Can I Believe in the Bible and Reincarnation?

QUESTION:

Hebrews 9:27 reads, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once-and after this judgement…” Psalm 78:39 reads, “He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” Hebrews 9:27 uses the word “people” which doesn’t specify the whole person  (body, mind, & soul). “People” could be referring to just the physical body. What about the spiritual or mental part of us? I wonder if we have souls that have existed long before we were born into our current physical bodies. Souls that have been reincarnated over eons. I also wonder if our karma from other lives carry over to our present life, which is the only thing that makes sense to me in regards to why some people are born in such terrible circumstances and others not.

I still believe in Jesus and salvation. But it seems to me that a just and loving God would give us more than one short lifetime to get it right. What about all those people who suffered from terrible trauma and mental illness and then completed suicide? What happens to them? What about all the Biblical characters in the Old Testament times that died? Do they all go to hell (Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Job, David…)? I have so many questions. It just doesn’t make sense. Could you please help me unravel this mystery? This belief that I have in reincarnation is something I just can’t seem to let go of. 

ANSWER:

Before I dig into this topic, it should be said, that I cannot convince you in my own power of the finality of Judgement at death. Jesus himself said in John 16, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me, 10 and concerning righteousness, because I am going away to the Father and you will see me no more, 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” (LEB) So the only way you will be persuaded of the truth, no matter how much Bible teaching you get is if the Holy Spirit, our Advocate or Counselor or Comforter, teaches you. The promise of the finality of judgement is indeed a comfort and encouragement to all who are looking to Jesus, but a terror to all who reject the Lord.

Reincarnation is at the heart of Hindu and some Buddhist belief & practice as is karma. According to this doctrine, it is best to leave people to their karma and to allow people to suffer for their past sins, lest you delay their rescue from the endless cycle of rebirths or postpone their merging with nirvana (literally: nothingness). Indeed, many worldly religions believe a kind of reincarnation or second chance theology. For example, Catholicism absorbed this mindset in terms of purgatory and being purified after death … which thus allows sinners to hold onto their sins in this life. The Bible teaching is rather that this world is as close to hell as the righteous will get and as close to heaven as the wicked will get.

Before looking at the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection, it would be good to see what the Hebrew Scriptures taught about existence of humans after one passes from this life. In Genesis, we read a number of times the phrase, “gathered to his people” “Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:8 NIV; see also 25:17; 35:29; 49:33; Numbers 20:24, 26; Deuteronomy 35:50).  Perhaps from some perspectives, this could potentially mean that those who died were simply gathered physically and buried with their ancestors. But looking at the death of Aaron in Numbers and Moses in Deuteronomy, it becomes clear that this was not at all what was intended, because both Aaron and Moses died outside of the land of promise and could not have been buried in the ancestral tomb at Hebron. Indeed, nobody knows the exact burial spot of Moses.

Rather, to have been “gathered to his people” means that the saints of the pre-resurrection times were gathered to wait until Jesus and His resurrection, indeed to wait for the resurrection of all the saints. In Matthew 27:51-53 we read, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” These saints that were raised were a foreshadowing of the future resurrection. Apparently these saints were those who were faithful to the Lord unto death and were counted worthy to represent the greater number who will ultimately be raised on the last day. Wouldn’t it have been memorable to see all these saints raised and walking around town testifying of the glories of God’s presence and the call to holiness!!

Another reference to what happens to Old Covenant saints, indeed to all who have left this earth is in Hebrews 11:39-40, “And all these [referring to a long litany of godly people from the Hebrew Scriptures], having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (NIV) What is the promise spoken of in Hebrews? Precisely the resurrection. The goal is that after we die, we will be raised to meet Jesus and be perfected as we behold Jesus face to face for all eternity, whole and complete, lacking nothing, body-soul-spirit … a renewed body! Hallelujah!! The perfection will not fully come -until- it happens for all who believe.

This future perfection of our lives is referred to in Revelation 20:4-6 as “The first resurrection” or the resurrection of the righteous, the reward of trusting Jesus for life. “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (NIV) Notice, the Bible no where in any legitimate translation ever uses the term reincarnation, but resurrection.

