Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Heavens Declare

Barb Harwood Photos

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."
Psalm 19:1-4

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chris Christie Willing to Take a Stand

The following article

is a great example of how judgment calls are a good thing.

One of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture is “do not judge.” Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, take this to mean, “Keep your opinions to yourself.” Yet, that isn’t what “do not judge” means. It means God will judge (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; Romans 2) and only God knows the heart (1 Kings 8:39-40). We aren’t to think of ourselves as being more valuable in God’s sight than anyone else (John 3:16; Romans 2:11; Romans 12:3; 1 Timothy 2:3; 2 Peter 3:9). We are to pray for the lost and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 10:1-3; Romans 12:14;1 Timothy 2:8). We are to be forgiving, understanding that those we forgive must face consequences for their actions, just as we, too, are forgiven by God when we repent yet will face consequences for our actions (Proverbs 3:11-12; Mark 6:12; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; Hebrews 12:6; 2 Peter 3:9).

The Bible, however, says we are not to love the things and ways of the world (John 15:18-25; John 17:24; John 17:14-15; Romans 12:2; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17), and is full of verses that talk about discernment and correction and having nothing to do with false teaching (1 John 2:18-26; 1 John 3:1-6; 2 John 1:7-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 1 Timothy 5:24-25; 2 Peter 3:17). In fact the book of Jude devotes itself to warning believers how close to the brink of destruction they are by allowing “teachers” who mishandle the truth and lead others astray to enter the church. Jude implores the believers to compassionately rescue these apostates if they can, all the while being very careful that they don’t fall into the false teaching themselves. The Bible tells us to be on our guard and to wear the armor of God for protection to stand strong in our faith (Ephesians 6:10-18). The devil, it says, prowls like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Yet, even in the hostile picture of the world that the Bible portrays, we are to admonish in love and gentleness as we stand on the firm foundation of what we believe (2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Timothy 2: 25-26; Colossians 3:16-17). I believe Chris Christie did exactly that. He is standing for what he believes in (and represents many others in agreement with him) and matter-of-factly taking action to remove support for an entity that is derogatory and not worthy of positive recognition or support. Oh that more would follow his lead.

Some are sure to criticize Christie for his actions, saying that now production companies will go elsewhere to film. Let them. There’s a thing in this country called prerogative. Just as Jersey Shore producers and actors have the prerogative to make a tasteless program, politicians have the prerogative to say "not with my tax money" (in the case of Italy, "not in my country," which is basically the cool reception Jersey Shore is getting there. That country doesn’t want the show, or any money it might bring in, either).

I find it incredibly refreshing that Christie has made a judgment call. We hear about the “culture war” all the time. But how can it be fought if everyone is afraid to ruffle someone else’s feathers? Is it only okay for a shoddy program to have its say, but not anyone else? The only way we’ll start winning the culture war is if we actually enter a battle! I thank Chris Christie for doing exactly that.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world..." Romans 12:2

"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart...Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:22; 25-26

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God Is With Us Right Now

Barb Harwood photo

This morning was one of those mornings where the sun, early autumn colors of purple and gold, a bit of rain, blue sky and large dark clouds all converged. I sat on my porch and thought, “this is the amalgam of life.”

On any given day, life is usually a mix of two or more—sun with rain, or sun with color, or rain with color, or clouds with rain. And sometimes, more often than we even know, all five! That’s when life can get complicated. Yet, this morning was one of the most beautiful of the entire year. And the overriding quality was calm. In spite of the white clouds spilling up and out of the dark sky and the rain, the flowers stood still and the sun glistened off the water drops hanging silently from petals. Remarkably, there was no wind.

God is our calm, too, in the midst of the mix of daily life. This is a reminder I need. As my Dad summed it up yesterday as he related the health issues of his ten-year-old dog, “That’s life.” Life is often out of our control. But even with the diversity of situations, and the aging and death and new birth, living is beautiful because God is present in it. Our days are a hue of brilliance and grey. But God is with us; in joy and in anguish, pain and trepidation, humor and blessing. God is in this life, this very moment, with us.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scripture in the Hands of Politicians and Clueless Writers

I once heard an actress say, "Everyone is an expert on the Bible, yet very few people have actually read it." An article appearing in today's Midwest Christian Outreach highlights the problems that occur with bad exegesis (explanation or interpretation), or no interpretation at all but a mere parroting of what one has heard but never examined for themselves. Journalists, especially, are to be held to a higher standard when it comes to getting things right. If a journalist isn't familiar with the Bible and is unwilling to become familiar with it in a manner of integrity, then perhaps they should leave matters of theology to those who are.

