Ministering in a Brothel

brothelIn his well-written book, The Character of a Man, Bruce Marchiano tells the story of a man who actually ministered to the women in a brothel. One of their own had been killed in a car accident, and they were left to arrange the funeral. The ladies were able to take care of all the details except one: they needed someone to preside over the funeral or at least to say a few words at the gravesite. They called church after church but no one would have anything to do with them. Finally, a young Christian man named Tony heard of their plight from a social worker. He called them and said, “I’m not a pastor or anything. I’m just a Bible student. But I’d be happy to come out if you’d like me to.”

They agreed and Tony shared the love of Christ at the funeral. That wasn’t the end of the story, though. Tony asked if he could come every Sunday morning and “have church” with the ladies. They accepted, so he had the opportunity to come alongside them on a regular basis to demonstrate and teach them what Jesus had done for them. Today that brothel is closed. Why? Because, one by one, all of the girls were born again. They gave up their licentious lifestyle and got legitimate jobs. Two or three even enrolled in Bible college. All because one young man was willing to extend grace in an attempt to rescue them.

At the conclusion of His story about the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” It sounds to me as though Tony actually did that. Can you imagine what would happen if you and I did the same?

(excerpted from the book, Reflecting God’s Mercy in an Unmerciful World, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2008 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, MO. Go to http://reflectinggodsmercy.com/)
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No More Death

heavenNot long ago I had a heart scan. I was experiencing no symptoms of any sort of heart problems, but my dad had his first heart attack when he was younger than I am now. I just wanted to check, to make sure that I am okay. Somehow, the older I get, the more inevitable death seems. It’s going to happen to me someday. I’m going to die. And, I don’t want to alarm you, but so are you.

Over the years I have met many people who have lost a child. Maybe it was an accident. Perhaps an illness. Whatever the cause, most times the parents still bear a great deal of pain. Of course they do. What parent wouldn’t? I cannot even imagine what it would be like for one of my children to die. How much more devastating could life get than that? Death causes a separation, one for which we generally are unprepared.

Some of my greatest heroes—those who have meant so much in shaping my life and my walk with God—have died. Their passing was not easy. I cried when I heard the news. My father died just six months after I got married. Death is a very real and inevitable part of our existence here on earth.

Perhaps you, too, have been ravaged by the death of someone close. If so, I’ve got some really good news, and it has nothing to do with saving money on car insurance. In heaven, death is gone. Revelation 21:4 promises, “Death shall be no more.” Isaiah 25:8 says, “He will swallow up death forever.”

Death will be banished, and not just for a short time. We will not simply experience a brief respite from death, only to have it return with a vengeance. No, death will be no more. Ever. No one will ever die in heaven. Death, and even the effects of death, will be permanently, unendingly gone.

(Excerpted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/worshiping_god_in_the_hard_times.html)
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“I’ve Grown to Really Love Them”

young bandMr. and Mrs. Rodriguez have been married for nearly twenty years. Both are lifelong Christians. They are also both very gifted musicians. They have passed along not only their faith but also their music abilities to their kids. The Rodriguez’s two teenage sons, Nick and Tyler, play in a band. They’re apparently pretty good. A couple of their band mates are also musically gifted but quite rough around the edges. Although generally well-mannered, Tim and Nathan, both unbelievers, can be a bit abrasive and their language tends toward off-color. In spite of these things, the family reached out in love toward them, reflecting God’s mercy into their lives.

Mrs. Rodriguez said it this way: “I found out over time that Tim and Nathan both come from broken homes. There is everything imaginable in their lives and their friend’s lives: drug use, poverty, divorce, cutting, suicidal thoughts, the list goes on. I know at one point in my life I couldn’t have tolerated such people in my home or my life. But they’ve been here on a regular basis for a good year. They have band practices here, they sleep over, they have meals with us—they’re like part of our family. And I’ve grown to really love them.”

The Rodriguez’s did their best to let their light shine and even frequently invited Tim and Nathan to church. Finally, Tim and Nathan both agreed to go to church on the same Sunday morning. That morning a young man shared his testimony during the service. His life had been turned upside down by some of the same things that plagued Tim and Nathan. The young man’s entire story, though, was one of encountering God’s mercy. When the pastor invited people to receive the Lord’s forgiveness, both Tim and Nathan responded. Two souls were saved because a family who could have looked condescendingly toward them, instead, reached out in love and mercy.

(excerpted from the book, Reflecting God’s Mercy in an Unmerciful World, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2008 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, MO. Go to http://reflectinggodsmercy.com/)
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“Yo, Queeny, Wha‘sup?”

Queen of EnglandA.W. Tozer is one of my favorite people to quote. Tozer said this: “There is grief in my spirit when I go into the average church, for we have become a generation rapidly losing all sense of divine sacredness in our worship. Many whom we have raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence—which seems to indicate they doubt that God’s presence is there.” If we truly believe that the Lord is in our midst—and we doggone well better believe it!—then how we act, what we say, and what we do are all of great importance.

