Weeping has its appropriate time. Paul gives us one occasion: “Weep with those who weep.” Our culture is not as good at weeping as some others. Perhaps these truths can help.

God gave you tear-ducts.
He has given you the equipment. It can happen, even for big boys. Enlist the eyes more than the tongue. When Job’s three friends heard of his troubled, they traveled to him. “When they saw him…they could hardly recognize him…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days…No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12,13). It got messy when they opened their mouths. Presence beats preaching!

Acts of kindness trump words. Hugs and hamburgers work well. And you do not need to represent God and correct the sloppy theology of the grieving. That will right itself in time.

One sign of love is the ability to weep with people. When my wife lost our son one week before his scheduled birth, Karen said on the phone to her brother, “Thanks for crying with me.” Paul told the Corinthian church, “If one part suffers, all suffers with it” (I Cor. 12:26).

God suffers with us.
The story of Hosea is a picture of God the grieving Lover, whose heart is wrenched by His prostituting wife. He knows what grief is about. The psalmist writes, “Put my tears in your bottle” (Ps 56:18). God saves the evidence of a broken heart.

The book of Judges tells stories of Israel’s roller coaster ride with rebellion and revival. At one point we read, “And God could bear Israel’s misery no longer” (Judges 10:16). God knows our pain and enters our sorrow. Isaiah wrote, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (63:9).

The psalmist said, “He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We sometimes feel that God is distant in our pain. This scripture tells us that He is closer than ever. God holds a bias for the broken.

Jesus wept.
He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” What a description for the triumphant Son of God. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, knowing He was going to raise him. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said in the garden, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. Watch here with me.” He asked for help in His grieving.

The Spirit Grieves
God the Father has emotions of joy and sorrow, anger and peace. Then the Spirit within us does as well. He doesn’t leave us when we violate His will, but He grieves. That is why we are commanded to offload destructive sin with the exhortation, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit…” (Eph. 4:30).

The People of God wept
After Moses died, “The Israelites grieved for…thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deut. 34:8). When Stephen was martyred, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (Acts 8:2). They did not just say, “Oh, we’ll see him in heaven.”

One day weeping will end. Tears will be wiped away. In the meantime, we cry. Don’t save up your tears, because you can’t use them in the new earth. If you need help, the Holy Spirit who knows how to grieve can help you.


Jesus turned leadership on its head (Matt. 20:25-28). It’s not how high you get but how low you go. These truths come from His words:

Leadership by character is compelling. Leadership by position isn’t. Billy Graham has had influence more because of his character than his preaching. The Pharisees ruled by position; Jesus led from character. He said, “Come to me…I am meek and lowly in heart.” Pastors who lack character might use humor, personality, or intimidation to get the job done.

We lead by serving, and we serve by leading. The biggest need of sheep is to be led and fed (Matthew 9:36; Psalm 23:2). Some parents over-control and under-lead, as did the Pharisees. Leaders who give people what they most need rather than want are serving them.

We lead by going low. The disciples, with glory on their minds, liked the view from the top. It feels good to sit and be served. Jesus got off His seat and served. He “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7), grabbing a towel when the disciples were unwilling to budge (John 13:4,5). True leaders look for ways to get under, to influence not by position but by performance. How low can you go?

Serving requires character more than leadership skills. A psychologist who has excellent counseling skills but a messed up family can do more damage than good. Who we are often impacts people more than what we say. That is why when Paul lists fourteen qualities necessary for those aspiring to leadership in the church (I Timothy 3), at least twelve deal with character qualities rather than skills. Those who lack the necessary character are not qualified for ministries of oversight. God is concerned with what He can do to us in order to work through us. Character is shaped in the crucible of suffering, and that means going low.

One liability of leadership is wanting to be served. We may think that our vision is more important than those “under” us, that our position is more critical than theirs. And we would rather be over than under. Where people fail to respect us, we are offended. When they criticize our leadership, we judge them rather than forgive. Our offense shows that we are going high, not low.

The face of humility is courage. The Lamb of God is the Lion of Judah. The humble are the most courageous because it isn’t about them. They risk their reputation because they don’t have one.

