Beethoven’s Joy

BeethovenMost musicologists would agree that Ludwig van Beethoven was a premiere musician and composer. More than 150 years after his death, his music still inspires and entertains. His Ninth Symphony has been hailed by some as perhaps his finest work. It is all instrumental until near the end when one single baritone voice comes in chanting “Joy, joy…” (Actually it is in German so the word is freude, but it means “joy.”) Soon others join in until an entire chorus of voices is singing, “Joy, joy…”

The first time the Ninth Symphony was ever performed it generated such enthusiasm that when the “Joy” section crescendoed, it was almost as though someone gave a command for the audience to rise to their feet and cheer. They applauded clamorously, but Beethoven did not even notice. Finally one of the singers leaned over and tapped Beethoven on the shoulder to show him. The reason he had not heard the commotion was simple: he was deaf. In fact, at that point he had been deaf for ten years.

I’m a mediocre musician, but I know lots of really talented musicians. I cannot even fathom what it must have been like for a musician the caliber of Beethoven to be deaf for ten years. He easily could have said that he was going to wait for more favorable circumstances in order to write about and exercise joy, but he didn’t. Instead, even in the midst of what was seemingly the very worst that life had to offer, he still chose to express the joy that God had given. Beethoven had made the decision to live above life’s circumstances by choosing to walk in joy.

(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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No More Pain

no painI don’t know about you, but I thank God for doctors. Medical physicians, doctors of dentistry, and chiropractors have all helped me and various members of my family through some physically trying times. Their knowledge of the human body and how to fix what’s wrong has been a big comfort on many occasions.

My sister had major headaches for years. Some days she was unable to function at all. After years of searching, she finally found a clinic that offered her not only hope, but real help. It took a while, and she’s not totally cured yet, but she is light-years better than she was before. She still has some pain, but it is minimal compared to what she previously experienced.

Before she passed away, my mom had arthritis in her hands and wrists. Not just a little touch of it occasionally but full-blown, all-the-time arthritis. The kind where the painful cortisone shots directly into the wrist were worth it because it made the real pain diminish. Eventually, though, the shots were no longer helpful. She was in such pain that she finally had to have a wrist-replacement on one arm, and the other wrist surgically fused in place. Mom was also a quilter. Quilting steps that she once could do in a matter of moments ended up taking much longer, and that’s not to mention the pain involved in doing those steps.

I won’t bore you with my root-canal-gone-bad story, but I’ve never experienced such pain before or since. This from the guy who had stitches in his head at least six different times before reaching the age of ten. I’ve known my share of pain.

Pain is a part of this life. Many of us, especially as we get older, have simply learned to live with it. After all, what else can you do? But in heaven, it’s all gone. Revelation 21:4 says, “neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”

No more pain. No more little nagging muscle aches. No more broken fingers. No more paper cuts. No more slivers. No more ingrown toe-nails. No more cancer. No more migraines. No pain at all. It’s gone. It’s all gone. That’s heaven. For eternity.

I’m looking forward to that!

(Adapted 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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Five People … One Amazing Story

burned at the stakeBy the mid 1500s, anyone who publicly acknowledged allegiance to the fledgling protestant movement—and thereby defied the Church of Rome—potentially left themselves open to imprisonment or even death. As the teaching spread, it became increasingly common for people to willingly lose their lives as a result of their new-found faith. Fox’s Book of Martyrs lists account after account of those people and their stories.

As I recently re-read some of those accounts, one especially struck me. It was the story of five people in England: John Lomas, Agnes Snoth, Anne Wright, Joan Sole, and Joan Catmer. We don’t know anything about their positions in this life. We have no idea whether any of them was rich or poor. We are aware that Agnes was a widow and Joan Catmer was married. Of the others, though, we know nothing about their marital status. Fox tells us that John was a “young man,” but no ages are given for any of the five. There is not much offered in the way of specifics about them.

