Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From Symptoms to Solutions


In the previous blog post we discovered as many as 61 % of people struggling with cancer are found to also struggle with forgiveness. By allowing God to search our hearts and deal with offenses, we have a much better likelihood of living a healthy and productive life. Recognizing symptoms with our cognitive faculties, however, does not automatically translate into heart felt change.
People may know that forgiveness is a biblical concept. Somewhere along the way they also may have been warned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of UN-forgiveness. Maybe they are genuinely grateful for a God who was willing to take on human form and die an excruciating death that they might be forgiven of their sins. What then, is the reason so many people experience inconsistency between their understanding of forgiveness and their willingness to confess and repent of sinful responses related to offenses and destructive beliefs which mire them in unforgiveness? Robert Jeffress quotes respected counselor and author David Seamands with this answer,
"Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the major cause of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. The good news of the gospel has not penetrated the level of our emotions."
The medical model of dealing with mental health concerns involves categorizing symptoms to formulate a label. Labeling depression or anxiety, for example, merely as an illness to be treated with medications to alter the physiological makeup of a person, can miss the importance of recognizing the person as a whole: spirit, body, and soul. Many mental health conditions often have spiritual and emotional roots, and research shows that even many physical problems are rooted in emotional and mental health issues. Christians' treatment of things like depression and anxiety, while not ruling out the helpfulness of science, must seek to remove the obstacles that keep people from following God with their whole heart, soul and mind.
Some so-called “emotional problems” are not really problems with emotions, but problems with thinking patterns (including core beliefs) which trigger the emotions. Emotions are neither good nor bad,  and they can be a powerful tool in exposing and clearing up thinking patterns. Emotions can be messengers--carrying a message to encourage deeper assessment of root issues to aid the process of healing.
The Scripture contains many examples of persons who examined their emotions in helping to overcome disappointments, adversities, and embittered hearts. Perhaps no one is more prolific in describing the emotional turmoil of his inner being than David.
David, ancient Israel’s second king, is a person who experienced great suffering in order to fulfill God’s purposes for his life. The outcast of his family, David was taunted by his brothers and not even recognized as a candidate for king when Samuel visited their house. Though David served the king faithfully, Saul (who also suffered from depression) hurled his spear at David, causing him to flee for his life and hide in caves to avoid being hunted down and killed. David also suffered scorn and humiliation by the actions of his wives and son. He broke God’s commands by committing adultery with Bathsheba. Then he committed murder in an attempt to hide the sin of adultery. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David demonstrated genuine repentance before God. Although God forgave David, the consequences of his sin remained for generations. Through his son Solomon, a division in the kingdom developed into a split between Israel and Judah.
Out of the depths of David’s acquaintance with suffering came the psalm, containing much wisdom, comfort and relevance for today. Many of the psalms David wrote reflected the loss and grief experienced by God’s people. Many, such as Psalm 10, are also examples of how David responds to God in his heart. In Psalm 10, the first twelve verses describe affliction of the worst kind imaginable. David is oppressed and totally defeated by things completely out of his control. His loss cannot be corrected in any way known to man, and he feels helpless.
Then in verses 12-15, David turns his attention to God, and cries out to Him as helper, deliverer, vindicator, and One who is willing to act on behalf of the helpless. Verses 16-18 display David’s heart of gratitude and praise for the mighty works of God. The expression of the human condition is clear. David’s heart progresses from anxiety and depression to allowing his heart to be wooed by God and then to the joy of resting securely in God’s place of victory.  Praising His Creator and acknowledging the truth about who He really is (vv. 17-18), David cooperates with God and his heart is transformed.
In Psalm 10 David writes almost four times the amount of text to describe the sorrow in his heart, than he writes to describe God’s intervention.26 As with many other similar psalms, David takes the time to explore and connect with the pain he was feeling. Similar to David, many people worsen their affliction and heartache by holding grudges, blaming, critically judging, or worrying about things that are out of their control. God allows David to emote and patiently listens to his cry. He waits for David’s thinking to change and his experience to come into alignment with the truth. As in the example of Psalm 10, the truth of God may be one heart cry away from inviting Christ’s forgiving, healing presence into a struggling person’s health concern or broken relationship. Truth transforms thinking, actions, and feelings.
If that sounds like you, take the time right now to talk to God and pour out your heart to HIM.
            Note:  More details about this are in my book.  The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  Most of the text above is taken directly from text near the beginning of Chapter Four of the book. I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: Intermedia Publishing


by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How a Searchlight Helps to Cure Cancer

According to Barna Group survey results published on their web site November 3rd, seventy million Americans "are dealing with unresolved emotional pain or conflict in life." Three out of ten people (30%) perceive their behaviors, dreams, goals, ideals, values, or relationships to be affected by cancerous feelings such as bitterness and resentment.

