Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How Does Evil Begin?

“The hardening effect of sin is amazing. You feel real bad at first. You feel kind of bad a little bit later, and a little bad after that. Then particularly in the case of moral sin, before long you hear, ‘Everybody’s doing it.’ And finally, ‘I’m only human.’”
Tony Evans in Time to Get Serious

As I said in my first post on evil, at its basic level, evil is separation from God. Evil is whatever is outside of His will.

So in the quote above, we actually get a pretty complete picture of the definition of evil:

     1.   It is sin.
     2.   It is sin we not only allow, but then justify.

The problem of evil, then, really becomes the problem of relativism:

“any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environment.” (

Relative, according to, means

“Something dependent upon external conditions for its specific nature, size, etc. (opposed to absolute).”

“Existing or having its specific nature only by relation to something else; not absolute or independent.”

“Depending for significance upon something else.”

Jesus, in John 14:6, tells Thomas,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

For Christians, Christ is the Word; absolute truth is Christ; His Word is absolute truth.

Jesus, as He prays to His Father, God, in John 17, says,

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

No room for relativism here.

It follows then that Christians will go to God through Jesus and His Word, reliant on the Holy Spirit, for right doctrine on evil and God’s role regarding it.

Paul warns young Timothy, and us, that this path we have chosen will appear at times to be daunting, but we must not look at appearances, we must live within what is actual—absolute

We must not look at choices and circumstances as being relative, but as relative to Christ. In that dependence upon Him, we receive our answer as to how to proceed: whatever is canceled out when held up to the standard of Christ’s Truth, that is what we shun. That is what we say “no” to.

This is the work of sanctification in God’s Truth, otherwise known as becoming wise in the wisdom of God. This is how we ward off evil.

And yes, Paul readily admits, “difficult times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

But, confident that:

“God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7), 

We turn to:

“the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Jesus, too, does not gloss over the fact that

“In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). 

He encourages His disciples, and us, in John 14, saying,

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me....
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.”

In John 16, Jesus explains why He is saying this:

“These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling” (John 16:1).

In addition to His Word, He gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us:

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8).

Furthermore, Jesus assures us,

“...when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak...He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13a-14).

There is no room for relativism here. 

No room for the disobedience that operates out of a normalized-and-rubber-stamped-by-the-world logic, “informed” by a darkened conscience.

And we have Christ to thank for that!

I mean, seriously, don’t we want to know? Don’t we want answers?

In spite of New Age and “world peace” pablum, which attempt to toss the ball back into our court of “anything goes if it satisfies you for the moment,” people are no happier or fulfilled than before. 

They do not see peace on earth, and certainly haven’t experienced it for themselves. And many don’t even realize this, because they don’t know what true peace even feels like (the peace found in Christ alone, John 16:33). 

In fact, many people may think they are doing pretty good, relatively speaking.

Jesus is not a relatively speaking kind of guy. That’s because He is Lord. He and His Word, as we’ve already seen, is Truth. Absolutely.

This is how evil begins: 

Ignorance of or indifference to God. 

Cheap grace that honors God with lips while the heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:8). 

A sentimental “love” for God--or acceptance of His generic love for us--outside of Jesus Christ, which never gets around to us loving God through obedience to Christ in return.

A.W. Tozer said it well when he said, of believers,

“The devil loves it when we say we believe then prioritize everything in our lives ahead of God.”

He adds that Christianity destroys itself “by not living in the light, by professing a truth it does not obey.”

He says that non-believers’ refusal to “walk in the light” is due to “rottenness within, carelessness, worldliness, evil, refusing to let the Light of God find and change my dirty little nest of iniquity. That’s what is destroying us...!”

Linus, in the famous Charlie Brown Christmas play, stands alone on a stage under a spotlight and informs the world as to what Christmas is all about.

