Tag Archives: Feelings

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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What do you want?

I recently listened to the first episode of Fighting for the Faith I have in a long time. I didn’t stop because I grew tired of the program or anything. I just didn’t have time. Sorry, Chris Rosebrough, but when you have a wife and two small children, it’s difficult to fit in a daily two to three hour show. Anyhow, the episode was called Rosebrough’s Ramblings on Coram Deo. At the twenty-five minute mark, he starts discussing Romans 6. In this, he mentions how he was in class with Dr. Rod Rosenbladt and how when the gospel was preached, he was still in his old Nazarene mindset. So he went to Dr. Rosenbladt and said, “You’re saying if I’m saved by grace, I can do whatever I want.”

I’d like to take a moment to point you towards the banner at the top of the page. You’ll notice a quote from Augustine.

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

I’ve had that banner up there for quite sometime, since I started the site, really. I just always loved the quote and it made sense, but I never really quite thought about what exactly it meant until I listened to this episode of Fighting for the Faith.

Dr. Rosenbladt replied, “Well of course. Now that you’ve been set free from sin, death, and the devil, what do you want to do?”

And suddenly, it was all so clear to me. I realize that there is a difference between doing what you want and doint what you feel like. Ever notice how actually doing what you want leaves you sense of pride or accomplishment while just doing what you feel like can at times leave you feeling pretty low? I want to help those in need. I feel like drinking all the booze. One of those will probably leave me feeling pretty good about myself. The other may leave me a little disappointed the next day. Romans 7:15 helps to explain.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

When we are in the grace of Christ, all we want to do is what is good. Now, we may feel like doing some pretty awful things from time to time. We may even do some pretty awful things from time to time. But we don’t want to do them. Instead, we want to do what is good. This is where the third use of the law comes into play. It helps to shape the Christian to do what is right.

So as a Christian under the grace of God, by all means, go forth and do whatever you want.

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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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I am a real person

When I was younger, before I was a Christian, there was no problem a good bottle couldn’t fix. It almost always made me feel better. And if it didn’t, I’d eventually pass out and feel better about everything in the morning. I recall one particularly rough night when I drank an entire bottle of whiskey on my own. The next day, I felt great. Since becoming Christian, I don’t drink even remotely like I used to and I don’t need it to solve my problems.

So, when you’ve discovered the greatest thing in the world, how do you help someone who in reality probably understands far better than you ever will? What about when that great thing is of no help to them? I honestly don’t know what your supposed to say, if anything. I suppose the only thing to say is that scripture never promises to fix our problems. The fact that I no longer drink a thirty pack of beer a day could be the result of God’s hand or it could be sheer dumb luck, an outcome of the choices I’ve made. In some respect, a lot of our life comes down to the choices we make.

In a previous post, I pointed out how things that can be used for sin  are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves. Not to say that one who goes through gender reassignment isn’t sinning, but for a hypothetical moment, let’s just say it’s not a sin. How one uses that gender reassignment could make much a sin. I’m not going to go into the ways a gender swap can be used for sin. I’ll let your imagination figure that out. And I’d like to point out for the record that I am NOT saying that Greg would use a gender swap for evil (such as beating up women), I’m just making a point of something that should be considered as it brings a whole new level of required awareness to the table.

I honestly don’t know where I’m going with this right now. I just felt I had to say something and now that I’ve said it, I honestly don’t know where to take it. But here is what Greg has to say…

Eilers Pizza

I am a real person. I cry real tears. I feel real pain. I experience real joy. I express and receive real love.

For all of the joy I experienced after changing my picture and profile yesterday, I experienced an equal measure of hurt. I received new friends; I lost old friends. I received very serious private messages of concern, and messages in which my intentions, by publicly writing, were called a veiled plan to cover the transition of which I was already certain.

I never wanted this time to come. I fought so hard to remain a male. For as peaceful as I feel about my brain and body finally coming into harmony, and the joy I experience living as a female, the good parts never last for long because the next hard thing appears, issues with family and friends and church and on and on.

I constantly return…

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The question of sin (3 of 4)

Eilers Pizza

God’s Word, which is my preferred term for the Holy Bible, makes clear what is and is not the Lord’s will for our lives. As my very first seminary professor continually reminded us, when we are not clear on something it is due to our weakness and not from God’s being indistinct.

