The Misunderstood: Humility

We all ask God to help us be more humble; yet humility is one of the most misunderstood divine attributes. It is important to understand just what humility is, why it matters.

Humility may be the vital element missing in moving forward in life, business and relationships.

Humility begins with gratitude to Adonai (God) for everything. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. True humility recognizes God’s gifts, is amazed at the results, and then falls to the ground in awe of God’s willingness to bestow these gifts upon us.

Humility does not come natural to humans. It is the Mount Everest of virtues; seemingly impossible to attain. It requires us to be self-aware; very aware. Sometimes this awareness manifests itself in self-doubt. Can this virtue that God so genuinely prizes be truly achieved? I will share a little secret with you. If it were not possible for man to truly be humble, God would not require it.

It is possible.

Humility does not involve self-deprivation. We are made in God’s image. We are not worms; God refers to us as Kings and Priests. However, humility is God’s way of keeping us tight with Him in our earthly walk. Those who fail to seek humility often fall prey to pride which is the snare of darkness. It doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Haughtiness is pride’s precursor, as it only results in a fall. It is pride’s warning light.

I have observed several people who truly walk in humility. They are more concerned with the whole team and God’s preferred outcome rather than what’s in it for them. They serve, contribute, and expect nothing but God’s excellent results in return. They are secure in themselves. They are not afraid to take a lower position to gain a higher level. They are competitive but play within the rules of the game. Their reward is helping others succeed.

Do not mistake greatness for pride. Do not mistake the operation of divine power in us for pride.
Do not mistake strength for pride. We need these.

Those who walk in pride often consider themselves to be self-made men or women. They act with disdain and arrogance toward those who walk in humility, treating God’s people as if they are of little value. And then there is pseudo humility which appears super humble and contrite. This comes as a result of not having a proper understanding of one’s true relationship with God. Pseudo humility is a nuisance, and in reality, is a form of self.

The devil is the prince of this world. He uses the venom of pride to destroy our destiny. Only knowledge, love of God, and vigilance can ensure avoiding this demon. We have to ask ourselves, does our prayer go like this, “God make me great so I can serve you” (already signs of pride), or does it go like this, “God anything I can do for you, with your help, I WILL it”?

Theodor Hertzl a Zionist forerunner once said, “If you will it, it is no dream” concerning the Zionist state of Israel. We can will to be humble and achieve God’s joy in seeing his will in action.

Humility is an hourly decision of the will. It must be a conscious part of our lives. Humility destroys pride, and renders to God a pure conscience. Humility understands there are two sides to everything. Humility understands it needs heaven’s intelligence as our information resources are limited. Humility gives the benefit of the doubt; it trusts God and his people. Humility leaves judgement for a later date to be reviewed by God.

We know the feeling of success, a completed project, recognition, even consistent excellence in all we do. Yet, God laughs. Humility and praise to God, acknowledging him in all, may very well open the door to another dimension of progress in our life. A door of opportunity we never dreamed to make a difference will open. True humility will lead to a Tikkun Olam (repairing of the world).

Albert Einstein never credited his great research, or his genius, to himself. He publicly credited his Theory of Relativity to a dream God handed him in trust. Even Einstein was surprised with what God had trusted him with. The proper response was to honor God and not himself.

We must walk with God in rhythm. We must be obedient to his word and to his will. Leave the impossible with God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Humility is the quiet hero, the empowered servant. It is the hidden secret of favor with God, that is, really, no secret.

#KEY: New Testament theology states in Galatians 5:22, the importance of the fruits of the Spirit.  Humility is the master of all these disciplines.

 

The Coach In You

A new phrase has arisen in Christian Ministry which is causing confusion. The term “Life Coach” sounds good, but has no biblical basis. There are Five-Fold offices; teachers, perhaps even mentorship. However I am hard pressed to find reference to a ‘life coach’. I want to offer my thoughts in describing this newly coined niche among ministers.

If I were to offer a description of Life Coach, it might read, “One who was once called to ministry but was compromised between God and man. A professional rebranding designed to save face after God’s termination of ministry service.”

