Monday, February 27, 2017

Paul Tournier on Crossing the Threshold Into Maturity

Quote for the Day:

"...there are moments in a man's life which may be decisive turning points. Moments of crisis, in which he may be tempted to run away from himself, to add one more defeat to his life in order to hide other defeats; or else he may, on the contrary, begin to be really honest with himself, have the courage to make a frank reckoning of his faults, to accept their consequences, and to mend them in order to start again with an entirely new life." 
Paul Tournier, in his book, The Healing of Persons

"...only before God can we get rid of the formidable barriers which prevent a man from speaking frankly about his shortcomings..." Paul Tournier

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Temptation of Identity

    Quote of the day:

     "Then Satan tempted Jesus in one other profound way. He tested Jesus at the point of his identity....
     How did Jesus handle this temptation about his identity?...Jesus' answer was 'It is written.' What was the basis of Jesus' understanding of reality? Was it his feeling on a particular day? No. Jesus derived his sense of identity from his relationship to God and from the written Word of God. 
     If Satan attacked Jesus first at the level of his identity, we can expect a similar assault. Jesus shows us that our self-image, our sense of worth, our understanding of who we are must be rooted in God's Word. How we happen to feel about ourselves on a particular morning has nothing to do with it." 
Rebecca Manley Pippert, writing in her book, Out of the Salt-Shaker and Into the World

"Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'" Luke 3:21-22

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flannery O'Connor on Christianity's Enhancement of Learning

Faith "is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian skepticism. It will keep you free - not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects of those around you..." 
Author Flannery O'Connor, in a letter to a college student seeking her guidance on living his faith while attending college. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jettisoning the Man-Centered Christian Life

As I reflect over the past 16 years of being a person born anew in Jesus, and as I consider the trajectories and landings of others, I am convinced more and more of the sovereignty of God in the salvation and spiritual maturing of each person.

Whether we, or our children, were raised in a “Christian home” (and the endless definitions of what that constitutes), or whether we never held a Bible in our hands or crossed the threshold of a church, God is sovereign.

And I believe, as I reflect more on this, that one of the stumbling blocks those of us who have come to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior mistakenly set up for others, as well as for ourselves, is that we replace a man-centered secular ideology with a man-centered “Christian” walk.

What I mean is that we engage in Christian activities that revolve around Christ, or point to Christ: whether it be the sorts of sermons we gravitate towards, the youth groups we invest in or the schools we send our kids to.

I think back on all the energy and time I dedicated to my kids showing up at youth group, being in church and even attending a Christian school, and I realize that where all of those endeavors fell short was the fact that we were doing these things because we thought this is what a real Christian does.

I am not ungrateful for the Christian Bible study I attended, the Christian school my children enrolled in, or the Godly pastor I listened to on Christian radio. Those were places God led me and my family when I did not yet even believe in Jesus Christ.

That was how God exposed me to His truth and set me on His path. I am forever grateful.

What I am talking about—and perhaps what I am talking about can only happen after all of the man-centered Christian striving—but what I am now talking about is that, once I began the road of Christ, I walked it as I saw others walking it, not as Christ.

Therefore, the activities I’ve already mentioned, in addition to a growing interest in politics and social issues, un-checked by Christ, bred in me a strong spiritual pride.

It forced an outward regeneration more than an inward one.

Perhaps it was inevitable I go through that in order to get where I am today: in Christ alone and Him in me.

Now that sounds very grand. But in fact, it’s pretty pared down.

Sixteen years in to living with Christ, I’ve finally shed the spiritual striving: the verbal sharing of faith on my terms and timing (not God’s); the being in church because I think it’s what God requires of me (regardless of whether or not church today is even remotely what Jesus had in mind) and the end of following certain pastors and Christian authors like a groupie.

I now understand that I was living for Christ in a me-centered, man-pleasing manner. I wanted to measure up to the outward Christian expectations I witnessed around me, and those verbalized to me from “mature” Christians. I was all about doing my best in the Christian world.

That is why I believe that, although I was truly saved and had begun to mature in Christ, I still lived repeatedly in known sin: such as impatience, defensiveness, unforgiveness and a lack of healing and victory over childhood issues that continued to trip me up.

Yes, I had freedom from alcohol, which was a fantastic launch. God used that struggle to ultimately break me and bring me to the end of myself. But the building of Christ in my life was stunted by, once I was saved, me attempting to build Christ in my life.

It is an inside-out turnaround, now living Christ versus living for Him.

Relationships are healing, trust in God alone is undergirding, Christ is providing compassionate perspective on other people and insight on their struggles, healthier responses to situations are forthcoming, interaction with others is easier and more desired, and emotional and mental maturation is taking shape. It is Christ, not man, who lives and trusts and loves first.

As the “Christian world” recedes, Christ, indeed, looms large.

copyright Barb Harwood 

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Friday, February 17, 2017

Understanding and Setting Boundaries With Difficult People

I love this short video clip with Vanessa Van Edwards, in which she discusses how we can be in relationship with sometimes difficult people without getting pulled into their modus operandi. 

I'm sure we will all gain insights on why we, too, are sometimes difficult to be around. We can take these insights to God and ask Him to help us mature in our dealings with others, and with our own insecurities that so often trip us up in social situations.

Here's the clip:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Failure to Love Often Starts Here

When we gossip, backstab, share other people's news, are nosy, and use other people's life situations as talking points to blab about, we are not motivated by love. Instead, we are satiating our own appetite for drama and attention, often motivated by jealousy, resentment, lack of self confidence and pride. 

We often couch these comments with the false justification, "I'm concerned" (so therefore we discuss something about another person with everyone but the person we claim to be so concerned about!)

Or we simply can't resist being the Town Cryer, to say, "Did you hear about?" regarding the  purchases, job changes, pregnancies, and marital struggles of other people. We love appearing as the one in the know, with special inside status on information.

And then there is the simple lack of self-control and integrity when people run at the mouth and have a negative editorial comment about the way other people do everything: from the raising of children to the kind of car they drive to the way they comb their hair.  

I put all of this under the heading of gossip. It is the cacophony of self that time and time again rules out love, no matter how much the people who participate in it claim otherwise. 

This first state of affairs, the affair of our mouths, must be first overcome in order to begin to love consistently in spirit and in truth.

"For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." Galatians 5:14-15

"Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man,
But any fool will quarrel." Proverbs 20:3

"He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip." Proverbs 20:19

"With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered." Proverbs 11:9

"He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,
But a man of understanding keeps silent.
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter." Proverbs 11:12-13

"A perverse man spreads strife, 
And a slanderer separates intimate friends." Proverbs 16:28

"A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind." Proverbs 18:2

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles." Proverbs 21:23

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love Does Not

"does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;" 1 Corinthians 13:5-6

Monday, February 13, 2017

Not Arrogant

"love does not brag and is not arrogant,..." 1 Corinthians 13:4

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kind, Not Jealous

" is kind and is not jealous..." 1 Corinthians 13:4

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What Is Love?

"Love is patient..." 1 Corinthians 13:4 
(first attribute in a series of attributes in this verse)

Friday, February 10, 2017


Water is boring until you’re really thirsty. Jesus is boring until you’re really thirsty.

copyright Barb Harwood

"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this he spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." John 7:37-39

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Re-Thinking College

Quoted in the February 3, 2017, Washington Post:

“Universities should be the most open, the most welcoming harbor of all ideas, left or right,” GOP state Sen. Ted Gaines said. “But they have turned into rigid ideological prisons where stepping outside the latest progressive liberal path is considered a thought crime.” California Senator Ted Gaines