Gospel

There are many Advent devotionals and activities for children to prepare their hearts for Christmas, but Easter is not often given the same level of care and attention — despite it being a foundational holiday for Christians. This is one reason Marty Machowski is rethinking the way families celebrate Easter with his new upside-down family devotional Darkest Night, Brightest Day.

Marty Machowski is a bestselling Children’s devotional author and pastor. In this episode of the Great Stories podcast, you’ll hear him discuss the creative ways that families can make the days leading up to Easter, as well as the days following, become a cherished tradition that will help the kids in your life carry their faith into adulthood.


More form Marty Machowski


You can also find the podcast on …

If you liked what you heard, please write a review and help new listeners discover the show!

Sign up for the Great Stories Podcast newsletter to get a weekly update on new episodes each Wednesday. 

Have you ever seen yourself in a funhouse mirror? In one mirror you’re half your height and doubly wide. In another you’re stretched out. The reflection is not reality, but it teaches us something about how we view the world and disability.

Our world is kind of like a funhouse mirror. Creation—including you and me—was designed to glorify God, to reflect His character and His priorities. But our “mirrors” are warped or cracked. The world, as Paul says, is sin-tainted and broken.

That brokenness extends all the way down to our DNA. Often disability starts there. “Disability is not an abnormal part of life in a normal world, nor is it a normal part of life in a normal world; it is a normal part of life in an abnormal world” (Stephanie Hubach, 2006).

We shouldn’t be surprised by disability. It’s part of the human experience. But how do Christians of varying abilities engage our disabled children, siblings, or friends with the gospel? It starts by viewing everyone as children of God.

Disability Hits Close to Home

Our son spent the first 100 days of his life in the neonatal ICU, and the medical team was forthright with us, saying he’d likely never walk, talk, or see. Still we held that tiny, tiny baby in our hands and knew there was nothing lacking, nothing less than desirable in him, nothing that reduced our love for him. He was indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, in the very image of God.

From the moment our son drew breath, he had a disability. But what does that even mean?

The prefix “dis” usually suggests something is lacking, less than desirable, needing to be fixed. So the word disability often carries negative connotations. But how does God view disability? How are we as followers of Jesus to view disability? How do you view the people around you impacted by disability?

When I interact with my friends who use a wheelchair to move around, who cannot hear sounds or see well, who struggle daily with pain, who seem unable to communicate at all, I am seeing individuals made in the image of God.

Is this perfection? Holiness? No, but I know full well that every part of us is distinctly, wonderfully made. Whatever our inabilities or abilities, the Lord has designed us perfectly for His plans in this world.

Disability and the Gospel

As our son grew older, he would have to discover this for himself.

A hard day in parenting a child with disabilities is the day the child realizes he is different from other kids. For us, this began a repeating drama which centered on our son tearfully asking us why God made him this way.

“His disciples asked him, ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither, …’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:2-3

In this short passage we see that Jewish culture affirmed that the blind man was made in the image of God. But it also believed his disability was a curse from God for sin, either that of his parents or of his own.

Some Christians around the world still hold this perception today. The truth is, we may not be able to fathom what the Lord is doing in our lives. But we know that whatever our disabilities and imperfections, we have a Savior who not only sees our worth but also conquered sin and death to make us holy and righteous in His sight.

God delights to transform us to be holy as He is holy. This comes through faith in Jesus. When you trust in Him, you believe He is with not only your mouth, but with you for all eternity.

“In every situation and every circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.” John Piper

The Many Forms of Disability

In Scripture, we read about those who are lame, those who can’t speak, those who are deaf, and those who are blind. We read about those with chronic illness and behavioral challenges. These are reflective of what we know in our world today, too.

When we consider disability, we may think of the visible forms it takes (as with someone who uses a wheelchair or someone with Down syndrome). There are also less visible disabilities such as sensory processing disorder, traumatic brain injury, or fetal alcohol syndrome. Often with aging will come other kinds of disability like dementia, vision loss, and chronic pain. The “temporarily able bodied” begin to realize that if we live long enough, disability will arrive in our own lives. When we comprehend how wide-ranging it is, our fear of disability lessens and our compassion expands.

Disability is everywhere, but the brokenness of the world won’t last forever. God has compassion on those with disabilities, and that is good news for all of us.

How Churches Can Engage

Have you ever worked on a puzzle and in frustration thought, there must be a missing piece? In our house, this usually results in a family member walking by the puzzle and randomly, easily finding the piece thought to be lost. If even the one piece were truly gone, the puzzle would feel incomplete. A church without members who have disabilities is as incomplete as a puzzle missing a piece.

According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four Americans has a disability. Yet few churches reflect that mix. Sometimes we may not know if church members are impacted by disability. We must ask, are we intentional about reaching out to, adapting our teaching for, and enfolding those around us whose lives clearly are impacted by disability? As we have been observing, God has a heart for disability ministry and the disabled. But do we?

If we don’t, we’ll never know how incomplete we are. As we welcome these families into our fellowship, we see the richness they add to our church communities and soon will find it difficult to imagine life any other way.

