I’m trying not to let it get me down. It’s hard to get back up. My train of thought often leaves the station before I do. And my memory is not as sharp as it used to be, and neither is my memory. Like somebody said, so far this is the oldest I’ve been.

My brother-in-law asked if I wished I were younger. I love this season. I have  experience, which should amount for something. I have learned from mistakes, well some of them. Here’s why I like getting older. But first a couple negatives:


  1. The knees are not working like they used to. That slows me down.
  2. Total recall is a thing of the past. Used to be good at names. Forget that. But it’s okay, because I can’t hear as much anyway.

More positives:

  1. My children still look to me and Karen. I may be wiser in my old age.
  2. Legacy. Generations of righteousness adds up. So thankful for those who preceded me.
  3. Mentoring is a joy. I love giving away what God has put in my heart.
  4. People sometimes expect less and hopefully we can surprise them and give them more.
  5. The Biblical culture favors age over youth.
  6. I can still exercise. My kids push me, so I push them.

Jeremiah was lamenting the fall of Jerusalem and the judgment of God upon the disobedient nation. It was a sad day in Israel when “elders are shown no respect” (Lam. 5:12) and “the elders are gone from the city gate” (14). One of the curses for disobedience Moses reviewed with the nation about to enter the Promised Land was that God would send them “a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young” (Deut. 28:50).

Fears sometime accompany the journey into old age: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Psalm 71:9). But God promises: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). Our society and our families should take their cue regarding care for the elderly from the Ancient of Days. He does not ignore them in their times of need and show favoritism to the youth.

Two words for the elderly:


You connect the generations. I know you don’t always feel honored. Not your fault. God honors you, and I hope your children do. Karen and I are deeply grateful for the prayers of Phil and Margaret, her parents and my champions. We call them daily to connect and to pray together, which they do with passion, even though they don’t remember all the names. When Margaret was wondering why she was still around, I said, “We know why–you need to pray for us.” She shot up her hands in the air and began to pray.


You’ll live longer. “Sedentary” will not help you. Karen’s parents (93 & 92) exercise before they get out of bed in the morning. I admire their desire to keep on keeping on. Don’t check out before you check out!


How are you at honoring age? When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He attached a promise to just one of them because of its importance: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). Children who learn to honor their fathers and mothers are granted a long life and a good life (Eph. 6:2,3). Honoring starts in the home and extends to the church. If we can learn it at home, we permeate society with it. If it breaks down in the home, watch the life expectancy rate go down.

God promised Abram before he had any child, “You…will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age” (Gen. 15:15). He put “good” and “old” in the same sentence. God spoke this to Moses to be written in the Law for Israel: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). One way to reverence God was to respect the elderly. God was shamed when old people were not given due honor. It is on God’s heart that the elderly be given their proper place, as was given to Job: “The young men saw me and stepped aside” (Job 29:8). Hey, God is the Ancient of Days, isn’t He?

In our western culture, older people are often embarrassed to admit their age. (Not true in Japan.) They want to pretend they are younger than they really are. What’s that about? The Biblical culture enjoyed the reverse. Job’s friends told him, “You shall come to your grave in ripe old age” (Job 5:26). The last verse of this book says, “And so he died, old and full of years” (42:17). The same was said of Isaac (Gen. 36:29). “Full of years” was an expression for “very old” with a positive ring to it.  

Age was considered an advantage. It brought superior wisdom, which meant that they were asked for their counsel: “Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom” (Job 32:7). The Hebrew word “elder” comes from root meaning “old age.” Most cultures, especially in the past, have given authority to people of age by virtue of wisdom that comes with experience (the Greek word “presbus,” in the Roman culture, “senatus,” Arabic “sheikh” all mean “old man”).

Leaders were called elders–because they were. People of experience were needed, not novices. When Rehoboam picked the advice of the younger ones, he went astray. God gave assurance to the elderly that they would be given special provision to match their special needs:   “Even to old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Old age was considered an attainment, a fulfillment, not a curse or a trial. We sometimes go out of our way to honor youth and tolerate age. Uffda! We need a vision for growing old. Old age can be a fruitful time of life, not a time of decline. Let us help the elderly maintain a strong vision of life. They shine with the youth in the Christmas story. Let them shine in your family and your church. Do I hear an “amen”?


Wow! I wasn’t expecting such a response to the last blog–on both sides. Some are shouting, “Amen!.” Others are crying, “Legalism!”