Parallax vs Paraclete. We already have one called to be a Life Coach. The person of the Holy Spirit is the believer’s life coach. He is available to intercede and guide.  In Hebrew, the פרקליט (transliterated praklit), is our legal counsel. He is holy and is ready to  make you holy, whole and complete.  Parallax is the former ministry hybrid termed Life Coach. A Life Coach can be obscure in mission, offering no guaranteed outcomes, with non-biblical advice.  This ministry hybrid changes in the vision of the observer.

Jesus on the other hand remains constant, the same yesterday, today and forever.

A Life Coach is what you get when ministers try to tone down Jesus in order to make His message more palatable to those who love the world.  Life Coach is what ministers become when they no longer believe the message God sent them to deliver. I liken it to a large diamond that is clarity enhanced. It is fracture filled to improve clarity to an otherwise undesirable stone. It is a stone which may look good to the untrained eye, but one that has not increased in value. Fracture filled is ok, it’s just not natural.  It’s flashy, but not more valuable.

A Life Coach should not be confused with rehabilitative counseling in the case of our U.S. military veterans, or others who are experiencing a life crisis.  The life coaching I am referring to is self-help for self; unlocking more of self for self’s sake.  You get the idea.  After all, if someone gets addicted to the Life Coach he or she will also need the latest book or CD which of course includes some scriptures and scant reference to God.  Jesus may even have a brief cameo to justify the schemed theology.

A viable alternative would be sixty six referential library books with tons of self-help principles along with sound advice for teaching a person to fish and develop his or her own thirst for living water. I love the Hebrew word for drink or rather to cause one to drink. That word is (lahashkot-transliteration), and is more beautiful in Hebrew להשקות*. Some call it the Tanakh, or the Bible. It is referred to and inferred by Jesus in New Testament theology as living water. Can God actually cause us to drink? This is hope. This is the beginning of living again.

Check it out at a life—I mean a library near you. Finally, I would add, take the advice found in the sixty six self-help books I mentioned and add some quality time in prayer. You will receive all the help you need.

L’Chaim to life and the coach in you.

 

 

*Ulpan-Hebrew, Hebrew English lexicon

 

Angels Among Men

 

 

This article could be titled, “Angels and Debra, The Supernatural Norm.” I could fill volumes with my personal encounters with angels. I have found myself in countless situations where I was abandoned in the mountains, stranded in foreign countries, or in need of an airplane. I was once rescued off the side of a mountain by three huge mysterious “men” and a woman, in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. Several times, I have experienced the sudden appearance of money when there was none. I have appeared at hotels where reservations where mysteriously made for me. Was that a man, a woman, or an angel? Poof! They are gone in an instant.

The New American Standard Bible records this familiar passage from Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

The Bible is replete with scriptural validation of angels and their operations, purposes, rank, and temperament. For example, Luke Chapter 1:11-20 demonstrates the power of prayer and intergalactic operations of angels on a mission. Zacharias got a taste of rank and authority in His encounter with Gabriel.

The angel appeared to the elderly priest as Zachariah prayed and honored the Lord at the incense altar. Zechariah was doing the right things in the sight of God. His actions resulted in a personal annunciation from heaven and a mouth guard. Why the muting of Zachariah? Words have power. Angels are not only messengers, they are equipped to ensure God’s product is fully rendered in spite of man’s fallibility.

Angels are the unseen resistance. They are heaven’s “underground.” They operate in both clandestine and covert fashion. This means they sometimes make themselves known, or not. Angels have a will. They are created beings without a soul in the similar manner of God and man. However, they are not to be worshiped. They can be encountered, felt, commanded, provoked, and on occasion, seen. They are specialists. They operate in, and according to the laws of God. And, they will be judged by the believer according to the New Testament studies. It is important to believe, engage, and work with the knowledge of angels. However, it is also important not to get bogged down in details which are too “lofty” for us mere mortals to understand. Just know this, much of answered prayer is carried out by angels.

What types of angels are there? Good question. I am glad I asked. There are the cherubs; those pure rounded fierce warriors that guarded the entrance to Eden. There are military angels; huge, swift, strong, and powerful. On one occasion, my daughter and I have personally encountered this one. He is assigned to accompany us on dangerous missions and to mysterious places. There are guardian angels assigned to watch over us every day, during our time on earth. And then, there are even healing angels.