I know families who have struggled to be a part of “regular life” activities, but caring for their loved one with disabilities makes it hard to do so. Often it’s just easier to pass on going to restaurants, sporting events, parties, church services, etc. The effort it takes to mount up an outing doesn’t feel worth it. They begin to settle for going it alone and withdrawing from the community.

When our son was younger, the exhaustion of trying to manage him in public settings pushed us in that direction, too.

Praise God for loving friends and family members who keep inviting, keep reaching out, keep dragging us along! And especially praise God for His Word which instructs us of the truth that we were made to be in community. He warmly welcomes us all into life and especially into the church.

What You Can Do

If you want to engage disability with the gospel, you can simply start by reaching out, showing up, and making a place for people of all abilities to find love and community with God’s people.

Though all of our abilities differ, we need each other to be the complete community He has called us to be. He sees each person impacted by disability as critical to the body of believers. After all …

“Missing pieces do more than complete the puzzle; they fill in an empty space.” (unknown)

More Resources

  • This article is adapted by this month’s Anchor Devotional by Kevin Daane. To follow along for the rest of the month or start from the beginning, you can click here to find the digital edition for August 2022.
  • Follow this link to start getting Anchor Devotional in your mailbox.
  • This week on Haven Today, Charles Morris is joined by Joni Eareckson Tada to talk about the hymns that have brought them through their greatest trials. Click here to listen.
  • Get a copy of Joni Eareckson Tada’s incredible new book Songs of Suffering: 25 Hymns and Devotions for Weary Souls.

About the Author

After 18 years as a pastor and counselor, Kevin Daane is now the director of ministry engagement for Engaging Disability With The Gospel, an organization which helps churches enfold our friends with exceptional needs into the body of Christ. His wife Kathy is the editor of Anchor. In 35 years of marriage, they’ve learned much and have been humbled often, especially through parenting their son with exceptional needs. Kevin enjoys biking, hiking, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with family, particularly their new grandchild, a baby girl. What gives him the greatest joy, however, is pointing people to Jesus.

Are your kids as brave as Daniel, as wise as Solomon, or as humble as Ruth? The answer is probably no on all counts, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

On today’s episode of the Great Stories podcast, Charles Morris is joined by gospel teacher, parent, and author Jack Klumpenhower. He wrote a helpful Christ-centered book called Show Them Jesus on how to effectively teach the gospel to children in a way they can internalize it and carry their faith into adulthood. He also has some great insight into how adults can preach the gospel to themselves every day.


Going Deeper

  • Read Charles’ favorite quotes from Show Them Jesus here.
  • Get a copy of Show Them Jesus here.
  • Listen to last week’s podcast episode with Jay Stocker on Scripture Lullabies here.
  • Learn more about the Scripture Lullaby albums called Hidden in My Heart here.

You can also find the podcast on …

If you liked what you heard, please write a review and help new listeners discover the show!

Sign up for the Great Stories Podcast newsletter to get a weekly update on new episodes each Wednesday. 

Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are,
but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.

– Jack Miller

“How can God love me when I continue to sin?”
“Is God angry with me?”
“How can I be sure that I’m forgiven?”

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? The idea of grace is one of the most beautiful aspects of our salvation, yet it’s also one of the hardest  ideas to grasp.

We have all felt the guilt that comes when we’ve done something wrong, and it can become a barrier between us and God. We often forget that we are not saved by how good of a Christian we are, but by the loving sacrifice of Christ who paid the ultimate price for our sin. There is nothing on earth more powerful and life-transforming than our salvation by grace through faith. And because of what Jesus did for us, we can enjoy the blessings that come from receiving the gospel.

But the gospel is more than just something we are supposed to believe. God wants us to experience it every day.

The gospel holds everything we need for a life of joy and fulfillment. In his book, A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent explains how to preach the gospel to yourself and why all believers should do this on a daily basis.
Here are just 3 of the many reasons you should rehearse the gospel regularly:

1. Our Daily Need

Scripture itself tells us the gospel is so foolish, so scandalous, and so incredible, that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as we should. There is simply no other way to silence our human forebodings and the lies of the world than to overwhelm our heart with daily rehearsings of the gospel.

2. A Heart for the Lost

The more we rehearse gospel truths, the more we develop a burden for non-Christians to receive the same blessings. In Romans 9, Paul is devastated by a burden for his fellow Jews to experience the saving power of the gospel. His burden existed long before he started writing, but it is undoubtedly intensified by his rehearsal of gospel truths in Romans 5-8. This rehearsal inevitably leads his thoughts toward the plight of those outside of Christ.

3. Hope of Heaven

The more we experience the riches of Christ in the gospel, the more there develops within us a yearning to be with Christ in heaven where we will experience His grace in unhindered fullness. It enables our hearts to thrive during the most difficult trials here on earth.  When we preach the gospel to ourselves every day, we keep ourselves established in “the hope of the gospel.” Such hope is intended to keep us looking forward while still on earth.

Don’t stop here. To rehearse the gospel regularly, you need to know how to preach the gospel to yourself. To learn more, we recommend listening the radio series Preach the Gospel to Yourself with Milton Vincent.

