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Mortality is not a topic most of us want to think about, until we lose someone close to us, but is whistling past the graveyard good planning?

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #9 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

The Old Testament patriarch Methuselah has always intrigued me. First of all, his father, Enoch, was 65 years old before Methuselah was even born. Then Methuselah lived 187 years before he fathered his first son, Lamech. After that he lived another gazillion days, fathering sons and daughters, finally giving up the ghost when he hit, can you believe it, 969 years old!

If I lived as long as Methuselah, I’d have 900 more years to go. It’s unimaginable.

Methuselah lived long enough to see his grandson, Noah, reach 500 years and father Methuselah's great-grandsons, Shem, Ham, and Japeth. Methuselah died just before the Great Flood when his grandsons, mere "boys" at 100 years of age, climbed with their wives into the Ark.  

But for all his living, the phrase that jumps off the pages of Scripture is just three words: "and he died" (Gen. 5:27). Methuselah, who lived longer than any human being in history, still died. 

Scripture makes it plain: “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

All men and women die, handsome or beautiful, rich or poor, educated and illiterate, famous – infamous – unknown, angels of mercy like Mother Teresa and evil doers like Adolph Hitler, every creed and race: “red, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight”…they all die.     

There's a gravestone in Kent, NY. It commemorates the life of Howard Russell who died in 1852, and it says this:

    Remember youth as you pass by

    As you are now, so once was I

    As I am now, so you will be,

    Prepare for death and follow me.

Whether you think that’s funny or sobering, I guess, depends upon your mood.

This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best.  If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, look for us on your favorite podcast platform.  Download an episode for your friends.

Death is certain, we know, but the real question is, are we prepared for it?

We can think about this question on two related levels:  spiritually and practically.

Spiritually, we each must consider our relationship with God. Have you personally responded to the Good News of John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”     

If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, death loses its frightfulness. You can say with the Apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Cor. 15:55.)

Practically, the “Are you prepared” question is a good reminder that God expects us to be good stewards of all that is put in our hands—time, talent, treasure.

For the good of our family, the most basic practical thing we can consider is getting our estate plan in place. Isn’t it amazing that about 60% of American adults do not even have a will? Or maybe I should say, they do not have their own will

because if they die intestate (meaning with no will), the state of their residence will step in with a government-defined will for them.  That’s right, if you don’t have a will, bureaucrats and legalese get to decide what happens to your assets.

And on top of the 60% with no will, another 30% have a will that’s out of date

That was us. My wife and I set up wills when we were 38 years old with four children in the house then didn’t look at the wills for another thirty years. Awhile back we took care of that, getting updated wills and setting up a family living trust that will protect our family from probate.

Did you know, too, that only about 9% of people’s estate plans leave a charitable gift to a faith-based organization? People who have lived generously all their lives, tithed regularly, perhaps supported multiple ministries, often make no provision for Christian ministry in their wills and trusts. 

Why? Probably because they were never taught to consider this kind of gifting, never thought of it at the time, and no one reminded them. 

Meanwhile, the biblical command of stewardship is clear. It’s about God granting to us all that we have: our time, talent, treasure, and then charging us with responsibility and accountability to be faithful caretakers – another word for “stewards.” God wants us to care for the disposition of our assets in a manner that glorifies him.

In 1789 in a sermon entitled “The Use of Money,” the great preacher, theologian, and scholar John Wesley said, “Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.” He was not advocating materialism but rather using one’s assets to further Kingdom values. Giving is a part of stewardship.

Well, after 969 years, even Methuselah died. From the perspective of an eternal God, Scripture reminds us, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). This does not mean human beings don’t matter, just that their appointed days on earth are short.

We make jokes about the Grim Reaper or that Father Time is undefeated. But what matters is whether we honor God by being good stewards of all with which he has entrusted us.

If you have not looked at your legal documents for years, or even more, if you don’t have a will and family living trust, I strongly encourage you to take steps today to get your will and trust in place. 

You can learn more and gain free assistance by checking the website of the ministry with which I serve. You can find a lot of information including videos at sat7usa.org.

Death might be a no-fun topic, but I'm looking forward to meeting Methuselah in heaven someday.

Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022    

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Absent from the body, present with the Lord…but what do we do with the body?

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #7 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

 

In Western culture, the traditional answer to the question of what to do with the body was “Bury ‘em,” but the new answer is “Burn ‘em”—no disrespect intended.  

Burial versus cremation is not an abstract debate. Since death and taxes are unavoidable, if you haven’t yet faced the bury-or-burn question within your extended family you likely will.    

Cremation, the act of turning a corpse to ashes, was once virtually unknown in the United States but not anymore.   

