Archive for the ‘Spiritual Journey’ Category

Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families

A Review

Ben Mitchell, PHD & D. Joy Riley, MD, Series Editor Daniel R. Heimbach

Cover

Decisions are never easy. Although we as Christians have been blessed with all that we need to live a life of holiness and one that is pleasing to God as is revealed in His Word, it does not give us specific instructions for every decision that we will make as we live on this earth. I believe that is intentional due to the fact that God wants His children to be completely dependent upon Him and not be reactive spiritual robots who only “choose” to do what is clearly described for them in His Word. Life is complicated. The web becomes increasingly tangled as we consider the many scenarios that are possible in the realms of bioethics. Scripture clearly teaches us that life is sacred. There are a myriad of examples that are available to us that help us to understand how valuable life is to God and should be to us.

With that being said, Mitchell and Riley provide several difficult situations where sometimes the boundary lines become fuzzy and the rhetoric over what is right and what is wrong as well as personal liberties and whose life is more valuable become difficult to weigh through. The questions are tough and the answers are even tougher, even from a Christian perspective. We, as believer’s value life as sacred in the eyes of God. Yet, how do we understand what we are supposed to do when someone we love is on life support and the doctors have determined that he is technically dead and that the machines he is attached to is only keeping him breathing and that he has no brain activity? Is it wrong to remove that “life” support? What about when loved one does not leave the family an advanced directive regarding what their wishes are in case of an accident and they are involved in that accident? How do we respond in accord to what we believe would be their desires, yet also maintaining sensitivity to what we believe to be our biblical convictions? What about young families who are unable to physically have children naturally, but desire to have a baby? Is in-vitro fertilization an ethical option from a biblical perspective? What if we know that it involves the destruction of human embryos in the process?

These types of very real-life scenarios and many more complex case studies provide the framework on this highly valuable handbook. It makes you think deeply and critically regarding the issues. It also gives the reader a wake-up call to make sure that you clearly make your wishes known if something would ever happen to you regarding life support. It has given me much more respect for the medical profession who has to make these types of difficult decisions as well as counsel those who are wrestling with doing the right thing as well as filtering those decisions from a biblical lens.

While this handbook does not give us the directives of what to do in every specific situation that they describe, the authors are very clear to give their audience instruction as to how to go about making clear, honest, biblically ethical decisions. It can be easy to point fingers and blame the liberal media and political leaders for how they have distorted the issues as to when life begins, when life is no longer meaningful, and what the definition of human dignity is. Yet, in my humble opinion, these questions and the scenarios that have been provided as examples to push us to dig deeper and to see more clearly into the quagmire of bioethics, it serves instead as a mirror. It serves as a mirror to the extent that perhaps the situations that have arisen in our midst are there because we as Christians have fallen asleep at the wheel. We have been too silent as to not offend and have been naïve in thinking that this nasty thing will just go away. We definitely need biblically-focused professionals to help us to clearly understand what is happening in medical research and to be in the heat of battle to make sure that human life is valued and not marketed for the sake of the “haves” at the sacrifice of the “have nots” in our society.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as as B&H Academic.

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Living With God in the Camp

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Spiritual Journey

Many times we find ourselves reflecting on the past. We look back with the glow of the difficulties and the stresses that our current situation has shone before us and think back to a time when things weren’t quite so difficult. Life seemed so much easier. It is perfectly normal, and actually quite healthy to take some time now and then to reflect back on our history to gain a clear perspective of God’s faithfulness and goodness; to see how God provided a way to work something out. Yet, when it can become unhealthy is when we dwell there too long. When we begin to stay there and become complacent about the present is where we can become tragically disillusioned. God wants us to remember our past. But, He doesn’t want us to abide there. We are to learn and grow from our past. He desires for us to use what we learned (both victories and failures) to address our present.

 

We notice a similar pattern with the Israelites as they proceeded to wander around the wilderness. One day they were faithfully obedient to Moses and to the Lord. The next day they were grumbling and complaining about this or that and longing for the Good ole days in Egypt. Before you jump in and denounce the immature fickleness of these people, take a real quick look at yourself (me, too!). How often do we in a particularly difficult situation find ourselves resorting to daydreaming about days in the past that seemed so carefree? Again, God desires for us to reflect on the past. Yet, we need to maintain perspective. Our purpose of doing this is to recall to mind the faithfulness of the Lord and how we can transition this faithfulness from the past to the current situation we are now faced with.

Thoughts for your walk:

 

  1. Have you ever daydreamed about how amazing it would be if you could enjoy the privilege of having God’s presence now? How would that affect your relationship with Him? How did it affect the Israelites? How does God’s very real presence in your life affect how you are living right now?
  2. Meditating upon the Old Testament, what was it about God’s presence that struck fear into the people who were exposed to it?

What does it mean to be righteous or holy? How does God grant us access to His presence even though we are sinful?

