Cremation

Today I met with a couples small group from NewPointe. They asked me to come talk with them about an interesting topic that I had not thought much about. They asked me if cremation was OK for a Christian to do. I hadn’t given it much thought even though I have done several funerals in which the body was cremated. It is becoming much more common in the United States. Nearly 25% of Americans are cremated. Some do it because of the expense of burial, others because they are in an area that is difficult to bury people because of the sea level.

I began to do some research. I soon learned that there is much controversy over the practice of cremation. Some writers and teachers would say that Christians should absolutely not be cremated. Others would say it is fine. Well, I had to dig a little deeper.

The Bible actually does not give any specific teaching about cremation. It was practiced in Biblical times, but not by Hebrews or New Testament believers. The Bible does talk about burial as the common way to treat the body. In Biblical times they used tombs or caves to bury people. They did not bury them six feet under in a casket. I think that started much later in Europe.

Because the Bible does not come out and speak directly about cremation we need to understand why many Christians over the years have been opposed to cremation. Some believers would say that it does not recognize that one day God will resurrect our bodies and re-unite them with our soul and spirit (1 Corinthians 15:35-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). I find that argument hard to take because I think God is bigger than that. Nothing is too difficult for God, He can resurrect our bodies from dust or ashes or bones. What about the Christians that have been burned up in fires by accident or blown up in explosions? What about the people in the 9-11 tragedy?

Another objection is that pagan cultures and other religions practice this and by doing this we are agreeing with them or becoming like them. The Hindu religion practices this because they believe in reincarnation. I agree that we need to be careful that we are not endorsing pagan practices and worship, but if you have a Christian funeral, acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you are not endorsing other religions. A Christian funeral is a great place to witness to family and friends. The greatest gift you can give your family is that you have a persoanl relationship with Jesus Christ, so they don’t need to worry and have no hope.

Don’t miss the point here. We can debate this all day long, along with other doctrine issues. But the important thing for us to remember is this. Are we living our lives right now the way God wants us too? At our funeral will people know without a shadow of doubt where your heart was? Are you doing the things today that are glorifying God? Are you serving God with your time, treasure and talents. Are you loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving other people as much as you love yourself? Are you working on your relationships with other people?

You see we can get stuck in debates about this practice or that tradition and miss the whole relationship that God desires to have with us. Jesus came so that we wouldn’t have a bunch of rules and practices we had to do in order to be saved. He went after the religious people of his day because they were so focused on doing things and living by the rules that they missed the Messiah right in front of them. He died and was resurrected in three days so that we all could have the free gift of eternal life by simply believing in Him and asking for forgiveness.

So, is cremation OK for a Christian? For some it is and for others it may not be. The more important question should be are you ready? Is your heart right with God? If you died today would you go to heaven? I really don’t care what happens to my body after I die. I hope some of my organs can help someone else. I believe God will give me a new body some day, but until then I will try to live each day in right relationship with God.

Sports Nut

Today was the NFL draft. The anticipation of who your team will pick is usually better than the actual draft. Everyone loves to speculate on who will go where. I happen to be a big Browns fan and since they had the third overall pick I was looking forward to this draft. I had predicted earlier that the Browns would most likely pick Joe Thomas or Brady Quinn. Well, they got both of them. The Browns took the left tackle from Wisconsin Joe Thomas with the third pick. Most people thought Brady Quinn would go shortly after that but teams passed on him. Finally the Browns made a trade with Dallas at number 22. We had to give next years number one pick and this years second round. But how often can you draft two guys that were projected in the top ten in the same year. This could be the turning point for the Browns. They need some help in the secondary and the D line, maybe they can get someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

This is a hobby of mine, following sports. I follow the Browns, Cavs, Indians, Ohio State basketball and football. I also enjoy watching pro golf.

Marriage

Lately I have talking with quite a few people about marriage problems and relationship problems. That is part of what I do at NewPointe and I really enjoy working with couples or individuals that want to work on their relationships.

