Monday, January 30, 2012

Ask the Pastor: Should Christians ever Lie? A Case Study in Ethical Dilemmas


Christians are constantly faced with ethical challenges. How does one take the truths of God’s Word and put them into practice in the “real” world? How far can a Christian go in deceiving others if his goal is a “greater good”? 

For example, is it okay for a Christian to go undercover at Planned Parenthood, lie about who she is and why she is there, all in the name of getting evidence against that organization? I am finding that when we discuss these issues where a person stands on the authority of Scripture makes a huge difference in where they come down in this debate. Think for a moment…is the Bible the Word of God and the sole authority for Faith and practice? I would say that yes, it is. Because that is my premise, I believe that there are moral absolutes. What is a moral absolute? It is something that Scripture teaches that is absolute. In other words, if it is a bad thing, it is bad regardless of the time, culture, or specific circumstance in which it is done. So, the question that we must ask is, “Is God’s ban on lying absolute?” While this is open for some questioning, I believe the answer is a resounding “yes”! 

Within the Ten Commandments, the command to “not bear false witness against your neighbor” is found. While much of the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled in the Person of Christ, the Ten Commandments reflect the basis of God’s moral law; that is, a law that has it’s very basis in the nature of God. To violate God’s moral law is to violate His nature. There is never a case in Scripture in which lying is held up as a case study in what is right in a given situation. Rahab lied in order to protect the Hebrew spies, but her lie was never given approval in Scripture, only her faith (Heb. 11). 

                But what about lying for the greater good (like infiltrating a Planned Parenthood Office), or situations where you must choose the lesser of two evils (like classical situation ethics)? My concern with both of these positions is that they remove God and His Word as the final authority and elevate man into that role. 

Here is the line of thought: abortion is wrong because it takes human life. 
Therefore, we as Christians have a responsibility to put a stop to it. 
The question arises, “how far can one go to help put a stop to this despicable practice?” 

This is where man becomes the decider instead of God. God says, “lying is wrong.” So rather than do whatever can be done outside of lying, man says, “The preservation of life is more important than any other command, so I can break the others in order to save life.” Can you see how this creates huge problems? Who gets to decide how far is too far? 

How about this scenario: You are an undercover police officer who has an opportunity to infiltrate and take down Hell’s Angels, one of the most disgusting criminal organizations in the country. They have been responsible for a lot of lost life as well. So, you lie to get in, and once inside are expected to engage in regular immoral behavior with women who are part of the group.
Is that a problem? 
But you are working towards preserving life IN THE EXACT SAME WAY you would if you were lying to get evidence about Planned Parenthood. 

The difference?? 

You just made a value judgment that says that it’s okay to lie in order to preserve life, but not commit adultery. So, who get’s to decide on the hierarchy here? Do you see the issues here? God’s Word commands truth in all situations, and to not obey is sin against the very moral nature of God! He is Sovereign and can accomplish His purposes without man taking matters into his own hands by compromising the image of God through falsehood. We are to be people of truth, not people of the shadows! We have a higher calling and serve a greater cause! Do we need to do what we can to put a stop to abortion? YES!!! But it must be done in a way that is honoring to God and in line with His commands. 

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog or my email: pastorbrian@hughes.net. God Bless!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: Then Sings My Soul (Book 3) by Robert J. Morgan


I did not read Morgan's first two books in this trilogy, but after reading this one I am going to see if I can get my hands on them. The author's love for the "great hymns of the faith" is both obvious and infectious as I too found myself eagerly reading story after story.  Having grown up with a love of music and having been exposed to many traditional hymns, I was surprised to read of so many lesser known hymns with such depth of meaning.  Part 2: Do You Know these Hymns and Part 3: Six Hymn Stories I Love to tell were made up of both hymns I love and hymns I had never heard.  But the numerous stories behind the songs did not even make up the best part of the book as I am supposing his first two volumes could be summarized. 

I considered the most beneficial parts of the book  to be Part 1: the History of Hymnody and Part 4: Hymning in Private and in Public.  Robert Morgan started with the Bible and traced hymnody down through the ages up to our present day.  I was able to put a timetable in my mind which only helped to deepen my appreciation for the hymns we sing.  I had never realized just how old some of our most sacred hymns are and yet they contain such incredible meaning that is relevant to us today.

The last section of his book contains the two biggest takeaway points for me.  First he continually makes the case that Christians of many time periods owned both a Bible and a hymnal.  Many good hymns are jam-packed with theology and it would serve us well to commit these to memory.  Meditating on Scripture throughout our day is the most helpful, but there is also much to be gained from "making melody in our hearts" through the singing of hymns throughout our day.  He encouraged his readers to both learn the hymns and teach them to their children.  And that is what I intend to do.