Resurrection means Raised Up to Stand Again. Reincarnation means Put Back in the Flesh Again. Why would anyone want to be put back in the “flesh”? The Word of God teaches that “in the flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). The flesh is the meeting ground of sin and satan and selfishness in this world. As long as we are alive in the world, before the final resurrection, something of the flesh is still with us. Only after we have suffered faithfully and died at long last are we promised hope. Some people are Resuscitated, that is they medically/physically die but are revived. This will give them an opportunity to repent and to trust Christ. Medical doctors have documented that often those who are resuscitated tell of encountering scary, hellish things if asked shortly after they are resuscitated. Studies have found that a rosey, heavenly picture deceptively takes this place years later … if they continue to live. Perhaps the terrors of hell are just too scary to live with … unless one repents and turns to Jesus.

Indeed, Jesus told an account, (not described as a parable, but perhaps told as a historical fact of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 in the NIV.

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

As an aside, there are reasons to suspect that this may have been referring to Isaac and Eliezer: Abraham calls the rich man “Child,” and he calls Abraham “Father.” Looking at Isaac’s life in Genesis 26:13, we find that he was very wealthy. God is referred to as the “Fear of Isaac.” Lazarus is Aramaic for the Hebrew Eliezer. Not the God of Isaac. Just some thoughts. It isn’t conclusive since Genesis 35:29 says Isaac was gathered to his people. At the least, this rich man was a wealthy heir of Isaac, but clearly he valued riches over God’s grace and generosity.

Pertinent to what you had asked about, notice that:

  1. There is a gulf fixed between the rich man and Abraham & the righteous poor after death. Nothing will repair the gap between the rich and the poor after death, and it looks like this world’s blessings will be reversed in the resurrection, but there are no second chances.
  2. The whole chapter is a contrast between serving God and serving wealth. This is a caution to all of us to not seek to merely be rich in material wealth, but to be generous to others … in this life.
  3. People are exhorted to pay attention to the Bible (i.e. Moses & the Prophets. From Romans 1:18-23 we know that we are also called to learn from the wisdom revealed in creation and not to make images to worship.)
  4. The rich man wanted living people (his brothers, fellow Jews) warned lest they go to the place of destruction. It sounds like they had one chance to turn to the Lord before they perished in a very hot place. It really sounds like the message is “Turn or Burn.”

It would be good to read Hebrews 9:27 in context:

24 For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf, 25 and not in order that he can offer himself many times, as the high priest enters into the sanctuary year by year with blood not his own, 26 since it would have been necessary for him to suffer many times from the foundation of the world, but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this, judgment, 28 thus also Christ, having been offered once in order to bear the sins of many, will appear for the second time without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him for salvation. (LEX)

They whole tenor of this passage is: You only live once … and then you are judged. Jesus only died and rose once to justify all who turn to Him and will save all who are waiting for -Him- until the end. Notice, He does not save those who are waiting for a second chance. Rather, “Today is the day of salvation.” Believe and repent today.

In Daniel 12, the Lord revealed, “But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” (NIV) Currently world travel and knowledge are increasing exponentially. The time of the end is drawing nigh. There are two alternatives: an honorable eternity or a shameful eternity. Wise light in the Lord or dark ignorance in sin. Either option is everlasting & eternal, for ever and ever. We have only this life to choose which direction we will go.

I will address the topic of suicide and suffering at greater length in other essays. For now, I will simply note that about Judas, the one person who completed suicide who had known Jesus and spent much time with him and who was a close companion of Jesus , Jesus Himself said, “It would have been better for him if he had never been born.” How can that be possible, unless he went to a place far worse than anything this life has to offer? Unless Judas (and all self-murderers, life-rejecters?) are judged for their final sin, it would seem that the call to forgive others and choose life is meaningless. God does not force people to be saved against our will, but only saves us through our will and desire for salvation, by grace we are saved through faithful cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

As to those who suffer from childhood, it is unwise to pity others … except to tangibly do what you can to relieve that suffering and offer hope. It seems like a futile effort to offer people hope of a reincarnation when there is no clue what they would be reincarnated as? After all, if reincarnation is where souls come from, why has there been for the past 500 years an exponentially increasing number of people on the earth so that now there are over 8 billion souls on the planet? I don’t think reincarnation can account for these souls as well as the creative work of a Loving God.

