married. I mention a former high school classmate who came out on his Facebook page. In my own extended family, a second cousin recently married his longtime companion/partner.

After the presentation, there are always a few people who come up and share with me in hushed tones about a family member or friend who has announced he or she is gay. They whisper how they are struggling with this knowledge. They want to minister to these loved ones but don’t know how. And they’re afraid to bring it up at church. They’re worried about how they will be looked at by fellow church members. On some level, there is a fear of guilt by association.

As the culture changes around us, we have to seek guidance from God’s Word, and be Christ-like in our actions. People are trapped in sin and are hurting, even if they don’t recognize it themselves. As a result, people in our churches are hurting for these friends and relatives.

But they keep silent.

We need not only to minister to homosexuals, but also to the friends and family members who love them. Figuring out how to minister to people who hurt, whatever the source, can’t be avoided.

While the church is trying to balance Christ-like outreach to people who are gay with biblical truth about their lifestyle, we can’t forget the Christian aunts, cousins, grandmothers and parents who are wrestling with the same tension. We need to create an environment in church where the relatives are free to talk about their struggle and receive biblical, loving counsel, so that they can in turn minister to their loved ones.

We’re way past the time for keeping quiet.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association, and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Fanny_CrosbyHEARTLAND | Steve Hamrick

February marked the 100th anniversary of the death of one of America’s greatest hymn writers and poets, Fanny J. Crosby. Frances Jane van Alstyne (née Crosby), lived nearly 95 years, from March 24, 1820, to February 12, 1915.

At six weeks old, young Francis developed an inflammation in her eyes that was treated with a mustard poultice, a common treatment of the 19th century. Whether because of the mustard or a congenital condition, blindness resulted. But it rarely affected her attitude. She was known in early years as the “happy little blind girl.”

Her first attempt at verse at age eight shows her outlook.

Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be

The attitude of God’s gratefulness continued as a theme throughout her life. “When I get to heaven,” she once said, “the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

It is estimated that Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns, with over 100,000,000 (that’s one hundred million) copies in print. Many of her hymns include references to sight and light. Notice the insight of one of her most well known songs, “Blessed Assurance”:

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

In addition to her hymns, Crosby published more than 1,000 secular poems, four books of poetry and two best-selling autobiographies. Most don’t know that she also wrote a number of popular and patriotic songs of her day.

During her long life she had the honor of reading her works in front of the U.S. Senate, Congress, and before many U.S. presidents, including John Q. Adams and James Polk; she also was dear friends with Grover Cleveland.

Despite being one of the most popular personalities of the 19th century, Crosby’s most rewarding work during her lifetime was her service to rescue missions. She dedicated her life in serving the poor, immigrants and less fortunate. During her years as a mission worker she wrote, “Pass Me not O Gentle Savior,” “More Like Jesus,” and “Rescue the Perishing.”

Her songs are still sung by churches around the world. Thousands of arrangements have been set for choirs, orchestras and praise teams. The band Caedmon’s Call recently recorded “Draw Me Nearer” (I am Thine O Lord) using one of Mrs. Crosby’s best texts. The words tell her story well:

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice,
And it told thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to thee.

Steve Hamrick is IBSA’s director of worship and technology.

COMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

“So what do you think about demons?” This was the random text message my 21-year-old brother sent me a few months back. I replied, “They sound scary, and they’re totally real.”

He called and told me of his friend, John, who believed he was being harassed by a demon. John doesn’t go to church, but he decided to call a few of the local pastors in his town, asking them what he should do. In each instance, the pastor didn’t believe his story, and offered nothing further.

Heath_Tibbetts_Feb26John lives out of state from my brother and me, so I offered to call. Soon, he was explaining his story to me. Let’s put it this way…YIKES! The hairs on my neck stood at attention as John explained this entity’s ability to take a visible shape while bringing him feelings of dread and even depression. He was now worried that this “entity” (I told him demon was the correct term) would attempt to possess him, and he was highly fearful.

I’ve heard of pastors who have blown off these types of stories. A previous pastor I served with said he had received a call from someone who thought they had a demon in their house. When I asked him what he was going to do, he replied, “Not go over there!” This didn’t sit well with me. Jesus spent many days defeating demons who were bringing hopelessness and harm to people all over Israel (Matthew 8:16, Luke 11:20, bunches of others). The Bible spoke of demons as a real threat, and I was shocked that our church didn’t act accordingly.

After telling John I believed him, I asked about his relationship to God. He admitted to having none, though he had been growing more curious about spiritual things. And as John continued to talk, I realized these attacks had intensified during this newfound curiosity. Long story short, I shared with John the Good News of Jesus and he willingly repented of his sins over the phone and placed his trust in Jesus. Then, we had a crash course in Holy Spirit theology. I told him that according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, no one can ever possess him now that he has become a temple of the Holy Spirit. John hung up the phone sounding much more confident about the future.

In fact, in the three months since John accepted Christ, he’s experienced a great change. Because the local pastors didn’t offer hope, he was unwilling to attend their churches. I’ve been discipling him by phone, texts, and e-mails. He reports no visits from this demon since his salvation, and he is reading his Bible and spending time in prayer. John is also finding new plans opening up for his life. He is moving to a new city in February to continue his education, and the first question he asked me was, “How do I find a good church when I get there?”

What is the takeaway for us? First of all, there were pastors who had an unbeliever call them for hope and they offered NONE. We have the hope of salvation and purpose in Jesus. When an unbeliever approaches us, no matter their dilemma, we must be prepared to help them see that Jesus is calling them in the midst of their crisis.