Secondly, he addresses our place within this timeline of the history of hymnody.   We cannot throw out the hymns of previous generations simply because they are old.  He states "there has never been a generation of Christians that sang only its own music while discarding all the songs of prior epochs."   Considering his love for the old hymns, you would think this would be the point where he would rant against modern Christian music.  He absolutely does not.  He believes we need to find balance in our worship which he refers to as Old New worship, and what that looks like in each church will probably vary widely.  Just as with previous hymns of the past, the bad ones will fade out and the truly good ones will stand the test of time.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the Booksneeze program through Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.                                                                          

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reflections on Quieting a Noisy Soul- Coming Soon!


I am so excited to be going through a special series by Jim Berg entitled Quieting a Noisy Soul:  Overcoming Guilt, Anxiety, and Despair.  You can probably tell from the title that it is pretty intense.  I hope to learn a lot for myself and also be able to use it to help others.  The syllabus is pictured above and there are also seminars on DVD to watch (or listen to the MP3 version) every week along with a meditation CD to listen to as much as time allows. 

My husband and I tried to go through it together a while back, but that didn't last very long.  We were both in school full time and working full time - and just that alone was enough to almost put us over the edge.  So it was a little ambitious to try to pick up this program at the same time because it definitely involves a substantial time commitment.  But I have been eager to jump back into it when the time was right. 

So I will be posting every Friday about my progress through the book.  I hope to learn a lot and grow in Christ through the study. 

If this sounds interesting to you and you want to join in, just check out www.quietinganoisysoul.com.  I will warn you - it is pricey - but I think well worth the investment from what I have seen from Jim Berg's other materials.


*I am in no way associated with Jim Berg or Journeyforth Press, and am receiving absolutely no compensation for my review of these materials.  The thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are completely my own.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scrumptious Ice Cream Cake Tutorial

 Have you ever wanted to make your own ice cream cake?  Follow this easy tutorial and you can do-it-yourself in no time!

In our house, we love ice cream cake and will come up with just about any excuse to celebrate something with an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  But that can get pretty expensive!  So for my husband's birthday, I decided to make it myself.  For this recipe, I wanted actual cake along with my ice cream layers, but you could easily leave it out if you prefer.

*Note - If you plan on eating this for dessert in the evening, you should probably start on this in the morning so that you can work on it throughout the day.  But don't let that scare you.  You will just need to be able to do a few layers, then stick it in the freezer for several hours (and then do the rest of the layers and stick it in the freezer for another 3 hours.)

Ingredients:
  • 1 box of cake mix with ingredients listed on the box (or you can even make one from scratch!)
  • chocolate sandwich cookies (about 20)
  • 1 jar of chocolate fudge topping
  • vanilla ice cream (if you buy the standard size ice cream you won't need the whole container)
  • chocolate ice cream (ditto)
  • 1 8oz. container of whipped topping (softened in fridge)
  • food coloring

1.  First pick out your dish to use to build your cake.  Make sure you have a dish that is deep enough because this will be the key to your success.  I used a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish because a cake baked in a 9 inch pan would fit perfectly (with no need for cutting the cake down to size.) 
The size of your dish will determine the size of your finished ice cream cake.  It's up to you - just have a plan from the beginning.  Also make sure whatever you use will fit in your freezer and that you have a flat space cleared in your freezer so that it can sit.  Maybe I am the only one with a packed freezer with things flying out at me every time I open it. . .

Once you have decided on your dish, then line it with aluminum foil. (Oh, and you might want to get the vanilla ice cream out now to let it soften a little.)

2.  Now crush up those cookies.  I like to throw them in a mixing bowl and use the bottom of a glass to crush them.




You might want to save a couple extra cookies for the little munchkins in your life!
3.  Press the ice cream into the bottom of dish until you have a layer at least an inch thick.  (With my hand covered with a plastic baggie, I smooshed it all into place.  Hey, it sounds funny, but does the trick.)

Now stick that fudge in the microwave just long enough to make it pourable.  Remember, if it is too hot, all you will do is melt the ice cream - and that will get messy.  Pour the fudge over the ice cream layer till you can't see the ice cream anymore and then cover with the crushed cookies.  This is not an exact science.  Make the layers as thick or thin as you want depending on the depth of your dish.

Put the whole thing in the freezer for about 3 hours.


4.  Now is a good time to bake your cake.  I only needed one 9-inch round cake, but most cake mixes have enough batter to make 2.  (So I used the extra batter to make cupcakes for my husband to take with him for his deacon's and trustee's meetings that night.)  Once your cake is baked, be sure to put it out on a cooling rack so that it is nice and cool when you are ready to add it to your ice cream cake.




5.  Once your ice cream cake in the freezer is nice and firm, pull out your chocolate ice cream and your ice cream cake in-progress.