Dr. Michael Barry published a book earlier this year called The Forgiveness Project. His medical, theological, and sociological research at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America  in Philadelphia, PA finds that 61 percent of cancer patients have struggles with forgiveness of past hurts and wounds, and 34 percent have very severe struggles with things like hatred and revenge. The disease of unforgiveness causes immune deficiency in the body which causes physical health problems including the formation of cancer. Barry's book shares personal stories of patients healed from cancer primarily through their discovery of, and willingness to release, offenses they hadn't fully dealt with from their past. 

If the psychological, physical, and spiritual health problems related to unforgiveness are so obviously apparent, why do so many people remain trapped by their offenses?   The answer to this question is not a simple one and could be tackled from many angles, but I believe looking at the human heart and how it responds to emotional pain is a key. The inability or unwillingness to release offenses is the number one dream-killer of all time.

There are two major categories of fencing (or walls) which result by not properly dealing with offenses. One type of wall is very visible, easily recognized, and distance is maintained whenever possible. The other type of wall is often invisible, hard to recognize, and therefore hinders many activities in life because it pops up at unforeseen moments. The corresponding responses to these types of walls travel in two extreme directions; one is revenge and the other is apathy. Since outward aggression is less socially acceptable, most responses steer away from revenge (at least overtly) and tend toward apathy. This is often a learned pattern in human development from childhood into adulthood. Invisible walls of self-protection develop because repeated failure to find adequate resolution to offenses creates increased distrust of others and increased vulnerability to harm. Negative thoughts form inaccurate beliefs (lies about self and others), which create actions (behaviors), which create habits, which create lifestyle patterns of denying the pain in order to cope. The cycle of offense discussed in my previous blog post shows how this happens in every person alive to some degree at least.

The two types of walls translate into two types of unforgiveness: when your conscious awareness tells you, and when it doesn't. Emotional pain is often minimized or ignored, as explained by the apathetic response described above. The subconscious type of bitterness, hatred, resentment, or blame is much more common and becomes likes a hidden cancer destroying a person. Some of the symptoms that often reveal this are: chronic stress, anxiety, depression, self-condemnation, perpetual conflict, and lack of trust and love for others. In Part Two of my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, I cover this in much detail.

Failure to deal with offenses, even long forgotten ones, can derail your success in achieving goals and steal your dreams like nothing else. You may not develop cancer cells in your body, but unforgiveness could be eating at your emotions like a cancer that consumes your strength and weakens your ability to be effective in key areas of your life.

True forgiveness is not possible without recognizing, acknowledging, and dealing with root sources of offense. If you are a God-follower, you can take heart in the example of David in Psalms 139. He starts out with verse one saying, "O Lord, you have searched me and you know me." The past tense indicates a relationship and "walk" of habitual transparency of his inner person. The Psalm continues with an intimate description of God's creative ability in forming each individual person with unique traits purposes for being. The last two verses come back to the soul searching theme with David requesting,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:23-24)
This indicates intentionality on David's part for God to expose his "anxious thoughts" and "offensive way." In this manner he permits God to deal with the heart of the matter and remove any fences (walls) that his offense had erected. Whether the offense is intentional or unintentional (sin of comission or omission), the crippling, deafening, blinding, and imprisoning effects are the same.

God has a searchlight bright enough to pinpoint your problem "cancer" cells. The "treatment" may not seem pleasant, but healing comes through no other means. Yielding to His love and mercy reaps eternal rewards. The way to break free is to surrender to God the rights of final judgment of the matter that offended you. The mystery of forgiveness frees you from the grasp of either extreme; revenge or apathy. Then you can beat the disease and be on your way to success and significance!


            Note:  The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ.

