The Bible: Funeral Script or Lively Hope?

by Sharon Merhalski

“The Bible is not a script for a funeral service, but it is the record of God always bringing life where we expected to find death. Everywhere it is the story of resurrection.”

This quote caused me to stop all activity around me and sit still with God. I think it would be a perfect opening statement of a book on the Christian life…ALL of the Christian life: Home, church, school, work…both relationships and activities.

This passage of God’s Word filled my heart as I listened to God:

1Peter chapter 1
:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

As I sat with God I sensed in my heart a question: What do I allow to enter my heart to nurture my spirit? Do I choose to fill my ears and read with my eyes the Bible spoken, taught, sung, written as a funeral script or a lively hope? Do I leave church rejoicing “with joy unspeakable and full of glory” because I am full of lively hope? Or do I leave more downtrodden from the complexities of life than when I entered the church? Do I close the book cover on that Christian best seller renewed in lively hope given by His glorious resurrection or drowning in morose feelings of being worthless and deserving of Hell? Do I enter praise and worship with the Christian music I listen to…or a depressive hole?

We are affected by all of the activities we choose to enter into…and our spirits will be affected accordingly.

Jude 1:20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Jude 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

“The Bible is not a script for a funeral service, but it is the record of God always bringing life where we expected to find death. Everywhere it is the story of resurrection.”

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Do we Judge and Condemn Before Hearing a Matter?

By Sharon Merhalski

For over eight years our staff has been mentoring and counseling survivors of all kinds of abuse; physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual. One aspect of our experiences has ‘shouted’ at us in almost every situation…the survivor not being believed when they speak of their abuse. Sadly, this is almost always the case when the alleged abuse happens in a church or organization setting.

One of our staff members, Teddi Neevel, has labeled this scenario “the good old boys club”. Personally I call it insane given all of the public accounts of ministry leaders falling for committing abuse among their own church members! And…God has an opinion/warning for those who jump to conclusions:

Luke 6:36 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:….”

Strong’s Concordance:

Judge: G2919 krinō Properly to distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish: – avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.

Condemn: G2613 katadikazō From G2596 and a derivative of G1349; to adjudge against, that is, pronounce guilty: – condemn.

Proverbs 18:17 “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” One-sided statements are not reliable. (JFB commentary)

Proverbs 18:13 “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” I found a good paraphrase for this verse: It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.

“They’re lying!!!” That’s the all-too-familiar instant conclusion assumed when an alleged survivor blows the whistle on an abuser. And when it is a church or ministry situation more often than not the Christian leaders are questioned and the conclusion reached before the alleged victim is questioned…if they are questioned at all. I wish this wasn’t true…but it is. And God clearly states in the verses above that He will judge and condemn them.

I have a friend who was raped by a Christian college student when she was in high school. The college student was questioned by the pastor and my friend wasn’t. She and her parents (who believed her) were called into the pastor’s office. He never let her speak or asked her any questions. He told her she was expelled from school. It was midway into her junior year of high school. The college student was not expelled. The ministry student was questioned and believed without hearing her words on the matter. Spiritual and emotional healing for my friend has been a terrific struggle.

New Hope Outreach has been faced with a situation in northwest Indiana that needs much prayer. Alleged survivors of a Christian children’s home—Hephzibah House in Winnona Lake, IN– have broken their silence about the alleged abuses they endured while residents of the home spannning over the past 20+ years. They did not break their silence to bring a lawsuit against anyone but rather to bring awareness of the need for a state law in Indiana to allow guidelines for children’s homes and investigation when there is an allegation of abuse made. (I live in Indiana and to this date there are no regulations or guidelines…no law.) The absence of a state law has tied the hands of Social Service organizations which seemed impossible to me until I researched it.

Sadly, without questioning the alleged survivors, contacting them or even reading online what they are saying, I know of some church leaders which have labeled them liars. The leader of the home, of course, is believed without question.

Many who read this may ask, “how in the world could anyone judge without questioning both sides of a matter?”. I’ve had to stop and search my own heart concerning how often I’ve done this while watching the news…or listening to information told to me by a friend…or from the pulpit or in a written publication. Searching my heart has caused me to do some repenting…with a renewed determination to withhold judgment and see a person as innocent until proven guilty…the Biblical and American way.

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Susie Wanted Dinner

By Sharon Merhalski

Ron had the day off from work and decided to meet his family’s need for food when they came home that evening. He thought about what to prepare and decided to make a large dinner for the family instead of hamburgers on the grill. After taking time to consider how much he loved his family, and how thankful he was for them, he decided to make their favorite meal…a Thanksgiving dinner with every possible trimming anyone could imagine!

That evening when Ron was putting the Thanksgiving feast on the table Susie, his little girl, came in from outside and said, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Can I have some dinner?” He sweetly answered, “yes” and called the family to the supper table where each took their usual seat. Everyone gasped at the abundant table set with linen, china and crystal! Each member of the family was in awe at what dad had done for them…just for them!

