Reflections of Faith: Death

The downside to having a very imaginative and creative brain is that it at random seems to make you think deeply about things you don’t want to think about. Last night when I got into bed, for no apparent reason I was suddenly faced with my own mortality. This has happened to me at various points in the past, each of them equally unpleasant. The finality of death, regardless of faith, is always unsettling. In the Christian faith, death is unnatural, a result of our sin. There is a beyond, but that beyond is your final destination. In the atheist mind, death is it. There is nothing more. Either way, death is the great finality and something I have difficulty coming to grips with.

The other night, as I lie there in bed disturbing myself as I am wont to do, the common theme processed in my brain, unable to fully comprehend either of them. On the one hand, there’s that struggle we sometimes face as Christians, that part of the brain that says, “What if we’re wrong?” What if death is final and that’s it? As living organisms, we spend so much time being that it’s so difficult to comprehend not being. Even when we sleep, we on occasion have moments of lucidity. Have you ever been conscious while asleep and dreaming? I have, and it’s an incredible thing. Even if you’ve never been lucid while asleep, most of us have had dreams that we can remember when we awake in the morning. While dreams are usually totally separate from our actual lives (IE, what we are doing during our waking moments is not historically relevant to what we dream), the fact that we retain memory of them attests to the idea that we are still being. So the thought of not having stream of conscious is incredibly hard to grasp fully and at the same time, terribly depressing.

On the other side of the coin, there’s the final stop after death. As someone of faith, one would think that none of this would be an issue, yet the very fact that I ponder the previous paragraph makes me question my faith somewhat. Apparently residing somewhere deep inside of me is some level of uncertainty. Some may point to the very fact that I have these concerns as proof that I do have sufficient faith. They’re quite possibly right, though I still have difficulty accepting that knowing the evil that lives in my heart and the lies my brain likes to tell me. So what of the afterlife? A place of eternity, despite being in direct contrast to what I previously stated, is also incredibly difficult for us to comprehend. We see things end all around us on a daily basis. Movies, books, cities, people, stars, etc. Just as it’s hard to imagine my consciousness coming to an end, it’s also tough to imagine it never ceasing. Logically, everything has to end.

And at the same time, no it doesn’t. So a war wages in my head, an opposition among two forces that my brain cannot comprehend. Two radically different ends, once of which I will most certainly face and yet neither of which can I comprehend. It’s depressing and stressful at times. I often feel that when I struggle with this, I’m struggling with my faith. It’s to be expected though. I’m not sure how I’ll go, though it will most likely be from cancer. Apparently it runs on my birth father’s side. I’d like to think when my time comes, however, that I’m stronger in the faith than I’ve ever been. I’d like to go with a smile and saying, “See you on the other side. Don’t forget to bring beer when you come.”

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Did God create transgender? (2)

First off, let me apologize for the poorness of the this reblog. I accidentally clicked on the wrong blog when I went to reblog this originally and now it won’t allow me to do so on the proper page. Good job, WordPress. Anyhow, to the point at hand, the blog post shared discusses how we are to act in our fallen state vs how we do act in our fallen state. Considering this particular post on Eiler’s Pizza and the recent post on Comprehending Hell from Churchmouse Campanologist, I think Genesis 5:3 sufficiently answers both. To put it simply, when we find that we can’t get up to God’s level, we try to bring him down to ours. By that, I do not mean to our human level but to our own individual personal level. It becomes all about me and everyone else including God himself be damned.

There’s probably a sermon in that somewhere.

Here’s the post.

Part two: Now how shall we live?

In part one, from the Holy Bible I answered the title question with a clear, “No, God did not create transgender people.”

If God were responsible for creating me as transgender—for creating a person to have Down Syndrome, or autism, or twins to be conjoined, or any variation with which a person might enter the world, I will no longer believe in Him; He is not the God of love and mercy as He describes Himself. Rather, He would be nothing more than a mad scientist, one who enjoys zapping us with every difficult and terrible thing in order to watch us run around like chickens with our heads cut off.