How Fear Brings Comfort

Posted: February 18, 2014 in Spiritual Journey

Often we may be afraid of confessing our sins to God because we are ashamed. We are ashamed that God may cast us aside if He really knew who we were and what we were capable of.  Yet, we need to realize that even if we didn’t tell Him what we did, He knows anyway. In fact, He knew before we committed the sin. He knew the act before it was even conceived in our hearts. And, I really understand how our logic runs. Think about it in our daily lives. We do something that we are really ashamed of. Is the first thought that comes to mind to tell everyone we know what we just did? Of course not. But, we need to realize that God isn’t like our friends or family who may make fun of us or disown us. In fact, the real reason for us going to God in the first place to confess our sins isn’t to make Him aware of them. Rather, it’s to remind us of a few things. First of all, prayer is to remind us of our powerlessness. It reminds us that we are totally and completely dependent upon God and His strength and empowerment. On our own, we cannot hope to grasp what to know or do and comprehend what this particular thing before us has anything to do with accomplishing the will of God. Which leads us to another thing. Prayer directs and re-directs us to align our will with God’s will. Too often we become side-tracked and self-focused. Prayer reminds us to seek the heart of God so that we may get back on track.

 

So, we have no reason to be ashamed to go our heavenly Father to confess our sins because He already knows all of the details anyway. We should indeed feel ashamed, but not for the reasons we normally would. We normally feel ashamed because of our pride. We don’t want others to know because they may think less of us than we want them to think. Rather, we should feel shame for our sins because of the damage it does to our testimony to God. We are the visible Church. When we do or say or think something, we demonstrate to a watching world, whether accurate or not, that this is what Christians adhere to. We are ambassadors, representing Him in a lost and dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, when we sin, we should feel the shame that we have somehow broken the heart of God.

 

Thoughts for your walk:

  1. Considering everything that you personally know about God, how can the fact that He knows all there is to know about you bring you a sense of peace and comfort?
  2. Have you ever been anxious or fearful about the future? Reflect upon all that God is regarding His omniscience. How can that help to relieve that anxiety?
  3. God knows all about each and every one of our sins. It is absolutely futile to attempt to hide from His presence. Considering just how He deals with us, how is His grace and mercy still demonstrated? How has He demonstrated this in your own life?
  4. Too often we have an overstated value of ourselves. We give ourselves way too much credit. What means does God use to bring you back to reality?

Have you ever thought that you kept a secret with someone only to find out that they didn’t exactly keep their word? How did you feel? Betrayed? Embarrassed? Angry? All three? What was it about the topic of the secret that you didn’t want anyone else to know about? Have you really thought about the fact that we can’t really keep any secrets with God? He knows everything about us, even the very thoughts and motivations behind the things that we do.

As you take a spiritual inventory, don’t allow that to alarm you. Even though for the very slightest of those sins that may come to the surface, if you have a relationship with Christ, you can rest assured that He has forgiven those sins and that He desires a rich relationship with you. Yet, at the same time, He loves you too much to allow you to continue in your sins. He wants something much better for you.

Thoughts for your walk:

  1. Meditate upon all of that which causes you to fear as it pertains to the fact that God knows all things.
  2. What if your best friend knew everything about you? Do you think he or she would still be your best friend? Consider that as you meditate upon these truths this week. God does know all of our actions, words, and attitudesàeven those we do not outwardly express. Yet, He still loves us and desires an even more intimate relationship with Him. Take some time right now to praise Him for that.

Do you ever forget anything? Keys? A phone number? Someone’s name? Think about this. God does not forget anything, except those sins which we ask His forgiveness for, which He promises to banish as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

Experiencing Joy in All Things

Posted: September 1, 2013 in Spiritual Journey

discouragement

How can I feel joyful when my life feels so upside-down? Sometimes it can become so easy to resign to a life of chronic discouragement with no real hope of feeling better. We become numb to our true feelings. Perhaps we even become experts at our facades of joy when our hearts are fragmented.

So, how can we lift the fog? Certainly, God does not want us to continue in this pit; at least not forever. First of all, we need to recognize, as with all things, God does have a purpose for why we are experiencing this. Take the time now to do some deep soul searching to be sensitive as to what things God may be bringing to the surface of your life right now and what He may be wanting you to do about it. Secondly, repent of any known sins that you know of and those He brings to mind right now. Cleansing of the soul will erode any boundaries that exist between you and God. Sin keeps us from experiencing deep, robust fellowship with God. It may be a reason as to why God has detoured you into this fog. He desires to get your attention. Thirdly, act upon what The Lord is revealing to you during this time. It isn’t enough to merely know what you are supposed to do. God expects obedience. Finally, relax and enjoy your position that you have in Christ. Even this time in your life is a testimony of the Lord’s care for you. If He did not care, He would just let you go on your merry way. Instead, He desires a richer, closer relationship with. What an incredible God we serve!

Droughts?

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Spiritual Journey

Drought? Challenges? Discouragements? Failures? Ever think they are wasted? Why does God allow them to enter our lives? Couldn’t we be more effective for Him if we could just do what we wanted & our plans would work out just right? Well, maybe. But more than likely not. Why? More than likely, our grand plans for turning the world up side down is bathed more in self-glory than humbly attempting to glorify The Lord. God has challenged me personally in a series of spiritual droughts to really bring me to a crossroads. Do I really believe God for who He is, or do I have a presupposed idea of Him and when that doesn’t correlate with my presuppositions, I question His intentions. Why does He need to do it that way? My way seems so much better and more efficient. God challenges us in so many creative ways. It is easy to lose sight of His ever-lasting grace and love through the most difficult times. Yet, He is always there. I am still learning that and growing through that. It is so comforting to me that especially through the droughts I experience, He is still challenging me to grow even closer to Him.