Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Inhumanity of Same Sex Marriage

The blog below elaborates upon these main points:

Proponents of same sex marriage believe that all desires are equal and good to act upon and that this is the defining aspect of humanity.

The Gospel proposes that the measure of humanity is Jesus: who, though tempted in every way like us, never acted on any evil desires nor justified unlawful sexual behavior. Indeed, he made it clear: sexual desire is not what identifies people, but rather the image of God. Essential to the image of God is the defeat of evil.

If we call evil good and good evil, as members of the homosexual lobby encourage us to do, we put ourselves under the judgement of God. So while we are not to condemn those who do evil by lashing out at them in rage, we must not identify with the cause of evil.

Lord, have mercy.

Categories: Holiness | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sing to the Lord a New Song

“If every promise in the book is mine, then I want this one,” I thought as I read in the Apocalypse the description of 144,000 male virgins who have not defiled themselves with women and followed him everywhere and didn’t lie, etc. These were the only ones who could learn to sing the new song. (Revelation 14:1-5)

“Wow!” I thought, “I want to learn that new song.” I wondered exactly where in the Bible I could find that new song or if it was something that would be revealed supernaturally through a vision. I didn’t take out commentaries on Revelation which offer explanations ranging as divergent as the churches which read the Bible. I began to pray and seek the Lord for wisdom or grace or power or whatever it would take to sing the new song. I knew it would be good, and I wanted the ability to sing this new song which seemed hidden from me.

Problem: I am far from musical. In high school, I learned how to play the French horn but didn’t practice much. The only thing I really took from that training is that I am always on the wrong beat when I clap.

While this passage in Revelation gave no indication that musical talent was a prerequisite, it seemed pretty important. At first, only the words to poetry came. I kept them in good rhyme and good rhythm, but I was had no music. You have no song if you have no music but just lyrics. I scored an F flat on the chart of getting a new song on the radio, so I tried to forget about it.

But it wouldn’t go away, because every so often, I learned a new song that somebody else had written in contemporary music. I would sing along with the new song until I learned it and then added it to my memory banks. The college worship events I participated in were often attended by zealous souls who want to encounter God to the fullest. Music is part of that, and new songs seemed to be a regular occurrence. I even met a man who learned to play the guitar and write music even though he was middle-aged.

I gained no more skill in music, though I had been in a college choir that toured Sinaloa, Mexico to encourage the church and evangelize using English, translated, and Latino Christian lyrics and bells to share the message. My particular gift was to present the Christus Hymn in Spanish (from Filepensus 2:1-11, NVI) in a dramatic interpretation before the crowds.

Around that time, I went to the hospital with the first onset of a chronic illness. I had to do some rethinking: What can I do and what can I not do? What is real and what is not? What does Revelation really mean?

Once I returned to college, I learned more new songs. Once again, I wanted to sing a new song. In my senior year, I did an independent study on worship in the Old Testament, New Testament, and early church. But that produced no new music, though I did write a few new poems. After all, how does one write hymns based on an index of references to worship practices in the extant early church fathers? Not too inspiring, to say the least.

I was preparing for graduation in my senior year and dreading leaving my friends. Then in March of 1997, a tornado struck the town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas where I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. I volunteered to help sort and distribute food and clothes sent to the church I participated in near the epicenter of the disaster which also served as the hub for the relief effort.

I started to wear down. School, health, and tornado-related matters all converged to form a storm front in my mind. One day, as I was walking home from church, I began to hum-sing a few lines based on Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto Me, all who are weary / Come unto Me, all who need rest / Come unto Me, all who are tired / all who long for righteousness.”

I sang that a few times, each time with more confidence. Then I started a new stanza, as I thought about the fact I still had work to do, “Take up the cross, if you will follow / Take up the cross, if you know Christ / Take up the cross, if you love Jesus / for he paid the final price.”

After learning the new stanza, and repeating it with the first a few times, I was really excited and knew that the final line about the “final price” could not be the final line any longer. Reinvigorated, I headed towards my dorm room, “Tell the Good News to all your family / Tell the Good News to all your friends / Tell the Good News to all your neighbors / Ev’ry place the Spirit sends.”

Recently, friend wrote out this Gospel Song. Click Here to view a PDF score of the lyrics & melody.

God had done some amazing things in saving some people from the tornado and moving people to send and distribute supplies. He had done amazing work in strengthening me and would do amazing work in helping me complete my studies. And he had taught me a new song.

Later, while studying at Notre Dame, I led a Bible study on singing a “new song” and learned that all related passages have to do with salvation and, in context, at least half of them relate to God’s redeeming work among the nations*. (Psalm 33:3, 10; 40:3; *96:1; *98:1-2; 144:9-11; 149:1, 7; *Isaiah 42:10; *Revelation 5:9; *14:3-6) As Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology records, “One could say that there is one new song but this song has many stanzas. All of God’s redeemed will add stanzas to that song throughout eternity as they praise him progressively and continually for his mercy, love, and grace …”+

As I became involved more in missions mobilization, I realized that this just made sense: Each culture requires worship music in that culture’s language if it is to sing the praises of God most effectively. These musics change over time. When revival comes, new songs are written to speak to the new generation. Some songs are better than others, some are meant to persist. When those revivals take root and transform, missionaries go out to other cultures, carrying the Good News to new places. … And so the pattern continues to the present day.