He did not create us this way so that we are born with or acquire many and various things which do not meet the definition of “good.” In part one, I showed from the Holy Bible that all variations in humans arose from Adam’s disobedience, causing us to be fallen and fractured and mortal. That question answered, this one follows: “Now how shall we live?” which breaks down into a twofold, “How shall I act?” and, “How shall I treat others?”

As God in Christ is the Lord of all creation, considering no one…

Click to continue reading…

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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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Did God create transgender?

I’ve re-blogged various posts from Eiler’s Pizza before and this occasion is no different. I’m sure you’ve read some of his posts before if you’ve come to my blog on multiple occasions. If not, then you may be surprised to know that this former LCMS pastor suffers from a condition called gender-dysphoria. Now, even though he has taken steps towards gender reassignment, his  conscience is still bound by scripture. In this post of his, he does not take the side of many on in the LBGT movement in regards to whether God made him that way. In fact, he states just the opposite. God did not make him that way though he was born that way. In a way, you could say his post is a more thought out and more detailed version of my own post titled, Yes, You Were Born That Way. I encourage you to give it a read.

Eilers Pizza

Part one: God’s Word and trans origins

To answer the title question, I will provide a straightforward reading of the Holy Bible. I am a traditional Christian who reads Scripture as it has been read since antiquity. Everything I present is not an interpretation but what the Holy Bible states, and the conclusions I reach are both theologically sound and scientifically responsible. Those who read Scripture with a different lens might see differently, and those who use other texts likely will arrive at different answers. I will gladly discuss any disagreement.

I use descriptors—normal and abnormal—which bother many people. I use these only to differentiate between the very good initial creation of God and the fallen creation after Adam’s disobedience. Never will I use “normal” to advance anyone or “abnormal” to put down anyone. It will be vital to retain this so that my conclusions might be given a fair…

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Christian views on hell: moving back to Origen

This was a great post on a blog that I follow. Perhaps I shall do a blog post at a later date with my thoughts on the ability to rightly comprehend Heaven, Hell, death, and the afterlife in general. For the moment though, I believe my comment in the post (which I have also pasted just below) sums up my thoughts nicely.

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 art all. In a way, this is how heresy springs up: we cannot fully comprehend so we make it something we can comprehend.

Churchmouse Campanologist

This follows on from Monday’s post about hell. Please note that there is an adult image and disturbing content in this entry.

In the 1970s my secondary school religion teachers taught that Origen was a heretic and that the Church declared him as well as his teachings anathema. In short, they said that Origen started out as a devout Christian then went off-piste.

My mother told me the same thing years before.

Today, Origen seems to be all the rage. The modern Church has rehabilitated his reputation, and clergy are encouraging us to adopt his beliefs.

Two of Origen’s beliefs concern hell and universalism. Origen held that hell was temporary, akin to a very long-term purgatory, and wrote that there will come a point in eternity when God will accept the population of hell — including Satan — to heaven.

Is that what the Bible says?

As far…

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Let’s Sing Megadeth Songs in Church

Who doesn’t love listening to Megadeth? One of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time with good wholesome Christian lyrics to boot. What? You didn’t realize that they were a Christian praise band? Well, that’s because they’re not. They’re a secular in your face thrash metal band with lyrics that often focus on religion and politics. The frontman, Dave Mustaine, however, did convert to Christianity in the early 2000s I believe it was. It didn’t change how they play, what they played (well, there are a few old songs they don’t play anymore because of it), or even the themes that they play. They still heavily focus on religion and politics. But if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you can hear Dave’s theology creep in. The strange thing is, it’s much, much better theology at a Megadeth concert than you can from the praise music sung in many churches.

Let’s do some comparison work, shall we. I’ll start of with some lyrics from This is the Air I Breathe by Michael W. Smith. This is sung in churches. As worship music.

