Counterfeit Perceptions of Others

In my previous post, I wrote of Counterfeit Self Esteem and the Demonic Stronghold of Pride, in which I mentioned how pride itself may be a kind of demonically induced stronghold in the life of a professed believer. I related a passage from the classic work on spiritual warfare by Jessie Penn Lewis and Evan Roberts, War on the Saints. There is a later passage, in the same chapter (Chapter VI, Counterfeits of the Divine) under the heading The Counterfeit Personation of Others. There are two specific ways that they describe that this works out. The second one is one which appeals to a romantic infatuation and longing, and I will comment on this one in a later post if God permits. The one which I will mention now is specifically the work of Satan as accuser (Revelation 12:10) and liar (John 8:44).

This passage again gives the impression that it is the result of dealing with fellow believers who have been delivered out of the deceptions of the enemy. They speak of how other, often fellow believers, are represented to the deceived as being quite different than what they are in truth, of being jealous, angry, critical, unkind or selfish when they are really manifesting the opposite characteristics of Christlike love. They tell of how the deceptions twist the blameless motives of others to appear to be wicked, that simple actions with no hint of duplicity are taken to be the opposite, and simple, innocent words and actions are taken to have meanings and malice which are far from the intentions of the others.

There is one time when I was very definitely being slandered by some professed believers, and while requesting prayer for the situation with some fellow pastors, one pastor told me that he felt that this was an attack of Satan. I believe that he was right then, and that these counterfeit perceptions of others are at the root of many slanderous attacks and malicious gossip in our churches. It’s even possible that there may at times be counterfeit supernatural experiences and false revelations about others. I’ve seen this corroborated in the works of Neil Anderson as well. Unfortunately, this may also be accompanied by a demonically induced pride as well, so that the source of the lies and accusations about others is himself or herself superhumanly stubborn in his or her assertions, even when they have been consistently shown to be at odds with the truth.

Many times Misunderstandings and Misperceptions will come from the ignorance and fallibility of fallen human nature itself. Even so, where the pattern is persistent, stubborn and consistently false and accusatory, the indication is that there is a demonic element involved. The way to victory in these cases is always to live in the truth of the scriptures, and in the truth of actual circumstances (what actually was said and done without any kind of embellishment or interpretation). Even more, the believer needs to seek that the teaching and guidance of God, and submit to his will for ‘truth in the inner parts’ (Psalm 51:6). And this is precisely why those in the body of Christ must be allowed to be told and to answer fully all accusations of sin and disobedience and any other kinds of insinuations that come from other believers, because to do otherwise is to permit Satan access to a fellowship as accuser and liar to discredit and alienate brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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Counterfeit Self Esteem and the Demonic Stronghold of Pride

Shortly after the Welsh Revival in 1904, Jessie Penn Lewis and Evan Roberts wrote War on the Saints, which became one of the seminal works on spiritual warfare for this century. Unfortunately it has suffered from abridgements, revisions and in some passages, an unnecessarily small and practically unreadable font. Every year or two I usually pull it out and review it. My current copy is the version reprinted by Thomas E. Lowe Ltd., which restores many of the passages later abridged by other editors. It’s rather remarkable that many evangelical pastors who speak on the demonic assume that modern people are in a denial of the demonic based in 19th century naturalism when modern entertainment is filled with depictions of the demonic and spiritual, personal evil.

There is a remarkable passage which describes a counterfeit presence of God which feeds the self love of the believer. The description in the passage (Counterfeit Presence of God, in Chapter VI, Counterfeits of the Divine) is vivid enough that it’s hard not to conclude that they found that it was a counterfeit that a number of believers had experienced.

They first describe a very soothing experience, sometimes with even a spoken voice or a vision, in which the believer is given suggestions that he or she is specially chosen by God, and becomes hard, unteachable, unyielding and confident almost to the point of believing in his or her own infallibility. They mention deceptions of being a special instrument for God, being more advanced than others, and intended to feed self love, an independent spirit, and the taking of rash, unscriptural and even immoral actions. The believer at this point begins to trust in his or her experience, becomes puffed up with pride and neglects the call of conscience and the plain meaning and commands of the written Word of God.

I’ve at times met professed believers who are like this, and they have sometimes attested to experiences like this. I’m afraid, though, that Satan often feeds people nowadays with the same kinds of suggestions and deceptions, and may not even need to give them the same kinds of experiences to bolster their deceptions in these areas. With a generation behind us of psychological teachings on self esteem, people in our culture are more inclined to pride and conceit than in previous generations. And spiritual leaders seem to be more unaware than before of their peculiar vulnerability to these kinds of deceptions if they have not grown into a place of spiritual maturity: “(An elder) must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (I Timothy 3:6).

