Cremation is a subject on which the Bible is not specific.

A study of the history of cremation reveals it was begun as a pagan practice. By destroying the body pagans thought they could avoid the ultimate final judgment of God.

When reference is made to burning bodies in the Bible it is in connection with the judgment of God.

Amos 6:10 is such an instance. God had pronounced judgment on the besieged city. Many persons died of starvation. Because of the siege they could not get outside the city to bury the dead. To avoid an epidemic the bodies were burned.

When Achan defied God at Ai his body was ordered burned (Joshua 7:15).
In the reforms of King Josiah he cleansed the area by burning the bodies of the pagan priests (II Chronicles 34:5).

There are no New Testament references to cremation of Christians or non-Christians.

I Corinthians 15 speaks of the body saying, “It is sown…it is raised.” This leads proponents of non-cremation to conclude conventional burial is indirectly advocated.

In the resurrection God will have no difficulty reassembling every element of our lifeless bodies regardless of their condition. His inventory system is such that regardless of how dispersed the elements of our bodies He can reassemble them if He desires.

The fact cremation is neither endorsed or forbidden leads scholars to conclude it is a matter of personal conscience.

Church Reconstruction

Like all movements there are various persuasions within this school of thought. Somewhat centrist among the movement, the concept could be said to be a reorganization of government to conform to the Old Testament code of law.

I do not agree with the movement. One reason is a failure by proponents to differentiate between the types of law in the Old Testament. There are three:

THE CEREMONIAL LAW which consists of temple ritual, holy days, personal daily rites, etc. It is the Christian belief that these were types symbolizing the coming Messiah and were fulfilled by Christ.

THE CIVIL LAW which was the code of community conduct. Today, as then, each nation has its own civil law. The civil law of that day differed dramatically for certain offenses. For example, it included stoning for certain offenses. Needless to say our civil law is dramatically different.

Though our civil law isn’t perfect, it is to be preferred for this era.

THE MORAL LAW is summed up in the Ten Commandments. This is a universal standard for moral conduct. It is applicable today.

I believe the practice of the Ten Commandments to be to the advantage of any society. I believe the ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ Jesus. I believe our code of civil law to be preferable for today. Thought it may have inequities, nothing as dramatic as returning to the full civil law of the Old Testament is preferable.

Church Music

The variety in church music is unimaginable. Formerly there were denominations from which to choose. Now these segments of the Christian community are further divided by styles of worship. The styles are basically defined by the type music used. Diversity reigns.

For many there is a difference in church music and Christian music. All church music should be Christian but not all Christian music is church music. At least by the standard of many people. There has long been Christian music suitable for concerts, camps, entertainment, media play, and rallies. Now in many churches it is mainstream in worship.

Once again the church that is supposed to influence society has been influenced by society. The church all too often follows secular trends rather than setting trends.

Melody in music speaks to the mind. Harmony speaks to the spirit. Scripture recognizes this and refers to “making melody from your heart to the Lord.” Rhythm, tempo, or the beat, impacts the body. The further the tempo, or number of beats per minute, is accelerated above the average pulse rate of 72 per minute, the greater the physical response. At a certain point this “feel good” music plays into a “me” centered experience.

Even little children will start jiggling when there is music with a dominant beat. Younger persons prefer music with a faster beat because their pulse rate is higher than older people.

Hymns, so popular for generations, have been largely replaced by choruses in some churches. Both are good. Hymns are basically sung about God and choruses sung to God. Hymns tend to have a much more sound theological basis. A blend of the two can be a bless.

Some congregations suffer when they are accustomed to one style and are suddenly subjected to another. There is a reaction to what many call “Seven-Eleven Music.” That is, choruses consisting of seven words repeated eleven times.

Churches utilizing either a traditional, contemporary, or blended form of worship all appeal to a certain clientele and provide a setting conducive for worship for different people. Each has its advantage. The style to which a congregation is accustomed is one thing that drew them together initially. To radically and dramatically change that style is to risk dividing the body.

Through the decades church music has changed significantly several times. Those best making the transition have done it gracefully and gradually not simply to suit their taste but to meet the needs of the people. That same technique is often used today to the advantage of all.