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I’m desperate for you
And I I’m lost without you

This goes on over and over again. This is your basic seven eleven song. What I mean by that is that there is no substance to the lyrics, it is basically seven words repeated eleven times. I wasn’t joking that it goes on over and over again. Those are the only lyrics in this “praise” song. On the other hand, we have Megadeth’s Never Walk Alone…A Call To Arms. Here’s a sample. By the way, for reference, the song appears to be written from the point of view of Christ.

When you feel that something’s wrong
I’ll shelter you and keep you warm
I’ll never let you walk alone
I loved you when you still hated me
I’m coming and it won’t be long
Time to reap what I have sown
Never ever let you walk alone
I know your enemy, it once was me

Wow. There’s like no comparison. This is just the chorus of the song and in it we have the mercy and compassion of Christ despite our sin and disobedience. We have the second coming. It has our rebellion. It even has salvation. Let’s look at another verse.

Let me wrap my arms all around you
Suffer the trespasses that you’ve made
I will drink your pain away, forever and a day
If you just call out my name – even whisper it

Here we have Christ taking our sins onto himself. Honestly, the only part I really take issue with is that last line, but that’s because it puts our salvation on something we do. My point is not that Megadeth is a great theological powerhouse. I honestly disagree with a lot of Dave Mustaine’s theology. Listening to other songs, it’s very clear that he believes in a lot of what you might find in the Left Behind series. Honestly, if you’re a band as political as Megadeth and your leader suddenly becomes a Christian, it’s not really surprising that he would see a lot of New World Order stuff in Biblical prophecy. No, my point is that how can Christian praise music be almost universally terrible when it comes to actual cross centered theology while a secular band can nail it so much better? No, I don’t want to hear Megadeth in church. The hymns we’ve got in the LCMS are far superior when it comes to sound theology. It’s just a damn shame so much of the praise music that’s out there really has nothing Christian about it.

On an amusing side note, Megadeth’s bassist David Ellefson is a member of the LCMS. To my knowledge he does work in regards to writing hymns for the church as well as is taking part in seminary studying for ministry. Come on Ellefson! Bring Mustaine over to the LCMS. Get him some better theology. Let’s hear a Megadeth rendition of A Mighty Fortress is Our God on an album someday. 😛

For those curious, here is the official video for the song Never Walk Alone…A Call to Arms. Ignore the fact that the video portion is terrible. Metal music videos, like Christian praise bands, are almost universally terrible.

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God Doesn’t Play Fetch

Our God has been so wild lately. He doesn’t seem to listen, he doesn’t obey my commands, and we can’t even bribe him with treats. He’s gotten so out of hand, he may even have to be put down.

You ever notice how we often treat God as some sort of pet, perhaps a dog or a horse? Barking orders at him, offering bribes and compromises, and then getting upset when our pathetic efforts fail to achieve their desired effect? What? You don’t do that? Oh, my bad. Or maybe you have. I know I have. In fact, I probably still do it on occasion. That old Adam likes to butt in whenever he can. I’m willing to bet you’ve probably done the same at some point too, perhaps without realizing it. I believe we often do it in our prayers during out time of need. Now, this is not to say we are mistaken when do these things. In fact, scripture tells us cast our burdens upon the Lord. I think the problem is when we expect him to answer us the way we want him to.

For example, imagine one who is going through a rough time. So they pray, “God, grant me X so that I may be well.” This person is asking for something from God. This is what he wants and it is a perfectly reasonable thing to pray for. But let’s say in his heart he is expecting God to do this, it’s not so much a begging but a command. Who is he to order around God? Then again, we have such a forgiving God that it’s easy for us to attempt to take advantage of him even without our realizing it. Of course we can’t take advantage of him, but that’s not the point.