It’s time to put the spotlight on evil: true, absolute evil. The evil that begins in each and every person’s heart and mind and is either nipped in the bud by obedience to Christ, or left to take root and entangle more and more of a person’s, and thus, the surrounding world's, life.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if you fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’ Then the devil left Him;” Matthew 4:8-11a

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Eclipsing of Christ

Monday, August 21, 2017 marks an extraordinary moment in United States interstellar history, and thus, in the lives of those living in the U.S. For the first time since 1979, the moon will move between the earth and the sun in a total eclipse. defines eclipse as “any obscuration of light.”

Obscuration derives from the root word, “obscure,” which means:

“Not discovered or known about; uncertain.”

To “keep from being seen; conceal.”

How ironic that this total eclipse of the sun in the Western hemisphere takes place at a time when the total eclipsing of Jesus Christ is increasingly occurring.

The obscuration of the light of Christ has been going on since Christ walked the earth. People at that time didn’t want to see Him, just as people today don’t want to see Him. Hence Jesus’ wise counsel to those he spoke to that they have eyes to see (Mark 8:17-21; Matthew 13:13-17).

“I am the light of the world,” Christ plainly tells us in John 8:12, “He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

But people do not like the light, even when they do see it:

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:21-22).

Jesus confirms the outworking of that denial of His light:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:18-24).

It is on the basis of our seeing God through the Light of Christ, indwelt by His Holy Spirit, that He is no longer obscured:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10).

The beginning, middle and end of the solar eclipse on Monday will last, I am told, approximately three hours.

The eclipsing of Christ by the “moon” of personal choice to live in darkness will last as long as a person lets it.

copyright Barb Harwood

Thursday, August 17, 2017


"Preparing for life's challenges demands the regular refocusing of our priorities, dreams, desires, goals, and plans so that they are being brought in line with God's agenda. It involves counteracting the subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by the enemy to get us to think and operate independently of God." 
Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and founder and president of The Urban Alternative. He is also chaplain for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks

On that note, I launch a series on evil. 

I begin with this quote because evil, at its most basic level, is separation from God. 

The enemy can be worldly, satanic, or fleshly. 

I have no intention of solving the problem of evil. I am not of the mind that thinks evil can be eradicated from the planet. I believe it exists, always has existed and always will exist because man has free will to choose it. 

Jesus Himself says,

"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33b

Obviously I cannot exhaust every avenue down which evil travels, nor every house in which it lodges. 

My intent is to heed the words of Paul to the saints at Ephesus, who were faithful in Christ Jesus, to "be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16.

"Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil." Proverbs 3:7

"Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:25-27

"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 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 17:13-19

"But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:13-17

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Talking Things Out vs. Gossip

We all encounter situations and people in the course of life that cause us to be perplexed, vexed, sad, frustrated, hurt, confused and wondering what, if anything, we can do.

To keep it all inside of us can be counter-productive and even detrimental to our health. When something is bothering us, it can affect everyone around us, and interfere with our creativity, work and daily life.

We can, and must, always sit with God and tell him everything. Yes, He already knows and has observed the situation. But we pour out our hearts, listen for His wisdom, and pray for everyone involved, including ourselves.

And then, if that doesn’t bring peace, or if seeking the Godly counsel of a trusted Christian is what He leads us to, we obey.

The Bible is very clear on not going it alone in times of trial. We seek God first, and then we seek another person if that is what is called for.

When I attended Moody Theological Seminary, a professor there provided the best distinction ever between what constitutes gossip and what constitutes seeking actual help and comfort from another person.

His guideline is this:

When we go to someone to discuss a problem or concern, we must ask ourselves if this person is part of the solution.

If the person is not part of the solution, then we have to look at our motivations as to why we would include them in the sharing of a delicate matter.

The beauty in this is that it keeps us from gossip and from going to fifteen different people just to vent and commiserate.

When we select a person—of Christian trust and integrity—who can actually provide help with a solution, and we sincerely intend to take steps to solve the problem (not just continue to vent and do nothing about it), and this person has committed to not repeating our conversation, then we have not gossiped. We have instead found true fellowship with someone who, like iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), will join us in mutual discipleship going forward.

