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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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The Work of Redemption

Column for Joan Hershberger – drafted by Mert Hershberger on the Lord’s Day, January 3, 2021

When I came to Michigan, I thought the only redemptive work that I would be involved in was preaching the good news of Jesus. However, I soon learned that there are other opportunities for redemptive work. Michigan has very generous redemption values that it places on canned and bottled beverages. Most soda and alcoholic beverage containers have a redemption value of ten cents. That is much higher than the value on the aluminum or plastic alone, so many folks here collect bottles and cans to make ends meet. In fact, it is against the law to throw away redeemable containers in Michigan.

During the severest part of the COVID shutdowns here in Michigan, the stores were not allowing any bottle returns, so I found a lot of extra cans and bottles just laying around in people’s recycling bins. I started to collect them for a couple months and ended up redeeming well over $100 worth over several weeks once the COVID shutdowns ended and stores again allowed customers to redeem bottles. This extra money helped me buy groceries for people to whom I delivered in order to help them make ends meet. I continued to collect cans and bottles in the months following the reopening and kept buying groceries and toilet paper for a handful of people, on an as needed basis.

Once, I was at a bus stop and picked a few cans and bottles out of the trash. A fellow who regularly hangs out at the bus stop and solicits small donations from any willing soul tried to stop me. He said, “You should get a real job. Stop begging for money! You are dirty!” I turned around and talked to him, “Well, I’m not asking anyone for money. I’m on a redemptive mission. These bottles have value, so I plan to redeem them. It’s a crime to throw away what can be redeemed. You can be redeemed too, and you wouldn’t want anyone to throw you away, right?” After that, he lightened his tone and was more friendly again.

On Thanksgiving while my lovely wife fixed a delicious meal for the two of us, I got bored, so I wandered over to a nearby university campus. When I started to find redeemables, I decided to collect them while I was on the phone with my Mom. I ended up scouring half of the campus and collecting bottles and cans worth about $2.50. It’s not often I get paid to talk on the phone!

On New Year’s Day, I again was bored and again went over to the nearby University campus. Again, I made a call to someone and again I picked up $2 to $3 worth of redeemables from the other half of campus. Nobody had picked up any trash since Thanksgiving and the University was basically closed since then due to a rise in COVID cases locally in December. And nobody had gotten any of the cans or bottles since then, so I decided it was high time somebody rescue what could be redeemed.

There is a neighbor who regularly drinks tall beers and discards cans and some Coke bottles too, so I’ll pick up the cans, empty out the remaining beer onto the ground, and take a couple dollars’ worth of bottles and cans home from there every week or two. Sometimes he has even given me whole bags filled with redeemables. Once, he was moved with compassion and gave me a couple $2 bills as well. All I have to do is stop a little off my regular route, sort through the recycling, and rescue what would otherwise go in the garbage.

These cans are such a hot commodity that people will sometimes post on Facebook that they are having some difficult economic times and ask if people will let them pick up cans from their homes. Most of the time, several people will post that cans are available, the person will put gas in their car or buy groceries, and that is the end of it. But recently, a woman who works for the same public service agency as I work for viciously berated a can collector for asking for the help. Because her comments were relayed to me via the agency Facebook page, I gently corrected her and suggested she use more discretion in her online interactions. The next day, when we were both in a webinar on sensitivity towards those who have suffered racial injustice, she was visibly shaken.

My mother taught me to redeem the time, to stretch my money, and that there are no throw-away people. The week of her birthday and anniversary, I will celebrate by redeeming a large bag of cans and bottles, then getting food and toilet paper for people that I serve. Thanks, Mom, for not letting me waste my life!

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I Pray for the Collapse of Islam Because I Love Muslims

Islam is the system.

Muslims are people.

I don’t know of any time in the Bible where we are commanded to love systems. Nations are redeemable according to Scripture, but systems are more akin to what the Bible calls the Beast and the AntiChrist and the False Prophet.

