Suffering

More Than Dreams

http://morethandreams.org/

The Video series More than Dreams describes the lives of several people who dreamed dreams that evidently came from the Creator and altered their lives. If you wish to learn how God speaks to people today, visit the sight and watch as 5 people have their lives transformed by Truth.

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Some years ago, I also had a dream that altered my life permanently. I suppose some would attend to my description of seeing Jesus risen from the grave and take this as evidence, but I prefer to boast of how the vision of the Lord who Loves has changed my life.

There have been days when I have been kicked and spat at. Still, I chose to love those who would want to be my enemies.

There have been days when I had no money and needed money for rent. Still, I chose to thank God for His provision.

There have been days when I was sick and alone in the hospital, despised and rejected. Still, I chose to encourage my neighbor because I had hope in the one who raises the dead.

There have been days when I was accused of violating social norms. Still, I chose to share the word of Christ and live in light of eternity, rather than just live for today.

There have been days when I labored all day and did not receive any short term gain. Still, I looked to the Lord of Heaven and He rewarded me and provided for my daily bread.

There have been days I have had to go hungry for long periods and days when I have politely eaten more than enough. Still, I have learned to be content in the Messiah as my meat and my mind's fullness.

There have been days when no one wanted to talk to me. Still, I listened to the hurting and crying and cried out to God on behalf of the nations.

There have been days when I could not get out of bed or have been run through extreme tests in the labs. Still, I remember my brothers and sisters who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

There have been days when I wondered when my hopes and goals would be fulfilled. Still, I labored on and journeyed on towards my goal.
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How are we able to persevere despite much difficulty and opposition and labor?
Only by grace.

Grace is essentially the presence of Jesus in our lives. He never leaves us and never forsakes us and never abandons us. Jesus walks with us to the end; by faith we walk with Him if we keep in step with the Spirit.

Perhaps my favorite verse in all the Bible that sustains me in hard times is that Grace is enough for you for power is perfected in weakness.

Yes, I have had visions. I have seen mighty and powerful answers to prayer that shook the heavens. I have seen provision come in amazing ways. I have talked to many people and traveled to places that are only dots on the map to most people. But it is grace, God's rich grace, that sustains me.

The Lord continually nourishes me with His Word. Do you have this assurance that speaks to you in the watches of the night and in the heat of the day? Do you tune into the Truth 24/7 or do you tune into the world's channels? Do you listen to the voice of the Lord or are you distracted by the world's voices? Does the devil drive you like a goatherd or are you moved by the Spirit of the Living God?

"Jesus, speak to me today, tonight, tomorrow, and to eternity. Let me see Your glorious and gracious face that I might be changed to be more and more like you. You, Lord, are my friend. Since you are the Friend of Sinners, I must confess that I am a sinner. I trust that You not only died for my sins, but that You rose to grant me new life. You have seen my adultery, my hastiness, my wastefulness, my adulteries, my lies, my theft, my pride, and my impatience. I look to You, Lord Jesus to remove all those and grant me a perfect integrity that comes from You alone. Father in Heaven, we praise Your name for Your faithful mercy, which is renewed daily. In the name of the Prince of peace, Who is our Comfort and Who has sent us the Comforting Holy Spirit we pray. Amen."

Categories: Good News, Suffering, Testimony | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Tangled Roots & Broken Branches

Opening up history and genealogy
unleashes a panoply of potential terror:
diving deep to see where we come from
in hopes of seeing where we will go.
Digging up roots and truths we really didn’t want to know.
Facing lies that unleash monsters of the past
into our present fascade.
Feeling intrigued and put off … kind of odd,
wanting to dig deeper, yet grieving at the loss of innocence.
Looking up, broken branches loom,
Rotten, bitter fruit
and mushrooms scatter on the ground-
a reminder that they feed on death,
out here in the wild.
Suddenly, I simply want to be a child
simple and free,
certainly not so guilty,
I just want to be loved for being me.
shame and fear loom overhead in the forest of the nations, as well as in the untended garden of peace,
fears and tears are slowly released,
and as they fall,
the stains upon the dim reflection wash away the grime
the crime of days gone by, and I behold,
The promises offered from the Eternal One to ancient fathers
I never knew … is it true?
I am a child of God.