There is a difference in church music and Christian music. Music in worship is not to be an end in itself but a means to an end. The intended end should be true worship.

When the form of worship detracts from the fact of worship the intended end is lost.

A Biblical Standard For Pastor And People

I PETER 5: 1 – 4

JESUS CHRIST pledged Himself to build His church. He always does things orderly. Therefore, He has organized His church. The text lists three primary group exhortations. This shows the church to have been well organized. Consider these traits of the pastor and the people in a church functioning as intended.

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5: 1 – 4).

There are three words in the Greek text used here to refer to the office of pastor:
EPISKOPOS – “overseer” or “bishop”
POIMAINO – “Shepherd”
The last of these terms is the one used by the resurrected Christ when He said to Peter “Tend (poimaino) [Shepherd] My sheep” (John 21:16).

Parenthetically it is interesting to note Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder.” If he had been the head of the church, the first Pope, this would not have been the title chosen. In verse one he makes even more emphatic his togetherness by using the word “partaker.”

The first two titles noted refer to the same person as the third. Two internal, Bible evidences indicate the first two to be the same as the third:

In Philippians 1:1 Paul greeted the Bishops and deacons. If the elders were a separate body, surely he would have greeted them also.

In Acts 20:28 Paul sent for the elders (PRESBUETROS) and told them God had made them overseers (EPISKOPOS).

In I Peter 5: 1 and 2 Peter greets the elders (PRESBUETROS) and tells them to “feed,” that is, “shepherd the flock.” The verb “to shepherd” is a translation of the same Greek root from which we get our English word “pastor.” This word was doubtless in Peter’s mind from the post-resurrection seaside charge Christ gave him after three times asking him if he loved Him.

The modern pastor is to be the same as the shepherd-elder of the early church.

Inherent in the meaning of the expression “to shepherd” are four requirements.

1. Love the flock as an undershepherd of Christ. A pastor is not allowed by God to love selectively. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd did not know which sheep was lost; but he loved all of them enough to go after one of them — any one. Only one who loves the flock can exercise wise authority over them. Such a one seeks the flocks highest good and is even willing to put aside his own welfare to secure the highest good of the flock.

2. Protect the flock as a prophet. Believers need to be protected from teachers of false doctrine, and charlatans who seek to steal or mislead the sheep.

3. Feed the flock as a preacher/teacher. Nothing is important enough to afford a preacher an excuse for being unprepared in the pulpit. Incorporated in the word “feed” are all the responsibilities of our word “tend,” implying various duties.

4. Lead the flock as a capable administrator (overseer).

According to Acts 20: 28 the pastor is made the overseer “by the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he is directly responsible to God for leading. He must not quench the Spirit in his life.

When a church puts the pastor under the oversight of a committee they have usurped God’s position. If the pastor is the undershepherd of Christ charged by Him to take the oversight of His church he, the pastor, is accountable to Him, Christ. No group within the church should assume the role reserved for the Chief Shepherd in relation to His undershepherd.

This is a sacred calling and a holy trust given by the Chief Shepherd of His flock.

It is “the flock of God” and should be overseen as He prescribes. The pastor should live mindful that it is “the church of God” not his flock. If the pastor ever views the flocks as “his” he is in serious trouble. The pastor is the steward of God’s flock.

There is no room in this for the pastor to be egotistical. He shall someday have to stand, rather kneel, before God and give an account of that stewardship. Others will have to account for granting him that oversight and supporting him in the role.

Of the undershepherd it is said, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Corinthians 4:1).

The pastor should seek wise council and advice from the flock in making decisions. He should consult with various responsible bodies within the flock. He should network with the total flock and be attentive to their needs.

I Peter 5: 1 – 5 teaches the pastor must do this “willingly” and “not of constraint,” that is, he must not be made to do it. Any pastor who does not accept the charge to lead is not fulfilling his role. He must seek heavenly wisdom, obtain wise council, study diligently, and use his own creativity to envision and initiate as a leader.

