Monday, July 16, 2018

What is Truth?




"Truth...is not a set of facts or specific answers, but a starting point for reasoning that empowers us to find the answers as particular problems arise...this is what Jesus meant...the starting point is himself."
Phillip E. Johnson, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago; law clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren; taught law for thirty years at the University of California at Berkeley and author of, among other books, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds


"'I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.'" John 17:13-21


"'You are a king, then!' said Pilate.
Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'" John 18:37


"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority." Colossians 2:9-10


Sunday, July 15, 2018

When the World Makes You Crazy


When the world makes you crazy, and you wonder how drag queen story hours for children are now a normal part of programming at the local public library, 
and when there is more outcry for an animal that must be killed than for the child that it attacked, 
and when canvassers on the street corner call out for women’s rights when that does not include the right of an unborn female to be born, 
and when people’s uptightness causes them to honk their horns at the car in front of them that is waiting patiently for a pedestrian to cross the street, 
and when shootings happen daily and suicide is on the rise and all sense of decorum goes out the window when it comes to politics, 
and when one is actually scared to voice their advocacy for traditional values—such as a mother choosing the high calling of forgoing work outside the home to raise her children, 
and when the “F” bomb and other cursing has become an accepted part of the vernacular—forced on those within earshot and no different than second-hand smoke in its pollution…

then do as Jesus did:

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’”

Weep and pray, for they do not know what they are doing.


Copyright Barb Harwood



Friday, July 13, 2018

The Mindset Behind Secular Humanist Churches


Ever wonder why churches are, or become, secular in their theology? 

Look no further than Luke 22:2 and Mark 11:18:

“and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.”

The NASB translation puts it a bit stronger:

“The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.”

“The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” Mark 11:18 NIV

“The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” Mark 11:18 NASB

Notice that the chief priests and teachers—the religious and spiritual leaders of the day—were afraid of Jesus not because of Jesus, per se, but because of the people.

And this fear and dislike of what was transpiring was so desperate that they desired to, and were willing to, actually and literally kill Christ. They just wanted to make it all go away.

They did not like the notoriety and positive reception Jesus was getting from the people; the leaders were jealous, and also did not like the threat that Jesus posed to their legalisms and the fact that Christ was turning people away from those legalisms.

Mark 12:38 reveals these leaders’ pride and why Jesus would indeed elicit their hostile response:

“As He taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows houses and  for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’” Mark 12:38-40

It’s the same today: the liberal, and at-times downright secular trend of much church leadership today is to soft-pedal Christ and dilute and strip the Bible of authority so that, just like the Pharisees, they can make the whole Jesus thing simply go away.

That way, the people will follow their teachings instead of Christ’s—people will follow their secular, agnostic, universalist and human legalisms—and people will make them their authority, lavishing adoration on their intellectual prowess, which is often camouflaged as sincere “open-mindedness.”

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Matthew 7:13-15

Beware, says Christ, because the underlying impetus is self pride, not the love of Christ. 

It’s interesting that, just before Jesus gives his warning in the Mark verse quoted above, he takes a question from one of the teacher’s of the law:

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’” Mark 1228-31

The teachers of the law had no problem loving themselves without Christ. That is precisely the problem. Because, without the love of Christ, they could not love others as Christ would. They could only love others as they loved themselves—without Christ. 

And so, within that love of others was the sinister motive of having others love them—the Pharisees—as the Pharisees loved themselves. 

In other words, with Christ, we are to love the Lord Jesus Christ and God—who are one—first. Only then can we love ourself and others in the love of Christ. 

The Pharisees, with no love of Christ, are unable to love others in the love of Christ; they can only love others in the manner they love themselves, which is to put themselves first before others, and to love only those who love them back (read about the good Samaritan to find more proof of this). 

This mindset is prevalent today in religious institutions: from the church, to Christian universities and seminaries, and every other organization that has based itself on a secular humanist co-opting of Christ. 

They may celebrate Christ as a great teacher and role model, but will deny his Deity, literal death and resurrection, and His sole role in redemption from the spiritual death of sin.

This is why Jesus was so stern in alerting his disciples (and in alerting us today):

“Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6

and

“How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:11-12

and

“Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1

I would like to share a modern-day case in point to illustrate how this same hypocrisy exists today in churches that call themselves Christian:

I once asked a good friend if I, a born again Christian, would be welcome in his Unitarian church (Unitarianism, as with United Church of Christ, holding to the motto “all are welcome”). My friend paused a bit and after thinking it over, grudgingly admitted, “No, you would not.” 

I, a born again Christian, would not be welcome in his church. Hypocrisy? Of course it is. 

And yet secular humanist religious institutions get a free pass, never even remotely being associated with hypocrisy, while this term is self righteously hurled, everyday, by people as a reason against their ever reading the Bible or looking further into the person of Jesus Christ. Ironic that they are okay with turning a blind eye to secular humanist religious hypocrisy; willing, even, to join in. 