         

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Overcoming the Cycle of Offense

          Included here is most of the contents of Chapter One of the book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.

          God's Creation, including the human race He placed on earth as made in His image, is an awesome declaration of purpose and destiny most deeply experienced through the spiritual dimension of being.  Since the beginning of time, mankind has been pretty good at making bad choices and messing up the original design.   The Old Testament prophet Isaiah uses the imagery of imprisonment to communicate the condition of the human race and the mission of Jesus Christ to set us free.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the LORD
    for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
         
As explained later, the poor, brokenhearted captive describes every person who ever lived including all of us today. Jesus came to proclaim liberty to that condition for all who believe in Him.  In Matthew 18 Jesus himself uses an illustration of debtor’s prison to show the condition of the human heart and the need for salvation from being “handed over to the jailers to be tortured” (Matthew 18:34). Torment “is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). These verses are discussed more later in the book, but for now let us understand that the Bible clearly connects a lack of forgiveness with imprisonment, hurt and pain in the human heart. 
          How is this hurt produced?  We are hurt through taking offense. In our hearts we harbor disappointment, guilt, condemnation, and other bad feelings toward God, ourselves, or another person(s).  How does the offense imprison our heart? Our heart is imprisoned by building fences: walls of perceived protection and security. These walls not only trap the pain inside, but they often keep out troops sent to rescue the prisoner. When we take the bait of the Enemy’s offense, we become offended and imprisoned in a cycle shown in an illustration (not included here).
          This cycle is common to each of us. Because we live in a fallen, broken, imperfect, wounding, and offensive world, experiencing hurtful emotion is inevitable.
          We become wounded by peoples’ mistakes, misunderstandings, mistreatments, betrayals, injustices, abuses or even crimes.
We nurse the wound by rehearsing in our minds what coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’ been done to avoid the pain.  Many times our anger becomes directed at God for allowing bad things to happen to us. Some blame self, and become imprisoned by self-rejection.
          We make condemning judgments and behave in ways that offend God, ourselves, and other people. Thus, we become an offender.  Bitterness, resentment and blame become an accepted way of life. Without God’s help we try to rectify situations in many ways including revenge, obsessing for justice, forgetting, excusing, ‘moving on’, self-inflicting condemnation, or finding some other way of replacing the negative feelings with positive ones.
          In our quest of human effort we may even find some relief, and so we justify our offense. Unable to surrender to (trust) God the sole right to judge our offender, we reject God’s provision through Jesus to break the cycle. Having agreed with the lie that holding offense solves our problem, we become offensive to someone else who becomes offended, and the cycle spirals on. 
          However, there is hope! Our hope is in Jesus and what God has done through Him. Through God’s Gift of forgiveness, we not only have hope to redeem this cycle in our own lives, but we can reverse this spiral in the lives of others as well.  You do not have to be enslaved by this victim/ predator cycle.  Stress, fear, anger, anxiety, depression and the like no longer have to remain when you allow Christ Jesus into the deepest parts of your heart to break this cycle down.
          The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus is the only true jailbreak for unforgiveness. Therefore, a significant portion of this book discusses the fundamentals of God’s purpose and plan through salvation in Jesus Christ. Before that, in Part One, we must discuss some background and rationale for a Christian handling of the topic of forgiveness.
          In Part Two we will discuss the human response to Christ’s accomplishments. The greatest hindrance to breaking free seems to be recognizing the imprisonment. Sometimes we have become so well-adjusted to imprisonment, it seems hard to imagine what true freedom is really like. Some of us like the comforts in prison. Some of us like the security it provides. Some like the decisions made for them and some are apathetic about change. Some doubt their ability to succeed at a better way, and many are just simply in denial about their condition or unwilling to change their perceptions.  We all choose living in illusion over reality to some degree.           Breaking free occurs from the inside out. As you walk out of the inner most cell, you come to the next barred gate. As you break free of the next courtyard and the next and so on, you eventually come to the outer court and can maneuver to leap the outer fence. This is when you realize that the offense that took you to prison (whether self-inflicted or inflicted by another offender) no longer has a grip on your life. God's original intent for you as a person to live in the freedom of your spiritual nature is engaged.
          In Part Three we discuss how this new freedom in the inner man can change and improve your relationships with other people. God made mankind for community.  Relationship with other people can only be experienced in the deepest way God meant for them to be shared when each individual has broken free of his own prison experience. Each person’s receiving God’s love and giving that love to others is our mission as we journey in the freedom of forgiveness.
          Appendix A of the book contains some additional resources for the reader's equipping and edification.
Appendix B shares a small portion of the author's personal story and how practicing forgiveness has transformed his life.
Appendix C is the contents of a pamphlet written by the author and his wife almost thirty hears ago.  The pamphlet was widely distributed across the U.S. and around the globe in an effort to help women (and men) struggling with abortion.  
The Endnotes contain references to Bible portions and books and articles further cited in the Bibliography at the end of this book.  