Smoking can get people, um, smoking. Since God’s Word does not speak to it, most of Christianity leaves it in the arena of personal decision. When I would teach religion to middle-schoolers, I would make two columns on the whiteboard and have the kids list the positives and negatives of smoking. The negatives side contained the typical things like cancer, emphysema, addiction, and expense. The positives side? It was blank. When they wanted me to write, “It tastes good,” I would, but then I would make arrows to all of the negatives. Of course, I did not want…

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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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I like some meat in my worship

As a Lutheran, one of the greatest things I can be a part of is good, rich, Christ-centered hymnody in my church. You just can’t beat great meaty hymns like ‘A Might Fortress is Our God’ and ‘We Praise You and Acknowledge You, Oh God.’ Such rich great theology in every verse. How is it that not every single church does this? My thoughts (and I could be wrong) are that churches often care more about church growth than growing God’s kingdom. Now, I’m sure most of it is purely unintentional, but much of the so-called Christian music is far from Christian.

Many churches have 7-11 music for their hymns. You know what I’m talking about. The song is seven words repeated eleven times. Or even worse is the praise music. Have you ever noticed that Christian praise music is usually more about me than God? The lyrics are always along the lines of “God, I love you so much. I will do this for you. I am spreading your word. I. I. I.” Certainly is a lot of me for music that’s supposed to be singing the greatness of God. The thing is with both of these is that they’re extremely catchy and they sound very Christian, but they’re not Christian. And in many cases, it’s incredibly difficult to discern unless you know what to look for. The problem with this catchy sounding Christianese music is that it attracts people to the church, but it offers them nothing of substance. So if the pastor isn’t preaching the Gospel properly and the worship music does nothing to edify, what have you left? I used to attend an ELCA church that had absolutely atrocious preaching, but the hymns during the liturgy were so incredible that I continued to go knowing full well that the sermons were terrible because I was still getting good sound theology through the music, even if I wasn’t getting it through the pulpit.

If you worship music lacks substance (‘This is the Air I Breathe’ and ‘How Great is Our God’ come to mind) or what you do for God seems to be the main course of the song, it’s not Christian. Your church’s worship music should be a mighty steak, not a salad of iceberg lettuce.

We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God – Lutheran Service Book 941

1            We praise You and acknowledge You, O God, to be the Lord,
The Father everlasting, by all the earth adored.
To You all angel powers cry aloud, the heavens sing,
The cherubim and seraphim their praises to You bring:
“O holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth;
Your majesty and glory fill the heavens and the earth!”

2            The band of the apostles in glory sing Your praise;
The fellowship of prophets their deathless voices raise.
The martyrs of Your kingdom, a great and noble throng,
Sing with the holy Church throughout all the world this song:
“O all-majestic Father, Your true and only Son,
And Holy Spirit, Comforter—forever Three in One!”

3            You, Christ, are King of glory, the everlasting Son,
Yet You, with boundless love, sought to rescue ev’ryone:
You laid aside Your glory, were born of virgin’s womb,
Were crucified for us and were placed into a tomb;
Then by Your resurrection You won for us reprieve—
You opened heaven’s kingdom to all who would believe.

4            You sit in splendid glory, enthroned at God’s right hand,
Upholding earth and heaven by forces You command.
We know that You will come as our Judge that final day,
So help Your servants You have redeemed by blood, we pray;
May we with saints be numbered where praises never end,
In glory everlasting. Amen, O Lord, amen!

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Delicate ears

The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretense, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries.

It seems to me that not much has changed since the 16th century when Martin Luther wrote these words. The only difference between then and now is we have new words with which to ascribe. Today that which makes our ears delicate we give such happy words like self-esteem and tolerance. And that which hurts our delicate sensibilities we give names such as bigotry and hate-speech. We like to think that such things are new and perhaps to many of us, they are. I for one can recall growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s that when your feelings were hurt or your sensibilities where offended, you accepted it like an adult and moved on. Then came the wave of political correctness that has gotten so large, that upsetting someone in some cases is considered a punishable crime.

In the opinion of those delicate-eared persons, nothing could be more bitter or intemperate than Paul’s language.

Martin Luther nailed it on the head with this. And so did scripture. Those with delicate ears would make the Christian out to be the devil himself. A deceiver full of hate and loathing. But it is not just the rest of the world with delicate ears; it is Christians too! For some Christians when you speak of doctrine or Gospel, their ears curl and their hearts lurch because what you say is antithetical to how they view a particular part of Christianity. They deem you full of hate and not of Jesus’ love. Yet to those whose ears are not fragile, they would see, even if they disagree with you, that you come not in hatred but in love! In charity! And they would accept your words as good and kind, even if they themselves disagree with what you have to say.

If there is a light in all of this it is that delicate ears can be broken. When a glass is broken, it must be replaced with a stronger one so that it is not broken again. So when a delicate ear is broken, say by the law, then it must be replaced with an ear that is strengthened by the Gospel. And that is because faith comes through hearing, whether we want to hear it or not.

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