Here's the article, written by Jonathan Miles. It is an extremely worthwhile read for the times we live in:

(Midwest Christian Outreach is a resource I've benefitted from since the early days of my Christian walk. One of the things I like about it is that it is independent of any denominational loyalty, and is sincere in its attempt to rightly handle Scripture and do sound Biblical apologetics (a defense of), often with a refreshing sense of humor!)

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Here is the Church

Barb Harwood, photos

My son spent last weekend at a freshman college retreat and was quite upset that he had to listen to yet another Christian speaker talk about how “the church isn’t doing anything.” In fact, according to my son, this particular speaker faulted churches for spending more money on missions conferences than on actually doing missions. Yet isn’t it ironic that this critique is coming from none other than a conference speaker?

My son said that the speaker’s closing remarks included the child’s finger play game, “Here is the church, here is the steeple.” Only this speaker changed it to, “Here are the doors, where is the church?” A dramatic soundbite, maybe, but I see it as a cheap shot, and certainly not biblical. I’m sure all the students in the crowd who are involved in ministries were really encouraged and edified. Not!

The apostle Paul is our example of how to disperse criticism. And I certainly wish I’d studied his model in the past in dealing with my own differences with church. But maybe because I’ve been there, I know that this conference speaker is off base. The Bible tells us Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Not that we aren’t to have discernment, concern and constructive criticisms. The verse itself says we are to think about whatever is true, and that can involve some confrontation. Paul, however, in addressing his listeners and churches, always starts out with a praise or edification. Nobody wants to feel constantly beat upon, especially if they already are “doing something” (which the conference speaker has no way of knowing. Often, a speaker or author will assume their audience is doing nothing, or that the audience is doing all the work and everyone “out there” is doing nothing. Again, these “experts” have no way of knowing what everyone “out there” is doing).

So, before his corrective teachings, Paul first says something positive to build up and encourage, and only after that does he explain where the churches are in error. He follows that, in turn, with instruction on the specific changes that need to be made going forward. Again, many authors and speakers on the circuit today shoot off about the church not being “authentic” or “radical” or “relevant,” but never give an answer as to how to be that way. In fact, they often say we need to be in a “conversation” to figure it all out. Well, the conversation has been going on for several years now and these authors and speakers continue to claim, “Nothing’s being done.” Maybe the “conversation” approach is the problem, not the church.

The second point is that, if a person critiques a church based on works that meet their personal definition of works, the church will often look like it isn’t doing anything simply because it isn’t doing what that particular person considers works! Jesus, in John 6:29 says, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” The church as Jesus commissioned it is to preach the Gospel. Acts 4:18-19 says, “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

In studying this, I looked to “A Biblical Theology of the New Testament” by Roy B. Zuck, where author Darrell Bock states, “So the new community saw herself as called to obey God by continuing to preach the message of Jesus to the people…Peter noted that the new community will obey God, not man…The church considered it an honor to be able to share the message and asked for boldness to do the job” (see Acts 4:29.)

In Luke, the church is to be a witness as well: “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (24:45-47).

Jesus commissioned His church to be a believing church and to share the way to that belief with others so that they, too, can receive the gift of new life here and in heaven (and from someone who is about to go in for a biopsy, the notion of some that we focus too much on heaven is, I believe, also not biblical. Even thinking that I may have cancer, as small of a chance as it is, makes me incredibly grateful for the hope and reality of heaven. I know people whose fear of death—especially as they age--has them caught in despair. Don’t we want to give them the scissors that will cut them loose from that chain of despair?).

Yet many in the church today don’t find the reading, teaching and sharing of the Gospel, along with prayer and witness, as worthy. But everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ needs to go back and see that belief in Jesus and His Word is not relegated to one random, remote page of Scripture, never to be mentioned again! Nor is the sharing of the Gospel. It’s all right there throughout and is, in fact, part and parcel of loving one’s neighbor.