          The journey to healing is often like peeling an onion: to arrive at the core, the outer visible layers must be taken off first. The Follow up and Practice material provides some exercises for processing the content in each of the three parts of the book for deeper understanding and application. You will understand why this is true as you read. My suggestion is that you adopt a “long haul” and “forever growing” perspective of allowing God to change your heart. As you do, you will increasingly see fruit in your relationship with God and with others around you. A Study Guide is included at the end of the book to help you with reflecting, expanding, and deepening perceptions, healing, and maturity.
          Our understanding and practice of forgiveness holds the key to freedom. Chapter Two looks at some of the obstacles and misunderstandings of forgiveness.  Thereafter, the remainder of the book focuses on identifying and releasing elements that break down the cycle of offense. 
            For some immediate help from the Book of Refuge (the Bible) here is a small list of places that discuss some key points about forgiveness:  Romans 12:1-2,  Mark 7:20-23, Matthew 5:21-22, Matthew 7:1-3, Hebrews 3:12-13, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:9, Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, John 20:23, ,2 Corinthians 5:18-21

            The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart is  now available. I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in finding and deepening Refuge in Christ.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nature Strikes Again


            Within a month's time, our region in Pennsylvania and our nation's capital have seen not just two major forces of nature (the earthquake and hurricane discussed in my previous blog post), but this week also a flood of historic proportions. Streams and creeks swelled far over their banks causing scores of road closings, washing away possessions, cars, and homes, and even several person's lives. Basements of buildings not usually prone to flooding were filled with water from the saturated soil, The devastation and following cleanup are overwhelming for many. Too much water in too short a time creates huge problems.

            Meanwhile, too little water over an extended period of time create drought conditions of the opposite extreme. At the same moment people are enduring flood damages in PA, people are losing all they have in Texas due to wild fires. Historic hot temperatures with no rainfall has created similar conditions of homelessness and  hopelessness.

            Scripture records a consistent pattern of Jesus  teaching a spiritual lesson in the happenings of nature. When He encountered a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well to quench her thirst, he took the opportunity to explain Refuge as drinking of the "living water." At first she did not understand how He could provide water to quench her thirst when He had no instrument with which to draw water from the well. She questioned Him about the nature of this water.  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

            In the natural, man and beast alike cannot survive without a consistent supply of water in quality and quantity.  Too little or too much rainfall can create extreme conditions of drought or flooding. For a person's soul to find Refuge in God's provision, he must allow Christ Jesus to "become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Depending on God for this "living water" is the only guarantee of drinking the right amount in the right timing. The pressures and storms of life may come and go, but God consistently provides Refuge in the times of trouble (Ps 46).

            This remains true throughout a spiritual journey of drinking water from Christ's well of Refuge. Jesus speaks of a deeper worship experience in the same conversation mentioned above (in John 4).  As a person grows in their relationship with God as Refuge, he or she knows God in greater measures of His justice and mercy.  "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).  
           
            From a perspective of Refuge in Jesus, life is much more than a natural existence. Each person is more than a body. Each is a "living soul" (Gen 2:7; KJV), a spirit being created to know God and be known by Him. As a disciple of Christ journeys through life, this fellowship of knowing and being known by God is meant to awaken the spirit part of the person in greater and greater measure. Spiritually speaking, we may go through drought or flooding. We may experience hurts or woundings. We may offend or become offended. We may drift from the duality of worshipping God in "spirit and truth." But healing does not have to wait until life on earth is done. God wants us healed to live the rest of our lives drinking "living water" and worshipping Him genuinely in "spirit and truth."