You mentioned Psalm 78:38-39, “Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” It should be noted simply that the word translated wind can mean, “breath, breeze, wind, … or spirit.” The Hebrew Scriptures are clearly here teaching that the human spirit dies once and that atonement must be made before one dies. You will notice though that before the Psalm says that humans will perish like the wind/spirit that does not return, it is pretty clear that God is incredibly patient and doesn’t destroy us immediately after our sin. He seeks to atone for our sin and reconcile us often and early.

So then, what does this mean? What should we do in light of this truth?

  1. Trust Messiah Jesus and turn from your sin & unbelief and be saved.
  2. Continue in holiness, live and abide in Christ. Don’t go back to the old way.
  3. Tell others about the call to repent and about the devastating nature of sin, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgement that is coming on this world, the flesh, & the devil while there is still time. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing: trying to persuade others of the gospel—and so we should too.
  4. We should do all we can to show mercy as we engage in mission: helping people in practical ways and not just preaching to them. If we share the eternal, spiritual gospel, is it too much to offer them a simple meal or a listening ear or a kind touch or help with their physical needs as well? The rich man perished without ever helping Lazarus. Let us not leave needs unmet when we have it within our ability to do something to remediate the evils of this world.

© Mert Hershberger, P.O. Box 981215, Ypsilanti, MI 48198

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Dawn of Eternal Life: Eclipsed by Sin, Glimpsed by Faith

The Dawn of Eternal Life: Eclipsed by Sin, Glimpsed by Faith

A. The Scene is Set with Two Trees:

              Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17 – A garden with two trees in the center.

  1. To Know Good and Evil was a metaphor for: autonomy, the ability to choose for oneself. Neither the very old nor the very young “know good and evil.”

       Deuteronomy 1:39 – Warnings for rebels. 

       2 Samuel 19:35 – An elderly man declines favors.

       Isaiah 7:14-16 – A prophecy of a child.

       Isaiah 41:22-23  – Humans cannot do what God can do.

       Jeremiah 4:22 – Fools know evil but are ignorant of good.

       Romans 16:19 – Obedience is cultivated by ignoring evil and knowing good.

  • Tree of Life became a metaphor for: Wisdom, fruit of righteous, soul winning, hope fulfilled, good words, victory, central, continual life, healing, reward for faithful obedience.

     Proverbs 3:13, 18 – Wisdom

     Proverbs 11:30 – Fruit of the righteous, winning souls.

     Proverbs 13:12 – Desire fulfilled

     Proverbs 15:4 – Wholesome tongue                     

     Revelation 2:7 – Given to the victor in the Paradise of God.

     Revelation 22:2 – Central, continual, healing life.

     Revelation 22:14 – Reward for obedience.

Will we try to choose our own way or let God choose the Way for us?

B. Consequences of disobedience: Genesis 3 – After Adam & Eve ate from the wrong tree, they experienced:

  1. Sin resulted in suffering.

a. Guilt: open eyes v. 7

b. Shame: nakedness known v. 7

c. Fear: hiding from God v. 8

2. Sin resulted in broken relationships.

a. With God. Hiding from God. v. 8

b. With one another. Blaming one another. Vv. 12-13, 16

c. With creation. Thorns & thistles. V. 18

3. Sin resulted in death.

                            a. Work to death. V. 19

                             b. Separated from the way to life. vv. 22-23

How much have you suffered already for your sin and the sins of others? Do you want that to continue?

C. Promises of Life: Evil would be defeated by good through faith.

  1. Life beyond death came through a promise: Genesis 3:15 – The curse of the serpent meant blessing for us. Jesus’ death ensured eternal life. Christ was hung on a tree so that he might take the curses from the cursed tree and bring us life and liberty and happiness. He rose to defeat death in full.

2. Evil can be rejected: Psalm 1:1 – Meditation on God’s Word results in faithful life. Ungodliness results in death. Choose well.

3. Goodness can be enjoyed: Psalm 38:4 – Taste & see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (NKJV)

What will you pursue: all that is good and godly OR all that is evil & perverse?

