A Biblical Theology of Burial?

I stumbled across a little article entitled “A Biblical Theology of Burial”. It deals with burial vs cremation, intending to do so in a biblical way.

Not to pick on the author, but I find it both fairly unbiblical, and not really theology.

It borders on silliness in some of its points and conclusions.

For example, he makes the statement, “Whatever one may say about burial verse [he means "versus"] cremation, this much we can be certain of, burial is a distinctively Christian practice.”

Burial is a distinctively Christian practice? Tell that to the hundreds of millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans that are buried. Except you can’t tell them — they’re buried!

Not to mention that several of his EXAMPLES of burial are Old Testament folks from before Christ!

The author also writes, “…a burial of the body of a believer is, in the truest sense, the last great act of faith that a believer may exhibit with his or her life.”

Except it’s NOT with his or her life — he or she is dead! And what’s written on a tombstone doesn’t save or damn the person who lived. Countless gravestones say things like “Safe In the Arms of Jesus”, when the dead guy didn’t know Jesus from a hole in the ground.

He concludes in part with, “While the Scriptures do not say that cremation is sinful in and of itself…”

And isn’t that the real point? There is NO scriptural teaching against cremation.

And if it’s supposedly an act of faith to be buried, as an indication that God will one day resurrect that ol’ body “mouldering in the grave”, could we not say that it’s even more an act of faith that God will gather all them lil’ ol’ specks of smoke and ash from a cremation, and resurrect a new glorious body?

So folks, if you wanna be buried, be buried. If you wanna be cremated, be cremated. If you even have a say in it.

Meanwhile, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (He who, though God, came to Earth as a man, died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day) and you will be saved — whether buried or cremated.

Here’s the article:

http://info.alliancenet.org/christward/a-biblical-theology-of-burial#.U7wKT_ldXlN

Fuel Your Sense of Wonder – Part 1: Look At The Heavens

I love pondering the magnitude of the Universe. The gigantic size and beauty of Space. 

I love standing out on my back patio at night, maybe with a wind blowing through our huge maple trees, and just looking up at the stars and the moon and contemplating the vastness of what God accomplished when He said, “Let there be”. And there was.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

When I was a new Christian back in the late ’70′s, I visited the Planetarium in my home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve forgotten the regular Planetarium show that night, where you sit back in your seat, looking up at a huge white ceiling, and some astronomy lesson is projected out on the ceiling “sky”. I’m sure it was a good presentation.

But I still remember vividly, over thirty-five years later, the experience I had in the foyer of the Planetarium, as I was looking at some blown-up photographs of the sky, taken through high-power telescopes. Huge expanses of outer Space with too many stars to count printed on my brain, and I was struck with the awesomeness of the God Whom I’d just come to know. 

Tears came as I realized that this awesome God, this Creator who cast not just millions of stars, but billions of galaxies out into Space by His Word alone, had created a little planet called Earth, and had come here in love, to give His only begotten Son, to save us from our sins if we would believe in Him.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s important to not just take time to smell the roses, but take time to inhale the aroma of a God who by His Word made the star Antares.

Antares is a giant star, so much bigger than our sun that if it was placed where our sun is, 93 million miles away, the Earth would actually be inside of the star! 

And Antares is just one of 500 billion stars in our galaxy called the Milky Way.

From America there is only one other galaxy that can be seen at all with the naked eye. That galaxy is called Andromeda, and is 2 million light-years away. That means that light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, would take 2 million years to reach Earth. 

And yet that’s a very very short distance in Space. 

Until recently in human history, Andromeda was just thought to be another star. But with powerful telescopes, we came to know that Andromeda was actually a galaxy(!) twice the size of our Milky Way, and contains hundreds of billions of stars.

And the Milky Way and Andromeda are just 2 of 100 billion galaxies, each with billions of stars. 

Which brings me to the second time I got tears in my eyes at the Lord’s creation of the heavens:

I think it was the early 90′s when National Geographic published some photos taken by the Hubble telescope. The Hubble is a very powerful telescope which was put into Space orbit, so that the earth’s atmosphere wouldn’t interfere with or distort what the telescope could see.

By the way, a side note. Did you know that if you took a globe — you know, a globe like you might have at home, that spins around and let us see the maps of the world in their actual shapes — if you took that globe and sprayed a coat of varnish on it, that coat of varnish would be the equivalent of about the actual thickness of the atmosphere on the earth, the air we breathe? Isn’t that amazing?

Anyway, back to the National Geographic photos from the Hubble telescope.

One of the sets of pictures showed a part of Space which we had previously only seen as a black empty spot of Space from our Earth telescopes. Then another picture showed that same black spot that we previously thought was empty, and Hubble had shown us that that black empty spot of Space actually contained whole new beautiful astounding galaxies of stars and worlds that we didn’t even have a clue existed.

I was stunned, and the immense power and majesty of the Lord who became our Friend, once again shook my heart with gratitude.

