This is the Night

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
Alleluia!

chains

A Special Find – A Special Name

Me with my grandpa, Oscar C. Eliason

I had a special blessing today in finding a version of my grandpa’s song, A Name I Highly Treasure, on YouTube. There are not many good quality recordings of it on there, I check once in a while for something new. I found this little gem uploaded just two months ago from a recording at a Nazarene church in 1964. The quality of the recording and the voices were a delight! It’s apparently from an LP record.

The beautiful words are true for all Christians. The world uses the name of our Savior as a curse word, walks on it, spits on it. To those of us who love Him, that name is the name above all names. A name we highly treasure.

The singers recorded verses one and three, but I have included the second verse. The powerful emphasis on that chorus really blessed my heart.

(1) I’ve learned to know a name I highly treasure.
O how it thrills my spirit thro’ and thro’!
O precious name, beyond degree or measure,
My heart is stirred whene’er I think of You!
My heart is stirred whene’er I think of Jesus,
That blessed name which sets the captive free —
The only name thro’ which I find salvation.
No name on earth has meant so much to me.

(2) That name brings gladness to a soul in sorrow.
It makes life’s shadows and its clouds depart —
Brings strength in weakness for today, tomorrow,
That name brings healing to an aching heart.
My heart is stirred whene’er I think of Jesus,
That blessed name which sets the captive free —
The only name thro’ which I find salvation.
No name on earth has meant so much to me.

(3) That name still lives and will live on forever,
While kings and kingdoms will forgotten be.
Thro’ mist or rain, ’twill be beclouded never.
That name shall shine and shine eternally.
My heart is stirred whene’er I think of Jesus,
That blessed name which sets the captive free —
The only name thro’ which I find salvation.
No name on earth has meant so much to me.

The Devastating Long-Term Fallout of Narcissistic Abuse

The topic of abuse from malignant narcissists has been addressed repeatedly on this blog in the last few years. The posts are still up, and a simple search on the home page of this blog will bring them up. I heard again today from someone who was greatly helped by reading basic info on how these abusive people operate and what they do to their targets. Understanding what is going on is crucial to survival.

The spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical fall-out of living in an environment where you are either targeted and/or are the scapegoat in a family or ministry  setting is so devastating, it is difficult to write about at all.

Today, however, a friend posted an article that summarizes the destruction left by these people—people who are shells of human beings. They look whole, normal and even admirable on the outside, but they poison the lives of those they target to such a degree that recovery can seem almost impossible even years later. A quote from the article:

Victims of Narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. Their confidence becomes so low that they have trouble making simple decisions, questioning and re-questioning things. This is a direct result of the emotional and psychological abuse used by the Narcissist to erode their self-esteem as well as instill confusion and anxiety into the victim to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. This is skillfully guided by the Narcissist and it clouds reality with leading statements like “I never said that”, “You are crazy”, or “you are imagining things.” The Narcissist will even step up the game by reinforcing what they say by backing it up with statements from friends, co-workers, or relatives that supposedly agree and ARE very concerned about the target/victim (and probably just more lies). (See full article here, A Narcissist’s Damage)

I will never forget the night I received a call from a pastor I had worked with for many years in Christian radio. He had first been introduced to listeners for his work in our city with troubled youth.   He had moved out of state, and I hadn’t heard from him in some time.  I was in bed and reached for the phone on the nightstand,  bleary-eyed.

I sat up suddenly in shock at what he was telling me, a blatant lie so slanderous that it took my breath away had been disseminated by the narcissist who was trying to destroy me. I had lost my mind, the pastor had been told. I was nuts. That was a polite way to put it.  He had inquired about me, and the response by the narc was a complete, vicious  lie to cover up my departure from the station.

This had followed the crafting of a false letter that the narc had shown around, claiming similar things. It was a desperate attempt to cover up sin and ugliness on the part of the narc, to protect his own reputation at the expense of the one he had grotesquely harmed.

Hate mail sent to our home, false posts about my mental health on a friend’s blog, lies to whomever would listen, some of them half truths without the other half that explained fully the situation, manipulation of others willing to be used, all of it was just the start of something that went on for years.  Appeals for help went unanswered.