A cutting to the core, torn away and grafted in,
Will I ever know the life-giving flow of life again?
The Gardner wraps me in His tender care.
Bound to His favored tree, he tends to me,
so I reach out to Him, my initial fruit is a simple hymn
The Anointed One is Risen!
He calls my name …
Master!
Love, unspoiled, whole, complete,
The past is trodden underneath His feet.
I want to cling, but run to meet
the fellowship of family united in the promised Seed.
Bitter tears are replaced with pleasant praise
Now I can stand tall and reach up for happy days
The King shall be touched by our fruit upon His head.
Christ is risen from the dead!!

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My Father’s Love: Assurance of No Abandonment.

I have been thinking about how my father showed love for me.

One dramatic demonstration of love was when he ran after me when I tried to run away. For whatever reason, I was cranky and wanted to live in the forest. Dad knew I wouldn’t last long out there, but, as if to underscore how much his love yearned to have me at home, he ran wholeheartedly after me and caught me and pulled me kicking & screaming and brought me home and gave a whooping. Then, in that place, tears streaming down my face, I felt loved. My father would run after me and get me if I ever got lost. Every child needs a father who will do that for them. The Lord disciplines those He loves, and I am thankful that our father disciplined us.

Another time I experienced my father’s love was when we went on the journey of a lifetime. We called it our East-West-and-Crazy trip, visiting most of the states west of the Mississippi and many of the national parks in the contiguous Western USA. Many significant memories were formed on that journey. It was a family forging journey, like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Anybody who has had to zip through the west with a minivan full of a bunch of kids with no air conditioning and seeing the wonders God has performed in shaping the earth will know how suffering creates healthy, if traumatized children. We were on the journey together and experienced first hand vistas that many only see in the movies or on TV or photo books.

Years later, I fell ill. It was not fun. I was in the process of maturing from childhood to adulthood. Though I had been voted most likely to succeed in my graduating class, I suddenly felt like the biggest failure. At the worst of it, I was having seizures and could not even go to church. I was weak, tired, exhausted, nervous, anxious, scared, alone in my heart, all rolled up in one big bundle of trouble. I probably didn’t look that sick to a passerby, unless I was out walking around the neighborhood trying to get exercise by swinging a baseball bat and wearing a blanket like a kilt. I so craved to be normal again: going to school, reading regular non-children’s books, feeling alive again, feeling human again. I remember that during this season of my life there were times when I lost whole days of memory and cried when asked about things I couldn’t remember. I wanted to carry on a normal conversation and could hardly get a sentence out of my mouth. I sought medical help, but doctors only seemed to make things worse, most of the time, I sought pastoral counsel, but they didn’t know what to make of me since I couldn’t even talk and appeared to have no infectious diseases and had no apparent sin.

In the middle of that worst season of my life, I one time tried going to church, but fell into petit mal seizures once again. My dad prayed with me. Sat with me. and waited. My mom spent as much time as she could then went to her meeting. My dad lingered, then, I remember him getting up and saying, “I’m going to have to leave you, but I’m not going to abandon you. I’ll be back.” Then he went off to the prayer meeting.

However, I kept mulling over what he said. He had left with a smile, and I managed to smile back, however faintly. Most likely, the church continued to pray for me as they had since I had first developed the seizures following a medical error. I had no profound epiphany, but I felt loved. I needed a dad who would love me even when I could do nothing for him or with him or ever expect to repay him.

It was also in this season, the deepest season of depression and agony that I have ever been in, that I encountered what it means for God to pour out His Spirit of adoption again on one of His children, on one who is poor in spirit. If there ever was someone afflicted, it was me. I had seizures in church. NOT FUN. Suddenly I couldn’t talk, my muscles stiffened, I was a dead weight. It happened right after going to the single’s class at church and my last words were, “I guess I’m in the right class.” I was single, yes, but God wanted me to go home.