Further, they apparently did not have much, if any, connection to one another. They just all happened to be in the same area at the same time. We are also not given any details of the stories surrounding their arrests, except that they were declared to be criminals because of their anti-Roman Catholic beliefs. Fox says only, “These five martyrs suffered together, January 31, 1556.”

The story concludes by saying that the five “were burnt at two stakes in one fire, singing hosannahs to the glorified Savior, until the breath of life was extinct.”

What a statement! They worshiped their Redeemer until they could no longer do so in this life. However, when this life ended they found themselves in a place where they could worship Him eternally. Thank you, John and Agnes and Anne and both Joans for giving us a great example to follow.

(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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God Won’t Leave You

Jack and Joe BuckRenowned sports broadcaster Joe Buck is heard nationally on broadcasts of major football and baseball games. Joe is the son of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. Jack was the radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals for decades. One day when Joe was in his late teens, he was in the Cardinal’s broadcast booth with his dad. Joe was not yet a broadcaster; he was just there as a son with his father. At the end of one inning, though, Jack stood up and told Joe the next inning was his. Jack then turned and walked out of the booth. Joe just sat there with his mouth hanging open. Though he had long dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps, he wasn’t sure he was ready. But by the time the inning began, Joe was ready to go and did a good job. Talk about a baptism by fire!

You know, there are times when God does that to us. He thrusts us into situations for which we are sure we’re not prepared, yet just like Jack knew Joe was ready—he had often heard his son doing play-by-play to himself as he sat watching a sporting event—the Lord knows when we’re ready. In fact, God knows far better than we do.

The truth, though, is that the Lord offers us a far better situation than Jack did with Joe. God doesn’t leave us on our own. He doesn’t walk out of the broadcast booth—or whatever the situation might be—and leave us sitting there alone. No, He walks with us through each and every situation. He has promised never to leave us (Hebrews 12:5).

(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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Shutting Down the Opposition

yellingSam and Alice were relatively new at the church. They had come from another local church that had recently gone through some very turbulent times. Friendly, articulate and outgoing, Sam and Alice had quickly established themselves as leaders in their new congregation. Eventually, though, their friendliness toward some had worn off.

Andrew Wright received an angry phone call after a committee meeting one night. Sam soundly denounced Andrew’s opinions about the church’s upcoming anniversary celebration and suggested he should stick to areas where he was more gifted. Sam wanted God’s work to be as potent as possible, and that meant the right people should be in the right places. Andrew, a long-standing but shy member at the church, resigned from the committee.

Shirley and Jan encountered Alice’s wrath after a morning Bible study meeting. She didn’t agree with their thoughts on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church today. She informed them that she had done a great deal of study and research on the subject and, unless they were prepared for a full public debate, next time they should keep their ideas on the subject to themselves. Alice honestly desired pure doctrine with no dross. The result was that she silenced two Christian women from ever speaking up in their Bible study again. Ever.

As it turned out, these two incidents were just the tip of the iceberg. Alice and Sam unwittingly pitted old friends against one another. They wormed their way into the hearts of some—those they considered to be walking closely with the Lord—while intentionally alienating others who just didn’t measure up to their standards. It didn’t take long before the internal strife reached a fever pitch.

It was discovered too late that Alice and Sam were at the forefront of the problems in their previous church.

I wish I could tell you that this story is entirely fictional. Unfortunately, it’s not. It is actually a combination of two different scenarios I recently encountered. Two true stories that have been multiplied many times over in churches all around the world.

Too frequently, rather than showing love, we have a tendency to sow seeds of dissension. Perhaps we view divisiveness as acceptable because it is all around us. We regularly see politicians fighting among themselves, union workers arguing with management, environmentalists feuding with industry. All of these and more are a routine part of our society. When we see this type of activity, we generally view it as normal. From God’s perspective, however, it is not normal, especially in the Church.

(Excerpted from the book, Are There Terrorists in Your Church, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2005 Training Resources, Inc. Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/are_there_terrorists.html)
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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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