The first recorded American cremation, aside from ones long conducted by some Native Americans, took place in 1876. Still, before 1930 cremation was virtually unknown and by 1975, according to the Cremation Association of North America, cremation was chosen for body disposal in only 6% of all deaths in the United States.    

Since that time the number of cremations has increased dramatically. By year 2025 the Cremation Association projects 57.27% of American deaths will be administered via cremation, an amazing cultural shift in just fifty years. In 2021, ten states recorded cremation rates higher than 70%. Nevada’s rate was highest at 80.7%.  

To put this in global perspective, consider that Japanese families choose cremation in 98% of deaths. For Great Britain, the percentage of deaths handled via cremation stands at 77.5%. Scandinavian countries register about 70%, and the Canadian cremation rate is increasing rapidly, currently over 73%.       

Reasons for cremation include:

  1. Lower cost than traditional burial—no casket, usually no gravesite, no gravestone, less expensive mortuary process, 
  2. Declining available space in crowded cemeteries, while cremated remains require limited to no space if ashes are scattered,
  3. Convenience in part due to increased family mobility in a transient society less connected to a given area,
  4. Easier to transport remains
  5. Environmental considerationssuggesting cremation is more hygienic, protects land,
  6. Changing religious views

Various religions have embraced cremation, for example Hinduism and Buddhism.  Others rejected cremation in favor of burial: Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, Christianity, Islam – for these groups, not getting a “proper burial” is a dishonor.   

Ancient Israel placed bodies in the ground in a pattern imitating the burials of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Phrases like “gathered to his people” suggest burial in family crypts (Gen. 35:29). This practice continued in the New Testament era with burials of, for example, John the Baptist, Lazarus, Stephen, and the Savior Jesus.       

Historically, Christian tradition opposed cremation as a pagan rite that attempted to thwart the promised bodily resurrection, rejected the body, or reinforced the idea of reincarnation. Christians believed that a deceased person’s physical burial best pictures the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and, in turn, the bodily resurrection of the Saints at the time of Jesus’ Second Coming (1 Corinthians 15:35, 37, 42-44).       

Christians preferred to symbolize in burial the promise of the resurrection. The word “cemetery,” for example, has Christian roots in the term dormitory, a place where people “sleep,” implying they will awaken again.    

We know from the catacombs that Christians buried their dead for centuries. With the spread of Christianity, internment, whether by land or sea, became so common the term “Christian burial” became synonymous with the practice.     

This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, look for us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends.

Some Christians contend that any use of fire in funeral ritual smacks of false religion. 

Yet this begs the question of why deaths involving fire should be viewed any differently, e.g., individuals burned or vaporized by explosives, people dying in fiery plane crashes, or individuals perishing in building fires like and including the Twin Towers of 9/11.  

Some have argued that a gravesite is an important place for gathering, grieving, and remembering, and it is. But so, too, can an urn be a focus of remembering. And with few exceptions, gravesites are not permanent; most dissipate with the sands of time.           

Mostly, arguments for cremation are based upon economics or practicality—less expensive, easier. Arguments for burial are based upon symbolism and tradition—pictures the resurrection, distances Christians from superstition.  

But the Bible does not condemn cremation nor mandate burial. In fact, while the Bible says a lot about death, and while bodies are God’s gift and should be respected, what ultimately happens to bodies is a secondary consideration. So “to cremate or to bury” is today a matter of Christian liberty.     

Centuries-old practice indicates burial is practical. In days gone by, when people died, they were often buried on the spot. Burial met the need.

Cremation also meets the need, practically if not traditionally. And as long as Christian doctrine isn’t denied, cremation cannot be considered unbiblical.  

Besides this, no burial method is a threat to Christian resurrection or to the soul.  God can resurrect ashes as well as dust.

Stewardship is an important Christian concept. We’re responsible to God for how we live, handle the world’s resources, use our time, talent, and treasure—and how we pass from the world.  

The intent and content of a funeral service is what really matters, not the method of disposition of the body (or whether body parts have been donated). It’s not death and despair but life and hope that should be our focus, looking past the end-of life to the afterlife.

So, burial or cremation?  

One thing’s certain, “for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19).         

Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022    

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Walking in a cemetery might seem morbid or creepy. Not for me.

To amble through the graveyard in one’s hometown is to invite a flood of memories, for the names on the stones are familiar. My twelve years of public school classrooms were filled with kids with those last names.

I knew some of the people resting here. Teachers, shop owners, farmers for whom I put up hay, women who scolded me to behave or they’d tell my Mother (with whom they had gone to school), that guy-the-unbelievable-gardener, veterans of every war, and of course Grandpa and Grandma, Uncles, Aunts, cousins, and Dad, who forever marked my life.