            If  you are relatively satisfied with your place of Refuge at the present time, and you are drinking from the well of Christ's grace and truth, let me encourage you in two ways. First, continue to worship in both spirit and truth so you are prepared to avoid the extremes of drought or flooding when the storms of life may strike. Also, do what you can to help others draw from the Well and discover the living water.

            For each person reading this I pray that you can find His healing water, drink freely, and find Refuge for your soul. Find a Bible and read Psalm 63. Here are the first two verses to make you thirsty. 

O God, you are my God,
   earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
   my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
   where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
   and beheld your power and your glory.   (Ps 63:1-2)

            The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart is  now available. I pray that many will also find this book a helpful tool in finding and deepening Refuge in Christ.


by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preface: Storms, Devastation, and Refuge


Within the week, not just one, but two major forces of the earth's power touched our region. An earthquake centered above Richmond, VA sent out tremors felt as far north as Canada. Hurricane Irene made it's presence known most of the way up the east coast of the U.S. The sheer size and awesomeness of these events should make it clear that regardless what a person thinks and feels about God, the physical laws of nature are working as designed.

As Jesus taught when he lived on earth, the physical elements have a lot to say about the spiritual realities. The Kingdom of God is not a physical kingdom, but God rules in majesty and power. He lives and reigns in the heart of a person if He is trusted to do so. His Refuge is available, but only at our invitation can it rescue us from the storms of life that erupt in our spirit being. He must be given the authority to change our hearts the way He sees fit.

Since the first sin of mankind, the raw nature of every person who lives on earth is to reject the proper boundaries God has established for the good of all creation, and grab as much control of his or her surroundings and circumstances as possible. This causes inevitable offense. Every person offends and is offended against. I discuss this cycle in Chapter One of the book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart. In Chapter Two I discuss why this is true, and the remainder of the book is what I believe to be the solution.

Every once in a while nature presents itself so powerfully, basic questions about the meaning and purpose in life come to the fore. As with natural disasters, people's behavior sometimes create events which are difficult to understand and raise questions extremely difficult for which to find a spiritual answer. In the Preface of my book, I discuss two of these. About six years ago, two murders happened within a ten month period in our region (Lancaster County, PA)  which greatly influenced my research and purposes for writing the book. In each case, a man who understood and practiced the truth of Christianity, also tolerated a dark place in his soul that became a whirlwind out of control. Hosea 8:7 says, "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." The ancient nation of Israel (translated as God's people today) became physically and spiritually overcome by the storms. Losing their focus on God as their Refuge cost them everything.

The darkness of unresolved bitterness and resentment created a whirlwind that cost the two murderers everything. One of these men took his own life during the crime, and one has a sentence of life imprisonment. The devastation on family and community members left behind cannot be measured. Perhaps not all the questions can be answered. Not all the issues can be fully resolved. Certainly the deeds done cannot be undone. Past actions cannot be changed, but responses to those actions can be changed. I believe there is a place in God's Refuge where offense can be released.  My book explains how this can be done. Many places in the Bible talk about this, but one that come to mind right now is Hebrews 12. Read it and let me know what you think.

I pray that you can find peace from the storms by surrendering your own attempts at refuge to God's Refuge through Jesus Christ.

The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart will be available in early September.



by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Return to Refuge with Psalm 81

For this particular Psalm 81, I think the language used by the New American Standard version of the Bible explains the themes very well. May I encourage you to read Psalm 81 in several translations (including the NASB).

The literal meaning of the Psalm has the writer Asaph leading worshipers into praise of God as Refuge. They are reminded of the oppressive clavery in Egypt, and of the many miracles God performed as He brought them into their land of promise. They are also reminded of the many times they forgot about the mighty acts God did on their behalf and strayed from authentic obedience to God's ways. In times of waywardness God lifted his hand of blessing and allowed bad things to happen to them. But he was always right there, hoping and waiting for them to turn their hearts back to him.

This Psalm was written many years before the arrival of Christ Jesus. Now we can look back on this Psalm through the events of Christ's death and resurrection. We now have the Holy Spirit to breath new meaning. Figurative interpretation and application yields some incredible parallels between God's peoples' wayward hearts spoken of in Psalm 81, and our rebellious hearts today.