That day, the pastor and some elders prayed for me. They continued to pray for the weeks following. It was also that season, when I had a profound turn around. I had tried everything I knew to get better. I had even complained to God. He seemed silent. One day though, almost as if I had no place else to turn, I sat one evening in the Laz-E-Boy recliner that has since been incinerated. I would spend long hours there while I was sick. That evening though, I was alone in my thoughts until I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord.

I handed over my life to God again, “I may be an invalid the rest of my life, Lord. But I’m going to be the best invalid You ever had.” Then I got up and went to bed, ready to sleep a long time.

The next morning, I awoke. For the first time in a long time, my heart was at peace. My Mom, who had chosen to take a break from work while I recovered, greeted me in the kitchen. She said, “Mert, you look different, what happened?” I answered, “I feel different. I feel like God is my Father and He is holding me in His arms.”

Everyone needs time to come home to the Lord, when He will embrace you and receive you just as you are, with all your pain and loneliness and anger and agony and fear and rage, and He will simply embrace you. No mere human can fully mediate that grace. My Dad is the best dad a young person could ask for, but he could only be with me so much. At that moment, I needed my Father in Heaven to smile on me and embrace me as His son, well loved, accepted and approved.

If you ever feel ill and like your life is wasting away, I dare you to pray like I did, “Lord, I may be an invalid the rest of my life, but I will be the best invalid You ever had.” God will hear your prayer and prove to you that in His eyes, you are very valid and most precious, accepted in the Beloved..

Categories: Peer support, Suffering, Testimony | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Tested: God or Mammon?

I scan the home and farm;

I scan my bank account and investments.

I see my wife and children dressed in finest fashions;

I see my workers smiling when they greet me at the door.

I smell the company dinners;

I smell the wine in private company.

I greet my neighbors in their also pleasant homes;

I greet my enemies from the security of my iron gate.

I think how God has blessed me;

I think how much more blessing I desire.

My heart yearns not faintly with longing;

My soul longs for more years to enjoy this world.

Till all is stripped away through heart attack;

Till my economy collapses beneath the wait of my greed.

My protection is breached!

My borders are unprotected!!

A heavy heart toils to find God among the ruins of disaster;

A heavy burdened back labors to lift my eyes beyond the horizon.

My children, home, lands and pleasant company are gone;

My wife wishes that I were gone as well.

 

How can a life so right

become so wronged?

I wrestle with the dirt,

as though digging my own grave.

I wrestle with my friends,

as though wrestling with my God.

I wrestle with the devil,

and find myself wrestling with myself.

 

Where has my love gone?

The simple love of children laughing;

The simple joys of cattle calving.

Where has my hope gone?

The simple hope of heaven yet to come;

The simple security of forgiveness won.

Where has my faith gone?

The simple faith in the Lord unmoved;

The simple humility of trusting Truth.

 

The Lord reveals Himself amid the storm;

He shows me that all that I thought was norm

Was merely what I’d seen

Yet hidden beyond my wildest dreams

I had not known the Maker of the stars;

I had not known the Designer of all my million parts.

“Lord, let me simply walk with you,

and though my path is marked with thorns

Let me speak in simple truths

and behold you sitting on Your Throne!”

 

I lift my eyes to see my friends gather round,

I lift my ears to hear with joy the sound of laughter once again.

The Lord has settled me alive in this broken world;

and though the swirls of life seem unsettled …

A broken heart proves plenty an offering in the plate that passes by.

Now I can taste once more His Presence at the table with my enemies.

 

My story & my song. – Mert Hershberger, remembering Job, in honor of all my loved ones.

February 17, 2017.

Categories: God, Humility, Poem, Prayer, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Darkest Night: A Confession

My darkest night and day, inside was pain, my soul bound up in chains.

I looked confounded, looked uncertain, certainly looked confused.
I tried rejection, I tried inspection, and I tried just to refuse.
My soul was heavy, my mind a mess, my heart got torn in shreds.
I was left alone, adrift, and nearly left for dead.
This is what I almost, nearly, and completely would have done.