Sadly, there are the fallen angels. These are angels which rebelled against God and are no longer privileged to the glory and intelligence of heaven. They are also referred to as demons. Lucifer, or Satan is chief among them and is often referred to as the prince of darkness. No light exists in, or around them. Their only source of knowledge comes from what we say, and by studying our lives and habits. They are unclean, evil, and are constantly seeking avenues to gain unauthorized access into our lives, as well as the lives of our families and friends.

Angels have orders from heaven concerning our individual lives. Angels work in cooperation with those who obey, move, and are sensitive to God’s promptings. Angels appear to always be in a hurry. Their directives are sometimes audible, sometimes physical, and sometimes mind to mind. Angels cannot read our minds. Our thoughts, good or evil, are protected by God’s privacy act. Men will be judged in the court of heaven, on their actions, at a date to be disclosed by God himself.

The issue with most believers is the fear of doing something wrong concerning angels. The reality is that most people believe in the existence of angels. The facts concerning angels are completely uncontestable. The challenge first comes in the awareness of angels. Second, we must accept their operations as the supernatural standard.

Finally, we must understand what we can, and cannot command, or expect of our angels. Angels understand their roles and functions. They work in cooperation with man’s will and man’s words. We find a perfect example in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 10: 5-12, “…thy words were heard, and I am here for thy words”.  Another example can be found in Psalm 103:20, which reads, “Bless the LORD, all His angels of great strength, who do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word.”

Unfortunately, God’s humility and practicality is often eclipsed by man’s more “intelligent, logical” mental ascent. Some are too proud to call upon their angels for help, while others simply don’t how to activate them. But, here is an important truth. They are already activated, prepared, and anxious to be called upon. You just need to tune in, be mindful of them, and then command away. Do something for Heaven’s sake, but just make sure you are in line with God’s word.

Like many testimonies, most of my angelic encounters were as a result of taking risk. I put myself in a position knowingly, or unknowingly, where I needed angelic intervention. If you make a mistake, don’t worry; like Zacharias, you may be muted, but only for a season.

Go Ye. Know that God has His angels prepared to go with you. Vaya con Dios, as well as with His angels!

 

One Day Never Comes: The Dark Art of Procrastination

 

It is human nature to want to put off difficult tasks and decisions, especially those that effect other people. Why do we think through, and sometimes overthink a problem to the point where it interferes with the continuity of our daily lives? Why do we refer to procrastination as the dark art?

Too often, individuals saddle themselves with missed appointments, late work, and broken promises, frequently followed by one excuse after another. These types of behavior are a symptom of escapism, which we often label as the “freedom to choose”. The problem is that choices effect relationship with others, as well as with God. One bad choice can effect your future as well as the kingdom of God.

God provides his sentiments on the subject of keeping appointments in Chapter 23 of the book of Leviticus. Leviticus 23:2 reads, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The Lord’s appointed feasts (holy days) that you shall designate as holy occasions. These are My appointed (holy days).” God was very specific concerning holy appointments, to the point of designating dates and times. What conclusion can we draw from this scriptural narrative? Man requires a schedule to maintain a close relationship with God.

We build inner strength and endurance by keeping our word, and keeping appointments. Being prompt, timely, and decisive are marks of character and integrity. In essence, when we are strong in character  we reflect the character of God. We fulfill God’s command: “Sanctify yourselves and be holy: for I am holy.”

Holiness simply means living and acting with integrity. Holiness is ascribing to a set of morals and ethics pleasing to God, rather than delaying due to self-gratification or indecision. Holiness includes wholeness, providing us the power to contribute as a witness of heaven. Compromise, lying to others, breaking commitments, and promises may not have an immediate personal impact; however, sooner or later, the fabric of character is fractured. The momentum to pursue meaningful purpose is lost though the dark art of procrastination. The dark subtleties of distraction, to include those mesmerizing technological devices, or “waiting” for a phenomenal encounter to emerge, only serves to allow more time for sand to pass quickly through the hourglass of life.

It just may be the most menial task, or the undesirable appointment, in which we find our greatest breakthrough. Don’t hesitate. Make that decision or complete that task. Otherwise, you may miss the divine opportunity or appointment with no second chance in sight. Don’t tempt God with the expectation of constant “do overs”. God can and will move His second and third choices up.