The problem is the same today as it was when Jesus walked the earth: I, as do all born again Christians, bring something fearful to the secular religious mindset: and that is Jesus Christ Himself and new life in Him alone. 

Some folks call that a legalism, Scripture calls it truth. 

And it is hypocrisy to say, as secular humanist agnostics do, that “all are welcome,” when in reality, the Biblical Christ and His followers are not.

Jesus brought truth to the people of the Pharisees’ day, and the leaders weren’t having any of it. 

But the people were. The people were having it! 

And those who had ears to hear and eyes to see found the peace of God through Christ while the scoffers continued on in blindness.

It’s the same today.

If a church is afraid of Christ, His Word, Redemption, Salvation and His people, it is because they love themselves and the appraisal of the world more than they love Jesus. 

We are to love them in the love of Christ, within the warning of Christ: to beware, to be careful, to be on our guard, so that the leven of the modern day Pharisees—those who set themselves up as spiritual movers and shakers—does not derail our seeking, our finding and our living out of truth. 

“I have given them your Word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As.you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:14-19 


“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.” 

“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:1-10


copyright Barb Harwood





Monday, July 9, 2018

Naturalism Need Not Own Creation


I'm doing some reading on naturalism, and found these two quotes to be insightfully measured:

"Because God created an ordered universe marked by regularities, scientific inquiry can indeed go quite far, successfully, by concentrating its attention on 'natural laws,' mechanisms, and regularities. But it is easy to elevate these things to an autonomous status, that is, to turn God's created order into a brute given, to make it the ultimate reality. Indeed, it is possible, to use the blunt and unmistakable language of the prophets and the apostle Paul, to make an idol of nature." 
Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds writing in Three Views on Creation and Evolution

"I am concerned about the prevalence of the idea that science by definition excludes the supernatural. I think this is an unnecessary restriction that distorts the results one can obtain from an examination of the data of nature. If any supernatural events have taken place in the history of our universe (as I believe they have, from my study of the Bible and of nature), and if they have had any profound effect on the course of events in that history (as I also believe), then the insistence that science must always assume a natural explanation for every event means that science is no longer seeking to understand what really happened. This, to put it mildly, is devastating. Scientists, by profession, should be truth-seekers." 
Robert C. Newman (who holds a doctorate in theoretical astrophysics from Cornell University and has done graduate work in cosmic gas dynamics at the University of Wisconsin, in addition to other scientific and biblical studies and degrees) writing in Three Views on Creation and Evolution





Friday, July 6, 2018

The Un-Tamed Sin of Our Thoughts


Sometimes, I believe, we are tempted to understand sin as a proactive entity only; in a “thou shalt not” sort of way. 

So we might succeed in intentionally refraining from doing something specific, such as smoking, drinking, cussing, cheating, etc. 

But when it comes to observations, responses and reactions, especially to someone else’s proactive sin, we may not have developed the spiritual muscle for keeping unplanned, spontaneous thought-sin in check. 

This sort of sin can be difficult to feel conviction about, because, if we notice it at all, we tend to label (and thus excuse) it as a “habit,” a “warped sense of humor,”  “witty sarcasm” or a “sense of justice and principle.” 

We may overrule and continue in this thinking through a justification of “they had it coming” or “they sinned first.” 

This thought-sin is still a sin even if it goes unspoken. If it exists in the mind, then it exists.

Why is it that, as maturing Christians, we can gain such a great sensitivity to sin and the ability to gain victory over and keep an ongoing distance from unprovoked personal acts of sin, while at the same time, apparently, fail to build the discipline and spiritual fitness that can ward off sudden and non pre-meditated sin of the mind? (this kind of sin may or may not lead to sinful physical acting out). 

This spiritual lack is why arguments escalate, silent treatments stubbornly settle in, and animosity simmers. This is why what began as a “harmless” inner personal judgment of someone leaches into critical commentary on just about everyone. 

When sin gets an inch, it’ll take a mile. And in the laziness of our thought life, pretty soon all of life is open to our rancorous estimation and opinion. 

It’s like when Jesus told the Pharisees that the outside of their cup was clean, but the inside still dirty (Matthew 23 and Luke 11). . 

What good is it if we don’t smoke, drink, cuss or cheat if, at the same time, we harbor hate, jealousy, resentment, anger and superiority? 

Don’t get me wrong. Shedding proactive physical sin is difficult. It is a victory worth praising and celebrating. We are unequivocally called to tackle these sins through the empowering Holy Spirit and our salvation in Christ. 

But for myself, I can see how I allow more private, unexposed sin to loiter, barricading further maturity in Christ, which leads to bearing less fruit. 

Much of this silent sin lives on in the thought life

And though I’ve repeatedly made the attempt, the cleaning of my thinking cap, if you will, is a stickler. 

To be honest, I have made much progress, through Christ, in this area. And yet, I am needled, in a good way, by the fact that I am still falling short and increasingly bothered by it. 