If you were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet with the Queen of England, you might consider beforehand what would be proper behavior for such a meeting. Most assuredly, you would not walk into the room, stroll over to a nearby couch, plop your butt down, put your feet up and say, “Yo, Queeny, wha‘sup?” That is simply not the way one behaves in the presence of royalty. We know that. We recognize that there are proper ways of acting toward those who are, from an earthly perspective, our superiors. At work we behave differently with the company owner or president than we do with the average coworker. We treat the guest speaker differently than we do our kids. If we were to have a meeting with our congressman, we would likely act differently toward him than if we were chumming around with some friends. These things are obvious to us. We don’t need to spend a bunch of time figuring out such scenarios. So why do we so often throw all that out the window when we engage with the One Who is supremely higher than us?

(Excerpted from Worship In Heaven … and Why On Earth It Matters, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2014 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://WorshipInHeaven.com)
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What Is “Normal”?

heart surgeryA couple years ago, our daughter had heart surgery. We didn’t even know there was a problem until she passed out. We were sitting in a restaurant in a very remote area in another country. One second Amy was talking to her mom, and the next second she slumped over in her chair, out cold. I picked her up and carried her outside, praying all the way. After a couple hours she was pretty much back to normal, but she sure gave us a scare. There wasn‘t a hospital anywhere even close to us.

Amy had passed out a couple other times several years prior. Doctors could never find a problem so we just let it go. This was a biggie, though, and it caused us great concern. So lots of tests ensued, including Amy wearing a heart monitor for a month. She loved that … or not.

The physicians did, however, determine that she has an arrhythmia. Her heart just starts to race. No apparent reason. It just takes off. The heart monitor revealed at least one episode during that month where Amy’s heart rate was near 200 beats per minute. She wasn’t doing anything to cause it. No running or heavy lifting. Something just clicks and the heart goes wild.

As we discussed it, Amy told us that she has this happen often. In fact, it’s been happening as far back as she can remember.

“So, why did you never tell us?” we asked her.

“Why would I?” she responded. “I just thought it was normal.”

That’s when the light went on in my mind. She has never known anything different. She had no idea that everyone else didn’t experience the same thing. She had no reason to realize that these racing-heart episodes were not something that everybody encountered. For Amy, it was normal.

In much the same way, I think all of us live in a subpar manner most of the time. Sin has marred our existence here on Earth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of worship. What we call worship falls so far short of the heavenly pattern, that I have to wonder whether we even understand a small inkling of true worship. But for us, what we have experienced is normal. Just like Amy’s racing heart, it’s all we’ve ever known. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something more, something different, something closer to the worship in Heaven.

(Excerpted from Worship In Heaven … and Why On Earth It Matters, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2014 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://WorshipInHeaven.com)
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Rescuing the Restaurant Server

waitressSome time ago, an acquaintance of mine and his wife went to a restaurant. Their server that evening was a woman who was apparently not having a good day. She was far from being the fun, outgoing server common in many restaurants today. Her eyes showed sadness, even anger. Her demeanor was unpleasant, and her talk was curt and to the point. She said very little outside of the essential questions that were necessary for taking their order. The couple ordered their dinner and the server abruptly turned and left.

As soon as the server left their table, my friends decided they were going to endeavor to change her attitude—to redeem her, at least for the moment. So when she returned, they were laughing and they managed to include her in their conversation. They drew her in and talked with her, not just about themselves but also about her. They smiled and laughed and asked her questions. Soon she opened up and responded.

It wasn’t long before she confided about some recent events in her life that had caused her to become distraught. As she talked, she became far more congenial. In fact, she ended up giving them far better service than is customary in most restaurants—larger portions, free drink refills, and very attentive care. She even sat with them, invited, of course, for a few moments at the end of their meal. When the couple stood to leave, the server hugged the woman and thanked them both profusely.

It would have been easy, perhaps even normal, for this couple to ignore the woman, or, worse yet, to treat her just as she was treating them, even leaving a minuscule tip at the end of the meal to make a point. Instead they chose to respond in a very different manner. They acted like Jesus in that situation. Instead of lambasting her, they cared for her. Their obvious care made a tangible change in her.

This couple didn’t cast stones. They reached out in love. Jesus said it like this, “Love your enemies, do good to them… Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35‑36).

(excerpted from the book, Reflecting God’s Mercy in an Unmerciful World, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2008 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, MO. Go to http://reflectinggodsmercy.com/)
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A Word of Caution

BonhoefferOver the years, I have looked often at the life story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian. Bonhoeffer was a solidly-biblical Christian and a man of great conviction. Each time I encounter that story, I am amazed at how quickly the churches in Germany capitulated to Hitler’s requests. Many churches, and their pastors, readily – seemingly far too readily – compromised what they claimed to have believed. The things the church had confessed for centuries were laid aside for the sake of expediency.

Of course, I recognize that by doing this, they avoided governmental persecution, which was sometimes harsh. Additionally, because of the ongoing Nazi propaganda, that also turned into societal persecution. People, slowly but surely, became convinced the Nazis were right.

So, ignoring what the Bible actually said became the easier path for those who claimed to be Christians. It required less physical and emotional pain. It meant family and friends could still be together.

Moving away from an adherence to the Bible became the norm. Anyone who persisted in holding onto the doctrines of Scripture was seen as radical. They were going against the new standards. They were pushing against what society had now accepted. And that made the “Confessing Church” – a movement Bonhoeffer helped to lead – very much the outsiders, even in the “religious” realm.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

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