Tag Archives: Death

Your Baptism Now Saves You

The other day, I was listening to the 200proofgospel podcast and they were discussing baptism. They brought up a very interesting point on infant baptism that I would like to expand upon.

There are a lot of protestant Christians who disagree with the practice, despite it being around for roughly as long as the church has. They often claim that baptism is a work that they do and a such, is not salvific. The historic church, on the other hand, does claim that baptism does contain saving grace and is not a work of man, but of God. Listening to the discussion on 200proofgospel, they brought up a very good point. Let’s eliminate all the supernatural reasons for infant baptism and focus on just the tangible reasons. Primarily, death.

Sometimes, there will be a grandmother who was very faithful in the church and her daughter will be having a child. Now, the daughter fell out of the church and hasn’t attended since she was a little girl. Now, the grandmother and daughter want to have the child baptized in this church because of the family history. Mama was baptized there, and so was grandma, and so forth. So the pastor baptizes that baby knowing full well that it will not be raised in the faith and just as predicted, that baby never comes back to church. Fast forward some sixty years and that baby is now an old man dying of cancer. He starts thinking about his need for religion and then goes back to that church and explains to the pastor his troubles and that he was baptized there and develops a bond and is saved. For that man, his infant baptism saved him.

Why?

Personally, I think it has to do with knowledge of history. When death comes knocking at one’s door, the one who has been baptized, has something they can fall back on. Even if they never spent another moment in a church after that, they automatically have knowledge of a place they can go. They automatically have a place they can reach out to. Now, let’s contrast that to the baby who isn’t baptized. They’re sixty years old and dying of cancer. They start thinking about religion, but they really don’t have a place to go. To them, there are just a million different churches and beliefs. That, I imagine, would have to be overwhelming. Despairing. That infant that was baptized, they’ve got an immediate direction. They’re more likely to reach out.

So, ignoring all scriptural reasons to baptize infants, there is still a case to be made to do it. To not baptize infants is to do your fellow man a great disservice.

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Death

For about two and a half months now, the only thing I have been really able to think of is my inevitable death. Every single day. And if I went a time without thinking about it, I’d get happy for not thinking about it, and then that would cause me to think about it. It was a horrible daily cycle. Every time it came to mind, it was with a finality. No heaven or hell. Just nothing. Everything about me, gone. All my thoughts and actions for naught, never to exist further. It was quite depressing to say the least. I would do best to distract myself from my thoughts. Many times I found myself internally yelling at my brain to just “shut the fuck up!” I hate my brain sometimes.

Going to sleep was no fun. Some night I would just lie awake, pondering.

And then, a couple days ago, it just stopped. My daughter was sick with a fever. She was miserable and didn’t want to be alone, so I went up to lie in bed with her to help her sleep. I still had the depressing notion of death and it’s finality of nothing on my mind at the time. And yet as I lay with her trying to comfort her so she can get some much needed sleep, something happened. Just as she dozed off, she said something to me. Now, for what would seem like an epiphany moment, you’d think I could remember what she said, but I can’t. I don’t know why, but for the life of me I cannot remember what she said. I do remember there was nothing profound or even religious about what she said, only that my brain suddenly changed. With her words, I smiled. There is a God and everything is going to be okay.

I know. It sounds blazingly stupid and I acknowledge that. I don’t know what was wrong with me. Perhaps it was a midlife crisis. As I often tell my wife, “I’m half over.” I don’t know what’s changed and I’m smart enough not to trust my feelings, but it’s nice to be okay with death and my destination once again.

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Jack Chick – Apr 13, 1924 – Oct 23, 2016

I heard that Jack Chick died the other day. You may not know the name, but you’re probably familiar with his work. At some point you’ve probably been given or come across a Chick Tract; a little black and white comic about why you’re going to Hell unless you confess that Jesus is your savior. I suppose at it’s most basic level, he wasn’t wrong, just ignorant.

Unlike most people who disagree with his message, I don’t see him as a hateful old fossil but instead someone who is really out of touch with reality; sometimes hilariously so. The message of the gospel he would try to deliver was almost always in the most offensive way possible and I don’t mean offensive in the way that the gospel is offensive. I mean offensive in the way that the issues are discussed without actually understanding the issues or the people in the issues themselves. To the reader, this comes across as hate-filled, racist, or just downright laughable. More often than not, it came across as all three.