With that, I lift up the following members of the Body of Christ to show that indeed, the church is doing something!! May looking at what people are already doing encourage us to get involved if we aren’t already!


A Lutheran High School Graduate of the Class of 1998 is “leaving her position at Pella Corporation in Pella, IA to train with Youth With a Mission.” YWAM’s stated purpose is to “know God and to make Him known,” and includes short-term evangelistic missionary journeys, educational training, church planting, business as mission and relief and development services.

Another LHS Graduate, Class of 2009, spent four weeks in Uruguay as a missionary for Campus Crusade for Christ, and has been involved with the Madison chapter the last two years. She helped build a campus ministry in Montevideo.

Southside Alliance Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin has the following outreach: “Forgiven and Set Free” confidential Bible Study for those seeking healing from an abortion; Faith-in-Action Sunday with a focus on “Going to Church to Being the Church;” several home groups focusing on building Godly relationships; and a recovery ministry and archery ministry, both open to the public. SSA includes a Ministry Start-Up form on their website, which implies that anyone with an idea can get started!

First Baptist Church in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, is holding a fundraising banquet for the Alpha Women’s Center in Milwaukee. Alpha Women’s Center is a crisis pregnancy center offering counseling and abortion alternatives, along with parenting support and programs. Faith Baptist Church in Plymouth, Wisconsin is also one of its supporters and recently delivered diapers and other baby supplies to the center.


Third Christian Reformed Church of Denver, Colorado sent an adult team to Mexico in April, and supports missionaries in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Cambodia. Their local outreach includes working with the Khmer Christian Reformed Church in nearby Aurora. The website says, “The Cambodian ministry is bringing the Good News of God's Word to our Cambodian neighbors in the Denver area. The Khmer CRC ministers to an average of 80 adults who faithfully attend each Sunday with their children.” There is also a Cambodian Teen Youth Ministry that meets every Thursday evening. Third Christian Reformed also partners with the Sun Valley Community Church, where “the ministry is shaped by a neighborhood consisting of primarily single-parent families with few financial resources. Our vision is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ as the solution to life's challenges, while demonstrating our care and concern. Our ministry at Sun Valley is through pastoral support, gifts of food, clothing, and support of their tutoring program. Sun Valley Church is a place of worship for this community.” This is just a partial list of all of the things Third Christian is involved in.

The Presbyterian Reformed Church of Charlotte, North Carolina is involved with Bible distribution and translation; African Bible College in Uganda; Voice of the Martyrs—a non-profit interdenominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide; a church plant in Italy; support of a church in Malawi and two students at Knox Seminary in Uganda.


Central Baptist Church in Victoria, British Columbia, which I attended while on vacation, supports missionaries in Sudan, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Argentina, South Africa and the Philippines. In their community of Victoria, they do the following outreach: hold a monthly free hot breakfast; offer free ESL classes in conjunction with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center Society; and send volunteers from church to go into the near-by elementary school weekly to help students learn to read.

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” John 20:21

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Samaritan's Purse - Food Distribution - South Sudan Airdrop

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Singing I Go Along Life's Road, Jesus Has Lifted My Load

Barb Harwood

Brad and I recently visited Olympic National Park in Washington. While hiking one day, we met a man and his wife on the trail and, as we began talking, soon found ourselves with a brother and sister in Christ. It turns out this man, John, is recovering from a near death-bed experience, in which he was hospitalized for a year. He almost died several times. His throat had stopped functioning so he had been on a feeding tube. As I understand it, one day something happened with the feeding tube and on that same day, in the words of our new friend, “God healed me.” John was suddenly able to swallow.
John’s telling of his story on the trail that day coincided with my own inner healing from a summer of emotional turmoil; a summer where I couldn’t seem to shake what a good friend of mine describes as “the black fog.” I had never experienced anything quite like it, and didn’t like that I couldn’t “snap out of it” (from the outside, things weren’t bad, making how I felt inside even worse!)
Right before our vacation, I knew I had to make a decision: either let this overwhelming pall entrench itself even deeper, or trust God with this thing as much as I trust Him with my salvation. That was the question I kept asking myself: “If you trust God with your Salvation, can’t you also trust Him with this?” What is faith if we don't use it? Why even have it, what's the point?
God led me to the psalms and to places in the Bible that focus on God’s victory over attack and fear (mainly in the person and life of David). I asked--begged, really--God over and over again to replace my spirit of fear with hope and to not let me be shaken, come what may. As I did, redirecting all fearful and sad thoughts to God and “praying without ceasing” for Him to encourage my heart, the “black fog” moved on. Just like John’s throat was suddenly functioning, so was I. To God be the glory, life is good again!
So when I sang the following hymn in a church service last night, I couldn’t help but smile. The words describe exactly what I’ve just experienced, and what I’m sure my new friend John experienced. The lyrics state truths we should know, and surely do know. But sometimes it takes weird times of testing and trial to sharpen the iron of our faith into something new and courageous and moving forward.

