Category Archives: Suffering

Our inability to comprehend hell — and God

Churchmouse Campanologist recently posted about our ability to comprehend Hell better than I ever could. I encourage you to read his great post on this difficult subject.

Churchmouse Campanologist

My past few posts have discussed hell:

John MacArthur on hell

Hell on low — or no — heat (20th century history)

Christian views on hell: moving back to Origen

J C Ryle on hell (19th century, first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool)

The second one in the series has several quotes from 20th and 21st century pastors and theologians who have downplayed hell and questioned eternal punishment in the life to come.

One of my readers, Brad Grierson, who kindly reblogged the aforementioned post on Origen, commented:

I think Hell often gets downplayed because it is so difficult to imagine. The mind cannot rightly comprehend an eternity of suffering so it comes up with ideas that are more familiar to it such as a temporal prison sentence or that it simply doesn’t exist at all. In a way, this is how heresy springs up: we cannot fully…

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Hypocrites; All of Us

There’s an old adage that states that the one who preaches the hardest against something is probably the one most likely doing it. If the news is to be believed, than this is more often than not true. It seems all to often one who espouses the evils of drugs is discovered to snort cocaine with alarming regularity. The one who condemns alcohol winds up in the hospital for alcohol abuse. Adultery is called out for being abhorrent by those who they themselves are in adulterous affairs. Famous preacher Ted Haggard preached vehemently against homosexuality while having sex with other men. It seems as though there is no end to the hypocrisy spewed forth from the gullet of men who are supposed to be a paragon of righteousness. How can we trust anyone?

It’s tragic in the way we fall into sin. It’s enticing grasp pulls us further down the hole though we know it is wrong. I pose that perhaps the reason these people preach so hard against the very thing that they do is because they fight an inward battle that they are losing and that perhaps the words they preach are more for themselves then the very audience they give it to.

Romans 2:15 English Standard Version (ESV)
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

Because the law is written on their hearts, though they feel they cannot help but do the wrong that they do, they know that what they do is evil and wicked and strive to fight against it, perhaps thinking that by vocally condemning it to the world that they themselves will be able to resist and conquer. I suppose the real tragedy of it is all is that they are all too afraid to confess their sin until they are caught, though I’m sure that could be said to say the same for most of us. It’s so dark and evil that most people desire to hide it and who could blame them. I suspect most people have no desire to expose their shame to the world. So the fight the battle internally.

Before we condemn the hypocrite in front of us, remember we do not know the struggle they suffer. Yes, they need to be called to repentance, but I’m willing to bet that each of us is a hypocrite in our own little way, even if it’s not on such a grand stage.

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Only Pastors and Doctors

We live in a unique time when it comes to death. Up until the last one or two hundred years or so, it was quite common for people to live in multigenerational homes. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children all living together underneath one roof. Now, it is more common that each generation lives separately in their own dwelling. Instead of the old dying with their loved ones, they often die in a nursing home or hospital bed. The children are often spared the grief of seeing death face to face and as such are totally unprepared to deal with it when it comes time for someone very close to them to go or even when it’s their own time. In a world so sanitized of pain and suffering, those who are qualified to deal with it are minute few.

Though there are exceptions, in today’s society, few people are with those in their final moments more than Pastors and doctors. It used to be that people would witness death throughout their life from being very young up until their final moments. They would watch great grandparents, grandparents, parents and sometimes more pass before their eyes when the time came. If they worked on a farm, death was a regular occurrence with the butchering of animals for food. A certain respect and understanding was developed throughout life. It seems today that more often than not, children are kept at bay when a grandparent dies with only the direct children of the grandparent there (if a family member is there at the time of death at all). Even when it comes to those with pets, how often does the child deal with it directly? How often does a parent shield their child as much as possible to ease the burden?

Throughout my life, I have intentionally exposed myself to death. Some horrors such as beheadings, car accidents, and other atrocities; others simply just a persons final moments as they naturally pass from this life to the next. Yet I’ve never seen anyone die in person. Not even an animal. Though I probably have more intimate knowledge on the subject than most of my friends, I cannot say that I am prepared for it when the time comes. I like to think that I know how I’ll be when a loved one finally dies or when I’m in my final moments, but like most people today, my experiences with death are totally dethatched. Even with loved ones and friends, I wasn’t their with them in their final moments.

Pastors and Doctors, however, they see it all. They are there at those final moments. They can develop that appreciation and understanding that most of us don’t get because they are around it, they are in it. I think today, Pastors are more important than ever because in our sterilized world, they are perhaps more often than not the only ones who can truly prepare us for the end.

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The cure is worse than the disease

A few days ago, I sliced my foot open pretty bad at the beach. I slipped on a rock and left a gash that was probably slightly over two inches long. I bled for about two hours, got light-headed, shaky, and uncontrollable giggles. As I understand, those are side effects of blood loss, so it makes sense. Anyhow, the whole experience didn’t really hurt, but it was severe enough that I needed to go to the emergency room to get stitches. That was fine, they gave me some kind of numbing agent so I wouldn’t feel them go in. Then I went home, watched a show and went to bed. Everything was great. Or so I thought.

I woke up in the middle of the night with an unbearable pain in my foot. It was the stitches. The numbing agent had finally worn off and I felt the full pain of the threads that were holding my flesh together. Receiving the gash was nothing, but these little stitches were awful. I pretty much didn’t walk the next day. And for a few days after that, if I needed to move far, I needed crutches. I still have a few more days before I can have the stitches removed and they’re still painful, but I’m walking unassisted with only a slight gimp. Stitches are awful, but necessary if I didn’t want to be walking around with duct tape on my foot. When it’s done healing, everything will great and certainly much better off than if I had chose to not go to the emergency room.