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God Devises an End to Divisiveness

“We will certainly die and be like water poured out on the ground, which can’t be recovered. But God would not take away a life; He would devise plans so that the one banished from Him does not remain banished.” – 2 Samuel‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Note:
Context: Joab put a wise old woman up to persuading David to welcome banished Absalom back. His intended goal was reconciliation and joy. He referred to common wisdom in Israel that David knew.
A. We are not going to live forever.
B. God doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked.
C. God plans and purposes to reconcile & redeem us to Himself.

Do you feel distant from God? Look for the ways the Lord is working through others to reconcile you to Himself and to make you right.

Does someone you know seem banished? Look for ways to connect them to Jesus’ redeeming power. Don’t give up. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else … but by all means pray fir the person & for yourself.

A friend and I reaching out to a fellow from a Muslim background.

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Water and the Word of God

Help People Having Fresh Water - Eat2Save

Do you take water for granted or is every sip flavored with gratitude?

  1. What are you thankful for?
  2. How have you been able to share the Word of God with others lately?

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  1. Jesus is the Source of Living Water. He created water in the beginning, and He is working out a New Creation.

The Father, His Word, and The Spirit/Breath/Wind of God were present at Creation: Genesis 1:1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

            Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles: John 7:37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

            Several OT passages hinting at a New Creation: Isaiah 58:11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. Ezekiel 47:1-12 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and there was water flowing from under the altar… Zechariah 14:8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it toward the eastern sea[Dead Sea] and the other half toward the western sea,[Mediterranean Sea] in summer and winter alike.

  • Our daily water is a metaphor for the continual supply of life that the Father gives us through the Holy Spirit because Jesus opened the well of life.

  • Sharing water can be an occasion for sharing living water: John 4:4-16

Now [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

(Notice: Jacob had to have dug the well generations earlier for Jesus to share the gospel at this well.)

God can cause water to spring up miraculously for His glory! Exodus 17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Again the Lord answered the cry of Moses and the plea of Moses and brought forth water. Numbers 20:2-13

            The Waters of Meribah part 2 … This time Moses Strikes the Rock

Jesus linked the sharing of water with rewards from God. Matthew 10:40“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

  • Digging wells & sharing water can prepare the way for the gospel to spread to the glory of God.

What would you do if you were faced with going thirsty or drinking contaminated water?

  • The Lord can also change bitter, poisonous waters into sweet waters, which illustrates the way He changes the attitudes of our hearts and the words of our lips: from bitter to kind.

Bitter Water Made Sweet Exodus 15:22Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.[b] 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log,[c] and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

The First Miracle after crossing the Jordan that Elisha (The leading true prophet of his day) performed in the eyes of the sons of the prophets was that He purified water, with salt. 2 Kings 2:19

Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Even though our lord can see that the city’s location is good, the water is bad and the land unfruitful.”

20 He replied, “Bring me a new bowl and put salt in it.”

After they had brought him one, 21 Elisha went out to the spring of water, threw salt in it, and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. No longer will death or unfruitfulness result from it.’” 22 Therefore, the water remains healthy to this very day according to the word that Elisha spoke.

Jeremiah spoke of how false teaching and judgement in the land were like poisoned water:

Jeremiah 8:14   Jeremiah 9:15   Jeremiah 23:15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

Again, let us listen to the words of Jesus at the fall Feast of Tabernacles (which is what our Thanksgiving is modeled after): John 7:37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

  • True teaching leads to clean water which leads to healthy bodies. Trusting human ideas leads to a sick society. Trusting God’s Word leads to good health in mind, body, soul, spirit, and society.

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Applications:

  1. Be thankful as the people were to be thankful at the feast of Tabernacles.
  2. Turn to Jesus for your supply of life. Believe the Gospel.
  3. Share your life and water with others with clean water and pure teaching.
    1. Drink water with someone as you share the gospel. (Recent chats over cups of cold water with students.)
    1. Help get clean water to others as a way of sharing the gospel. (Kenya water purification project, Sharing bottled water at a festival.)

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From the pit to the peak

Trash redeemed, riches gathered,

Earth’s treasure lost shall be restored.

The pit loses; seed scattered,

God’s reign descends; the hill gains more.

Us nobodies and our nothings.

Unwanted folks and things wasted.