Now put that yummy cake that you baked into the dish and cover with one last layer of chocolate ice cream.  Go ahead and fill your dish up to the top, if you have any more room!

Now put it back in the freezer for another 3 hours.



6.  Now here comes the fun part!  Pull out your creation from the freezer and flip it onto a plate (again make sure that plate will fit in the freezer unless you plan on eating all of the ice cream cake tonight).  Peel off the foil.




7.  Cover with softened whipped topping while reserving some whipped topping for your fancy stuff.  I mixed it with a few drops of blue food coloring, put it into a decorator bag, and piped a decorative border along the bottom.  Do whatever you want, but have fun. 


I hope you enjoy making and especially eating this cake as much as we did.  There are lots of possible variations you could try with this recipe (I'm thinking caramel, or even strawberries with strawberry ice cream. . .mmmmmm).  If you have success with some sort of variation, be sure to leave a post about it.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spiritual Exercise


Most people like to make New Year's resolutions and I am no exception.  I have my list and will check it frequently throughout the year to monitor my progress.  But that's me, I'm a list person.

My husband commented at the gym tonight that he hoped more people would just give up on their resolutions so that it wouldn't be so busy.  For those of you who don't know my husband, he just has that kind of sense of humor. Unfortunately, the truth is that most people will not stick with their resolutions for the long haul.

 And it kind of made me think about what I read last night.

And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, 
and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.  Then David and the 
people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more 
strenth to weep.  David's two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of 
Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel.  And David was greatly distressed, for 
the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul,
each for his sons and daughters.  
 But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 
1 Samuel 30:1-6 ESV

Thankfully, neither my husband nor I have ever had anyone threatening to stone us, but I think we can all stand in David's shoes (or sandals) for just a minute.  
Whether it is watching your husband bear up under the stress of being a pastor, as in my case. . .
Or going through difficult times yourself where you find yourself with nowhere else to turn. . .
We need to have a plan of action for dealing with life's trials or we will just react - and I don't know about you - but my initial reactions may not always be the best.
                David's response or plan of action, as I am going to call it, is astonishing.  He "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" when many men would have been considering their options (such as R-U-N from the angry looking guys holding big rocks).

But I got to thinking about that.  What exactly does that mean?  My ESV study Bible cross-referenced Psalm 56:3-4

When I am afraid, 
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

David was pretty familiar with danger, and his response was to trust in God.  

You see, I started thinking of this "strengthening himself in the LORD" sort of like spiritual exercise.  We desperately need that daily time in God's Word, communing with Him in prayer, worshiping Him, and bringing glory to Him in our actions.  This is our spiritual exercise and the way that we too can strengthen ourselves in the LORD.  Because when we get right to the crux of the matter, we need Him. 

I hope to grow closer to Him as the year goes forward -and that's a New Year's resolution I pray that I can keep.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Life is Precious

Yesterday we commemorated Sanctity of Life Sunday at our church, and my husband showed the video 180 put together by Ray Comfort.
To say that people were moved would be an understatement.
Even if you don't agree with our pro-life position, you have to admit that this movie gives you some things to think about (not to mention that you'll be shocked by how many people cannot recall Adolf Hitler or the atrocities he committed).

Check it out for yourself at www.heartchanger.com. Ray Comfort says at the end that he would like everyone in America to see this - and I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll



Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll could probably be better called "Sex: and a few other thoughts about marriage" since the vast majority of the content is in regard to some aspect of the sexual relationship within marriage.  The authors have discovered in their ministry that a lot of Christian couples have many unanswered questions in regard to this matter.  Is it any wonder in our increasingly sexualized culture that young people especially have a myriad of conerns?  The nature of the topic, along with all the accompanying sexual deviances, make this an intense book, but well worth the read.

Pastor Mark and Grace really lay themselves open and vulnerable by being very forthright about their past in an attempt to be a help to others.  They spend a lot of time explaining their past failures and the abuse Grace had unfortunately been subjected to in her past.  But finding actual help and healing in those particular areas fall outside the realm of this book.  Other topics briefly covered in this book are the idea of being best friends with your spouse and prioritizing your life in a way that truly honors God.  Most of the lessons in this book stem from their mistakes.  In other words, it is sort of a "we did this and were miserable, so don't you do it" mentality.

For ministry leaders who would recommend this book to others I have a few things to keep in mind.  First, it is sexually graphic and could be overwhelming to some people.  Second, be aware that Pastor Mark takes Randy Alcorn's view on the birth control pill, which I still believe is a controversial position.  Also, Pastor Mark writes of having "dreams" and hearing God speak to him (audibly).  Lastly for those brothers and sisters in Christ to whom we may minister who have struggled with alcoholism, I will mention that he has several references to alcohol in this book as being a normal part of the Christian life.

I still give this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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