So this prayer goes seemingly unanswered and the man decides may he have done wrong by not offering something in return. “God, grant me X and I shall give you Y.” It seems like such a reasonable thing. Surely if he is offering something it must be for the greater good. Perhaps he will give up pornography or become a missionary or slaughter a lamb on the altar. Except his sacrifices do no good because God doesn’t want them.

As time passes, the man see’s those whom he deems vile and wicked enjoying life and gaining all they desire while his own life crumbles before his eyes. Dejected, he’s had enough of God. He kills him in his heart and finds a new one.

What the poor man doesn’t see is that God has already answered his prayers roughly two thousand years ago on a cross with his own son. A sacrifice that no other can compare to.

This fictional man I told you of is just one of many thousands of examples. Whatever your prayer, God has already answered it with the death of his son, Jesus Christ. Whatever your trial, cast it upon the Lord, but don’t be upset if you don’t get the answer you want. Whether you do or don’t get it delivered in your preferred method doesn’t matter because God has answered it how he sees fit. Honestly, any prayer that is answered as we want is simply just icing on the cake. Perhaps…

God is not the problem. The problem is the people who want to be the leader of the pack. We reintroduce God. We retrain people.

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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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I May be a Metal Head, but I’m Still Rock ‘N’ Roll

Who would win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?

Trick question. Lemmy is God.

The above statement you have just read is a question occasionally used to determine if someone is legitimately rock ‘n’ roll. Lemmy Kilmister, for those of you who don’t know, was the front man for the heavy metal rock band known as Motörhead. A true legend if there ever was one, Lemmy created some of the greatest rock music ever recorded. He also lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle harder than anyone. From a diet almost exclusively of meat and potatoes (he claimed he tried vegetables once and didn’t like them), to a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pack of cigarettes nearly every single day of his life, and to having sex with over three thousand woman (claimed), he was the sin of rock music that our parents warned us about. In the eyes of a rebellious youth, it’s not hard to see how Lemmy is God.

Lemmy was something of a medical anomaly as well. Up until the last few years, he seemed to be in perfect health. Doctors and scientists couldn’t explain it. His lifestyle was the exact opposite of healthy and yet his body was running great. One’s actions have a way of catching up them, however. A few years ago, all sorts of health problems began to manifest themselves and they came quickly. So much so that he had to change his unhealthy lifestyle. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, for the sake of his health, he gave up his Jack Daniels and switched to a bottle of vodka a day.

One thing that was quite interesting about Motörhead is that though they fit very well into the heavy metal category, Lemmy hated that label. The whole concept of subgenres was foolishness to him. As far as he was concerned, Motörhead played rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, they would start their concerts with, “We are Motörhead and we play rock ‘n’ roll.” And this is where I get to the meat of my post.

I’m a metal head. I love metal. But it’s still rock music. I think it’s the best rock music and the label of metal helps to define that. My faith is very much the same way. I am a Lutheran. The Lutheran faith defines what I believe. Lutheranism, however, falls underneath the label of Christian. Other denominations such as Baptist or Calvinist for example can be considered Christian brothers and sisters because we hold to the same basic belief that Christ died for us sinners and it is through him in which we are saved. Yet our beliefs differ enough that we need labels like Lutheran and Calvinist because there are issues of faith which we do disagree on, in many cases, vehemently disagree. Despite such disagreements, those of different denominations can still be our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if I believe that Lutheranism is the correct one.

That’s not to say that all who claim to be Christian are our brothers and sisters. Metaphorically speaking, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and various other “Christian” groups are the Nickelback and Avril Lavigne of Christianity. You’ll never find Nickelback in any rock playlist of mine (or really any playlist of mine for that matter) and you’ll never here me refer to a Mormon as my Christian brother.

Lemmy died two days ago. Supposedly from a super aggressive cancer. In reality, he died of his sins and most likely in his sins. Jesus on the other hand died because of our sins and for our sins. That is something all Christians can agree on, even if they don’t agree on everything.

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