As the Psalm begins with an exhortation to sing and make music on every kind of instrument imaginable, we are reminded that a heart devoted to God is a worshipping heart. Picture your heart (inner person) becoming the instrument itself that makes music for God and people to hear. When your heart is tuned to his tuning fork, you are able to play harmonious sounds in perfect pitch. When you stray from the pitch of the Master orchestra leader, your instrument becomes harder and harder to play.

Sometimes we tune our hearts to the wrong kind of sounds, away from God's voice. Verses 11 & 12 read,
"But My people did not listen to My voice,
And Israel {you} did not obey Me.
So I gave  them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices."
In verse 9, we are warned against following "strange gods" (idols). An idol is anything that takes your affections away from the rightful place God desires (to have for himself) in your life. An idol is any person, place, or thing that becomes a counterfeit comfort, false refuge, or controlling behavior that steals your heart-allegiance to God. An idol is basically anything that you believe (ever so subtly) is so important, if it were suddenly taken out of your life, you would have difficulty trusting God to be able to fill the void.

If we're honest about it, that pretty much implicates all of us (to one degree or another). If we are trusting Christ as our Savior and Refuge, we are in a process of sanctification; a process of having our hearts transformed (changed) into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Change is something our human nature resists, but is absolutely necessary to break free of encumbrances. This change is all about yielding more and more parts of our heart that are yet "stubborn," for them to become tuned to the Master's voice. "Oh that My people would listen to Me," (v13) says the Master, that you "would walk in My ways!"  In the next two verses God promises to provide Refuge from adversaries, and the final verse of the Psalm says, "I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (v 16). This symbolizes not only a life of survival, but of abundant provision and deep satisfaction. Does this remind you of what Jesus Christ proclaimed of  himself? "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). 

When our hearts are free from idols, we are free to hear God's voice in the clearest way possible, and live the most fulfilling life possible. We are symbolically free of Egypt's slavery to patterns of behavior that seem to control us instead of us controlling them. When idols are removed, our hearts are also free to make the most melodious music possible.

Are there any idols in your life right now, that are keeping you from making beautiful music (in your heart)? Do you feel close enough in your relationship with God  to ask him that question? Do you fear the answer? Let me assure you, (and God wants you to know), He loves and accepts you where you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay where you are. In his grace and mercy there is power to change. You can return to Refuge! 

My forthcoming book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart addresses these topics in much more detail.



by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Foreword to the Book


Not only is Refuge a key topic discussed in the Bible, but it has been on the hearts of myriads of refuge-seekers throughout history. The Reformation (as a faith movement)  brought sweeping changes to how "common folk" perceived and practiced their connection to God. By the time western Europeans were settling the "new world" (what eventually became the United States of America), religious freedom became a major reason for many families leaving their familiar surroundings, to explore the opportunities to worship their God in an earthly paradise.

The foreword of my book Escaping the Pain of Offense provides some vision for the part Pennsylvania played in a more recent portion of history. Dr. Robert Doe who authors the foreword, has a family heritage dating back to the Mayflower. His forefathers have held many leadership  posts in arenas such as law, medicine, and government. As an ivy league medical school graduate, he practices a healing profession as doctor. His vision for practicing medicine is much more than a science. While honoring scientific advances, he believes in a much higher power, the strength of which could never be fully discovered with scientific research. Many of his patients express gratitude for his ability to help them find God in the midst of their medical treatment.  

I consider myself privileged to have the opportunity to work with a team of spiritual care counselors who work alongside Dr. Doe to treat persons dealing with issues related to physical and mental health, and addictions. Our approach to helping people includes many of the themes discussed in my book called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart. The Refuge is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

For more information about how to receive help through a Refuge Clinic (if you live in the Lancaster area), point your WWW browser to this link:
http://lightofhope-cso.org/ministryteam/refugeofhealing.aspx

Below is a sneak preview of the beginning of the Foreword.

William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and Delaware, wrote these words as he pondered the great possibilities of creating a ‘fresh start’ in the Americas:

“There may yet be room for such a Holy Experiment. For the Nations want a precedent and my God will make it a Seed of a Nation, that an example may be set up to the Nations. That we may do the thing that is wise and just.”