Procrastination is the assassination of motivation! It is the wolf in sheep’s clothing that devours our opportunity for living life to the fullest. How can God give us something new, when we have not completed the last thing we committed to? Scripture tells us not to wait for the clouds to perfectly align before we act on a command, an inspiration, a hope, or a dream.

Dream. Think. Plan. Act.

I love the Hebrew word for now! (ach’shav, עכשו).

“One day”…is עכשו (ach’shav), not tomorrow.

 

 

Returning Jesus To Judaism

The Jews murdered Jesus; the Savior of the world. The cross, the crusades, the conversions. The destruction of the Second Temple. Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. Martin Luther later emphatically taught on the Jews and their lies. And then there was Nazi Germany with the Final Solution to the Jewish problem. Even today, there is one line of teaching that the church has replaced Israel (known as the Doctrine of Supercessionism).

But Jesus was Jewish, or at least a token one. However this is far from the truth. There was nothing token about Him. The reality is that Jesus was King of the Jews. The fact that Jesus came from Jewish lineage is indisputable. The purpose of this teaching is to return the “Christian Jesus” to His appropriate Jewish context so that we can properly bridge the relationship between the Jewish and Christian communities.

Jesus will be the first to tell you that He came for His own…“but to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16). He also conveyed that He must go to other sheep not of this fold (John 10:16). That is to say, He came to be the Messiah for all nations, to include Jew and gentiles. During the time of Jesus, it was common practice for the kohanim, or priests, to sacrifice seventy animals representing gentile nations (Numbers 29:12-40). So, it should be no surprise that any good Jewish Savior would be willing to make a provision of sacrifice for the goyim (gentile world, non-Jewish nations).

Why is returning Jesus to Judaism so relevant? It is not relevant to the gentile who embraces Jesus’ eternal sacrifice, teachings, provisions, and privileges to all who call him Savior. These people are good to go. However, it is extremely germane to the global Jewish community who have suffered “in the name of Jesus.”

Christianity was a deeply Jewish phenomenon in the first century, leading into the second century. In the beginning, we understand Jesus was Jewish, the Apostles are Jewish, and everyone who argued with Jesus and did not followed him was, well, Jewish. Those who followed Jesus, and were not Jewish, sought whether they needed to convert to Judaism in order to truly follow Him and His teachings. So, in fact, there was a conundrum. Many in the Jewish establishment did not follow Him, and those non-Jews who chose to follow Him, were unsure if they should convert to Judaism.

Jesus was first and foremost, a student and lover of the Torah and Moses. Very few Jewish scholars would disagree with this. Jesus attended synagogue with His parents and mad the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the high holy days. Among the four sects of Judaism: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots; Jesus identified as a Pharisee.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, a central truth in Rabbinical Judaism. Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees did not enjoy “hard power” with the occupying Romans. The Pharisees were the Rabbis who thrived in groups of teaching or the early “yeshivas.” They had great popularity and support on the ground as local leaders. They avoided the political fray, and elitism of the Sadducees who represented the establishment. The High Priest Caiaphas, is one infamous example of a Sadducee.

The Pharisees’ message and doctrine appealed to the ordinary people of the day. That is why Jesus’ message took off—he spoke to the common people. He could be viewed as an early populist. Jesus went about teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God in towns and villages and His fame spread among the land (Matthew 9:26,31,35).

Jesus would have quoted Hillel, a prominent Pharisee of His time, whose teachings are still studied today in the Pirket Avot, Ethics of the Fathers. Jesus would have been around twelve years old when Hillel passed. Yet, Jeus would have been educated on the doctrine and wisdom of Hillel. Additionally, as we know, Jesus was an ardent student of the written and oral law. Many of Jesus’ sayings, such as “turn the other cheek”, and “love your neighbor as yourself” came directly from the law.

We then have to ask, why was Jesus so hard on the Pharisees? According to Dr. Henry (Hillel) Abramson, a well-known Hebraic professor, Jesus was somewhat “rebellious” concerning the Pharisees’ teachings and doctrine. A little known fact is that Rabbi’s held ultimate authority in interpretation and dissemination of the Torah and as stewards of Temple affairs. We know that Jesus was more concerned about God and man’s relationship with God than the Pharisees’ doctrine.