There are a few bad apples resting on that hillside, but by far most were decent, honest, hard-working, religious, patriotic, working/middle class Americans, some of long vintage, some whose parents arrived at the turn of the last century.

Roots. It’s good to hail from a small town.

A walk through a cemetery offers perspective re country, culture, life itself.

In a graveyard, everyone is alike. 

Sex can be inferred from feminine or masculine names but not sexuality, as argued these days.

No visible differences are discernible in race, ethnicity, nationality, education, wealth or poverty.

Beauty and appearance, eloquence, intellect, achievement, fame, power, even personality mean nothing.

Typically, no flags wave proclaiming any allegiance other than the American flag, visible on veterans’ resting places but usually also somewhere in large form on the property, signifying a key principle of Americana, patriotic e pluribus unum.

Political party is not in evidence. Nor is ideology Right or Left. No Trump or Biden signs. Posturing and pretense are gone. It’s a peaceful landscape.

Religion is not for sure identifiable, even if headstone architecture features religious symbols, for these may say more about those left behind than the deceased. 

Either way, as someone said, “He was but now is, and his is is greater than his was.”

So, we’re more alike than some of us care to admit.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Breaking news!

The death rate in the United States, and apparently globally, is 100%.

This agonizing trend will continue until a vaccine in the form of a Fountain of Youth is discovered, tested, and marketed. Researchers the world over are frenetically looking for this Fountain but have been thwarted by reality.

Until the Fountain is found, the public is advised to avoid family, friends, food, fresh air, and fun.

Remember: Stay Home, Stay Alive…well, maybe. Hide under your bed.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Breaking news!

The death rate in the United States, and apparently globally, is 100%.

This agonizing trend will continue until a vaccine in the form of a Fountain of Youth is discovered, tested, and marketed. Researchers the world over are frenetically looking for this Fountain but have been thwarted by reality.

Until the Fountain is found the public is advised to avoid family, friends, food, fresh air, and fun.

Remember: Stay Home, Stay Alive…well, maybe.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Keziah: A Little Piece of God’s Heart by Lizzie Grayson is the impetus for this blog. I read the book flying home last week from Cyprus, and I haven’t been able to get the subject out of my mind.

Keziah is a profoundly moving book about coming to terms with the experience of a stillborn child. It’s a book about a child “lost” and also ultimately about the sovereignty of God, faith, and praise amidst pain.

The author Lizzie Grayson shares she and her husband Mark’s experience with multiple pregnancies, two that ended with the births of their living and healthy children Joshua and Iona, and three that ended with a blighted ovum, a baby that died in the womb, and a stillborn child, Keziah.

Lizzie Grayson candidly relates her emotional highs and lows, her worries, fears, and weariness, and her questioning God’s design and intentions. She also catalogs in clearly stated spiritual terms what she learns about the Lord, herself, the Christian faith, the incredible support of faithful family and friends, and life itself. Their story is at times a tearful one, but it’s also one that, eventually, in the grace of God is a triumphant one.

No one knows why God takes a child home stillborn and Grayson doesn’t try to offer special wisdom much less clichés. What Grayson and her husband offer is their tale of woe, comfort, and joy as they walk with the Lord, not always understanding but trusting. In the end, they conclude from experience that “God is good,” not simply because he in time blessed them with a living and healthy baby girl, Iona, but because he blessed them with a child in heaven, Keziah.

I know personally Keziah’s grandfather and grandmother, people of profound spiritual commitment and gracious spirits. So somehow I’m not surprised to learn their daughter and son-in-law are people of similar strong Christian faith.

This story brought back memories. When my wife and I were in our early twenties we “walked through the valley” with a couple whose beautiful daughter was stillborn. They had two sons who looked like their blonde father. Then they had this little girl whose jet-black hair and features copied her mother.

The wisest thing the preacher did, I thought, was recommend our friends allow a complete funeral process. My wife assisted Mother in preparing. I drove Dad a few miles along the interstate and will never forget his quiet but deeply felt grief during that drive. We attended the wake with them, viewed the little girl with them, heard the pastor speak briefly but meaningfully to them, went to the cemetery with them, and stayed with them for a time thereafter. I claim no special part for us, but I will always be glad we were able to be there with our friends through this time.

The process of “Good-bye, for now” that the funeral day allowed may not have brought immediate “closure”—who can feel “closed” when they’ve lost a daughter? But the process made a profound statement that this deceased little girl was not a “thing,” not an “it,” not a trauma to get past, but a human being living forever in heaven. Like Keziah’s parents, to this day our friends celebrate, more than thirty years later, the existence of their daughter and their trust in God’s perfect will.

I recommend Keziah. It’s a personal, practical, and powerful book.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.