The Lost are found, God shouts and sings:

Truth uncovered; heaven tasted.

Graves are emptied; bones fleshed out.

Resurrection happens: lives arise!

The trump shall sound, the angel shouts!

Deceased shall live! Grace fills the skies!

May be an image of nature and sky
A sign of promise over a place where senior citizens live.

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The Quest

The hunt, the search, the questioning;

The goal, our end, the destiny.

Where am I from? Where will I go?

Do you wonder or do you know?

Are you lost or are you now found?

The quest for Truth plumbs the profound.

The looking can lead one far from home;

Or guide you back, though once you roamed.

Come to your senses! Use your mind!

Look to your Searcher! Then you’ll find!

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A Reflection on “Organic Community Mental Health”

Wow! This has been a full-full month for me, and perhaps for you as well. It is sometimes said that Community Mental Health serves “the most vulnerable in our community.” However, this can hide the fact that each of us has strengths, and each of us has our own points in time when we are more vulnerable than others.

For over a year, nearly every week I would go out during the COVID pandemic to deliver food to those most in need. Those who for whatever reason were unable to get food for themselves received food delivered from Hope Clinic and other resources to ensure that they stayed fed. At the heights of the pandemic lockdown, nearly 40 households received food assistance in a weekly day of delivery that was very much a drive-door-drop-dash effort. As time progressed, and as fear and restrictions lessened, the numbers of recipients decreased and the depth of visits increased in the nature of the needs that were met to address everything from housing to chore help on a few occasions. Fifty-two weeks of this!

In the past month: My mother in law died and was buried. So, naturally, we went to honor her saintly life with family, to weep with those who weep. We left, having gotten my passport, visa, clear COVID tests, and tickets all just in time. We visited a few places in Indonesia and ate great food. We went from one end of the most densely populated island of the world to the other. We visited the Jerusalem Bible Museum in Jakarta, which is actually the closest I’ve ever been to the land of promise. There I was once again astounded at how integral God’s mercy is to all of life, and the difference the resurrection makes to all of life (No, they did not have any of Jesus’ bones or blood as relics there). I was also reminded of the importance of the gifts of the least and helping the most we can.

Around June 25-26, we learned that a local flood happened in my hometown of Ypsilanti, MI. I was reading through Job a week ago, when I felt slightly ill and took a long nap where I sweat a lot in a hot room and got a bit dehydrated, then returned home after getting 2 NEGATIVE COVID tests. My dear wife Sheila stayed behind Indonesia, monitoring the security cameras and saying one last farewell to me with her brother Jonathan as they hurried me off to the airport in very light traffic through what is normally a very congested Jakarta. They got me water and wished me bon voyage as I ventured homeward. I had to go to prepare a place once more for my bride, so that where I lived, there she could be also.

At home, there was a flooded basement and as the basement was cleaned up on Saturday, I got a positive COVID test result. Over the past weekend, around a dozen folks have come to help me in practical ways. Of course, our faithful postal worker had already delivered the month of missing mail to our doors.: risking life and limb to mow the yard with its deep grass (Darren B.), removing water and debris, sanitizing the basement (Thanks to Orlando Tennyson and Ms Evans of Regal Cleaning Services and his friend with a truck and John Evans of First Baptist Ypsilanti who helped coordinate this), dehumidifying the basement (Thanks to Joe L formerly with ServiceMaster and still a Logistics Officer of the Michigan Army Reserves, and Brent), sorting through piles of accumulated life possessions to put them in the garbage (Thomas, who is normally in Spain), Joe from AAA Insurance services approved the claim for property damages, Colonial Heating & Cooling has scheduled a visit to get us back up to speed with a working furnace and water heater, Ron with Ypsilanti Public Services provided adequate trash stickers to accommodate my extra trash bags that (thanks to travel) fell out of the time frame of everyone else’s 2 weeks of limitless trash pick-up.

A special shout out to Mike Frison of Knox Presbyterian and Every Nations Chapel in Ypsilanti who helped me wake up Monday after a 10 hour nap. Before then I had slept less than 18 hours out of 100 from the time I woke up the day I left Indonesia on Thursday. I would be remiss to neglect to thank my dear friend Mark Vanderput who prays for me regularly and reminded me that it was best that I arrive home first, before Sheila, so that she didn’t have to worry about the clean-up. He contacted many of those above at a time when he was hard-pressed to help himself due to other obligations in Hamtramck. I’m grateful for my Mom and sister and friends who called and listened, prayed for and encouraged me all along the way.