Worst of all was the turning of minds, once respectful, loving, to mistrust and blame.  If the narc  cannot succeed in controlling  you, they will control  how others see you. They will take everything you have or thought you had.

So you learn to question yourself. The strongest of minds are infected with self-doubt. You walk on unstable ground. Ground that you once thought was firm under your feet now cracks in places with every step. Those who once respected you now turn away. You’re too toxic to handle. Not worth it. Probably some truth in what was said, others think. Such a shame.

The poison then drips into your spiritual life. A good God who values truth and goodness and righteousness allows a monster to do this for years? God builds his Kingdom on the whited bones of sincere people crushed in the gears? He allows other professing Christians to kick others (that they’ve known for decades and worked with successfully) under the bus because the narcissist said they were bad all of a sudden? (Decades of personal honor flushed overnight based on false testimony of one?)

The simple faith in God that you had is undermined. You are shaken to the core. There is no reconciliation with anybody. Total silence. Years of it. You were trash and you didn’t realize it. The sense that you were serving Christ faithfully with other Christians is demolished. You feel used and foolish for having been so naive that you could have believed in those around you  or thought they respected you.

Your body takes the hit of years of stress. You can’t handle the slightest stress anymore. The massive adrenaline that helped you function has done great damage.  You blame yourself for anything that has gone wrong. You can’t go forward, because your body won’t let you. People think it is way past time you got over it. Except you’re locked in a cycle of grief. You valued people. You valued your family. You loved people. But they didn’t love you. They didn’t believe in you. The narcissist destroyed their belief in you and your character.

I write these things to give others a sense of how pervasive and hellish the abuse of these demons with skin on really is. Those claiming to be Christians need to be much smarter about how narcs operate, especially those in leadership.

Covert narcs are the most damaging kind. A braggart, a chest-beating malignant narcissist isn’t hard to spot. The ones who slither rather than strut are the ones to watch for. They present a flawless, righteous image to the public, while, undetected, their fangs and poison sink deep into the skin of their target.

If you are discerning, if you ask God to show you what is going on in these situations, you are wise. For blind enabling of these soul-murderers is to participate in their evil.  Those who looked the other way, who were cowards and who discarded innocent people are complicit.  Years and years and years can go by, and it doesn’t change that reality.

So, all of this is true. What now? Ultimately, rejecting God is not the answer, friends. Why such violence to souls is allowed in this life by those supposedly “serving” Him, we will never know. But if there is any antivenin to the poison, if there is any healing possible, it won’t come from repentant enablers, graciously seeking forgiveness for their help of an evil person and the harm done to you. (I dream of this all the time.)  It has to come from God alone. Some damage is too deep, too all-encompassing, to have any human cure.   And waiting for someone with a conscience to step forward and do the right thing is a waste of your life on this earth. Given the state of “Christians” today, they can run over you with their tanks while fighting the culture wars and “winning souls” and never look back.  There is no love.

I’ve watched as those harmed by the church or Christian families have turned into fountainheads of blasphemy, non-stop sources of hatred for God and all that is good. That’s no answer to anything. You just end up adding to the darkness, and what is the point of that? We believe in love. We believe in kindness, Tom and I both. We’ve seen pure evil put on quite a show for years now. We’re walking in love anyway, because without God, there is no love. The times are bad everywhere. But the fact that we can discern good and evil at all takes us back to God’s existence. Out of the depths, those injured must continue to cry to the Lord for his mercy in all areas of life. I still believe what Scripture says. Weeping endures for a time, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Snakes have an extremely effective venom delivery system.

Technology Is Not Always Progress

The technology that is supposedly making our lives easier is not.  In many ways, it has made life very difficult, especially for those who are older than 45 and who are burned out by the complexity of life today.

Instead of a person answering  at a company, you get the nightmare of voice mail, now using voice (non) recognition, so that you find yourself screaming at a computer that doesn’t recognize what you’re saying. That’s usually followed by hitting random numbers in desperation, trying to either find a real person or the right department.  It’s not easier. It’s abuse of customers. And it’s just about saving money.

You can’t repair newer cars in your garage and even changing the oil yourself is not possible on some of the newest.  A technocrat described driverless cars being the norm in the next 15 years where you’re, in essence, being driven by computer code that may or may not have bugs in it. The recent crash of one was an ominous look at things to come. Imagine trying to integrate these “driverless” cars with texting and obnoxious manual drivers. The mind reels.