We believe music is one of the greatest tools God uses for children (and adults!) to worship and learn about Jesus. For Randall Goodgame, the singer-songwriter behind Sing the Bible Vol. 1 & 2 and everything Slugs & Bugs, this is exactly his mission as he seeks to profoundly impact the culture of the home with these Gospel-centered, silly, and extremely catchy songs.
Below are just a few of the songs from Randall’s recently released album called Sing the Gospel. As Randall puts it, we pray this music inspires you and your family to sing together, laugh together, and think deeply together about the meaning of life and the nature of God.
 

God Made Me


 

Stop (Listen to the Lord!)


 

I’m Adopted


 
stgcd_medium3d.vxt2prwb27u6ty6guutku64gh3hacbf6Randall Goodgame’s desire is to help children of all ages understand the Gospel through songs that delightfully get stuck in your head. If you’ve been looking for a way to help the children in your life understand the Gospel better, then look no further. Sing the Gospel is exactly what you need.
Here’s Randall’s take on it:
“The riches of the Gospel are immeasurable. We get to be in God’s family! We are transformed from within! Our sins are forgiven, our wounds are made beautiful, and our joy never ends. Last year, our friends at The Good Book Company in the U.K. requested that we curate a collection of the Slugs & Bugs songs that explore these different aspects of the Gospel, and the result became ‘Sing the Gospel’ – a Slugs and Bugs collection.”
request-your-copy-today-400

In America, it’s easy for our faith to be lulled to sleep. We forget the beauty of grace, the loveliness of Christ, the power of the Spirit. When we’re not called to stand upon the gospel, and often don’t have opportunities to see others converted, we can grow apathetic in our faith. It’s often helpful to be reminded of those lonely corners of the world where believing in Christ is a life or death matter—and where, not coincidentally, the Christian faith is most awake, most vibrant. As founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International, Tim Keesee travels to those forlorn corners and brings back inspiring stories of sisters and brothers who risk all for Christ via the DVD series Dispatches from the Front, and now the new book by the same name. Here in brief, from the book, are simple stories to stir the soul.


Shkodra, Albania
“Early evening—an imam’s long sermon, marking the end of Ramadan, mingled with the city sounds in the darkening streets. David, Fredi, and I drove to a settlement of Shiite gypsies. The gypsies are outcasts, and so are their dwellings. … Recently, ten families were burned out of their homes here, and so the Christians in the Shkodra church gave them wood to rebuild their homes. … The gypsy children quickly adopted us. … We sang “ai me ngazelloi, ai me ngazelloi.” He has made me glad, he has made me glad. I will rejoice, for he has made me glad.” And our joy was added to tonight when one of the gypsy men, Ghazi, who David has patiently and repeatedly explained the gospel to, said he wanted to publicly identify with Christ! The first stars rise above the old castle, and I can say over this day and over all the days here, “He has made me glad!”


A Baptism in Beijing

Somewhere West of Beijing
“Mr. Zhang, our taxi driver, is certainly an animated fellow—at times gesturing with both hands while careening through head-on traffic. We are in search of a “secret” baptismal service of a house church in Beijing. We have vague directions—take the road west, pass the apple orchard, follow bus 727 to a bridge … We get out at the bridge, walking down a dirt road that wound along the Ye Xi River. When we rounded a bend, we heard the singing of “Amazing Grace,” and what we saw was also amazing—hundreds standing beneath the willows along the river bank. About two hundred people were in line to be baptized, and more were arriving! … The old pastor of the church, the venerable Allen Yuan, sat with his wife, and they laid hands on and prayed for each person being baptized. Pastor is ninety years old and has spent twenty-three years in prison for his faith, including torture during the days of Mao.


Cheryl Beckett

Ashtabula, Ohio
I remember when I was no more than five or six. I got up very early one morning. I remember the dew-wet grass on my shoes. I remember Daddy leading the way up a hill. I remember the forms of others there growing clearer in the fleeting darkness. And then, I remember voices as deep as the first line: “Low in the grave he lay … waiting the coming day.” Then there was a little pause, like the disciples lingering at Jesus’s tomb, staring at the death of all of their dreams. Then with voices that from the first word seemed to rise along with Christ, we sang, “Up from the grave he arose! … Hallelujah! Christ arose!” I’ll never forget that first Easter sunrise service and its opening praises, and I can never get away from that pause between the grave and glory. It is the place of unanswered questions and I’ve had a lot of those lately. I got a call from Afghanistan early one morning in August and learned that my friend Cheryl Beckett had been killed along with nine other aid workers. They were ambushed by Islamic militants. … I don’t expect a good answer to why at thirty-two years of age she should be taken. She brought so much strength to the team, and she put Calvary love on display for the Afghan people to see. There are already so few there, so few willing to go there. It still hurts to write about her.”

Tim Keesee is the executive director of the Dispatches from the Front series. For the past 20 years, Tim has reported on the church in the world’s difficult places, from the former Iron Curtain countries to war-torn Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His journaling is the basis for the unfolding narrative of the Dispatches series.