Thanks to all those I met along the way from Jakarta to Ypsilanti, especially the Slave of God and the Treasure who listened patiently as I explained the wonders of Jesus, his love and truth, and they took good news of life’s hope. Thanks to Airline staff of Etihad, of United, and those in Abu Dhabi and Chicago O’Hare airports, and faithful Carl who risked his life to convey me safely from the airport to my home. It has been 15 years since I was so close to being admitted to the hospital due to the stresses of life becoming nearly overwhelming.

I am also grateful Brandie Hagaman, my supervisor at Community Mental Health who offered to help bring gallons milk and orange juice since I cannot go out shopping for myself. More than that, she encouraged me to continue to work as much as I am able once I get my feet on the ground. This will lend just enough dignity to get through the days of isolation and abundant reflection which the quarantine guarantees.

This is how to serve those “most vulnerable.” Usually, I am seeking to serve others in such ways. Now, I was on the receiving end. The Lord gave me grace and wisdom to ask for help and advise people how they could help best. In a very short time, I had a surprisingly, suddenly expanded support network. As I am gaining strength, I will be able to give again to others. Likewise, families, churches, the local agencies and companies and government agencies ideally work together to serve others in their time of greatest vulnerabilities so that in due time they too can get back to work to serve others, as God provides strength, each helping others where the Lord has allowed a person’s weaknesses to become an opportunity for compassion. May the Redeemer restore our community in peace and justice!

With great joy!

Mert Hershberger,

Poet, M.A., Host, Certified Peer Support Specialist, Customer Service Advisor, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist

~ Walking with people on the road to recovery. ~

When I had lost all hope,

I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord of Hosts.

– based on Jonah’s prayer (2:7 TLB)

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Resting in the Arms of Our Father in Heaven

From somewhere near the Zagros mountains near Erbil and Baghdad:

Last night I had the pleasure of riding on a plane with quite a number of Muslim families. One family in particular stood out.

The mother desperately wanted her girls to sleep and Umm-Binti kept trying to force her girls to go to sleep, but sleep did not come, and the subsequent ruckus was what one might expect from tired toddlers and a frustrated mother.

Meanwhile, Abu-Binti their father was quite a gentleman and held up the girls close to himself, taking turns with them, of course. As soon as the girls would be set down by him, they would cry. The mother tried to pacify them with things to watch and play, but they would either squeal with delight or dejection. Needless to say, quiet and sleep were elusive.

As I mulled over what I what I saw, I was reminded of the teachings of our Lord Jesus, “if you fathers, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven know how to give you what you ask for” and “My father is eager to give you the kingdom.”

What is the greatest gift which God our Father in Heaven could give us? It is not food to eat, houses, paid bills, nor even the charisma of a leader. No, the greatest gift is to give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the very presence of God with us.

Of course, I was not convinced that this fellow on the plane knew how his loving care to his desperate daughters on the plane had delighted my soul in the Deliverer, Jesus our Messiah.

So after much pleading with the Lord, I delivered to him a Gospel of John in English and Arabic. When I told him that the book told of another Father whom he reminded me of, he received the gospel with joy and thanksgiving. Will you join me in prayer that this Muslim father, and Muslim fathers around the Middle East whence I drafted this in the air, will indeed turn to the Father of lights and awaken in the Kingdom of Jesus, safer and sooner rather than sorry that they awoke too late?

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Flights of Fancy, Faith, and our Father in heaven.

written 6/15/2021 From somewhere in aerospace over Canada and the USA.

Today aboard an Etihad Boeing 787 (Part of an alliance with United) I was treated to a most unusual mosque visit.

The flight began with an Islamic prayer for travellers. This was accompanied by an image of a mosque complete with dome and minarets.