Courage leads to insecurity, which leads to vulnerability, which leads to relationship. If you are secure, maybe you are not risking enough. The fight on the front lines can be ferocious, which produces insecurity. If intimidated by our insecurity, we back off. If we acknowledge it to others by transparency, it increases fellowship, which brings courage, enabling us to risk!


Jesus modeled leadership skills, but He taught character. Leadership training sometimes focuses on skills. When choosing a church council, for instance, the emphasis is sometimes more often on skills. I heard a pastor say, “He is not a mature Christian, but he’s good with finances.” Danger sign.

The problem: difficulties on leadership teams result more often from character flaws than inadequate skills. King Saul had some leadership skills, but he lacked character. Skills are what a leader can do; character is what a leader is. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had both skills and sterling character, and they enjoyed great influence, unlike Bill Clinton.

I once hired a man to work with our young adults who had skills and vision. I overlooked the warning that he had some unfinished business. Remind me not to do that again.I went on promise more than performance—and regretted it. Skill does not make a leader.

Do you desire significance? You’re not alone. Two young fishermen had not only been chosen as disciples of Christ; they also found themselves a part of the inner circle. They alone saw Jesus transfigured, and they accompanied Him in the Garden. As they considered the approaching kingdom, perhaps they thought, “There are only two seats. We had better go for them before Peter grabs one.” They asked: “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37).

What was good about their request? They wanted to be with Jesus.They saw that Jesus had prominence in His future. They were bold, and Jesus had said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” They had an ambition to be leaders, and greatness is a legitimate longing. They were thinking into the future and planning ahead. Bravo!

But their timing was clearly off. Their request came on the heels of Christ’s announcement of suffering. And it showed that they did not understand leadership—Jesus’ style.

The response was not: “You shouldn’t be making such a request.” Jesus gave them a two-fold answer. “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (38). In effect, “You’d pay a high price for those seats.” Once they signed on, He told them that He couldn’t give them the seats anyway. It was assigned seating, and the Father did the assigning.

Courage is a function of character, not of personality, and courageous people are willing to pay the price. Leadership requires boldness, and many play it safe. Some would rather live with mediocrity than pay the price.

The other disciples heard the discussion and became indignant, probably because James and John had beaten them to it. Jesus then gave the second part of His answer, taking the normal picture of leadership and standing it on its head: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (42-44).

Jesus said in effect, “It is not how high you go but how low you get.” Gentile leaders are sitters, not servers. Slaves, by contrast, have no rights, no titles, no seat, and no ambitions. They are not served; they serve. This is leadership from the bottom up, not the top down. Want to lead like Jesus?


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. kmcclure730@comcast.net).

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?


A sabbatical will slow me down a bit on my blog output, but first a word from a favorite movie!
Significant people in our lives, and mainly parents, build an identity in us, or by indifference or abuse give us a confused identity. Simba knew who he was because he felt valued rather than being ignored. His father, Mufasa, gave him truth and love, which built an identity and produced a destiny. He knew he was called to be the Lion King.

Until Scar tampered with his identity. Jesus said that Satan comes “to lie, kill and destroy.” Sounds like Scar. He was responsible for the death of Mufasa, but he convinced Simba that he killed him, and guilt and shame replaced joy and self-confidence. Scar made Simba believe that he would be rejected if he went home. His sense of value plummeted, skewing his identity and clouding his destiny. He ran from his chosen purpose and became irresponsible. He learned to eat grub in the forest when rescued by Timon and Pumba, and lions don’t eat grub. They taught him to live for pleasure. Hakuna matata.

When Nala found him, she lovingly tried to call him back to his real identity and destiny. Like a victim, he said, “You don’t understand. I can’t go back.” When life is clouded over by guilt and shame, the prospect of walking into a positive destiny looks daunting.

Rafiki came to an orphaned Simba and convinced him that he had to go back. Rather than live in the past, he called him to his future. One of his best lines: “The past is past.” Victims live with “if onlys” rather than with “what ifs.” They get stuck in passivity and victimization, and if you don’t support them, they check you off their list of supporters. Simba heard his father say to him, “Remember who you are.” That was a call to his true identity, which then gave him the authority to walk into his destiny.