Singing I Go
Lyrics: Eliza E. Hewitt

Music: William J. Kirkpatrick
The trusting heart to Jesus clings,

Nor any ill forebodes,

But at the cross of Calv’ry, sings, 

Praise God for lifted loads!
Singing I go along life’s road,

Praising the Lord, praising the Lord,
Singing I go along life’s road,
For Jesus has lifted my load.
The passing days bring many cares,

“Fear not,” I hear Him say,

And when my fears are turned to prayers,

The burdens slip away.
Singing I go along life’s road,

Praising the Lord, praising the Lord,
Singing I go along life’s road,
For Jesus has lifted my load.
He tells me of my Father’s love,

And never slumb’ring eye,

My everlasting King above

Will all my needs supply.
Singing I go along life’s road,

Praising the Lord, praising the Lord,
Singing I go along life’s road,
For Jesus has lifted my load.
When to the throne of grace I flee,

I find the promise true,

The mighty arms upholding me

Will bear my burdens too.
Singing I go along life’s road,

Praising the Lord, praising the Lord,
Singing I go along life’s road,
For Jesus has lifted my load.
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;” Ezekiel 36:26

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor of Love

A man selling fish can experience his work as a labor of love when he understands it as a high calling of God. Barb Harwood, photo

What is a "labor of love?"

I used to think it meant indulging in a passion, which I did not associate with paid employment. Painting a landscape, redoing a kitchen, bringing a 1969 Nova back to its former glory, all qualified. But I never associated that which is done in order to earn a paycheck as a “labor of love” because I saw going to work every day as something people had to do. When there’s no choice in the matter, it may be labor, but it certainly cannot be labor that we love.

My worldview on that has drastically changed along with the change in my larger worldview from that of a secular humanist to a born again Christian. Just like God transformed my worldview on what it means to be a mother and wife (not to mention a woman in general), God changed my worldview on employed work.

In the past, I held some jobs in high esteem (those would be considered “careers”) and many jobs in low esteem (those would be considered “dead end”). But I (along with the world that reinforces these views) got it wrong. Only after experiencing a supposed “career” job did I realize that I enjoyed my “lowly” job as a car wash attendant more than my professional position as a copywriter for a trade journal!

The point isn’t to now knock what is commonly considered career work. No. The point is to understand and believe that all jobs can be labors of love (considering the large percentage of our lives on earth given over to employment, shouldn’t they be?). It would follow then, would it not, that if a person loves their position as a car wash attendant, and another loves their position as office copywriter, they’re both equally valid labors of love?

They are in God’s eyes. When we do the work God sets in front of us at any given time and for any given purpose, we can devote ourselves to that course of employment as a labor of God’s love, because we do it through the power of the God who loves us and whom we love and who gave us the ability to do work in the first place. What a high calling our sweeping, filing, fixing, driving, serving, phoning, computing, constructing, teaching, mediating, leading, faxing, healing, etc. becomes when we see it as being done for God and through His grace and giftedness!

Pastimes are indeed rewarding and can fill voids that our paid employment cannot. But the way we earn our living need not be something lesser, or drudgery, simply because it’s necessary. Our place and activity of employment can morph into a labor of love when we understand it as a place where a loving and faithful God serves through us and through which we can glorify and please Him. God becomes our true boss, manager, and co-worker rolled into one.

May your work be a labor of God’s love!

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24