Jesus, in typical Jewish Rabbinical argumentative fashion, challenged the status quo. As a popular Jewish saying goes, “Two Jews, three opinions.” The New Testament account in Matthew 9:34 emphasizes how many Pharisees sat under the same instruction, yet had different conclusions and results concerning Jesu. These teachers were considered mishpacha, or family to Jesus. As with all families, healthy debate and disagreement is always present. This disagreement and division led to a Jewish breakaway movement that, to the present day, shows no sign of slowing down.

In contrast, the Essenes were kind of the weirdo types who took numerous daily mikvahs (ritual purity baths), ate, slept, and worked on writings that would later be discovered as the Dead Sea Scrolls, in a place called Qumran. Further evidence of an Essene community is found in Jerusalem, near Mount Zion.*  The Zealots, on the other hand, were the Jewish rebel forces who took on the Romans, or at least, gave it their best shot. They would not hesitate to kill their own Jewish brethren if they failed to support their fight agains the Romans, or hindered their mission.

The Jewish Jesus message of good news rapidly spread under a prominent religious, educated, zealous, Pharisee. Today, this man, Saul of Tarsus, is commonly thought of as one of the ten most influential Jews in world history. He is more affectionately known in New Testament theology as the Apostle Paul. Saul was chosen by Jesus to spread the gospel of Jesus after his life changing encounter with the Master on the road to Damascus.

The Jewish character of Jesus has been lost in translation among the gentile nations who have outnumbered the original and historical small Jewish population. The parting of the ways for Jews and Christians began to widen as new believers were not familiar with Synagogue life, Jewish law, observance of feasts, and High Holy days. Paul, as a Jewish leader, was betwixt as to the application and implementation of Jewish law as God fearing gentile converts came to Jesus. Issues such as cleanliness and circumcision had little relevance to the original “sheep of other pastures.” The Jews also had their own form of jurisprudence, civil law, and distinct court system under Roman rule. Early gentile believers, or Christians, did not have those privileges.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, for example, as in the case of John whom Jesus loved, other circumcised Jews began to depart from the practices of Judaism and Temple life. Excommunication out of the synagogue, jurisprudence, and Jewish family life was an oxymoron. After all, Jesus was a Rabbi, and their teacher; He was a miracle worker. “We are all Jews.” What was the problem?

The new Jewish movement led by Jesus, became outnumbered by those wanting a taste of this Jesus. They heard the Jewish Apostles preach and witnessed wondrous miracles in the name of Jesus. His crowds of up to five thousand people and miracles of multiplication could not be refuted. Healing lines grew, the demon possessed were freed from torment, and Jesus taught as one having authority. But wait. All Rabbis had authority, right? This exceptional Rabbi taught with authority from above, he was set apart from the others, as signs, wonders, and miracles followed Him. There was overwhelming evidence of Jesus and His powerful ministry. His existence and work in the first century cannot be disputed.

So, why isn’t Jesus accepted as the Messiah among the Jews of the past and the Jews of today? In the beginning, Jesus’ followers were Jewish believers and converts to His teachings. Among the masses, there were many who claimed the role of Messiah then, as well as today. Early Rabbis and synagogues were faced with the dilemma of allowing Jesus’ Jewish followers to worship alongside non-believing Jews. The decision was made that the two could not co-exist. The disciple whom Jesus loved, John, expressed the greatest displeasure over the ruling. In 200 C.E. came the Mishnah, or a written redaction of Oral Torah. It is comprised of major Rabbinic works which include legal interpretation not recorded in the Torah, or Five Books of Moses. The introduction of the Mishnah may have put the nail in the coffin concerning the parting of the ways between Jewish believers in Jesus and Jews today.

According to traditional Judaism teaching, Jesus did not meet or exceed the Messianic expectations outlined in scripture. While He is considered a prophet and sage, even quoted by Jewish scholars and included in the Pirket Avot,  Jesus still failed to meet expectations. He did not gather the Jews from around the world in one place called Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6). He did not bring world peace, end hatred, suffering, or disease (Isaiah 2:4), and He did not conquer Israel’s enemies. He did not build the Third Temple. He was not seen as a universal savior, nor one who made atonement by wiping clean (aYom Kippur upgrade of sorts) mankind’s sins by the shedding of His blood (which makes atonement Leviticus 17:11). Finally, Jesus did not spread the universal knowledge of the God of Israel, fulfilling the essence of the Shema which stated “He is one and His name shall be one. “

The covenant, stewardship, Torah, laws, education, economic advancement, science, arts, priesthood, spreading of the monotheistic belief in one God was given at Mount Sinai, to a group of people, which would eventually become known as the Jews. The Jews would be persecuted and reminded of Jesus’ death for centuries. Yet, the Jew who started it all identified with persecution, suffering, taking in His body the hatred for the one God of Israel and this peculiar people. Jesus was a teacher of Judaism, lover of Torah, lover of God, lover of His people. He was both physically and spiritually circumcised in covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A Jew rich enough to offer the good things of God and heaven to all of mankind.