Conspiracy theories abound in tracts on Roman Catholicism. Satan gives AIDs to Christian rock bands as a punishment for going gay. Dungeons and Dragons teaches you to kill your family. Blacksploitation. No, I’m not making that last one up. Somewhere along the line Jack Chick thought black people might have difficulty relating to his predominately white comics so he made black versions of many of his tracts complete with jive talk. And yes, I’m reasonably sure these tracts came out well after the ’70s.

The strange thing is, there’s a certain level of honesty to them I can’t explain. Not in how they portray the people and issues, but in Jack’s worldview. This is why I don’t see him as a complete douche (I could be totally wrong here, I don’t know the guy) but instead as someone who genuinely thinks he’s helping people. And that’s kinda tragic because in his misguided attempt at helping people, he’s probably done much more harm than good. I imagine that for every person these brought to Jesus, twenty more were driven away.

Sadly, these tracts can still be found everywhere. Well meaning people find clever ways to hand these out. Invariably, my daughter will get at least one trick or treating this year. Those of us who are older will remember finding them in phone booths. I once found one in a case of beer I had purchased at the grocery store. Most recently, I got one in the mail with my health care check from a Baptist church. I speculate that since my health sharing ministry will allow just about any Christian to join, they may have been worried that they might be sending money to a Roman Catholic, because for what other reason would a Christian send a Chick Tract to another Christian.

I believe Jack is in heaven. Not because his theology was right, but because I believe, as misguided as it was, that his faith in Christ was genuine. I believe that his faith was strong and even though misapplied, it still comes down to faith in the one who came down and died for our sins and that his word is true. Could I be wrong? Sure. I didn’t know Jack Chick personally. I can only speculate based on what I’ve read. But I don’t think he was intentionally malicious. Just paranoid and out of touch with reality.

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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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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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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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Heroic Qualities

Christ died on the cross. He shed his precious blood for a wretched sinner such as myself. I have done many terrible things that I’m not proud of. Things I’m ashamed to admit, but still things that I have done, nonetheless. So how can I look someone in the eye and tell them what a wretched sinner they are? Well, it’s because I know what one is.

It’s you and I. He and she. Boy and girl. Child and adult. It is everyone who has ever lived. Well, most everyone. There is that one guy. Some of you might know his as Jesus the Christ. Others may refer to him as Yeshua. Whatever you call him, he is the savior of man.

He didn’t punch a car to stop a speeding train, nor did he stop a mad scientist from taking over the world. No. He was nailed to a stick. It was a very large stick, but a stick still the same. I know, it doesn’t sound much like a quality of someone who saves people, but it’s true.

Some of you may have done something wrong or stupid in your life that was going to get you into a heap of trouble. You knew you were going to get it this time and there was no way out of it. But then, for whatever reason, the guy who’s got the good reputation feels sorry for you. So he goes in and takes the blame and punishment for it so that you can get off scot free.

Well, that’s kinda what Jesus did, except he wasn’t just the guy with the good reputation. No. He was the guy who lived perfectly and never sinned. And in an act of mercy, he took the punishment of every single sin of every single person who has ever lived and who will ever live.

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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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It comes anytime

I just read that Rowdy Roddy Piper died today. As a big wresting fan, I’ve watched a lot of my childhood heroes die over the past fifteen years. At times, it seems I can’t turn log onto the internet without seeing someone I admired growing dying.

Roddy Piper – Heart attack

Chris Benoit – Double homicide/suicide

Sean O’Haire – Suicide

Paul Bearer – Heart attack

Captain Lou Albano – Natural causes

Crash Holly – Suicide

Mr. Perfect – Cocaine overdose

Eddie Guerrero – Heart Failure

Chris Kanyon – Suicide

Macho Man Randy Savage – Heart attack

That’s just a small list. I don’t intend to list everyone who inspired me at some point in life macho-man-ascending-into-heavendied. I don’t know if any of them were Christians except for Paul Bearer. Their religious faith or lack thereof is not the point (though I like to imagine that they’re all together having some big wrestling match in the sky). My point is simply this; death can occur at any moment. It doesn’t matter how much we plan for the future. All the amount of planning we do is all for naught if we should up and kick the bucket. As Luke 12:19-20 says, “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

Even the mighty fall. Often tragically. If that is the case, what then, is there any value in what we do? Only that we believe, believe that Jesus Christ the son of God incarnate came down Earth as man and died on the cross for our sins. I know that I am a wretched sinner and even if I were to build up the most amazing legacy and change the world for the better forever, it would still be for nothing without Jesus Christ.

I pray you’re resting in peace, Hot Rod.

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