The goal here is not to scare anyone, but to make my brothers and sister in Christ aware that a proud spirit, one which is self absorbed, lives in a sense of superiority to fellow believers, believes and acts as if he or she has been given special privileges and authority from God, and does not receive the mildest correction from the written Word of God for deceitful, slanderous, abusive, tyrannical and aggressive behavior, may have a stronghold of demonically cultivated pride and conceit at its core. Discussion is usually fruitless with such a person, and anyone who says or does anything which threatens that person’s demonically nourished pride may find himself or herself being targeted with a counterattack which in its craftiness, malevolence and vehemence, can only be said to have come from the very pit of hell itself. This person needs to be made a subject of continuous prayer for a period of time and probably a day or two of fasting.

With my previous post on The Epidemic of Narcissism, believers who believe in the truth of the Bible and who know the reality of the supernatural must consider whether a person causing conflict in a family, a church or a workplace may not only fit the psychiatric profile of a narcissist, but may be under actual demonic influence. For myself, I’ve found that the ways to victory in those situations depend more on holding strongly to scripture and the truth of reality, and to spend time prayer and fasting than on being tough and glib. The real enemy in these circumstances is often not the human being in the situation, but at least one unseen supernatural being with superhuman cunning and malice.

For the believer, what James the brother of Jesus wrote pertains here: “  . . . Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:6-7, 10).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The Forgotten Hymnal and Neglected Hymns

Updated!

After the Bible, the book that I’ve used most often in my personal Bible reading, prayer and worship times has been a hymnal. I’ve had my own hymnal since 1981. It’s a forgotten aid to personal praise, worship and contemplation of universal Christian experience. In fact, many Christian homes throughout the 1800s and most of the 1900s had a copy of a hymnal, and families would often join together for singing hymns.

It also seems that the hymnal is being neglected in many modern churches. They sit in their racks while the words are projected onto screens in front of the church. While there were many churches where many of the congregation would mumble into the hymnal in the past, these seem to be being replaced by worship bystanders who stand around and look at the words during the times of praise to God. In either case, a congregation of men and women who know the joy of salvation can express their joy with either a rousing hymn or a rousing contemporary praise song. The presence of the hymnal in the hands of the worshippers or the words projected on the screen do not seem to make as much of a difference as the preparation of the heart and the presence of the joy of salvation.

At any rate, the danger in contemporary worship is in missing what I’ve heard Ravi Zacharias describe as objective worship, that is, the praise of the nature, character and works of God, in who he is in himself, and what he has done in history through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, apart from the worshipper’s own subjective experience. I can remember Ravi saying how the objective hymns, which declare and celebrate the eternal nature of God, helped him through many dark times. One’s own experience is changeable and temporary, and the objective hymns bring the worshipper into the realization of the eternal, unchangeable nature of God, and how secure a foundation faith in him and obedience to him is.

Even more, I would add that there is a danger in much contemporary worship of losing sight of the distinctive nature of Christian worship. Many songs address God simply as, “Lord”, and do not even mention the name of Jesus, let alone address God in a Trinitarian way. Many do not even mention the work of God in providing and bringing salvation through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in any kind of reverential or contemplative way. Others seem only to describe salvation as “God providing for all my needs,” which is hardly distinguishable than his providential provision for our physical needs. While I do regard God’s provision of my daily bread, clothing and lodging with deep gratitude, there is so much more for a believer to be thankful for in salvation, in being set free from the penalty and power of sin, in being transformed daily through the Holy Spirit, and in having the hope of heaven and the return of Jesus Christ to anticipate.