Philip Yancey tells the story of how he was visiting a refugee camp in Somalia, just below the equator. He writes, 

“I had spent all day interviewing relief workers about the megadisaster of the moment. Kurdistan, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia -– place names change, but the spectacle of suffering has a dreary sameness: mothers with shriveled, milkless breasts, babies crying and dying, fathers foraging for firewood in a treeless terrain.

“After three days of hearing tales of human misery, I could not lift my sights beyond that refugee camp situated in an obscure corner of an obscure country on the Horn of Africa. Until I saw the Milky Way. It abruptly reminded me that the present moment did not comprise all of life. History would go on. Tribes, governments, and whole civilizations may rise and fall, trailing disaster in their wake, but I dared not confine my field of vision to the scenes of suffering around me. I needed to look up, to the stars.”

The Lord asked Job, in the midst of complaining about his suffering, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in the seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”

Amazingly, Job was helped by these somewhat sarcastic questions from God. 

Job had been focusing on earthly things, as horrible as they were. And the Lord lifted his eyes to the heavens. And Job was changed. 

I’m changed too, when I contemplate the heavens.

The heavens declare the glory of God. 

Don’t ever lose your sense of wonder at the God who created you. Step outside, day or night, and look up at the heavens. I don’t mean to be spooky about it, but just relax, just wait and let the heavens declare His glory. 

It will fuel the sense of wonder that God wants you to have.

Here are some of the actual pictures from the Hubble, accompanied by Loreena McKennitt beautifully singing some words I can’t understand most of :)

Brief Analysis Of A Puritan Poem

I’ve picked on the Puritans before here and here.  But I thought it might be helpful to take a look at a Puritan poem and see how it applies to what I think was the Puritans’ defective view of the New Covenant.

Here’s the poem:

——————————————————–

O Lord of grace,
All Your lovingkindness is in Your Son,
I bring Him to You in the arms of faith,
I urge His saving name as the One who died for me.
I plead His blood to pay my debts of wrong.

Accept His worthiness for my unworthiness,
His sinlessness for my transgressions,
His purity for my uncleanness,
His sincerity for my guile,
His truth for my deceits,
His meekness for my pride,
His constancy for my backslidings,
His love for my enmity,
His fullness for my emptiness,
His faithfulness for my treachery,
His obedience for my lawlessness,
His glory for my shame,
His devotedness for my waywardness,
His holy life for my unchaste ways,
His righteousness for my dead works,
His death for my life.

—————————————————————

This is a perfect example of why I no longer recommend the Puritans except to the most discerning who already have a strong grasp on the radical nature of Grace and the New Covenant.

The Puritans were often confused on “it is finished” (tetelestai), a
nd tended toward an odd form of legalism, wherein their “holiness” and “humility” were their “works” which mingled with grace (making it not grace at all, Rom. 11:6).

We’re not to “plead His blood to pay my debts” — it is paid already on the cross. Tetelestai.

We’re not called to beg the Father to “accept His worthiness” — He has already done so. Tetelestai.

So what’s important about these distinctions? 

Simply that the Puritans did not understand the New Covenant, nor the obsolescence of the Old.

And the promotion of their pseudo-humility clouds and confuses the glorious New Covenant for those who already may have a hard time grasping the difference between the Old and New.

I say “pseudo-humility” because it’s really the “earning” of God’s favor by self-abasement disguised as humility. 

It’s not humble to deny the “done” of the New Covenant by pleading for God to do what He has already declared that He’s done. It’s a twisted self-righteousness disguised as real righteousness.

The often-lauded “Valley of Vision” is full of this kind of stuff, which should frustrate the New Covenant grace-oriented believer, because it sounds so holy, but isn’t.

Humility is not “I’m nothing, I’m nothing”. It’s closer to “I am in Christ, a new creation, with all the wonderful things that entails — BUT, ‘what do you have O man, that you did not receive?’” — and so all glory goes to Him who did it — and who continues to sustain us and renew our minds until death, or until His return.

“Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement…” — Col. 2:18

“These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement…, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” — Col. 2:23

God’s Acceptance of You — And Love

What follows is a message for Christians.  If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, I would urge you to come to Him.  He is God, the Son.  He came to Earth as a man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day.

Whoever will believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. He said, “Whoever will come to me, I will in no way cast out.”

He also said, “Whoever will, may come.” Come to Jesus Christ today.  Believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Call on Him. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”  Want to hear more about this great Lord and Savior?  Read the Gospel of John in the Bible. You might love it — and Him.

Now, for you who are a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ:

If a believer in Jesus Christ has not “appropriated” the love and acceptance of God for them, that is, if they have not grasped in their very heart the utter unconditional way that God loves them and accepts them, then they will have a hard time really grasping the love and acceptance of other people for them.

Let me say that in another way.