For every website where you have an account  you have to remember “Usernames” and “Passwords.”  The Post It notes where they’re written are either curling up with age on your desk  or already in the trash. It is not funny to be locked out of a doctor’s site you need to get on, because your tired mind can’t remember what combinations you used to get in. And there’s always more characters needed to protect from criminals trying to steal your info.

Every product you buy requires maintenance or some nonsense you have to pencil in on your schedule.   They’ll tell you that monthly, you need to do this or use this expensive conditioning product we happen to sell for $20 a bottle. My Keurig coffee maker is a prime example. It’s 18 months old, and the vinegar descaling – the descaling on the cheap – didn’t work and now it doesn’t work at all. Utter fail.  We had a home once where the previous owners had installed a spa tub with jets on it in the main bathroom. Fantastic, right? The manual said we had to buy this product from them and “once a month” do this and that and this and that to make sure “residue” didn’t build up from soap scum.  It did anyway. As IF a busy mom has time for that nonsense. With two young children to bathe at the time, I remember saying,   “Just give me a plain old bath rub I can scrub with Comet cleanser. Clean and white, for $1.50 a can. ”

Tom and I have both said we would gladly move to a 1960’s era house in terms of technology. Everything manual or basic. TV’s that didn’t require six remotes and hocus pocus so you can get the local TV channels.  TV’s like ours that I just read can be turned into listening devices because of the way they are made.   Great.  Give me a phone on the wall. Not a “smart”  phone where people text a sentence—that’s what comprises relationship now. Hey, ball’s in your court, honey. Your friend just wrote, “How ya doing?”  Nobody has time for an actual phone call much less a visit.

Yes, I hate modern life and what it’s done to the level of complexity. Just the digital photo nightmare is bad enough. I can’t delete this blog, because 10 years of our family’s life is on here. Videos I don’t know how to download are on here. If I delete this, they’ll be lost, and it’s our daughter’s childhood she will someday value. All the photo files on the computer (yes, they’re safely on a “cloud” somewhere, i.e. another computer at a tech giant) but how will my kids ever access that? We’ve forgotten the username and password. Again. (Oh, and the computer I’m writing on is telling me I have to pay more money to update my virus protection by a certain date or be at the mercy of the dark lords of hackery. It’s extortion, but who can afford to not pay it?)

It’s only going to get worse. Technocracy ultimately is going to destroy us. Mental health, social interaction, all of it has worsened in our high tech world. Yes, good has been done in certain areas. Overall, most of us over a certain age would return gladly to a simpler time when neighbors would check on each other, when people had real friends who showed up with a pot of soup when you were sick instead of sending a cheery text. “Get well soon!” A smiley face emoji is a bonus.

Tom and I were talking today about all the things we would like to simplify in our lives if we could. But the truth is, so much is out of our hands, it’s not even very possible to do anymore, particularly when you have grandchildren living far away (Facetime lets us see them), and when your isolation will only increase by shutting off your computer. Everybody else is in cyberspace. Be there or live alone even before you are elderly and unable to travel.

It’s sad that this is the way life is now. I yearn for the old simplicity, even of the 1980’s when my meanderings on this blog wouldn’t have been possible.  I’m not even kidding. But this is how we communicate now. Some irony there as I write for the readers as far away as Australia.  It’s not going to slow down any time soon. What would you like to go back to if you could? Even with inconveniences? I’ll bet a lot of people feel as I do. I read this article today on a related issue. People are supposedly more connected than ever,  but even the young are feeling the social isolation. There is no app for real friendship and human contact. Robots and artificial intelligence are all taking this to an even more psychotic level. It’s a problem of our times.

Listen for the Hiss

In Genesis the story of Satan’s lies to the first humans is laid out. I have no doubt that the lies were not hissed by the serpent. The voice was probably lovely, beautiful and musical, shimmering with promise and glory.

But beneath that voice was the hiss of the serpent – the fallen angel –  who hated God and who was bound and determined to take down God’s highest creation, humankind.