So, the cure is worse than the disease, or in my case, the bandage is worse than the wound. And as I think about it, that in a sense describes the Christian life. Through receiving saving faith in Jesus Christ, we open ourselves to ridicule, hate, persecution, violence, suffering, and even death. It can be quite a miserable life if you are a Christian. These are all possible side effects of salvation. Both mentally and physically, the cure (faith in Jesus Christ) is often worse than the disease (sin). And yet any doctor will tell you that you need to be cured because the consequences of the disease, as painless as living with it may be, are far worse that the pain the of being cured.

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The question of sin (4 of 4)

In this final installment of the series, The Question of Sin, Greg cuts to the heart of the matter and lays his cards out on the table.

Eilers Pizza

I remain in full unity with the doctrines of God as we believe, teach, and confess them in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). While I have been advocating some things with which many (not all) in the LCMS do not agree, and I believe the one study on gender dysphoria published by us is greatly lacking, there is no doctrine of the LCMS with which I am in disagreement.

That I have some disagreement with my church body is not unusual. If you can find two LCMS pastors who agree on the practice of every teaching, even as they confess the same doctrine, then I’ll let you buy me a pizza to tell me about it.

In going public with my condition and my arguments, concern was expressed that I might lead some into sin, and that I might announce that transitioning is a fine and dandy thing. I have…

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The question of sin (2 of 4)

I would like to encourage all to read the comments in regards to this post on his blog. While it got slightly off topic, we got into a discussion on a specific reality of abortion that I don’t really hear many people talk about. I often hear people bring up it up, but never the opposing argument. In my comments, I take up the opposing argument. I actually side with what some may call an extreme that I’m sure many churches wouldn’t even side with.

Eilers Pizza

Today, I turn to specific ways I have been told that transitioning from one’s birth sex is a sinful action.

Deuteronomy 22:5 is the one verse which appears to speak most directly to the issue at hand: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this” (NIV).

This is used to run the gamut of issues: crossdressing, drag queens, the fetishistic use of the garments of the opposite sex, impersonating the other sex for the purpose of deception, and transitioning from one sex to the other.

If this edict holds in the New Testament era, I question whether it applies to the person who has a condition, which has the person in a weakened state, who does not desire to offend the Lord or take to the opposite sex out of any illicit desire for the…

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The question of sin (1 of 4)

Eilers Pizza

As I take up the subject of sin, my goal is not to win this discussion, making myself a victor and someone else a loser. After I present the information over these four days, I will not say that I have all of the answers, or even that I have any answers. One is doing foolish work who insists he has every answer. Please, read me as one longing to properly understand himself from both the Word of God AND his physical ailment.

I lead off with discussing a number of areas where attitudes have changed or there is disagreement in my own church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The LCMS takes as serious as any church body the doctrine of God. While the foundational doctrines remain untouched—those taught in the Athanasian, Nicene, and Apostles’ creeds—many second-tier teachings have been juggled; some caught, some swapped, some dropped.

Second-tier doctrines and…

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This is where we’re at

I don’t generally link to or comment on news stories, but this is one I felt important. For some back story, a pregnant woman answered a Craigslist advertisement for some baby clothes only to be cut open and her child forcefully removed from the womb. The baby did not survive. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this case is that the person who cut open this woman and took her baby will not have murder charges filed against them because in Colorado, a fetus is not recognized as human life. The woman was seven months pregnant. Let me state this again: The person who assaulted this woman who was maybe two months away from giving birth, cut her open, removed the human baby which died, will not face murder charges.

This is where we are at as a society. An almost fully developed child can be violently cut out of its mother and die and it is not considered murder because a fetus isn’t seen as human life. How awful is that? Scripture says otherwise on the fetus.

Jeremiah 1:5 states

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you

Likewise with Luke 1:41 & Luke 1:44

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.

For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

These verses show personhood in the womb. Jeremiah shows that God knows us while we are still being formed and developing. He knows our personality and what we’re like even before we are born. And Luke even shows us that the unborn have feelings and a personality as John jumps (as best as a fetus can, I suppose) with great joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.

The fetus is its own person. It is its own person with feelings and a personality and just because we can’t physically see it doesn’t make it false. If there is one silver lining in this it is that the state is showing consistency. Through Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers, children are murdered everyday and no one bats an eye. Maybe, I hope, that this incident and the way the courts treat it will open some eyes. Even if only a few.

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Death on a cross

Crucifixion is a horrible way to go.  It doesn’t look as bad as other deaths but when you get into the details it’s really quite horrific.  The victim is held to a cross as nails are driven through his body.  History shows us that the nails to hold the upper body are pounded through the hands or wrists.  Then, through the lower body by hammering them through the feet or heels.  The through the heel part really makes me cringe because the nails not only have to go through solid bone, but they also rub against a nerve anytime the victim moved making the suffering that much more excruciating.

Now imagine these nails are holding up your body with maybe a little rope to help so you don’t fall off and prematurely get a break from suffering.  Your own body weight is pulling you down making it difficult to breathe.  You need to pull yourself up just a little bit so you can have some easy breath, but the only thing with any kind of hold are your hands and feet.  Struggling, you muster your strength and raise your body.  You can breathe but the pain is now far more intense.  So you let go.  The pain subsides but now you’re having trouble breathing again.

Imagine all of that.  If you’re having trouble, just do a search for ISIS crucifixion.  Then you won’t have to imagine that.  You’ll see it exactly as it is.

Now imagine that Christ got it worse and you’ll have an idea of what he suffered for you.  I say idea because hopefully you’ll never experience what Christ suffered for you, that is the punishment for all of mans sins for all of time all at once.  If you ever get more than just an idea of what he suffered, then it means you’re dead and have been to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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