His “Holy Experiment” would establish a place where people could worship God and honor Christ without fear of persecution. Penn invited Anabaptists, Quakers and other persecution-weary peoples to live in the Americas, offering them a promise of religious freedom and a new beginning. This holy ‘seed’ of freedom to worship God together was to serve as an example of true justice and wisdom to all the nations. His vision was to create a government of the people that reflected the Kingdom of God whose foundations are justice and righteousness. Isaiah 9 was a favored passage of his, especially that portion stating that the “government shall be upon His shoulders”.

The Kingdom of God was to be reflected in the society of Pennsylvania. In Luke 9 and
10, this is revealed to be peace, healing, deliverance and new life. In addition to religious and political liberty Philadelphia was also the site of the first institutions of healing in the New World. The first hospital, medical school, pharmacy school, mental hospital, nursing school, osteopathic institute and other medical centers were developed in southeast Pennsylvania as the first of their kind in the United States. Therefore, it could also be expected that healing ministry and practical new models of Christian medical care should be a fruit of the historical blessing of our region. This pioneering of medical services in Philadelphia suggests that physical and emotional healing were also to be a “first fruit” of William Penn’s Kingdom vision.

The Foreword continues to expound on this vision and ends by quoting a verse from Hebrews 11:39-40: "And all these (ancestors), having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  Each of us can make a difference in our world today because we join the heritage of refuge-seekers who found their Refuge in the God of the Bible whose sovereign plan identifies, provides and protects our value and worth in divine historical context. It's not about us, it's about HIM!


by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Refuge of Psalm 7


Does doubt and worry creep into your mind and heart because of all the "bad stuff" happening around you?  Does life sometimes feel like a flurry of activity with purpose and meaning difficult to find?

What an incredible place of Refuge in Psalm 7!  David begins, "O LORD my God, I take refuge in you."

As I envision these 17 verses on a graph of intensity, the apex verses are 8-10,
"Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness,
   according to my integrity, O Most High
O righteous God,
   who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked
   and make the righteous secure.
My shield is God Most High,
   who saves the upright in heart."
Righteousness (or right-ness) seems to be a key element of Refuge.  In the New Testament (NT), Romans 3:22 says, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."  The Apostle Paul says a few verses later, "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation (Refuge), establishes the only means of a person's righteousness (right standing) before God.  Therefore, Psalm 7:8 can be interpreted as a bold and substantive declaration of Refuge in the midst of doubt, confusion, or enemy attack. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

May I invite you to read Psalm 7 in its entirety.  Notice that verse 1-7 leading up to verse 8 express a great deal of fear and anxiety regarding David's right standing before God.  He even doubted his Refuge status as a result of some potential oversight (sin of omission) against another person.  We know from a historical context that David was very motivated to follow all the Old Testament (OT) laws of God to secure his right standing--certainly most qualified of anyone among his people. Hence, it is as if he is trying to reassure himself when he states "judge, me O Lord, according to my righteousness" (v8). In the next verse (v9), he regains confidence in God "who searches minds and hearts," and exposes wickedness (offenses of any sort) for God to forgive and make right once again. The remainder of the Psalm praises God for His ability to deal with evil and willingness to act on behalf of those who turn their hearts away from sin to become devoted to Him.

The real punch of this Psalm comes in the last verse which summarizes David's journey and foretells of times beginning with the NT through today.
"I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness
   and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."
God's requirement of righteousness was satisfied through His very own "right son," Jesus, the only right source of salvation and refuge.  Because Jesus made us "right" (a work of HIS, not ours), we are judged "righteous" before Almighty God. We can join with the writer of Phillippians in the NT in proclaiming, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil 3:8-9).  Our most sincere endeavors cannot secure our Refuge. The most religious, altruistic, or socially just efforts are never good enough to earn right standing before God.  Psalm 7:8-9 has been answered once and for all in what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection. A flurry-filled, activity-based Christian life should be evaluated against Matthew 11:28-29 where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Human behavior tends toward extremes. We sin or err in one of two directions. Either we put too little faith and trust in Jesus and what he completed (making us "right" with God), or we place too much confidence in our own efforts to appease God and please others to  make things right.  Christ as Refuge makes right.  He corrects  either path of error.

