In November, 1993, I made a decision that changed my life and the way I looked at everything. That decision was to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Now hold on, let me explain! I am not claiming to have saved myself by accepting Jesus Christ. I am simply stating a fact. When I sought God, my life changed! I was born into a church-going Baptist family. My grandfather was the deacon and pianist of our small church in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. As far as I can remember, we never missed a Sunday at Church or Sunday School. I know that even before I knew God, He knew me!
When I was 11 years old my grandfather died, and for many reasons, we became Lutherans. I was confirmed at the age of 13. Again, we attended church and Sunday School faithfully.
As I grew older and began my own family, I ensured that my own children attended church, Sunday school, and were confirmed. I did this because it was the right thing to do. But something was missing, something faithful attendance at church did not fulfill. I could not identify what the emptiness I felt was, but nonetheless, it was real and I needed to fulfill it. So I began to search. I thought I had found the answer in the martial arts.
As a law enforcement officer since 1978, I have had experience with various self defense and martial arts systems. Much of my study has been part of the curriculum of any well trained officer, and some has been through the disciplined study of a particular system. In 1992, while beginning advanced studies in the spiritual aspects of Kenpo Karate, and the Philippine Art of Escrima, I began to become more aware of my spirit and my own yearning to fulfill something yet undefined in my life. The more I meditated on the "hidden truths" of life, the emptier I began to feel.
I was taught that truth would be found throughout the journey I took to search for it. I soon realized that if truth is subjective to the individual journey we each undertake, then there is no absolute truth, and without the hope of absolute truth, there is no room for an absolute Creator. If there was one thing I was absolutely sure of, it was that without Jesus Christ, I would be absolutely lost, without any absolute assurance of salvation!
I soon found myself returning to the historic truths found in Christianity, which were taught to me at a young age. Once again, Martin Luther's Small Catechism was taken off the shelf, dusted off and allowed to guide me through such basic principles as Salvation through grace, scripture alone, forgiveness and repentance. I also, at long last, discovered why I had that great empty feeling inside me. I did not have a relationship of love and trust with Jesus Christ, as he desired so dearly. I discovered this after reading in the Book of John, Chapter (NIV) 15: 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (7) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (8) This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
(9) "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (10) If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (11) I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
(12) "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command. (15) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (16) You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (17) This is my command: Love each other."
With this new relationship I now enjoyed with Jesus Christ, I felt an ever-growing desire to spread the news that God does love us! In fact he loves us so much that he gave his only Son to die for us, and that who ever believes in this simple gift and accepts it, will not die in the spirit, but live for ever with God in Paradise!
I started to search for a way that I could really make a difference in my community by sharing God's plan of salvation. I thought about getting involved in various ministries and evangelical movements, but there seemed to be little I could do but offer financial aid. I began tithing regularly at St. James, and I became active in the Christian Education Department. But still that hunger to serve God did not seem to be satisfied. Then, as if a door was opened by God, Matthew 25:15-30 (Using The Talents God Gives Us), became alive to me. I must use the talents God has already given. I had to bloom where I was planted!
Suddenly the world of martial arts which fascinated me for years, but offered no real answers became a tool in my hand! I knew there had to be a way to use it to give God the glory and reach and teach the youth with the gospel! With the help and direction of Pastor Bruce Jeske and the elders of Saint James, an idea soon became reality. Not only did the class begin to grow, (we now have a Thursday and Friday night class), but God's word was eagerly embraced by students and parents alike.
Today, looking back, I am amazed at what God has done with this ministry. In less than 4 years, we have been able to share the gospel with over 275 children and families in our community. Of these, more than half can be considered "unchurched".
On a regular basis, we hand out and teach from the Bible and a condensed version of Martin Luther's small catechism, as Martin Luther had requested so long ago. We are able to bring a little joy and love, one day a week, to some children who would know precious little of either, had we not been there every Thursday and Friday night.
In retrospect, our success in reaching so many youth in our community with the gospel, is not due to the popularity of martial arts or my outstanding ability to relate to today's youth, (it's far from outstanding), or because we are Lutherans! Rather, it's because we, who help run this ministry, simply let God use our time and talents in a way, which gives Him glory. I truly believe, that had I been blessed, with a talent to teach and play Ping-Pong, or anything else, God could have used me just as effectively if I allowed him to. Also, I could have been from a different Protestant background or Catholic and God would have used me just the same. I know He can do it with you too! Won't you let God use you, friend?
In His Service,
Brian T. Henderson