I have been married myself for almost 18 years and I have had my share of very difficult times. Vikki and I have had to work on a lot of stuff and continue to do so. As I think about marriage, I am reminded that God created marriage. He designed it to be for a lifetime and for our enjoyment. Of course we messed all that up with our “hard hearts”. All relationships are difficult at times, but the marriage relationship is unlike any other. Our spouse is the closest we will be with any other human being. When you are that close to someone there will be problems.

Most of us tend to be selfish and look out for ourselves and our wants and needs. As soon as you lose sight that a marriage is a team and you begin to oppose each other instead work together you are in trouble.

Over the next several weeks I will be blogging about marriage. I will attempt to share some of the things I have been learning and some of the things I tell couples when I meet with them to counsel them.

If you are experiencing problems in your marriage, don’t give up. Start working on yourself by getting some help. If you don’t know where to start give me a call and hopefully I can point you in the right direction.

Many of you are going to Married Life Live on Saturday. That is a great investment in your marriage, but don’t stop there. Keep learning and growing by studying about relationships and how you can better serve your spouse.

More to come

Parking at NewPointe

One of the biggest challenges we have had at NewPointe is to park the hundreds of cars that come in a short period of time. Anytime you have several hundred cars arriving at a location in a 15-20 minute time frame you have the potential for chaos.

That is why we have a parking ministry. This group of volunteers is dedicated to making the traffic flow and not jam up. Many hours of thinking and preparation have gone in to this area of the church. We have talked to other churches and people that deal with traffic and came up with a system for parking cars and helping people have a great experience.

Since opening day in December of 2006 we have made adjustments and changes to better accommodate the many people coming and going each week. This group of 20 some volunteers have endured bad weather and never complained.

I want to personally thank each member of the parking ministry for their patience, dedication and commitment. These guys are the best! They try hard to make every ones experience enjoyable. They get here early and stay late. If they would not be there for one week we would all feel the effects. I can’t express how important their ministry is.

Currently we have two teams that alternate every other month. We are looking to form a third team so that each team will serve every three months. That gives these guys two months to rest and get involved in other ministries or be with their families for church. If you would like to volunteer for this important ministry please contact me at the church office. There are openings for 8-10 more people.

Here are some helpful tips for parking; spread the word:

1. Try to arrive a little early, usually 20-30 minutes before the service is ideal

2. Please follow the instructions of the parking team. They are in communication with each other and know where the open spaces are. They are also trying to keep traffic moving. A 30 second delay at the peak time will cause traffic to back up on Rt. 39.

3. They fill the North (front) parking lot first. When that lot is full, all cars go to the South lot. We do this to avoid confusion.

4. Handicap parking is available on both sides of the building. The South entrance has sliding automatic doors that are more convenient for wheelchairs. It is the same distance to the auditorium from both sides.

5. If you are a volunteer arriving early (before 8:30) please park on the East side of the building or farther away from the building on the south side, along the edge of the lot. If you park in the middle of one of the lots it disrupts the flow of traffic (they have to park around you). That slows down the parking process.

6. Motorcycles should park on the East (Dover) side of the building as well. We want motorcycles on the concrete. There are concrete spaces that will be reserved for motorcycles. That will keep our asphalt in better shape.

7. Please drive slowly when coming up the hill and through the lots. There are lots of people walking to and from their cars. It is also safer the the parking team.

8. You can drop people off on either side of the building. It is best to drop off on the South (Back) side of the building because of easier access (Auto Doors) and the larger parking lot.

9. If you have special needs the Parking team will try to accommodate you. Simply role down your window and explain your situation. They may ask you to pull out of the flow of traffic to take care of your need.

10. Have patience, remember that we have new people coming every week and we want their experience to be great. The parking team is here to serve everyone that drives onto this campus.