The often gushy subjectivism of many modern songs in worship services is often missing the reverence and sobriety which is more suited to the holy God of the universe, and an appreciation of the great hymns of the church can help to correct this. For example, I can remember being embarrassed at a phrase in a worship song which addressed Jesus as, “My love,” and I sung the phrase as, “My Lord,” because I was mortified at using a phrase with such common romantic overtones in worship. Joy in God and passion for God, yes, definitely, but no gushy pseudo-romanticism. My love for God and devotion to Christ is of an entirely different nature than my love for a girlfriend or wife would be, and anything in a worship song which sounds too romantic creeps me out. Likewise, many songs seem to focus too much on the worshippers telling God, and presumably themselves in the telling, that they are worshipping; it seems to be too much a self focus on me worshipping rather than a focus on the God who is being worshipped. Just as much, many contemporary songs seem to have too much “I” and “me” in them. For myself, I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for singing, “I’m Coming Back to the Heart of Worship” once I realized how many times the words “I” and “me” were in the song. Then, too, it seems sometimes that a phrase that one chorus writer uses seems to pop up in others for several years afterwards, and I personally call these repeated catchphrases, “worship clichés.” For example, I can remember a song where at a climactic moment the performer choked out an emotion laden, “I want to worship,” and my reaction was to think, “So what’s stopping you?” But for a long time afterwards, a number of other songs seemed to copy that same emotion laden phrase, to where it became trite, threadbare and more or less filler.

So then, let’s break open the hymnals once more. Remember that there is no such thing in a hymn or song as an ‘oldie but goodie’, but rather an ‘oldie and truthie.’ Even more, let’s learn, or if necessary, re-learn the hymns and songs which represent universal Christian convictions and experience, and keep them in our public services.

Here are a number of hymns which I believe reflect universal Christian convictions and experience, and which I believe warrant regular inclusion in our public worship services. It can often be very powerful to align one of these alongside a contemporary and popular Christian song, in a way that the worshippers can understand that they are entering into a deeper appreciation of the truth that they just sang.

“Holy, Holy, Holy” (Reginald Heber). the Trinitarian nature of this hymn and familiarity of its melody warrant it’s being sung at least every two months. It’s a reminder that we worship a holy God who has revealed himself in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“How Great Thou Art” (Author unknown). A wonderful rendering of praise to the God of creation and salvation.

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (Thomas O. Chisholm). Tends to be sung around Thanksgiving, but worthy to be sung year-round. A great celebration of the faithfulness of God in providence and salvation.

“To God Be the Glory” (Fanny Crosby). My vote for her best. A wonderful celebration of salvation; an example that a traditional hymn is not necessarily boring and stodgy.

“Blessed Assurance” (Fanny Crosby). Perhaps more familiar than the one above, and likewise joyful.

“Oh, for a Thousand Tongues” (Charles Wesley). Sing it with passion and joy, but not too fast. More musically adept congregations could try it in another melody besides the familiar Azmon.

“And Can It Be” (Charles Wesley). From a much longer poem purported to have been written on the day of Charles Wesley’s conversion, this celebrates the joy and truth of salvation in a way which few songs ever approach.

“Fairest Lord Jesus” (Author unknown). Praise and devotion to God the Son.

“The Old Rugged Cross” (George Bennard). In a world where people seem to become more and more proud and conceited, this song redirects the Christian back to what it means to glory in the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14) and to take up the cross daily (Luke 9:23).

“Rock of Ages” (Augustus Toplady). Many congregations sing this too loud and too fast, and leave out too many verses to grasp its full impact. There is no other song that I know of that expresses so well and so succinctly the Christian’s utter dependence on Christ alone for salvation, and the utter uselessness of anything that any Christian can add to it. If people in your church have a tendency to give demonstrative shows of tearful repentance at an altar call but show little change afterwards, make this the basis of your altar call!

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (Isaac Watts). This song used to be sung often at communion services, and it does make a fine accompaniment to the Eucharist. It’s worthwhile to learn and all its verses on its own, without the chorus that was recently added. Again, it shows our pride for the folly that it is in the light of the cross of Jesus.

"Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” (Isaac Watts). Likewise a contemplation and celebration of the cross of Jesus. It’s unfortunate that the phrase “for such a worm as I” is understood in terms of comparing oneself to an earthworm by many current authors, and not in the much more likely comparison to a serpent or dragon, which is what ‘worm’ actually meant (see the consistent usage of ‘worm’ in this sense in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, where the dragons Smaug and Glaurung are also called, “worms”). Watts was certainly comparing himself and others of the fallen race of Adam to being children of Satan, which is certainly Biblical, and certainly shocking to many overly optimistic modern self assessments (see Ephesians 2:2, Colossians 1:13 and John 8:44).

“Rejoice, the Lord Is King” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”  Celebrations of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which can be quite raucous for a congregation that really rejoices in it. Good to sing alongside, “He Is Lord” and “All Hail King Jesus.”

“He Lives” (Alfred H. Ackley). A celebration of the reality and presence of the risen Lord and Savior with the believer. Nice to add with Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (which has been true every day since the first Easter).