What followed was the most bizarre guide on how to stay safe in the aircraft. The imagery on the video which was shown in English and then Arabic had no direct reference to an airplane. For example, in a building with modern arabesque features, akin to the inside of the mosque featured in the prayer, one saw oxygen masques suddenly descend from thin air. Along the perimeters of the hallways of the building we saw lighting. 

If you clued into the allusion to a huge flying carpet, you would realise that they wanted you to feel safe and comforted in a mysterious and magical Muslim sort of way. If you were new to flying, I’m sure that the whole video would give one rather little idea of how to stay safe in case of emergency.

The avant garde safety video would perhaps make a conservative or fundamentalist Muslim feel safe and uninclined to undercut the safety of the magical flying mosque. However, if some adverse atmospheric or aeronautic event were to occur, the poor Muslims who didn’t know what to do would have little clue how to respond.

So it is with Islam today: a goose has gotten into the engine and there is no sullen captain ensuring that people know the importance of flying properly. A mosque was never meant to soar on wings. So the whole fragile apparatus of Islam shall before the weight of irrelevance to changes in life. 

However, faith in the messiah is adequate for the challenges of modernity and postmodernist. Christianity can handle the flights of modern human imagination and creativity and land us safely. Why? Christianity consists not of meeting in four walls, but as every reader of the Bible knows, Those who wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as Eagles … not flapping, but soaring high above, unperturbed by landings.

Also, the Christian does not need a safety video in the image of a cathedral. Why? Jesus was quite comfortable sleeping on a boat in a stormy sea and bringing such vessel to safety. Jesus made the tomb his home, what most would consider the most untimely crash landing of all time, and he rearranged geology, physiology, and history to ensure that he could exit in time to meet the third day challenge and still have a day full of busy ministry. Jesus himself went up into the clouds and he shall return, on his schedule, without loss of a single passenger who has sold all he has to buy a ticket to a new heaven and new earth.

This is not an escapist approach to reality though. Those who first mastered the art of flying made astute observations of the world, of birds which God had created to fly and set out to change the history of humanity. And so Orville and Wilbur Wright, the sons of a Christian minister, were encouraged by their father to pursue their dreams and were the first Americans honored with a national monument in their own lifetime.

Has modern aviation been without accident or injury? No. Just as presumptive birds will fly into glass windows or be attached by other birds, or by hungry human hunters; so many modern fliers have become prey of the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. However, those who monitor their attitude will maintain the proper altitude and land safely at the home base of our Captain and Carrier, Jesus Christ, the one who proclaims from the heights the everlasting gospel of Him who created the skies, the seas and springs, and the landscape, and all things therein and Who can make even an ordinary, yet real, aircraft a vessel which will be used to unite nations, families, and bring blessings to the most remote tribes on earth.

To God be the glory, who rules on high, immortal, invisible and ever wise and loving to those He carries in His tender mercies. 

But woe to those who would try to make Him come to earth on their time or schedule!!

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Big Prayers

Praying Big Prayers, Living Large Mert Hershberger What is the biggest prayer you have prayed? What was God’s answer? Did you ever stop praying big prayers?

Do you pray only for your own salvation and the salvation of a few individuals close to you, or do you ask God to intervene in the broader world?

  1. Prayer’s Power: Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” What miracle do you and your nation and your world need right now? Will you pray for that?
  2. Prayer’s Reach: Psalm 2:8, “Ask Me, & I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession!” What is the greatest heritage you ever received from a family member? What nations and unreached lands do you want to leave to your family in the Messiah as a legacy of your prayers, giving, and witness?
  3. Prayer’s Authority: 1 Timothy 2:1-2, 4 “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in authority …. God our Savior wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth.” What difference would it make if we would present our needs for godly government more to the Lord than to social media? How can you express support for godly leaders while not creating unhealthy divisiveness?
  4. Prayer’s Impact: Revelation 8:5 “The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth. There were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake!” Would you be willing to pray big prayers if it meant you would have to clean up the “mess” of natural disasters and help those who are given needs for you to meet when you pray? What big prayer will you pray this week?
  5. Prayer’s Purpose: Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, plead to the Lord of the harvest to send our workers into His harvest.” Will you pray for relief workers, global and national and local leaders, missionaries and other disciple-makers? Will you give to support these works of God? Will you offer to serve God’s purpose in your generation? Where will you go serve this week?

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