Here is why I believe praying for the fall of Islam is one way to love Muslims:

  1. Islam teaches that Jesus is not God, that there is no Son of God, and that Jesus did not die on the cross. In itself, this is adequate reason to pray and work for the collapse of Islam by converting Muslims to be Christians. These three teachings of Islam are lies and must be countered with the Truth of the Bible. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God and that Jesus claimed to be Lord. The Bible in the Hebrew Scriptures and New Covenant teach that God does have a Son, and that Jesus (salvation) is his name. Jesus did die on a Roman cross, which is prophesied by the Hebrew Prophets and, predicted by Jesus himself, and historically verified by both the gospels, the teaching of the Missionaries, and the practice of the churches, not to mention external historical records.
  2. Islam exhorts the exemplification of Muhammed. If he were a godly person, this would be a good thing. However: Muhammed was anything but virtuous. He married a little girl. He had sex with a prepubescent girl according to Islamic tradition. He taught that raping any and all female prisoners of war was an OK thing to do, and commended it to his followers. Muhammed himself at one time had 10 wives. Historically, Islam has permitted other people to have 4 wives at a time. (Polygamy is oppressive to women and corrupts society. There are indication in Genesis that this one of the main reasons for the OT Flood in Noah’s day.)  The Lord Jesus taught that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for as long as they both shall live. The missionary Paul taught that women (and men) should be mature before they marry.
  3. Islam, again following Muhammed, has been one of the perpetrators of racism and oppression of dark skinned peoples of Africa. Tradition Islamic teaching is that Muhammed was white and that Blackness of skin is a sign of a curse. Islam promoted the black African slave trade and spread it to Europe. The Bible says that all peoples are equal in the the Messiah.
  4. Islam launched as a military raiding movement. Islamic sources tell us that initially Islam spread primarily by military conquest. It did not succeed by the virtue of it’s ideals but by the sword. Arabs conquered other Arabs and then conquered other peoples and nations. Local people’s were exploited for their skills and resources, but once Islam’s system of oppressive taxation on minorities took root, the Arabic renaissance collapsed. Jesus rebuked his disciples for defending him with the sword. The message of Jesus is called the gospel of peace.
  5. Islam has a book that is full of significant alterations and changes, but most Islamic scholars refuse to address the textual corruption of their supposedly holy book. It is a book which promotes falsehood and is derived from Jewish and Christian sectarian and heretical works, not rooted in divine inspiration, see #1. Jesus urged people to look at the words of the Bible carefully and to remember truth accurately without distorting the words of revelation. Christians and Jews spend a lot of time and energy ensuring the accuracy of the Scripture.

There are other reasons, but these are some of the more major reasons I pray for the collapse of Islam.

 

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Stand Firm in Forgiveness: Savor Sweetness and Abandon Bitterness

Here is a message that was prepared 7 years ago. I reviewed and edited it again for clarity, but the same message rings true today and has powerful truth to encourage you. Click Here to read: Bitterness and Forgiveness
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Theological Balance & The Middle Way.

Results/Fruit
Appearance Oriented – Attitude Oriented – Action Oriented

Sanctification
Been perfect – Becoming perfect – Be perfect or be gone.

Love one another
Compartments of worship – Complete worship – Complaining, not worship.

Issues of Sin
Delving into sin – Deliverance is of the Lord – Deliverance ministry.

Nature of Ministry
Express yourself – Experience God’s presence – Extend your hand.

Zeal
Failure – Faithful – Fighter

Charismata
Gifts – Giver – Giving

The Cross & Resurrection
Heretical Renderings – Historical Reality – Hysterical Ruin

Power
Investigate the Author – Invested with Authority – Invest in Autocrats

View of God
Joking matter – Jesus Saves! – Judge

Kingdom of God
Kiss the son lavishly – Keep a simple faith – Kill Enemies

Brotherly Kindness
Lust – Love one another – Love as duty

Suffering
Mean people cause it – Method of growth – Meaning of life

Born Again
New Livelihood – New Life-Source – New Lifestyle

Position toward Christ
Original sin – Order restored – Original Sin

Purpose
Please self. – Please God – Please men

Character of Worship
Quest – Quietness – Quick

Gaining Strength
Restore – Rest – Repent

Nature of righteousness
Surface – Solidity – Shallow

Dealing with Hurt
Tears away from other – Tears at sin – Tears up in pain

Unity of the Saints
Umbrella for any sinner – Understanding shared – Unique identities stressed

The Sovereignty of God
Vanquish the thought – Vanguard of the soul – Victory in behavior

Balancing the Way of the Lord
Walk in Unity – Worship God always – Witness to God’s glory

Nature of God’s Word
X out the unwanted parts – X-Ray exposing our hearts – Xerographic conservation

Cause of Joy
Yesterday’s strength – Yes, Today is the day – Yearning for tomorrow

Paths to choose from
Zoological worship – Zeal for the Lord – Zeroed out religion.

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