So what is my side? I scripted the blog as my outlook, hence the title. I closed this way: “I am not ready to be dogmatic (meaning you don’t need to believe as I do), but I hope that convenience or budget are not the only considerations being taken. ‘Whatever is not of faith is sin’ (taken from Romans 14 that discusses matters open for different opinions). I have more faith for burying than burning. What about you?”

As a pastor, I would not give my opinion regarding disposition of a body unless I was asked to. And then I would do so carefully. This is not a matter of doctrine but of practice.

I said to my number one son recently, “If only everyone was more like me…” Fortunately for both of us, he laughed. How we deal with non-issues is an issue. How we deal with debatable issues is not open to debate. Relationships are a high priority in the New Testament. Love wins over personal preference. We can’t say, “Don’t be offended!” or, “You should believe like me.” We are going to have differences in the body of Christ. Can we live peaceably together and not judge others? Is your way better? Do you make people feel second rate for doing what they do or believing what they believe? Do you make secondary issues primary? “I’m right!” is not the best way to handle peripheral matters.

Paul takes a full chapter in his primarily doctrinal letter of Romans to deal with the doubtful things, those matters that are up for grabs. The first issue in Romans 14 is eating. People had different convictions about what to eat. Still do. Say the word “organic,” and you just split the crowd in two.

The issue is simple: If God accepts your brother the way he is, you get to as well. What about worship styles? Drinking habits? Entertainment? Politics? Music? Dancing? Clothes? Don’t make an issue of a non-issue. We do what we do fully convinced in heart and in thanksgiving to God–and we let others do the same. (For a longer article on the gray areas, ask for Kevin McClure’s article on adiaphora.

Since the discussion is open, here is more on my outlook:
The disciples were not thinking burial, because they were not thinking death. Jesus, however, was thinking both. Jewish men would be concerned about what would happen to their bodies. So were two unlikely Sanhedrin members, Joseph and Nicodemus, who took care of the burial, referenced in all four Gospels, in the absence of shocked and fearful disciples.So was the woman who anointed Him a few days before His death. It meant so much to Jesus that He memorialized her gift for all time: “In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Matt. 26:12,13).


A few decades ago we hardly heard about it. Now it is common and growing in popularity. The national average rate rose from 3% in 1958 to 40% in 2010. Projections suggest 55% in 2025. Finances and mobility favor cremation. If you’re seldom visiting the place where you grew up, visits to the cemetery seem unlikely.

Consider why you might want to pay for the burial:

The example of Christ. “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day” (I Corinthians 15:3,4). The message of the gospel includes the burial of Christ. Paul writes that “we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). We not only identify with Christ in His death; we identify with Him in His burial. Baptism, not cremation, is a picture of burial. That reality must have impacted the early church to favor burial over the pagan practice of cremation, and it has persisted through history until the last two decades. Burial for a New Testament believer was a theological statement, not just a mode of dealing with the dead. And it found its way into the major creeds of the Church. Every immersion of a new believer rehearses the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, into which the baptized one participates.

Bible analogies. Burying is like planting. “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable” (I Cor. 15:42). Burying is also like sleeping (I Cor. 15:18, 20). Eyes will be opened again when the Bridegroom returns to wake up those who sleep. The picture of burning a body in the Scriptures is not a positive one, either in time or eternity.

The theology of the body. Christians honor the body as the creation of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit. That the Word became flesh forever gives value to our bodies. This is not the theology of major religions of the world, that typically honor the spirit over the body, that seek release from the limitations that the body imposes upon the spirit. Burning bodies in the Old Testament was reserved for idols, criminals, and enemies. Joseph had his brothers take an oath that they would carry his bones back to the homeland. It was such a big deal that Moses referenced it (Ex. 13), then the book of Joshua as well (24:32) when they made it to the land–with the bones! David commended the people of Jabesh Gilead for burying Saul’s bones (see also Amos 2:1). The early church would not have considered cremation an honoring of the body that Christ died to redeem. They saw it practiced by the pagan religions and considered it a devaluation of the body.

Most of the religions of the world, including Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, and neopaganism encourage cremation. Many Buddhists choose cremation because the Buddha was cremated, but burial is also permissible. Reincarnation is the basis for Hinduism’s association with cremation, which encourages the soul to leave the body and move toward emancipation.

I have never heard a teaching on burial over cremation. It has not been an issue. Now it is. I suspect that the apostles would have had a stronger outlook regarding burial as over against cremation than most Christians do today. That concerns me. I am not ready to be dogmatic, but I hope that convenience or budget are not the only considerations being taken. “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” I have more faith for burying than burning. What about you?