Looking out, looking up, looking all around.
Feeling lost, feeling forward, feeling like I might be found.
I hear a cry, I cry for help, I cannot help but cry.
I wonder how, I wonder where, I mostly wonder whom and why?
What could I, should I, would I do?

I look away, I look inside, yet I seem to only stare.
My hands hang limp, brain disconnected, yet I truly care.
I am not wise, I’m at a loss, I am not self-improved.
I want to hide, I want to run, yet inside I am moved.
What can I, shall I, will I do?

I look behind, I look within, and then look far beyond.
I have no power, no potion, and no magic wand.
A little truth, a little prayer, and lots of simple mercy:
For my family, for my friends, and for my foes quite early.
This is what I could have, should have, and will have done.

For, Yes! Redemption came, my mind was changed, and I rose up not the same.

Categories: Good News, Peer support, Poem, Suffering, Testimony | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace is Broken: for Emily D.

The one my King loves is shattered in a thousand pieces.
Lying on the ground,
unable to stand against the waves.
Sea glass washed upon the shores of heart & mind,
crushed strength & shattered soul.

I look beyond the shores of time
beyond the farthest stars
upon a Light I can’t yet see,
beyond the universe’s mars.
The stains shall fade.
The Light shall brightly shine.
And on that day the King of glory whole,
I’ll be wholly Thine.

For now I face the pain of
burdened back, aching feet, pained heart, humbled soul, & loneliness in crowds
I look this way and that,
Yet my blankets are but nightly shrouds
to shield me from the chill of winter
and the pain of frigid death.
Alone, I cower back, while marching forward
Hurting all around and deep within.

The songs of saints a comfort,
Their sayings distant memories.
A release from captivity shall come,
Though now I see it far,
Though now my heart is harmed.
One day my hope shall be won!

Now mere promise then.
Even less, the hint
of any sort of sin.
“Hail King!” I shall be with Him.

Categories: Poem, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mental Illness & the Message of God

Dedicated to all my friends & family with “mental health challenges,” myself included.

The beginning was once a mere mystery,
Now it is revealed history.
Wanting the very best, I find my self broken.
Being broken, I offer something more precious than treasure from within.
I pour out grace & wisdom that can’t be measured.
My stigma a sign:
Though curses cross my path, I fear no wrath.
Though you call me crazy, we have Christ’s mind.
With that, let the Word of God be spoken:
“Reorient your life, since the kingdom of God is at work.”

I’m honored to be loosely associated with Jesus, the Son of Man,
humbled to have my prayers answered eventually
in the name of the Son of God.
with a simple heart and much learning in store,
I’m a fool for Christ, though a fool no more.

Ridiculed for following the law that leads to the deep well of freedom.
Crazy enough to believe the truth is personal, universal, and tangible.
Mocked for telling others that life is eternal,
and also light and love in the Father’s family.
Though my faith was a flickering wick,
now the light of Christ is well lit.

Glad to be called a moron for the Messiah.
Happy to be treated as the local village idiot.
Rejoicing to be regarded as demonized
as they regarded the Christ, (John 8:48)
Blessed with the Holy Spirit.

Angry at sin, yet seeking not to.
Care free in the world, yet caring for you.
Liberated by the friend of sinners, I regard weak souls as winners.
The strong shall be shattered the voices mere clatter,
but all that will matter is that the Lord shall appear,
Yes, the One who came as our ultimate Peer,
Yes, the Lord, He is near.

So let love be your bond, and life be your banner.
Let the music go on as the fizzles grow flatter.
May our meds do no harm;
May the angels be our morning alarm.
Yet peculiar people need not fear,
for yes, the Lord, He is near.

Categories: Peer support, Persecution, Poem, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No God But One: Book Review

(Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this book for review.)