The Holocaust demonstrated the hatred for God; it was not a defense of Christianity. True Christianity loves Israel, respects and learns from the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim), and the sages. The endurance of the Israelites and Jewish people is a living validation of their relevancy and the importance for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. The Jews continue to survive. Their purpose, and contributions are revolutionary. The shekinah glory of God pours through the reading of Torah, the prayer of Shema, the kindling of the Shabbat lights, the beauty, and unified identification of the high holy days and feasts.

The law is a good thing. People need guidelines and boundaries. They help preserve and keep a people and nation on course. However, not everyone wants these Jews and their laws. Jesus did not have problem with God’s laws; oh how He loved His law. He had a problem with the assumed theological authority by so-called spiritual leaders. These leaders would not allow the Torah reading without Rabbinical commentary or authoritative dictates.

What about Isaiah 53, and the fulfillment of prophecy? Christians are right–Jews are wrong! Funny thing, the older a child becomes, the wiser his parents are. Judaism holds the parental role in Christianity. The Rabbi and disciple of Rabbi Hillel, Ben Bag Bag, admonished his students as it pertained to Torah. He said “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it, reflect on it and grow old and gray with it, for nothing is better than it.”   There is no such thing as secular Judaism. The Jew has an obligation to observe the Shabbat, pray the Shema, and fulfill his covenant with Hashem. He or she also has an obligation to pursue mitzvoth and the mission of Tikkun Olam (repairing of the world). The Jewish role and importance has not gone away. Christians, oftentimes excuse themselves of Biblical study and works under the interpretation of “grace.” Jews are not all wrong and Christians are not all right. Each person must face the issue of Jesus in their own spiritual quest.

Shalom Jesus, welcome back to Judaism. We can learn from you. There is no longer fear of this Jesus when seen Him as He really is. Jesus is the chief Jew among Jews. Time has come in Judaism and Christianity to reexamine this beloved controversial “J” man.

*Jesus and Archaeology-James H. Charlesworth, William B. Eardman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan. 2006

Deep Sleep

Burial or Cremation?

The time has come to leave the body for the after life. Someone, a relative, spouse or even yourself must prepare to care for the body after departure. Most consider a traditional burial while some choose cremation. It is important to understand the spiritual connections and implications of cremation verses burial when making this important decision.

“Cremation is the way to go! This process is economical, environmentally friendly and poses less financial burden on the family.” On average, cremation typically runs about $1000.00 less than a traditional burial. I liken cremation to buying a new car. The base price is perfect and affordable…until the extra accouterments are added. In addition, some think the environmental or green footprint is far less with cremation verses burial.

God must have failed to realize the above when He directed how a body should be disposed of in scripture. God obviously was not progressive or futuristic in His thinking. Didn’t he know man would advance, the earth would shrink, and toxic waste would annihilate us all? In  Genesis (3:19), God declares of man: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Deuteronomy (21:23) commands in the case of an executed criminal, “You shall surely bury him.”

According to Jewish literature, the requirements for burying the dead are explicitly stated in multiple later rabbinic sources such as  Sanhedrin 46bMaimonides’ Sefer Hamitzvot, and the Shulhan Arukh. As a matter of fact, Jewish practice and practicality is to quickly bury the body in a simple pine casket.

But, “I am not Jewish, so how does this apply to me?” What about Christians and cremation? Is it a sin for a Christian to be cremated? Yes and no. In ancient times, cremation was a pagan practice, void of the dictates of God and His covenant people. Jews and Christians share a great deal of similar theological convictions given the parental role of Judaism in Christianity. Biblical narratives demonstrate burial for the people of God. There is a natural transition out of the body in the burial process.