If a person feels unloveable, or…

If a person feels that others can’t really love or accept them, or…

If a person feels that if someone really knew them, then that someone wouldn’t love or accept them, or…

If a person feels like if they only could do such-and-such or be such-and-such, or accomplish such-and-such, or be good enough, THEN someone might be able to love and accept them…

Then I believe that person has not understood their acceptance in Christ by God.

They may be born again, saved from their sins, and biblically knowledgeable, but they haven’t grasped the basic understanding of what their relationship is to the God Who loves them unconditionally.

They may even know about God’s acceptance of them intellectually, or logically. But they haven’t “appropriated” it spiritually, in the heart.

Sometimes they just need to be taught it from the Scriptures and they blossom as the light dawns in their hearts.

But other times it seems that a person must come to some crisis in their lives, some hopelessness in their own self-righteousness, some discouragement from imperfect people, some “whatever”, before the Lord opens their heart to the glorious truth that He doesn’t have a relationship with them based on performance.

But it must be spiritually discerned, and so it must be taught over and over and over. Faith even for that, comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

Meanwhile, if you have that gnawing feeling that you just don’t measure up to the standard that would allow God to really love and accept you, if you are striving to please Him, and feel like you’re failing to do so, listen: He loves you. Yes, you.

Not just enough to die for your sins. Enough to dwell in you. Enough to “justify” you, to declare you righteous, just as if you’d never sinned. Enough to no longer have any condemnation for you. Enough to take you in His arms and comfort you with the truth that He fully, fully accepts you in the Beloved. Enough to call you His beloved — the apple of His eye.

And if you have that gnawing feeling that people can’t really love you — or they surely wouldn’t if they really knew you — understand that you feel that way because you have yet to really grasp God’s love and acceptance for you.

Those who have the Spirit of God surely can love and accept you, even if you have a hard time accepting it, because love is a fruit of the Spirit. And you will be sky-walking when you come to the knowledge of God’s love so strongly that you can say with all sincerity, “Even if no one else loved me, my Savior, my God, loves me, and that’s enough.”

And the irony is, that is when you may first be able to accept the love of other people like you never have before.

And then you can love like you never have before.

P.S. Critical: This is not Psychology, this is Theology. It falls under the heading “the Truth shall set you free.” The application is “If you really appropriate the Truth of the love and acceptance of God for you, then you will be set free to receive the love and acceptance of others (and to love and accept others).”

Happy Easter!

he_is_risenPicture a mean bunch of guys, big rocks in their hands, hate on their faces, kicking up dust in the ancient Judean sun.

“For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God!”

With these amazing words in John 10, the Jews gave their reason for trying once again to stone Jesus.

Not yet ready to die, and certainly not by stoning, Jesus escaped Judea and crossed the Jordan River to where John the Baptist had once baptized repentant Israelites, probably Perea.  He stayed there for a while, and many believed in Him there.

When word came to Jesus that his beloved friend Lazarus was deathly sick, He didn’t cross the Jordan back to Bethany near Jerusalem to visit his friend on his death bed.  No one could blame Him for staying .  After all, hadn’t the Jews repeatedly tried to seize and stone Him?  So the disciples didn’t blame Him, and they weren’t surprised that He stayed in Perea.  It only made sense.  Lazarus would have to rely on the comfort of His immediate family, Mary and Martha.

But the disciples were surprised a couple of days later, when Jesus said, “Let us go to Judea again.”  What?!

They said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are you going there again?”

And He told them He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Do you think they believed Him?  I don’t.  I think Thomas spoke for all the disciples when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”  They thought this was it.  The end.  Crazy, but hey, He’s the Lord.  We will follow Him and we will die with Him if necessary.

But they didn’t die that day.  They went to Bethany, and Jesus spoke the words that thrill our hearts, as believers in Him:

“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.  HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE MAY DIE, HE SHALL LIVE.  AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE…”

And he raised Lazarus from the dead.

And later He died on the Cross.  They finally got Him.  They finally put an end to the One whom they said blasphemed because He said He was God.  And the brave disciples who went to Bethany with Him, willing to die, cowered behind a closed door, mourning the loss of their Rabbi, and their dreams.

We appreciate His death now.  We know that it paid for our sins.  We cringe at the horror of the Innocent One being beaten and scourged and crucified and separated from His Father as He took the fury of the Wrath of God on Himself.  We appreciate it.  But we don’t exactly celebrate it.

What we celebrate is that on the third day, He rose from the dead.  He authenticated that He is Who He said He was.  He is the Anointed One, God the Son, the Christ, the Messiah!  And He is alive!  And we say Hallelujah!  He is risen!

Even as a historical event, it’s noteworthy.  But He did it for a purpose.  He was “raised for our justification”.  He was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, that we might live.  He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  And in some mysterious way, when He died on the Cross, we died with Him, and when He was raised, we were raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.

We were made alive spiritually, with the promise that we will be raised physically as well, on that Great Gettin’ Up Morning!  We became New Creations!  Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new!  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

And all because He died for our sins.  He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ!

He Is Risen!