The same lies that were there in the Garden of Eden are still around today.  (Genesis 3:5) Satan has no new material. It is simply repackaged for each generation by false teachers, the ones warned about in Holy Scripture. (See Christ’s words in Matthew 24:4-5 for just one example.) This is where every distortion and denial of the Gospel comes from in each generation of supposedly Christian churches.  Man is always exalted and lifted up as God, and God is diminished and denied. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blatant.

This article here by Chad Bird  is an excellent repudiation of this teaching of man’s greatness that can be heard everywhere today, including in many supposedly Christian churches.  The state of our broken planet is not the result of our great fear of embracing our fantastic, all-powerful selves. The state of this shattered planet is the result of spiritual rebellion against God. Sin. And that’s why we needed Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

Any so-called teacher, celebrity or otherwise, who is spreading the glories of man as savior, is at war with the heart of the Gospel message.  They are at war with God himself.  Their Gospel is not “watered down.” It is the anti-Gospel.  Listen for the hiss underneath the smooth talk. And then, as Chad Bird says so well, look to God instead.

 

 

 

 

Widow: Church Doesn’t Need Any More Coffee Bars

This article linked below by Kimberli Lira needs very little introduction. When you face your darkest hour, it doesn’t matter how cool the real estate is in the church, how hip and how culturally relevant it seeks to be.  As this young mother writes so well,  you need Jesus.  The foolish American evangelical church misses the point of why they exist.

“Church leaders remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don’t have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.”  Full article here.

Treasure Box at My Door

I am perpetually amazed at the way God works. The last two posts on this blog addressed just one problem of many in today’s churches.  Yes, the tone was negative and comments underscored the grief experienced by many where the lack of love in Christian churches, often starting at the pastoral level,  has had a tragic effect.

I found a large box on my porch the other morning. It was heavy.  Seeing it was sent to me, and not expecting any deliveries, I was curious.  Well, friends, it was a box of treasures—treasures so rich that I am still taking out the gems and admiring their facets.

It was a box of books, just the latest of many sent to me over the years from a long time friend who has an eye for literary riches of a spiritual nature. Occasionally, she sends them on to me. The books inside the box deserve a much longer post, because the story surrounding them is long. and each one is special. But because we had just been discussing pastors and churches here at the Hope Blog, and in a decidedly discouraging way,  one of the book treasures in that box is the topic here today.

I was at a church recently, the one I referenced in my first post on churches and looked down at the hymnal during the singing. The name underneath the hymn, the composer of the hymn tune, was William Henry Havergal. I smiled inwardly. His daughter Frances Ridley Havergal is the author of many familiar hymns still sung in hymn-using churches today. (Take My Life, and Let It Be, Like a River Glorious, and I Am Trusting Thee Lord Jesus are just three I will mention.) Her father was a great musician and also  wrote many hymn tunes familiar to hymn lovers.

William Havergal is the subject of one of the books in the box. I will write more on these new paperback books, freshly available, in a moment.

Here’s a little description of William Henry Havergal, an English pastor of the 19th Century.

William Henry Havergal (whose youngest child, Frances Ridley Havergal, is more known today) was a wonderfully gifted musician, both as a performer and as a composer, but he declined the offer of a music professorship at Oxford to enter pastoral ministry. Over nearly  five decades, his sermons, home visits, care of his flock, diligent ministry, was a “heart work,” bringing many to true faith in Christ and building up believers. His extant sermons (so few now remaining among the more than 2,500 briefly listed in his handwritten book, listing only the date, location, and Scripture text for the sermons he preached from 1816 to 1869) are gold, similar in valuable edification to Spurgeon, Ryle, Lloyd-Jones. The same as his written works, his life was a true example of the believer, and he could say like Paul, “be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.” He so much loved his Saviour, and earnestly wanted and sought for others to know and love Him. He is summed up in the Latin phrase that he would write, “Laus Deo.” “Praise be to God.” The Lamb is all the glory in Emmanuel’s land. This collection has the four volumes of his Sermons (all that have been found, leaving us wanting more), his sterling account of “A Wise and Holy Child,” nearly all of his extant hymns and poems, and a brief glimpse at his music compositions; at the end is his daughter’s biography Records of the Life of the Rev. William Henry Havergal, with also others’ statements and articles about him. His life and works can be described by these two comments that he said about his sermon (quoted in his daughter’s biography): “A lady calling, expressing her thanks to him for his sweet and comforting sermon, he meekly answered, ‘The Lord make it profitable, and then take all the praise.’ Another thanking him said it was a precious sermon. ‘Nothing in itself,’ he said, ‘all nothing; but the Lord can make it precious, and may He do so.’ ” (Taken from a longer portion on the back of the book, Works by William Henry Havergal.

