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.
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.
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
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!
Well today is officially my first day of spring. Every year I wait as long as I can to mow my yard. My neighbor Keith and I have an unspoken competition to see who can hold out the longest. Several other neighbors have mowed twice already. Today I caved and mowed the yard, Keith wins this year. Each year when the grass begins to grow and the flowers and weeds begin to pop I am reminded of how amazing God is. His creation is truly amazing. All the little details that make this earth so beautiful.
My day off is Wednesday, it is my Sabbath. It is a special day each week for me because I usually spend most of the day with my wife Vikki. After eating breakfast and having coffee we will usually go shopping for groceries and other stuff we need. We will also eat lunch together (Our favorite place is Lams in New Phila). There is often a nap during the day and working around the house. I look forward to Wednesday’s as well because I do a lot of reading. I am currently in the book of Matthew in my NIV study Bible. I am reading all the study notes, so it is taking me a while to read through the New Testament.
I also was reading “Three Weeks with my brother” by Nicholas Sparks. He is sharing his story of a trip around the world with his older brother. He shares memories of their childhood along the way as well in between the different placesthey are visiting. Some of the stories remind me of the adventures I had with my older brother Brian. One part of the book he talked about the two of them having BB guns and deciding it would be fun to shoot each other. The rules were no shooting at the head and only pumping it twice. This reminded me of how Brian and I would shoot our BB guns. We would stand in a pile of sawdust or dirt and shoot at each others feet, just to kick up the dirt like we saw on TV. One time Brian hit my foot and I went screaming to mom. Anyway we had lots of great adventures growing up beside my Grandpas’ farm in Walnut Creek. We would often go exploring along the creek that ran through the farm land and in the big barn and old buildings on the property. We would hunt for arrow heads and buried treasure, we trapped muskrats and raccoon, we shot birds and went swimming in the creek(Clothing optional). I remember one time we made a mud slide down a bank into the creek. We were completely covered in mud and loving it. We had to get hosed off before we got close to the house. We had a lot of great times during those years in Walnut Creek. We also helped with the farming every summer. I remember making hay, it was always hot and dusty and I usually ended up up in the barn stacking the bails. This was a tough job because the bails would come so fast off the elevator I couldn’t keep up so they would fall every which way. I did my best to get them stacked but usually ended up just pushing them around. I am reminded that I am very fortunate to have the childhood that I did. Growing up in the country and spending time with my two brothers Brian and Brad. Well enough reminiscing, I am off to watch the Cavs and Indians. The Cavs are in the playoffs anf the Indians are looking pretty good this year and yes the NFL football draft is this weekend. GO BROWNS! I predict they pick either Brady Quinn or Joe Thomas.
We made it home Sunday morning at a little after 8:00 a.m. I was exhausted so I went straight home (I slept 6 hours this afternoon). This has been an interesting week. I developed a closer friendship with the team of people that went with me and I served some people that needed help with improvements to their home. God gets all the credit. He created each one of us and gave us the gifts and abilities we have. God had each person on this team there for a reason. For me I got to hear the stories of the other team members and interact with them in a way I could never do at home. The community and friendships that happen on trips like this is always worth it. I also was reminded that I am here to serve.
I was talking with one of the people on the team and found out she had anxiety a few days before this trip. She did not know anyone and wasn’t sure why she was going, but I think this was exactly what she needed. To meet new people and go serve, that is great medicine. I think all of us grew spiritually on this trip. No, we did not have devotions and Bible studies together every day, but we did worship God through our service to the people down there and to each other.
Often times when you take a risk and take that first step of faith the rewards are unbelievable. Most of us like to stay in our comfortable little boats and not take any chances. We have a fear we will drown, fail, be rejected, look dumb, or get hurt. That is not how Jesus did it. He rocked the boat, He walked on water, He had compassion on the people, He washed feet, He healed the sick, He touched to dirty, He cared for the needy, He hung out with sinners. I want to be more like that, more uncomfortable, more in over my head. Each one of us can make a difference every day. It doesn’t have to be a mission trip, there are many opportunities every day in our every day lives to make a difference. The little things you notice and help with, the smile and hand shake, the words of encouragement, the way you treat your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your neighbors. Every day is an act of worship. Are you worshipping God in your actions or yourself? I struggle some days with the worship of myself, caring more about me than God or others. We all have that tendency, but tomorrow is a new day, a new week and all of us can make a difference. Be intentional in your acts of service, plan to go on a mission trip of some sorts, serve in your local church, serve with a local community organization, get involved in a small group, love your neighbor as yourself.
Well, we put in another long day at Ms. Carol’s. We continued painting, finish carpentry trim, drywall and shower sheets on the bathroom wall around the tub. John Troyer mowed her yard and spent a good bit of time talking with Carol. Yesterday he also dug out some huge bushes behind the house for her. John is our social/public relations officer. He could talk to a tree and have a great conversation. John is great at listening to the peoples stories. He also did a lot of painting today. Terry & Terri are our paint warriors, they are amazing. Chelsea and Cathy also did a fabulous job painting, all day long. Roger and Randy did the finish carpentry work and a little painting and Todd did the drywall in the bathroom and a whole lot more. Nick did a little bit of everything, he is a great kid. I spent a good part of the day painting & putting tile on the bathroom floor. Todd measured and I cut the pieces. Later Nick and I did the grout. It had been over 18 years since I did tile work. It took me a while to figure out the tile saw. I only broke about four or five pieces out of 35. We still have some work to do in the bathroom and we need to finish painting the porch floor.
It is supposed to rain on Saturday, so we are unsure how much we can do outside. My feet are really sore, because I do not have good supports in my work boots. My sprained ankle from two and half weeks ago is still bothering me as well. It stinks to get older. Terri Hupp has been icing her shoulder as well. We are tired and sore but we are so blessed. It is such a great feeling to know we are making a difference in someones life. Carol has been so grateful and the entire neighborhood has noticed. Many people are calling Carol or stopping in to ask how she got all these people to come out and work on her house. I think it gives them hope and encouragement to see some progress. This little town of Ocean Springs has changed since the hurricane. It has become a little more commercialized with many new restaurants and small shops. It reminds me a little bit of Berlin. Few people living on the main drag. Of course many more people live in this town.
We walked about 2 miles down to the beach tonight. It is beautiful. We could see across the bay to Biloxi and could see the bridge they are working on to connect these two towns. So far this has been a wonderful trip and I want to encourage others to consider going on a work trip this year. If anyone is interested please call me or comment.
Today we worked on Ms. Carol McNair’s house. She has the black shirt on and her sister has the red shirt on. She has lived in this house for 57 years. She is 65 years old. We worked on her bathroom, front porch, installed a new front door, painted her house, painted all the window trim. We will spend Friday there as well, finishing the drywall in the bathroom, Tiling the floor and finishing the paint on the outside. She was so grateful, she gave all of us hugs. We also got a chance to drive to Biloxi and do a little site seeing. There is still a lot of damage but a tremdous amount of work has been done. We finished the day at Sonic for ice cream.
This is camp Victor where we are staying. We heard that this camp is planning on being active for another two years. They are doing a fabulous job of helping the people in the area with food, home improvements and encouragement. God has provided everything they need to meet the needs of the people. We heard many stories of how God brought just the right people and supplies at the right time in amazing ways. I hope we can send more teams down here. They feed all the volunteers three meals a day and coordinate all the work for the many volunteers. All volunteer hours are recorded and the county gets credit for those hours from FEMA. They are averaging around 24,000 hours per month which translates into about a 400,000 credit of the counties bill.