“Amazing Grace” (John Newton). An unrivalled appreciation of the saving grace of God in the life of a believer.

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Joseph Scriven). A wonderful reminder for those going through deep waters of adversity. I can remember a time when I added this into a worship service, followed by Helen Steiner Rice’s, “He Giveth More Grace,” and found people in tears all over the sanctuary. Many times in our worship services it seems like we concentrate so much on praise that sometimes it seems like that we forget that as we draw near to God, he is ready and willing to draw near to us and give us his comfort and strength.

“How Firm a Foundation” (Author unknown). Another hymn that speaks especially to those going through difficulties.

“O to be Like Thee” (Thomas O. Chisholm). One which gives the tremendously relevant reminder: holiness is Christlikeness, and his character is what we are responsible to display before this world.

“Just as I Am, Without One Plea” (Charlotte Elliott). Many of us can remember how the evangelistic services led by Billy Graham would close with this wonderful hymn, when he would give the invitation to those with spiritual interest to come forward. It’s also one that churches could stand to sing much more, even in the very beginning of a service, as a reminder that we don’t come to God in worship as having any achievements to offer him, but solely through faith in Jesus Christ, and what he has done for us in his death and resurrection.

These are just a few of the riches that are to be found in a hymnal, and a modern church which neglects a hymnal is one which inflicts on itself needless spiritual poverty.

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I do not want anyone to be left with the impression that all that I want to have sung in a church are the classic hymns. In my own ministry, I often included many choruses when leading worship services, and I think that many modern songs, such as Stuart Townend’s ‘In Christ Alone’ will be with us for decades to come. I can remember many songs of the 1970’s and 1980’s which have passed out of use, and they, along with many of the gospel testimony songs of the late 1800’s to the mid 1900’s deserved to be left behind, because of dated melody and trite, cliche laden language. It does seem that over time that which does not appeal to universal Christian experience with a decent melody does not last.

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My experience with classical poetry (Greek and Latin) and friendship with several others better educated than I in English poetry has given me some familiarity with simile and metaphor. One of my concerns with some of the songs which I’m hearing now is that the similes and metaphors are becoming more outlandish and obscure. While Isaiah could certainly spin a striking metaphor (trees clapping their hands, for instance), my fear is that some of what I’m hearing in metaphor and simile is simply echoing the outlandish and often obscure images found in modern poetry since the turn of the century. What this did was to make modern poetry more something written by scholars for other scholars than something that ordinary people could enjoy.

I’ve heard Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate of the US, speak on this, and his down to earth imagery has enabled his poetry to speak to ordinary people so much that he has been one of the few current poets to have a best selling book of poems. He’s also mentioned how from time to time he listens to country music because he relishes how well some songs turn a phrase. (Yes, I’ve met him personally, and found him to be a friendly man and a good conversationalist.) I’m bringing this up simply as someone who as a poet himself knows how to communicate to ordinary people through poetry and relishes it when he does communicate has himself avoided the way of these kinds of images.

The upshot of this is simply that good poetry – as lyrics should be — communicates to ordinary people and does not obscure with weird or surreal images and metaphors. To some extent, the King James language and Old Testament imagery in many of the hymns of the church have forced novices to the faith to ‘speak in tongues,’ as Peter Wagner once said. But usually the images are taken from some part of the scriptures. I have found myself wondering what in the world the metaphors and similes in the lyrics on some contemporary songs are talking about – and I’m not someone that regularly needs to have metaphorical language explained to me or find corresponding Biblical images. In other words, I don’t think that the wording in some contemporary songs is any clearer than some of the hymns that I found trite or obscure, and in some cases is markedly inferior. And lest I seem myself to be pedantic here, my concern is that people in our worship find that the songs and hymns reflect Biblical truth and universal Christian experience, and above all the nature and character of our great God as he has revealed himself in his Word. Otherwise, it’s too easy for an experience to be more someone being caught up in the melody of the music and the emotional experience of the group and less by the glory of God. Music can itself have an emotive and even emotionally manipulative quality in itself, based on the style, orchestration and tempo (think the magnificent background music to the Star Wars movies and the Lord of the Rings movies), and my caution is that where the wording is obscure and the music is exciting or emotive that it may be less the glory of God and more the influence of the music that is touching people in the congregation.