Secondly, if the Bible warns us of something, we had better take it seriously! Satan and his demons are real and they are working tirelessly to deceive, depress, and destroy souls. We must remain aware that spiritual warfare is going on all around us. Sometimes we can see it more clearly than others, but we are not fighting against people, but against “the spiritual forces of evil,” according to Ephesians 6:12. God has called us to be
warriors for the gospel who will help the hurting and broken find hope in Jesus Christ. As Peter said, let us always be prepared to share the hope that lies within us.

Heath Tibbetts pastors First Baptist Church in Machesney Park.

Hidden entrances

nateadamsibsa —  February 23, 2015

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Several years ago Beth and I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Amsterdam. As Sunday approached, we began scouting out nearby churches with English-speaking worship services. Finding only one within walking distance, we made plans to attend and committed to starting out early. But it was not early enough.

This was before the days of GPS and smart phones, and all we had were verbal directions from the place we were staying. We recognized the various street names and landmarks they told us we would find along the way. We knew we were in the right neighborhood. But we could not find the church.

Nate_Adams_Feb23Did we ask others for directions along the way? Well of course, though as a self-respecting husband who rarely feels lost, I waited as long as possible. But most of the folks in the neighborhood spoke only Dutch, and at least one of our well-intentioned helpers actually directed us to a German-speaking Lutheran service, which only cost us more time.

Finally, as the scheduled worship hour was upon us, we met a nice little man who was willing to walk with us a short way and point down a narrow alleyway. We had probably walked past it several times, but never realized that it led to where we needed to go.

Somewhat by faith, we walked down that narrow passage until it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. And right in the center was a beautiful old stone church, the place of worship for which we had been searching.

What a rich and deep worship experience we had that morning. On the way out, we inquired about a stained glass window that had caught our attention, one that seemed to depict pilgrims gathered for prayer on an ocean shore. It turns out the church in which we were worshiping that morning was the church from which the Mayflower pilgrims had departed for the New World almost 400 years ago.

When we returned to the hotel and told them of our difficulty finding the church, the staff apologetically acknowledged that the neighborhood had grown up quite a bit around the historic church. New buildings and thoroughfares now surrounded and somewhat masked the entrance to the courtyard. They were glad that someone familiar with the entrance had showed us how to find it.

In recent days, I have sometimes wondered what it is that keeps me from feeling a more consistent closeness to God. Like that narrow alleyway in Amsterdam, it seems the path to greater intimacy with God can be hard to find, even when I’m diligently looking for it.

Psalm 100 gives us a wonderful word picture of entering God’s gates with thanksgiving, and entering His courts with praise. Recalling that psalm during some recent soul-searching, I asked myself if I had been feeling or expressing genuine thanksgiving to God.

I began realizing how much my prayer life had been consumed with either asking for things to be different or expressing frustrations,  neither of which came from a heart of gratitude toward God. Like the buildings and thoroughfares that had grown up around that historic church, I had somehow allowed various disappointments and distractions to obscure my vision of God. They were keeping me from recognizing that I enter the courtyard of praise through a gateway of thanksgiving, and that God’s goodness and salvation and sovereignty merit my continual gratitude, even when things aren’t going my way.

Have your circumstances allowed obstacles such as discontentment or frustration or something else to creep in to your spiritual life and block your intimacy with God? Like that kind little man in Amsterdam, let me point you once again to the gateway of thanksgiving. You will be so delighted with where it leads.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

COMMENTARY | Bob Elmore

Bob_Elmore_blog_calloutWaking up to the sound of a high-pitched alarm is never a good start to a day. But this morning in April 2012 started just that way. It had been a stormy night, so I initially thought it was the weather alert radio and I mentally prepared to get my family down to the basement—not an easy task, since we have two sons with profound autism who strongly resist any changes to their routines.

I groggily opened my eyes and remembered I had been sleeping on the couch in the living room with my wife and son, Mark, who has epilepsy in addition to autism. He had a seizure that night, so we had been keeping watch over him as he slept on the floor. I looked around at our dark house and saw an odd orange glow coming from Mark’s room. The shrill alarm I heard was our smoke alarm. Mark’s room was on fire!

I woke up my wife and we got our protesting sons out of the house and into the car, which we moved away from the house. We were in pajamas and bare feet while we waited for the heater in the car to warm up. We watched dark smoke billow out of our windows as our small local fire department arrived.

Somehow, my wife and I were filled with a peace that belied our circumstances. We gripped hands and prayed, thanking God for our family’s safety and especially that our son had not been in his room when the fire began—the first time we were ever grateful for a seizure.

We opened our eyes after the “Amen.” All we had in the world was given to us by God, like Psalm 24 tells us. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” We instinctively knew that He would give us what we needed, just like He always had before…and He did.

Our dear neighbors and loving church family in Winchester, Ill.—about an hour west of Springfield—brought us blankets, clothes, coffee and emotional support. Over the next days, weeks and months, we would watch God fold His arms around us by bringing people to us. We had spent years together trusting God to take care of our atypical family each day, and He had always proved Himself faithful and now continued to do so.

Within three months, we had relocated to Springfield, where I now serve as IBSA’s short-term missions coordinator. We have a new house and new furnishings. Most importantly, we have another reason to entrust all that we have to God. Matthew 6:21 reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Our treasure always lies with our God. That way, our hearts will forever be in a safe and peaceful place.

Bob Elmore is IBSA’s short-term missions coordinator. He and his family are members of Western Oaks Baptist Church.