Finally, we return to God after seeking another’s counsel and “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

copyright Barb Harwood

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Proverbs 12:15

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Saturday, August 12, 2017

When the Gossip is About Us

Charles Spurgeon writes,

“The best way to deal with slander is to pray about it: God will either remove it, or remove the sting from it. Our own attempts at clearing ourselves are usually failures; we are like the boy who wished to remove the blot from his copy, and by his bungling made it ten times worse.”

Things to keep in mind when people talk about us behind our back, either negatively--to disparage us--or in a manner that shares our personal news before we get a chance to share our news ourselves:

This act of gossip is more about them than about the people they are talking about.

Thomas Fuller says

“There is nothing that so much gratifies an ill tongue as when it finds an angry heart.”

Gossips and busybodies are, at heart, petty, jealous, antagonistic, competitive and frustrated individuals.

And yet, as Frederick Faber says,

“I find great numbers of moderately good people who think it fine to talk scandal. They regard it as a sort of evidence of their own goodness.”

Many, if not most people, who gossip or conversationally meddle in the lives of others, hold an unrealistically high regard for themselves. Ironically, they hold this regard out of deep insecurities and lack of confidence (which explains the condition of the heart mentioned above).

If we know someone to be a gossip (and because we have heard how they talk about others, we can guarantee that they also talk about us), and they are a friend, co-worker, relative, close neighbor or fellow church congregant, we have three choices as to how to go forward in relationship with them:

First, we can address their gossip, lovingly but firmly. We can do this directly,

“Jane, I feel uncomfortable when other people are brought up in the conversation like this. I really don’t want to go there.”

Or indirectly by changing the subject:

“Well, I certainly can’t comment on that, but I can say this weather has been great for my garden!”

If addressing the problem has no effect, and we loathe the idea of always having to deflect gossip when we are with this person, the next plan is to put distance between our self and the person.

Proverbs 20:19 says,

"A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid a man who talks too much."

Sin has consequences. Gossip is a sin. Gossip has consequences—especially if we have let the gossip know we do not want to listen to or participate in conversation that is outside of God’s will. 

We are Biblically justified in separating ourselves from gossip. This is called setting healthy boundaries: boundaries that breed goodwill in ourselves and with others because it doesn’t give the gossip an audience.

If we are in situations in which we are forced to be social, such as family holiday gatherings and work events, it may be difficult to entirely separate ourselves from certain people. But we can locate the folks at the gathering who are not talking ill of others and hang out with them, or, if none are to be found, we make our obligatory appearance and leave the party after a short stay.

Again, we can only control our own tongue. And that is what we do in all situations, regardless of how others talk.

Finally, we become wise in never saying anything of any personal importance to a person with loose lips.

With these kinds of people, it is best to hold our personal life very close to the vest and never say anything about our selves or our children that we would not want printed on the front page of the newspaper!

I have very few trusted comrades. The person I trust the most is my husband, with whom I share my heart and day-to-day life. I do not throw what is sacred to me into the hands of those whose only desire is to use what I have said as fodder for their “concern”, tsk tsking, “dismay”, political correctness and negative estimation of how, in general, I choose to live my life.  

In the end, what people say about us is out of our control. We can attempt to nip their words in the bud, or remove ourselves from their presence, but until and unless a gossip’s heart changes, the gossip will continue.

It is best, and our joy, to walk with our heads held high in the affirmation and guidance of the Lord, and in the comfort and assurance of friendships with people on this earth who do respect us enough to not talk about us behind our backs, nor look for every possible way to find fault.

We can have compassion, albeit from a distance, for those who remain in their inner prison of feeling as though they must always make their thoughts and their words about other people. We must take them, and ourselves, to God in prayer, along with any hurtful, frustrating or misleading pronouncements they’ve spoken.

That’s where we leave them and their words. And then, we walk away.

copyright Barb Harwood

“The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Proverbs 16:2

“The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5

“Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” Proverbs 16:6

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13