One thing that struck me as I read this book was the compassion and profound insight simply stated. The whole discussion of the book is framed as one would expect to occur between friends who care deeply about each other. Since much of the book reflects the conclusion of faith that Nabeel Qureshi came to as a result of an ongoing dialogue with his debate partner, it should not surprise the reader that the format is somewhat similar to a debate where a question and counter question is posed in each of the dialogues on various topics related to Islam, such as the difference between Islamic law (Sharia) and the grace of God found in the Gospel of Christ.

While this may sound old hat to someone who grew up in the church, when a person discovers that the reality that God is love and all of the diverse implications of this, whether in the arena of theology proper (including the meaning of the trinity and how the doctrine of the trinity is the way of describing God that most honors the Creator) or in the area of an understanding of violence in the history of Islam and the Christian Church (When did Christians start fighting wars? years after they were first called Christians and the empire was converted en masse.)

It becomes very clear through the reading of this book that not only does Nabeel have a clear knowledge of the basic issues related to Islam and Christianity, their similarities and differences, but he also loves both Muslims and Christians. Even though some Muslims may misunderstand the motives for why a truth seeker would embrace Jesus and the church and even though some who grew up with Christian traditions may question whether this is truly possible, Nabeel manifests an irenic spirit throughout, and confesses that he has not always behaved as the best example of Christianity after having chosen to identify with the Lord Jesus.

People need to hear these sorts of questions: questions that are centered not so much on the historic truths of the Gospel, and the verifiable & life transforming factual truths of the crucifixion, the resurrection and Jesus’ claim to deity; rather Questions that are centered on the sincerity and depth of our understanding & obedience to those truths.

Are we willing to seek to truly understand the truth?
Are we willing to suffer for what is true?
How much are we willing to suffer?

The good news is a life and death issue. The Gospel cost Jesus’ His life and frees us from our deadness. When we see the extreme love of God, we will be awakened to delight in our Creator, as a maiden delights in her groom when she realizes that not only is He a noble person, but that he truly does delight in her.

May you be awakened to the First, the Ultimate, the Supreme Love of the Author of Life.

#NoGodButOne

Categories: Book Review, Good News, Islam, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amid chaos, look to the God of order

God is not a god of disorder, but a God of peace.

He orders things and brings harmony. He doesn’t intentionally try to disturb us just to disturb us just to disturb us. Indeed, God desires that calm, quiet spirit in us that we find so sweet in wonderful friends we trust.

So why do we sometime go through the fire? Why must we face trials and tribulations if God wants to lead us in triumph?

Why did Paul say that soon satan would be trampled underfoot in his letter to the Romans and then get executed in Rome?

God uses our defeat to bring forth His victory. The Lord wants it totally clear that it is not this world that is the end, it is the world to come that we are to look for and pursue.

Yes, it is good to have joy while in this world.

But if our joy terminates in this world, then we are pitiful people.

Have you ever been to a funeral where some seemed at peace though they mourned and some seemed disheartened though they spouted off platitudes like “They are in a better place now.” One contains true joy, though the joy is decorated by tears of longing. The other is sorrow though it is paper mache’d over and sprinkled with glitter.

What is the difference between true hope and utter hopelessness?

Jesus.

He too faced a horrible death. He too did not want die, certainly not the way he did. But Jesus did want to bring many people into the Kingdom of God as children of God. The only way to open the door of death was to pass through it himself, so that others could triumph when they went through it.

And so too, when Paul, not fearing death, so opposed the evil of False Religions and False Justice that he was executed for his stand against worship of any mere man, he rejoiced in hope, knowing that the final victory is not in this world, but in the next. When we fix our eyes fully on the world to come and the joy that is awaiting us there, then we are free to endure hardship like good soldiers.

A soldier fights a battle for his allegiance to a better country. Christians stand firm in the faith knowing that a better world awaits when Christ returns.

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Loving Isn’t Love until You Love Those who Hate You

I used to think that I was a good guy.

I got all A’s in school.

I was healthy.

I was voted most likely to succeed.

I excelled in all that I set my hands to.

Then, there came a point at which I really got to know Jesus.

Now I know what a wretched sinner I am!

Oh, I had already called on the Lord and was saved, but this was different. I committed to follow Jesus by identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection. He who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the integrity & virtue of God.