That, I would venture, is the beginning of building the endurance of a thicker skin: Christ’s skin: receiving people and their comments the way He would, observing the world in all its successes and flaws the way He would, thinking things of people as we pass them on the street that Christ would think. 

The Bible says, 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

I am struck by the first word, “Finally.” Yes, finally indeed! 

After close to eighteen years of being a Christian, am I finally at the place of taking this verse from memory to action? 

Am I ready to dwell here, permanently, as this verse commands? Or, like the seed fallen on shallow ground, will this verse bloom for a day and then wither (Matthew 13:20-22)?

Finally….

What does this word follow in Paul’s discourse? Perhaps that will instruct us as to how we can accomplish, finally, the cleaning of the inside of the cup, which is the only way we will be able to end reactive, spontaneous thinking and its sinful outcomes.

Here’s what Paul says, just before Philippians 4:8

“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of his power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 
Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord…  ” Philippians 3:17-4:2

Let’s stop there a minute as we get closer to “finally.”

Notice two things:
    1. Paul has told his listeners about those who walk according to the pattern of the world, as enemies of the cross, before. He tells them now again, “even weeping!” Is this something Paul is desperate to get across? Yes! Does it seem he may be having some difficulty since now he is not only reminding them but this time in tears?

      Paul is looking directly at me! He’s saying, “Barb, I’ve told you a million times that there will be people who push sin’s buttons, your sin buttons! Beware! Don’t fall for it (hence Peter’s warning in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober of spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”).
    2. Paul immediately cites two people by name, Euodia and Syntyche. These two women were Christians, serving with Paul and in the church, but who were not getting along with each other to the point that it was becoming common knowledge to many in the community. Paul is saying here that just because we are Christians we are not off the hook for taking the high road, for having the mind of Christ and keeping the inside of our cup clean even amidst disagreement, personality clashes and any other issue that comes between people. We are to get it through our heads: to keep the mind (thought life) of Christ at all times and with all people.

      We, as confessed followers of Christ, are not to set our minds on earthly things (sinful thinking).

      Why?

      Because our citizenship is in heaven. When we entered God’s kingdom through Christ, our citizenship transferred to Heaven. That is where we reside now, even while still on earth, and it is where we will be, after our time here is complete. Our thinking, if it allies with that, will thus be that of Christ, not ourself or any man.

      That is what we stand firm in, and that is how we get to “finally…

    But there’s one more thing:

    “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

    Which brings us to Philippians four, verse eight:

    “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”


    Copyright Barb Harwood


    “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

    ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD,
     AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN,
    ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.’

    For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 

    But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:6-14

    Wednesday, July 4, 2018

    The Foundation of Freedom


    Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, addressing the recent graduates of Hillsdale College:

    "Fatih has always been the wellspring of hope for millions of Americans. It has been the foundation of our freedom as well. Our Founders recognized religious faith as essential to maintaining our republic. In the words of our nations' first Vice President, John Adams: 'Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.'"



    Monday, July 2, 2018

    Free to Be in God's Will


    (This is a re-posting of a piece I wrote on July 1, 2010). 










    Nick Flatoff, photo




















    Free to Be in God's Will
    I was reading Jeremiah 34 the other day; how the people of Israel made a promise before God to free their slaves. They freed them, but later decided to take them back as their slaves again. God, seeing this, tells the people through the Prophet Jeremiah that, since they have not provided freedom to their slaves as they proclaimed, He is giving them freedom to “fall by the sword…” I guess if we’re looking for a terrific accountability verse, this is it!
    In Jeremiah 34, I see proof that there is free will: we are free to chose to either be in God’s will or our own or someone else’s will. God promises to guide and lead us if we let Him, but ultimately, we act on that guidance and leading or we don’t. And when the folks in Jeremiah 34 decide to initially obey God, but then change their minds, He holds them accountable. Just as God gives them liberty to live in His blessing, He also gives them liberty to break promises and live outside of His blessing.
    Many people today focus on a forgiving God only and miss this point completely. God is a forgiving God, as the Old Testament proves over and over again. But He also lets people skin their knees a few times. To allow us to “fall by the sword” doesn’t mean God isn’t forgiving. It means there are consequences to our disobedience. Those consequences can be in the form of broken relationships, poor health, lost jobs, inner guilt, or just a lackluster and unfruitful faith life.
    God puts such a high priority on covenant in His Word, we are foolish if we think He is going to take any promise we make lightly, or not hold us to it. That is why Jesus tells us to count the cost before we follow Him: because He will hold us accountable to the Christian life we profess (Luke 14:28). He will forgive us every time we repent, but forgiveness is not the same as accountability.
    Our nation celebrates many freedoms on July 4th. But every day is a day of liberty with God: the liberty to follow Him seriously, or the liberty to seriously deny Him and pay the consequences. And as much as it can sting to be held accountable by God, it always leads to more freedom from the bondage to sin.
    copyright Barb Harwood

    “Therefore, this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine.” Jeremiah 34:17

    “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’“ Luke 14:27-30