Before prayer dad shared his written words of love and devotion and told them the sacrifice of his labor of love was his gift for them…and they were worth far more to him than the pain from the third degree burn on his right hand and the deep cut on his left thumb.

When the perfectly delicious food was passed mom carefully put each kind of delicious and nourishing food on Susie’s plate. Oddly, with each spoonful of food Susie said again, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Can I have some dinner?” Each time Susie repeated the question her Daddy quietly reminded her that her answer was right in front of her—it had already been provided for her–and all she had to do was eat it. However, Susie never picked up her fork or spoon and incessantly asked, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Can I have some dinner?”

Daddy, quietly, and with much patience, again read part of his written text to remind Susie he had already, with abundant and unconditional love, provided all she could hope for to answer her need but she kept saying the same thing, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Can I have some dinner?”

About half way through the meal it became evident to her loving father that Susie’s repeated request for food was not going to be met because Susie had decided by her actions that she was not going to believe her request had already been answered…even though it was in her reach. Her unbelief in the finished work of her father, and his written words, left her hungry, discouraged and still seeking for the answer to her need. All Susie had to do was assimilate the blessing.

What prompted me to pen the above paragraphs? I was prompted by a question that filled my heart when I was studying the goodness of God: How many times have I asked or begged God for what His Word assures me He has already provided for me…what He had already been placed within my grasp? The answer to that question birthed much thought coupled with regret that I had not begun to consistently live this truth a long time ago.

Two examples:

How often have I prayed for God to be with me in a circumstance? Whether I feel His presence or not the Bible says He lives in me so how can He not be with me on every mountaintop and in every valley? I need to thank Him for His presence, not ask Him for it. And, oh the times I have asked God to be especially near someone in a trial instead of thanking Him for His abiding presence in their lives.

How often have I begged for God to give me peace in heart-wrenching times? God’s name is Jehovah-Shalom: God is peace. All of the peace I need has been provided in Jesus. All I have to do is accept and assimilate peace and thank Him for His provision.

I’ve always known that faith is not faith if I can see it. I realize now when I have prayed for what God has already provided, instead of realizing it is mine to simply accept in unwavering faith, I get easily wrapped in unbelief because I cannot see, feel or touch the provision. Unbelief hinders what God is able to provide for us…it renders us powerless…it grieves the Holy Spirit.

The disciples left us with a good example of unbelief that rendered them powerless and the frustration of Jesus for the situation.

Matthew 17:16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Health Care for the Christian: King Asa’s Example

by Sharon Merhalski

About a year ago, after hearing ad nauseum about national health care reform, I began considering many things concerning health care that are taking shape around us: Waiting lists for surgeries, less availability of physician services, a growing number of people who have no health care and the criteria that may be considered by insurance companies before a person is able to receive medical treatment for cancer and other life-threatening conditions. (This consideration of criteria–age, health, etc.–is standard in Great Britain and already happening in America. Recently a woman on the West Coast received a letter of denial from her insurance company for chemo-therapy for stage 4 Cancer and enclosed in the envelope was a consent form for her to sign if she wanted the option of physician-assisted suicide…which the insurance company said they would pay for.) God spoke to my heart plainly that His children need to remember that He is our great and infallible physician.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

JEHOVAH-RAPHA==The God Who Heals
The first mention of God’s name Jehovah-rapha is found in Exodus 15:2 “The LORD (Jehovah-Rapha) is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Is Jesus Jehovah-Rapha?……John 5:19 says that Jesus is one with the Father.

One day, as I sat still and considered many things about nationalized health care, God brought to my heart a truth from Scripture I learned over 30 years ago. This truth involves King Asa. I have spoken and written about this truth many times in years gone by and I believe God brought it to my heart again because this time in history needs to drive us back to Jehovah-Rapha…our perfect healer.

To quell any questions let me say I know modern medicine has a place in the health of a Christian…but not first place. God has used physicians many, many times in my health care. However, I have both practiced and know so many other Christians who have done exactly what King Asa did: sought the physicians only and not God for their healing. 2Chronicles 16:12 “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” And King Asa died two years later (verse 13).

Barnes commentary: “Yet in his disease he sought not … – Rather, “and also in his disease he sought not.” Not only in his war with Baasha, but also when attacked by illness, Asa placed undue reliance upon the aid of man.”

When I first read this account of King Asa I was quick to say that surely he must not have been abiding in God. However the Bible is clear to say that King Asa walked with God: 2Chronicles 15:17 “But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.” The word ‘perfect’ in the Strong’s Concordance is defined as “complete (literally or figuratively); especially friendly….full, just, made ready, peaceable, perfect (-ed), quiet, whole.”

After first reading the account of Asa’s death I looked back over my life of chronic illness and saw how many times I had done exactly the same thing when I trusted in physicians without consulting with God to get His direction for my healing. Again, God, our perfect Physician, often uses the physicians wisdom and tools for our benefit and healing. However, we are to seek Him first for healing, wisdom and direction. King Asa didn’t do this…and he died.