1. Negative, “Neither as being lords…” (Vs. 3a). A pastor can’t be self-seeking. When one is, it usually manifests itself in one of two forms:
a. The term “lords” implies an ego flight. There is no place for this in ministry. He is to lead by “serving.” He should not have to be constrained to lead nor restrained from leading as the Lord guides. The pastor, like the Good Shepherd, must be a servant leader. He like Christ does not come “to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
Such pastors do not simply tell the flocks what to do they lead by “being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5: 3). The word “examples” means a “model,” “pattern,” or “prototype.”
b. The other term is “dishonest gain” or “filthy lucre.” These terms are used five times in the New Testament and in each case refer to ministers. “Gain,” “lucre,” that is, money is not bad. If it is “filthy,” or “dishonest,” that is obtained in a dishonest or dishonorable manner, it is.

2. Positive, “…being examples to the flock…” (Vs. 3b).
The pastor should be a specimen Christian, a worthy templet, Exhibit A. This term “examples” is used in I Thess. urging all believers to be “examples” of Christ.
Show yourself as a model. The pastor is not only to be a model in character but in administrative conduct. Leadership is not achieved by coercion or compulsion but by character and compassion. That does not mean that the pastor will not have to be assertive, proactive, and even aggressive at times.

1. “The crown of glory,” a stephanos. “Glory” is one of the most common words in the epistle. Here it is a synonym for that final salvation associated with Christ’s second coming (vs. 1).

2. “…that does not fade away.” (Vs. 4). The expression also comes from a word used as the name of a flower from which floral crowns were made, the ARARANTINE. A characteristic of the flower was it did not permanently wilt. If it temporarily withered, it could be revived by being moistened. Thus, the illustration is of eternal life. This “crown of glory” is eternal life.

Bible Code: Exposed

“Newsweek,” “Time,” Oprah and numerous other media outlets were abuzz in 1997 over The Bible Code, authored by Michael Drosnin. The thesis is that using a formula of equidistant letter sequence in the Hebrew Bible coded messages could be found related to events transpiring currently.

Bible code enthusiasts said their findings statistically proved the existence of God beyond any doubt. A virtual cult grew up around the work.

To unlock the code 304,805 Hebrew letters from the Hebrew Bible were arrayed without punctuation or spacing. By going forward, backwards, or vertical at varying “step distances” names of current persons and places were decoded.

In defense of his work Drosnin said, “In experiment after experiment, the crossword puzzles were found only in the Bible. Not in War and Peace, not in any other book, and not in ten million computer-generated test cases”.

Oops! As it turns out the same principal was used by David E. Thomas on War and Peace, Moby Dick, the Supreme Courts 1987 ruling of Edwards v. Aguillard, and other works. Using the sequential step distance technique the analysis proved just about any thing one wants to find can be found by varying the sequences. For example, in Moby Dick references were found to the “predictions” of assassinations of Indira Gandhi, Rene Moa, Leon Trotsky, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy.

That should have converted Drosnin for he had said, “When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I’ll believe them”.

In just the opening pages of War and Peace there are over six puzzles linking “Hitler” and “Nazi.”

Drosnin claims to have found the date the Gulf War, January 18, 1991, the Waco disaster, April 19, 1993, and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995, in the Hebrew Bible. It seems strange that the date for the Gulf War was found in the words “3rd Shevat,” not in the Gregorian calendar as the other dates were found using the Gregorian calendar.

Extensive research has proven codes can be engineered and made to happen. One simply needs to know how to sequence the numerous possibilities. Scientists have enjoyed employing the principle on other works since the publishing of Drosnin’s book.

Dr.Eliyahu Rips, one of the authors of the study that started the Bible Code craze, has made the following statement regarding the work of Drosnin: “All attempts to extract messages from Torah codes, or to make predictions based on them, are futile and are of no value. This is not only my opinion, but the opinion of every scientist who has ever been involved in serious Codes research.”
An Equidistant Letter Sequence study has been made of Genesis in which there were 60 links between “code” and “bogus”. Could it be that God has encoded a message to let it be known the idea is unreliable?

Our Lord has given us more truth than we are using without having to look for some hidden meaning. To try to add to the Bible is to take away from it. That’s dangerous business.