We know from theological studies that the soul (nefesh) which is composed of all the conscience faculties or core of a human being can “hover” around the body for three days. This allows a confirmed deceased person time to literally say goodbye to him or herself gradually. We see this recorded in John 11:1-44, as it pertained to Lazarus’ resurrection. In verse 21-22, Martha pointed out that if Jesus had been there within three days when resurrection was possible, he could have resurrected Lazarus. Jesus understood the laws of death and physical separation from the body and its scientific timeline when he quelled the criticism of appearing late to help his friend or friends. Jesus himself had his body prepared to be buried in a sepulcher. The New Testament account records that “He then rose on the third day.” Nothing in scripture is accidental or by chance. God provides specifics in everything pertaining to life, on earth and beyond.

Cremation, on the other hand, comes with “spiritual risk.” The quick process of fire and destruction of the body does not allow for the necessary time that a person requires to fully depart from the physical body. The Holocaust cremation of six million Jews was not only a pagan practice in ancient time, it served as a spiritually defiling and painful occurrence for every Jew on more than one level. Many Jews declared dead, were not completely ‘so dead’ before the journey to the crematoriums. Likewise, when medical practitioners declare the last breath and death of a person as final, the individual may not have yet vacated the body.

Cremation does not allow for a person’s proper transition. Countless testimonies of those traveling from the body and returning have recorded awareness and physical sensation before the silver cord is severed or the golden bowl is broken. In essence, cremation is a much more painful way to leave the body. The human, complete with a soul, is set apart from the animal kingdom. Whether the person was good or evil in this world, the body is heaven’s property. The destination of the soul requires another teaching.

In a society where self reigns, where fast, cheap solutions are presented, there is a temptation to justify cremation. More and more Jews and Christians are opting for cremation because of economics, portability, and real estate modesty.

The mental and spiritual strength that comes with paying the price to bury a loved one is lost in our “evolving” society. The Egyptians prepared a lifetime for the departure of the body according to Egyptologists. That was a priority. Today, death and burial are almost a “taboo” subject in life planning among the living. Yet, the majority of time, death ironically occurs unplanned and unprepared for.

Burial, on the other hand, can be as economical or as expensive as one makes it. The added cost of embalming as a form of body preservation for public presentation is an added expense. According to Jewish halakhah (law or the way), it is a form of bodily mutilation. This is based on the fact the human body is the property of God, and not man. Man is forbid to defile the body. Then there is the chariot, or nice ride for the loved one. The choices range from pine box, silk or satin lined, burl wood, and Rolls Royce edition casket appointments. In our moments of grieving, unscrupulous undertakers can sky rocket the burial costs. Prior proper planning and prioritization can go a long way in alleviating the shock and financial strain associated with the traditional burial process.

Cremation or burial is certainly a personal and family choice. After careful discussion and conviction in the family decision process, don’t look back. However, the focus lies with the complexities and dimensions of the whole human. Our knowledge is limited, yet we know God’s sentiments on the matter. The spirit (ruach or breath and the nefesh {soul, the actual personality}) and the way a covenant child of God departs is of vital importance to God.  The body was prepared by God in the womb (Jeramiah 1:5). It must be returned back to God in good condition as instructed by Him. It is interesting to note that God’s resurrection power was electrifying and active after the prophet Elisha was laid to rest. Scripture states that a dead body thrown into the grave that touched Elisha’s bones was immediately brought back to life (2 Kings 13:21).

There have been some strange requests by the living. Take for instance such ideas as, “spread my ashes over the Rockies”, or “bury my ashes in Israel in the Jordon”, or “sprinkle them down the Nile”. All of these requests are realistic and economical, of course. Never mind the cost of a helicopter, airfare, hotel, and shall we say International government approval. Maybe burial is simply not that expensive after all.

As I lay this article to rest, may it provoke serious consideration as we consider our choices concerning our departures. We know that death is no respecter of age, gender, or religion. It comes to all.

As the Star Trek Vulcan Spock declared with the sign of the shin, “Live long and prosper.” The Hebrew letter shin is the first letter in Shaddai (one of many names for God), and the first letter in the Hebrew word Shalom. In Hebrew, Shalom is peace, hello….and goodbye. May we all have shalom and happy departures in our journeys from earth. That is of course, after we live long and prosper!