If anyone would like to talk with me about the parking I would love to hear your feedback. Our aim is to constantly be improving every area of ministry as best we can. We want to remove any distractions like a bad parking experience so that people will want to come back. We can only do that if we all work together.
I encourage you to take the time to thank the parking attendants

Mountain Climbing

I have been reading an interesting book written by a great mountain climber. His name is Todd Skinner and the name of the book is “Beyond the Summit”. I have never gone mountain climbing, I have hiked on some big hills and decided I like being on the ground below. This guy is incredible. He talks about the principles he has learned from climbing and how that can apply to our work and personal lives. His first major point is this “You are the product of your mountains”, wow how true is that. All of us face mountains in our lives and those mountain define who we are. Some mountains eat our lunch, other we conquer; regardless we must face the mountains and climb them if we want to become the person God intended us to be.

He goes on to say this ” Each mountain you climb will change you, and the more challenging the mountain, the more you have to gain from the ascent. Your mountains include not only those you have climbed, but the mountains that others have climbed whose lessons you internalize; and the mountains you dream about climbing, which make you better before you ever set foot on them, and inspire you even if you never set foot on them.”

As I think about that quote I can’t help but think about the challenges our church has faced. The many mountains we have had to climb and the many others we learned from. Too often we stand at the foot of a mountain and are content to just make camp and stay there. It is comfortable at the foot of the mountain, it is safe, it is familiar, but it is not good. God made us for adventure, to lead and grow, to learn and climb. I also believe that each mountain we do climb prepares us for the next one. Even if we don’t make it all the way to the top we learn along the way and are more prepared for the next one. I am thankful for the leaders in our church that have continued to climb and not stay safly in the base camp.

Later in the book he makes another profound statement that hit me between the eyes. He said “If you are not afraid, you have probably chosen too easy a mountain.” Whoa, hold on a minute, I like easy mountains. The first time I went snow skiing I went to the Kiddy hill and fell all over the place. I guess I was a little scared of even that small hill until I learned how to ski properly. Skinner says “To be worth the expedition, to field a team to climb this mountain, it had better be intimidating. If you don’t stand at the base uncertain how to reach the summit, then you have wasted the effort to get there. A mountain well within your ability is not only a misspending of resources, it is a loss of opportunity across a lifetime of potential achievement.”

Again, if we as a church are looking for easy mountains to climb we won’t make much of an impact. But if that vision is so big that we are standing at the base without a clue how we will reach the summit then I am in. I am tired of living it safe and staying at the camp. I want to start climbing and learn on the way. The church should be looking for the biggest mountain in the world to climb. We should be leading the way on impacting the world and making a difference. I love it when Dwight says he wants to change the world; I can be a part of that.

Skinner goes on to say “Being afraid shows that you are crossing the frontier edge of your comfort zone, and right where it starts to get uncomfortable is where you begin to grow.” The only time you grow is when you take a risk and get out on the edge of your comfort zone. It may be to pray put loud with someone, it may be to lead a small group, it may be to volunteer to serve at the church, it may be to go get help for your marriage, it may be to reach out to your neighbor, it may be to reconcile a broken relationship, it may be to change the way you spend your money, it may be getting baptized, it may be sharing your testimony, it may be finding another job, or staying right where you are, it may be getting help for an addiction to alcohol or drugs or pornography. I don’t know what you are afraid of, but if you are not afraid you are not even close to growing. God helps you to face the fear, walk through the fear and begin to change the world. It starts with you and me, together we are the church and we can change the world.

I feel like I am standing at the base of the biggest mountain I have ever seen. I have been practicing and getting ready for this climb, but the time has come to start climbing. Opportunity always arrives with a little uncertainty and that uncertainly is paving the way to a huge reward. God has a plan for me and for you, but we must start climbing. He won’t lift our feet and force us to climb but He will clear a path and give a a foothold and give the gifts and ability we need at the right time. There will be setbacks and obstacles along the way because we have an enemy that does not want us to climb. When those obstacles come keep your eyes on Jesus to provide the right way and keep right on climbing. See you at the SUMMIT!