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A final note on a contemporary song which I think is often wrongly directed: For a long time I had some distaste for the song, “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” I then came to the conclusion that it is often taken at a tempo which is far too fast and with some claps at the end of phrases which are unnecessary. I started to sing it more slowly in my personal devotions, and then the song started to win my heart. For heaven’s sake, the song is a prayer for revival and spiritual awakening! It’s a song which should be sung much more slowly and reverently, with a broken and contrite heart. At the tempo which many churches and worship leaders take it, it sounds whiny, impatient, demanding and downright ditzy!

Previous Posts on Giftedness and Issues for GT Adults and GT Christians

Dangerous Infatuations

I’ve had these notes in my personal notebook for a while. I’ve seen some authors that deal with the GT (Gifted and Talented) experience mention how GTs can become involved in turbulent romantic relationships. I’ve seen it repeated often enough for me to put out these thoughts on the pattern that I’ve seen. I believe that there is much needless heartbreak that happens when there is an inability to see and deal with the pattern.

From my own observations, I’ve seen that it’s fairly easy for many of us to overwhelm someone else with our emotional intensity when the other person still hasn’t really decided how much he or she likes us.

Infatuation can be more intense for us because of our emotional intensity and active imagination; we might find ourselves more easily projecting our own feelings onto another person or overestimating the depth of a still fairly new and superficial relationship. I believe that a naïve reception of flirting, or a more consistent pattern of seductive, flattering attention from someone of the opposite sex  may contribute to overestimating the potential of the relationship and the depth of the other person’s affections.

This may lead to an obsessive, fantasy relationship where there may only be some acquaintance and friendship or simply where there has been some superficial flirting. In other words, one person is assuming that the other person has conceded the game, as in chess, when there have only been several opening moves. The other person may be unsure of his or her feelings, or may have in fact communicated that he or she does not return the same feelings either with words or with actions such as withdrawal and avoidance. Sometimes this leads to stalking behaviors — monitoring the other person’s comings and goings and romantic relationships with a watchful and jealous eye. I believe that this does happen for both men and women as well.

I think that sometimes these infatuations may be what can be called ‘merge wishes’: the object of infatuation has something about him or her that the infatuated perceives is lacking in himself or herself. These would be the kinds of relationships where there’s a kind of perception from others that the infatuated is ‘reaching up’ in some way.

At other times, I’ve been led to believe that these infatuations are more in the realm of power fantasies: the other person is seen to be someone that the infatuated can control or dominate in one way. In this situation a desire for power over another is projected onto the relationship.

Or, the infatuation may be allied to fear from past traumas: the attraction to the other person is mixed with a desire for someone who will not hurt the infatuated. Strangely enough, the power fantasy and trauma avoidant infatuations both seem to be directed to those who may seem to be passive or non-assertive.

This is what I would advise at this point:

First, beware if you see any kind of stalking behaviors in your own actions. The person that can stop stalking first and foremost is the stalker who comes to his or her own senses and says to himself or herself, "Stop!" The fantasy of dogged persistence conquering unrequited love happens in movies and novels far more often than it does in real life.

Second, be careful in regard to taking flirting and seductive, attention getting behaviors too seriously. Look for words and actions that demonstrate respect and reciprocity as well.

Third, find a friend or two to discuss things and put things into perspective on a relationship that you believe may have potential. A trustworthy person may be able to help you understand when to switch to the brake pedal and take your foot off the accelerator in the romantic pursuit of another person, and to see where perceived potential becomes foolhardiness. Someone else may also help to spot destructive character flaws, such as financial irresponsibility, extreme selfishness, deep dishonesty, etc., in the other person while you’re under the haze of infatuation.

Again, I think that GTs often face difficulties in this area because of our own tendencies to emotional intensity, strong attachments and active imagination. We may also find others who are more inclined to snicker at our difficulties than provide wise support when we need it. Or they may rather withhold their feedback until it’s too late. And I do believe in having a strong and passionate romantic relationship — but that there are times when you need to make sure that you kiss with your eyes open — to see yourself and the other person.

Several Examples of Christlike Forgiveness

Over the years I’ve come into contact with several examples of Christlike forgiveness. Many believers who remain trapped in decades of bitterness and unforgiveness, certainly will come to understand how utterly unjustified their bitterness is when they look at what God has done in the lives of others.