This pattern has become such an art and a science that there are ethnodoxologists who specialize in advancing this work. The International Council of Ethnodoxologists has a site designed to help interested people find resources and training:

One new song illustrates how this can work. As I was driving down the road one autumn day, I saw some African-American youth who were gathered around a car talking. I was happy and began rapping, “Break it down to the lowest level. Bring ’em up to the highest level. Jesus came to the lowest level. Jesus rose to the highest level. Hip, hop. Don’t stop. Get the Word to the world!” After learning the new rap, I went back and presented it to the kids. We talked. They affirmed the Gospel.

A couple years later, I was invited for a series of youth meetings at a church in a poverty-ridden African American neighborhood. I pulled out that song and rapped for the gathering. They loved it. They had their own rap. Afterwards, the youth figured out their own rhythm for the rap. God was at work.

Every now and then, I still sing new songs, either written by me or by others. Why? God continues to work. Are all of them of equal value or quality or of the same genre? No. Will any of my songs be sung 100 years from now? I would be surprised. Though I don’t get these songs from an audible voice, I do know of someone who heard the choirs of angels sing more than 10 years ago. My songs typically just come from Scripture or experience.

I have learned through many dangers, toils and snares how to sing the new song: Listen for the voice of the Lord and pour out your heart before Him. Though I may not hear them, I sing with the angels.

(You have full permission to sing the New Song, so long as you don’t seek to profit from others efforts without sharing with them. Contact me if you have any questions.)
PO Box 981215, Ypsilanti, MI 48198-1215

+ Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘New Song'”. “Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology”. 1897.

Categories: Missions, Revival | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rewards of Hard Work

Mert at work.

Mert at work.

I work in a community mental health agency. I invest time in it and expend effort, so it is work.

I got the position through many hard life experiences and continue in the job through hours in the office and with folks I serve. Sometimes saddened by the choices people make.

BUT, the longer I continue in this, the more I am finding that some people are willing to make good decisions. While reasonable pay is one kind of reward, seeing lives change for the better is an even more rewarding aspect of the work.

Here is an overview of my work & its rewards:

Peer support helps healing process

A couple years ago my son, Merton Hershberger, began working at a community mental health agency as a peer support counselor. He recently described to me the physical benefits as well as the financial benefits already seen in this pilot program.

From the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s, across the country, governments were setting up community mental health agencies (CMHs). While for some it was an improvement over asylums, for others, it simply meant a change in residence. It did not end the fact of their diagnosis with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), chronic depression, anxiety or some other host of problems.

In fact, recent studies have shown that people who receive services through CMHs die, on average, 25 years younger than the rest of the population. There are several factors: people with serious mental health challenges are more likely to be obese, smoke and abuse alcohol, aside from a higher rate of suicide. Poor mental health tends to lead to a lack of ability to focus on other areas of health.

As this fact came to the surface and the startling barriers to recovery were faced, beginning in 2009, federal grants to facilitate integrated health in these CMHs were given.

Washtenaw County in Michigan is the home of a forensic psychiatric hospital, three inpatient psychiatric hospitals and a Community Mental Health Agency, along with a couple of schools for social work and graduate psychology and psychiatry programs. It is a great place to get sick if you have a mental illness.

However, people with a mental illnesses tend to die younger and that is not so great as was underscored with the recent news that another agency client died. My job is to help reverse those trends, and we are seeing SOME progress.

Michigan is a national leader in equipping those with a history of mental illness to give back by opening the door of employment for those who are further along the road to recovery to share their lives and stories and hope with others.

For several years, the CMH in Washtenaw County has had an Integrated Health program which sought to address chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and respiratory disease (often caused by smoking), as well as prevention and now substance abuse. While there are other issues that have been addressed, these are what helped lay the foundation of a bridge from mental illness to creating a medical home and giving broader access to mental health services.

We are finding that as we engage with clients on a personal basis, whether our role is as a nurse, dietitian, nurse practitioner or peer, people are recovering.

Sometimes people are hard to reach or will not return phone calls, but those who respond to our interaction are more likely to get better as they walk with us on the road to recovery.

I have seen people become more active physically in taking walks, working and biking. I have seen people make reductions in their smoking habits and choose healthier diets and lose weight. I have even seen one fellow get to the point where he no longer needed diabetic medication. Another is frequenting the hospital far less and visiting the doctor and making safer, healthier decisions that have led to weight loss and greater involvement in the community. Another has become a deacon in his church and said he feels better now than ever before.

Clients are being hospitalized less frequently and, consequently, they are using fewer government dollars. So while it did require some initial government aid, in the end, it is costing less. The investment in health is paying off.

There is no magic formula. We cannot mass produce this. While we teach classes, this is not where the most change happens. Statistically, when we give personal attention to those who are most vulnerable, they get better.

Whether we as peers are taking folks to food banks to get enough food or walking with them through the park, or just hearing them recount their series of medical dilemmas and going to appointments to advocate for them, people are realizing that they count. Their lives and their choices matter. Those we serve are coming to value themselves and their role in the community.

We are also connecting people to new resources and information so that they can improve their own health and wellness. We are helping them access their own medical records so that they can take even more personal ownership of their health.

Some peers focus on helping people get free of addictions. There is also a registered dietitian who works with clients to create meal plans and to guide in managing diabetes and weight. A nurse practitioner sees clients without insurance for non-emergent concerns. Nurse case managers educate and assist clients with a wide range of appointments and medical concerns.

The team provides an extra set of eyes and ears for the case managers. When they are unaware of what is going on, we let them know.

The purpose of the team reminds me of another team assembled by a wise leader. He sent them out two by two to heal the sick and remove the spirits which would afflict. He also said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In walking with them, He showed the way. Indeed, He is the Way, and He walks among us still.

(Writing with her son, Merton, Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at

Categories: Peer support | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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