In many medical valleys I’ve learned: Putting any person (medical professionals and clergy included) above God is idolatry. Giving any person credit for any benefit in our life is giving God’s glory to a man. Wondering why God allowed a medical intervention to go badly, or a prescription drug to cause problems, when I never prayed and sought God’s wisdom in the matter first is stupid (and it’s happened to me more than a few times). Not seeking healthy alternatives first is like not treating a cut on my leg until gangrene sets in and then needing surgery…or amputation.

God taught me that even concerning my health the Holy Spirit will guide me. John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:” All truth…if I seek Him first in all matters I will know God’s best for me…for every aspect of my life.

Do we as Christians pray and seek God’s will for every prescription drug offered to us by our physician? (I didn’t and it caused many physical problems including diabetes.) Do we seek God’s will before submitting to medical testing? (My friend didn’t and she almost died after a colonoscopy…and learned after the fact that many people do die from the side effects.) Do we always ask our Abba Father to guide us and give us His wisdom?

I hope the degenerating state of health care in America–coupled with the growing problems with the Food and Drug Administration–will cause Christians to re-think our trust in anyone or anything above our God…our Great Physician. I don’t have all of the answers but I’m increasingly thankful that God has put in my heart a desire to learn truths about how I can help this marvelous body–which He created–to function at a healthier level so that less physician and prescription intervention is necessary. I’m very thankful that God has led me to seek Him in all that He is to better know Who is in control of me–to better understand my Abba Father who has much to say in His Word concerning our health and healing–some of which I have never heard preached from a pulpit or taught in Sunday School even though it is plainly taught in the Bible.

“The LORD (Jehovah-Rapha) is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:2

“But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;” Matthew 12:15

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 10:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Growing Children of God Need to Ask Questions

The older I get the more I realize the importance of our growing-up experience. For example, a child growing up in a dysfunctional home will, in some degree, have issues to overcome later in life. A child who had the experience of negligent home-schooling will, in some degree, have educational issues to contend with or overcome. A child who was raised by the television with little parental training, will have issues with cognitive and coping skills…and potentially a host of other issues.

I’ve counseled people who have grown up in dysfunctional homes for decades…and heard and read about many others. I know the issues and problems I’ve had to overcome, and am still overcoming, because of what I experienced and learned in the dysfunctional home in which I was raised. The questions of “how were they parented?” or “how were their parents parented as children?” often comes into play as a person walks a path of healing…re-learning. As I thought about this yesterday my mind whirled.

At sixty years old my husband and I often find ourselves talking about our Christian upbringing—wealth of Bible and Christian life teaching–from our first pastor after we gave Jesus control of our lives. Yesterday I stopped to consider our looking back at the teaching/training of the pastor who nurtured us when we were infant Christians. I realized the importance and parallels of our physical and spiritual childhood experiences and teachings. We’ve had other good, loving, Bible-teaching and godly-living pastors in our 40 years of Christian living. However, our foundation and belief-system, like that of a small child, was constructed when we were infant and growing children of God.

In the last couple of years God, using His blessed Word/His Balm of Gilead and His Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me into truth, has worked to change some ‘truth’, teaching, I received as an infant Christian. Not ‘connecting the dots’ I’ve often wondered why I have had such a struggle at times to let Biblical truth replace old teaching. It dawned on me yesterday that this is the same struggle people have with replacing teaching/truths they learned in a less-than-nurturing childhood.

Young children do not have the skills to process and discern truth, right from wrong or what is morally acceptable. Children need parenting to show them…teach them. If the parenting is right, moral, nurturing, loving, the experience of growing up is a healthy one. This is equally true for our Christian experience: How we were grown up in the Lord while our diets consisted of milk…when we were too immature to study and digest the meat of the Word of God…determines the health/strength/understanding/power of our Christian lives. Of course, this can be changed with much study, seeking, accepting and assimilating revealed Biblical truth.

I believe the first step in strengthening my Christian life came when I let myself accept the fact that some things/truths I was taught as a young Christian did not line up with the Bible…some ‘truths’ were not even in the Bible. On my path to growing past some old teaching I had to ask the same questions people need to consider when walking paths to spiritual and emotional healing: “how were they (my pastors and spiritual mentors) ‘parented’ in the Lord?” or “how were the people they learned from ‘parented’ as babes in Christ?”

For example yesterday I studied the doctrines and teachings of the church one of our pastors was born into and raised in…and later left. My study helped me to realize where some of the untruths he taught as Bible truth came from…his spiritual childhood training which he never questioned. Our ‘parents’ and ‘grandparents’ can have a huge impact on what we learn, who we are and how we teach others…until we choose to change the wrong beliefs through seeking Bible study. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15

Change is uncomfortable. Change is good. Knowing the truth sets us free to live victoriously in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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