I do not follow the traditional teaching of the church on this verse. The traditional teaching of the church is that Jesus became a sin offering, thus inserting the word offering. I go behind the traditional teaching to look at Jesus Himself. He did not come to offer sin. He offered His Holiness. The Father came close in Christ.

Let us take this at face value though. What is this verse actually saying:

1. Jesus knew no sin.

2. Jesus became sin for us.

3. 1 & 2 are so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became what he did not know so we could become what we are not. Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated so that we might become honored. Jesus was shamed so that we would be saved.

Jesus was indeed a sin offering. But that is not necessarily what this says explicitly. It says he became sin.

Ask any Muslim what the greatest sin is and they will say it is “Shirk.” to ascribe partners to God. I.e. to identify Jesus as divine.

Jesus was sinless. All are agreed on that except for a few people who claim that there is no absolute morality, which is self contradictory, so we will kindly ignore those proud souls for now who exalt themselves over God in their own mind (particularly since their own morality often is less than that of Jesus.)

Jesus also asserted that he is God. When he claimed to be the Son of Man, he was claiming not merely to be human, but to be made in the exact image of God and to be exalted as the one like a Son of Man who reigns in glory before the Ancient of Days as described in Daniel.

For a man who appeared to have been born of an illicit union, though he was not, to have claimed what appeared impossible, that he is God, resulted in the predictable condemnation at the courts of the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities. This was indeed a most preposterous claim for mere flesh to make.

But Jesus was no mere mortal. He was also immortal. He laid down His life freely (that is, he chose to make that claim, when he could have kept it to himself). He also took up his life again (that is, he happily and triumphantly rose from the grave and left the grave clothes behind. He was victorious over death. He submitted to what appeared to be the defilement of the grave that he might sanctify the grave yard as a rest area for the saints, a mere passing through place which leads to a much better place.) Jesus is fully alive and well today.

So what? What difference if Jesus rose? I haven’t seen him, the atheist will say.

Ah, but Jesus is alive and active in His Body. Wherever 2 or more gather in the name of Jesus, submitting to His authority as Lord, they experience and communicate the presence of Jesus. It is not merely in this ritual or ceremony. It is a moment by moment reality.

And so it comes to pass, that when the doubter, the bitter soul, the slanderer, the evil doer, or any other person with any bad intentions comes against a church (that is, such a gathering of saints who are submitted to Jesus) the presence of Jesus is assaulted. But so also, the power of the Messiah’s resurrection is present in His people. He comes back again and again to present the truth claims of God on man. Because Jesus demonstrated what it is to be 100% submitted to God, he can claim to be fully God without any duplicity. Not even the angels can claim to be God without lying. But Jesus not only claimed this power, he demonstrates it over and over again every time His people demonstrate patience with the wicked. Everytime the church witnesses to the truth in a world of falsehood. Everytime a believer confesses the deity of Jesus the Messiah to a Muslim or Jew or Hindu or Buddhist or atheist or tribal practitioner, he experiences the righteousness of God.

You say, then how come witnesses seem so care-free, so unworried of what the world says about them? Why is it that missionaries go about their mission as though ignorant of the plans and purposes of the world to destroy them and to undermine them?

We can laugh at adversity, not because adversity is inherently fun, but we know the One (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit), the Lord who is greater than all our troubles.

We know the provider. Even if we starve and are indebted, we know the One who will feed us daily bread and who will forgive all our debts. Even if we are slaughtered, as the Islamic State is trying to do in Mosul, we know the One who Saves from the grave through the power of the resurrection.

Jesus is Lord.

No government can stop Him.

No army can harm Him.

No bank can buy Him.

No store can sell Him.

No religion can restrain Him.

No human can exhume Him.

No hand can hurt Him.

No sickness can weaken Him.

No failure can flunk Him.

Jesus reigns supreme!

He took ALL our shame.

He took ALL our sin.

With His Holy Claim.

And He rose once again.

Categories: Good News, Suffering, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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