Here are a couple other significant things said about this minister of the Gospel.

“He advised, he admonished, he sympathized; and, to the utmost of his means, he aided those who stood in need of aid.   An throughout his ministry he was eminently “faithful.”  HE did not hesitate, though he well knew the cost, to battle manfully with the vices and frivolities of the day. None could hearken to his conversation and think it possible to serve God and mammon.”

And this.

“…As genial as he was gentlemanly, refined in his tastes, high-souled, and gifted, his own immediate home circle, relatives and numerous friends, were all perfectly devoted to him; and no one could possibly approach him, even in a casual way, without feeling the radiation of Christian light and warmth from his heart and beaming face, for to the core he was a true man:  true to God, and true to his fellow men: ( from Biographical  Sketch of W.H.H. by Andrew James Symington)

Someone who commented on one of my earlier posts asked about what a true pastor  would look like in action. I think in these two brief descriptions of William Henry Havergal, you find the basics.   He had sympathy, a radiation of Christian light and warmth to all he met, a true man, true to God and true to his fellow men, he helped those in need to the full extent of his ability. In short, a pastor. A shepherd.

So I picked up this very large volume that contains the surviving sermons and other writings  of Rev. Havergal. This brings us to the other thing so frequently lamented today – the state of the pulpits—the sermons or lack thereof. Within seconds of picking up the book, I was plunged into a world of detailed, solid Bible teaching. The early messages in the book went straight to the Old Testament and emphasized the importance of Christians reading these books in depth, something frequently rejected today in favor of the New Testament alone. The first sermon I read was on the Ark of the Covenant. I won’t go any farther, except to say that the sermon contains rich, rich teaching, the like of which is  very rarely heard today in an American evangelical church.

You enter a different world with Old Path preachers when you read or hear their sermons.  They were serious men of God, with hearts of love for the listener, who spoke the truth, and did not hold back when they needed to say unpopular things. They always, always exalted Christ and preached the pure word of God to whose in their care.

My treasure box is filled with so much, I am still taking in what arrived at my door. It came at a time when I needed the encouragement. Isn’t that like the Lord? Elijah was in the cave and needed food, and it was brought to him by the ravens. This box came to me on the wings of the US Mail, sent by God’s own kindly hand through his loving servant, my friend.  How wonderful it is that  God still meets our needs before we even ask.

If you would like to know what was in my treasure box, go to Amazon.com and type in the search window the following words exactly. “Havergal Chalkley Paperback”. Every one of these books contains wonderful things.  The book I have referenced above about William Henry Havergal is here at this link. It is a large book. Some of the books in this collection of books are for children, written by Frances Havergal, some contain music from Frances and her father, some are devotionals. Click on each book listed on Amazon  for a description. On page 2 of the listings, you will find the Five Royal Books. These are the very first Havergal books I ever encountered years ago when we were in South Carolina. They are devotionals. If you start with those, you can’t go wrong.

William Havergal was a shepherd long ago.  Thanks to the work of those committed to seeing this project through, these sermons, and the beautiful writings of Frances Ridley Havergal, his daughter, have been brought to life again. They are here for a reason. Those needing spiritual food, comfort and a glimpse of real teaching need look no farther than these books.  God can send food with the “ravens” in these times of great spiritual poverty.  I know, because he sent a box of good spiritual food  straight to my door. And now I can share it with you.

(You can see my markers in the book in the box. I’m already using my post-it notes for page reference!)

A Little Audio Joy for You

Here’s a little two-minute joy blip for your day. The title should be “Schön Rosmarin”, Beautiful Rosemary. These lovely little melodies seem like the Lord opened the clouds and dropped them down. All beauty comes from God and points back to His creative genius. Our ability to even perceive beauty is from Him. So enjoy. I can’t even listen to this without smiling!