In the late 1970’s I was one of those who was requested to pray for the Lord to take the late Corrie ten Boom, who had at that time just suffered a debilitating stroke. Many will recall her from the book and movie The Hiding Place, or her other books as well. As it turned out, she had several more years to stay with us, and during that time became a witness that someone who cannot even speak plainly can show a radiant communion with God. But many forget that part of what she had to deal with to have her extraordinary ministry after World War II was an occasion which called for a deep forgiveness which many people will never have to contemplate. For at one time a former prison guard, who had played a large part in the death of her sister Betsie, met her, gave his testimony to having found a joyous salvation in Christ, and extended his hand to ask her forgiveness. And in what was doubtless a remarkable inward spiritual battle even by her own testimony, she extended her hand to extend her forgiveness.

The second example is that of Robert and Charlotte Hullinger. They were able by the grace of God to forgive Bill Coday, who murdered their daughter Lisa in September 1978.

The third example is that of the evangelical Christians in Lebanon. During the fall of 1987, I was privileged to spend time with my friend Darrell Phenicie, who served as a missionary with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Beirut. I was very glad to have been able to get Darrell a short interview on the local radio station. There was one thing that he said during that interview which has stayed with me ever since. He mentioned how he and the other leaders in the church taught the believers that the violence stops when it comes to them, that they were to be examples of the forgiveness and love of Christ no matter how they were treated.

It has been my observation (and I don’t think that it is unique to me) that once a believer – no matter what his or her position, previous achievements or reputation – starts to count up and brood over the wrongs that he or she thinks someone else has done to him or her, that at that point that person experiences a sudden halt in his or her growth in Christ, and, if this continues, a growing degradation, into a deepening bitterness and vindictiveness. Often enough, as time wears on, these same people become malicious sponges for the grudges of others and continuous critics, gossips and backstabbers.

Forgiveness of others, no matter how great the crime against us or small and unintentional the slight, is part of the key to maintaining a life in fellowship with Christ. It is often extremely hard to do so, though for someone who truly loves Jesus Christ and seeks to be obedient to his explicit commands in his Word, it is truly necessary. Even more, it becomes easier when that person realizes that it is not excusing any evil, however monstrous the deed, but rather something to be done out of obedience and love to Christ, and for his sake alone. Moreover, the ultimate example of forgiveness is Jesus himself, when he said, during his own crucifixion, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

So, if you are a person who claims to be a follower of Christ, review your log of hurts, slights, grudges and complaints about others. Make them a matter of explicit forgiveness before God. What that person said or did is not too monstrous before God for you to forgive. Understand that God did not give you either the wisdom, power or authority to hold whatever happened in your heart or to use it against that person at any time for any reason. Take the time in prayer before God to declare your forgiveness for that person for that deed forever. Write it down somewhere, in a personal prayer journal if you have one, that you have forgiven that person and for what. If you have a problem with bringing it back to memory, erase what you have written about the offense, or use white-out to blot it out. Do not bring whatever happened again up to use it against that person ever again. Jesus himself gave the direction on when and how this is to be done: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Reading Charnock

Over the past several years, as part of my devotional reading, it has been my deep pleasure to have been reading the massive work of the Puritan pastor and theologian Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God. It’s been slow going even for me, not because I’m a slow reader by any means, but because he is an author to be savored. It’s rather amazing how many notions of later dates he anticipates, such as the possible existence of other worlds and the denial of the foreknowledge of God. His methodology is pretty sound, starting with propositions set forth in the Bible about the nature and existence of God and reasoning from there. More than many theologians, he ‘shows his work’; that is, he displays a chain of reasoning rather than making statements. And one cannot spend much time with him without finding one’s worship and devotion to God deeply enriched.

If you’re thinking that I think that a good dose of Charnock would be immensely helpful for contemporary pastors, theologians and apologists, you are quite correct. Many fall prey to the contemporary at the expense of the timeless, and much that Charnock writes is simply sound theology based on God’s revelation of himself and sound reasoning based on revelation. Even more, though, many modern believers who are part of our congregations would find Charnock quite nourishing to their souls. So often, it seems like modern evangelicalism has fallen prey to being just one more form of self help and a kind of a psychologized moral therapy rather than a pursuit of God.

Some prerequisites to Charnock for those who fear the depth of his theology and his 17th century language would be A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy and J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. In any case, I would recommend keeping these kinds of books on hand and revisiting them regularly over the years. They may help to keep us out of the folly of running after the latest author with the latest spiritualized self help gimmick. Even more, they may help to keep us in fostering and deepening that relationship with the God of the Bible, which those of us who claim that we have through faith in Jesus Christ.