The forthcoming book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart addresses these themes in much more detail.



by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Purpose for the Book


Why write a book on the topic of forgiveness? One reason is because of how greatly misunderstood forgiveness has become. Chapter Two of the book addresses some of the chief concerns in this regard. Another reason is because of the profound influence of this topic in my personal healing journey. This aspect is discussed more in Appendix B of the book. Another reason is because of the profound influence I believe it can have on each  reader's journey to greater health and wholeness.

Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart is my first book publication. Some authors write because they "dream" of publishing a book. This project did not happen that way. The reader will discover in the Preface of the book how circumstances directed me to research this topic. After researching the topic of forgiveness, I found some extremely valuable treasures that I feel compelled to share with others. I wrote a book on the topic of forgiveness not because I had a dream to publish a book, but because I have a dream of sharing the Refuge I've found with others looking for Refuge.

Proverbs 2:1-5 says,
 1 My son, if you accept my words
   and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
   and applying your heart to understanding,
3 and if you call out for insight
   and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
   and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
   and find the knowledge of God.

Sometimes it takes a significant amount of searching until Refuge is found. But if you seek, you will find. I can attest to this process in my life, and I am confident it is true for everyone reading this as well. Sometimes our path is obstructed with painful situations that make it more difficult to press on.  Physical limitations, unexpected illnesses, and losses of employment, house, spouse, or parents, are types of things that may create hurtful responses. Like all human beings, I have had my share of these. When the way seems dark, I continue on until a place of Refuge is once again found.

Psalm 139:12 provides a Refuge perspective on darkness, "even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." God's infinitely creative ability can make a way where there is no way. I encourage you to find a Bible and read Psalm 139 in its entirety. The last two verses reveal a heart devoted to uprooting offense,
 "23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting. "

Uprooting sources of offense and forgiveness are strongly connected to each other. Showing how this is true and showing ways to overcome is the purpose for writing this book. The book should be available within weeks. I look forward to more dialogue on topics in the book.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Book


Perhaps the Psalm painting the clearest imagery of forgiveness is Psalm 32. Grab your Bible and read the entire Psalm. Verse 1 begins, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." In verse 7 the Psalmist David beautifully weaves the Refuge with forgiveness, "You are my hiding place;  you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."

Although the topic of forgiveness is often referred to, it is rarely understood and practiced in the manner it is intended by God to transform people's lives. Many misunderstandings have stifled and robbed our ability to find refuge in forgiveness. My hope is that some of these misdirected beliefs can be cleared up through a new book I have authored called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.   The back cover will read:

Offended?   Learn how to stay free!

Escaping the Pain of Offense reveals how forgiveness and reconciliation are linked to a person’s spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. This insightful book combines Bible knowledge with the findings of experts in the counseling field and provides solutions that can change lives. It leads us through a process of removing blocks and becoming free of entrapment to a cycle of offense. Conflicts are resolved by positively impacting core beliefs about God, self and others. Hersh shows us how to surrender to a loving, personal God as our ultimate authority and judge.

Through Escaping the Pain of Offense, you will be equipped to:
·        Discover and break active cycles of nagging discouragement, frustration, or anxiety
·        Discern truth from fallacy about forgiveness
·        Find rest and peace in the inner being
·        Resolve conflict to enable harmonious relationships

Stay tuned for more information about how to understand and practice forgiveness.  The book will be available within weeks and I hope you can obtain a copy.  Although I thoroughly researched and authored a book on this topic, I consider myself forever a learner, and look forward to unceasingly fresh revelation in the Refuge of forgiveness.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My soul finds rest in God alone

In the 150 chapters of the book of Psalms, the word refuge is explicitly mentioned 43 times in 34 different chapters (New International Version). Defined as a place of shelter, protection, or safety, refuge as a concept, is used many more times in the Psalms.  Refuge is a key theme throughout the entire Bible. 

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him (Psalm 62:1, NIV, 1984).
The Psalmist David found a refuge in God for the human soul. According to the central theme of the Christian faith, this Refuge  is ultimately expressed in God sending His Son Jesus to provide salvation for the human soul. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:14,16).

I am initiating this blog to discuss themes regarding refuge of healing and hope. My first book called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, is forthcoming.  I will soon be posting more about the book. My hope is that it helps the reader find rest and healing in the Refuge.