Simba was finally able to say, “I’m going back.” That means confronting shame, lies, false identities, irresponsibility, and passivity. It causes fear to mount up within us. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to do what we must, regardless. Fear prevents many people was walking toward their God-appointed purpose. It requires taking some risks, and they choose the mediocre life of pleasure to fulfilling their destiny. As one poet said, “Most people die with the music still inside of them,” and Simba almost became another statistic.

When he did go back, he had to confront Scar, just as David confronted the giants in his life. Fear keeps us from facing those things that stand in the way of our destiny. We must take God-honoring risks and go for it.

Scar made one last effort to neutralize a re-fired Simba by reminding him of his past. This time Simba was strong enough not to buy into the lies. Perception is reality. We are who we think we are. What Mufasa had built into Simba was recovered, and he was able to overcome his irresponsibility. The family was reunited when the true source of the death was uncovered. Simba found support from his family, whom he now realized believed in him, allowing him to walk into his true calling as the Lion King. His authority was restored and victory was achieved. (Thanks to Bob Neumann for many insights).


You’re engaged and excited about your future life together. Write down your expectations–and throw them away. What if you, sir, have the expectation of a clean house? You come home with the hope of the house looking good. It doesn’t. Your expectation just morphed into a right. Far better for couples to live with responsibilities than with rights. Civil rights should be accompanied by civil responsibilities. Sometimes they don’t. Victims claim rights; they don’t want responsibilities. My right becomes your responsibility.

So if the house isn’t clean, I have an unfulfilled expectation. That does not create fellowship; it engenders agitation.

Ephesians Five is the clearest statement of marital responsibilities. The husband is told to lead and to love, the wife to respond and respect. But the husband’s responsibility is not the wife’s right and vice versa. “Hey, Romeo, you’re supposed to love me as Christ loved the church. Get to work, senyor.” Nor can he say, “Submit, woman. Down on your knees.” He can only love as Christ loved, by laying down his life more for his wife. And she can only trust in God to produce in her husband what she is believing for.

Expectations easily become rights that turn into demands. No place for demands in a healthy marriage. There is room for trust and hope and love, but put your expectations in a God who doesn’t fail you. Otherwise, you are going to find yourself living with tit for tat and this for that. Not a fun way for two people to live together.

“You didn’t pick up your clothes.”
“Yeah, because you didn’t clean the house.”
“Yeah, because you left the living room a mess after watching TV for two hours.”
“Yeah, just like after you had your friends over last week.”

Rare? All too common. Instead of claiming your rights that grow out of expectations, how about accepting your responsibilities? If your spouse doesn’t accept his or hers, try trusting in God to change what needs to change rather than going to work yourself. It does not feel good to know your spouse is attempting to transform your behavior or your performance. Like the guy said, “Don’t get hitched at the altar if you have the itch to alter.”

Servants accept rights and do not have responsibilities. Jesus came “not to be served but to serve…” That should give us a clue as to our stance with others, and especially with our spouse. Serving our spouse with humility rather than voicing our rights allows the Lord to do the transforming work. I Peter 3:1-7 spells this out clearly.


Jesus once healed ten lepers by telling them to go and show themselves to the priests: “And as they went they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14). Healing sometimes happens as we step out and do the next thing, in this case checking in with the priest. Some get touched when they get out of their seats and walk forward for an altar call. The priests discovered that the waters parted when they stepped in, not before (Joshua 3:15). For others it might mean asking someone out, asking for forgiveness, or taking responsibility for the family.

Passivity can keep us from the next thing on God’s agenda. He has plans for us, but they are not realized without our participation. Our part–take the next step. Could one step forward be that important to God? Indeed. Waiting upon God is not paralysis. We are in motion, doing what He says and trusting Him in the process for the desired outcome.

We may be thinking, “If God does this, I will do that.” God may be waiting for you to do that before He does this. God is leading the dance, but sometimes it looks like He is following us.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Healing is often incremental. It happens in stages as we take steps of obedience. Faith is sometimes spelled r-i-s-k, though a well-calculated one. Faith has lips and legs. It says something and goes somewhere. By faith Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Hebrews 11:8). Had he said, “I am not going until you show me the way,” he would have waited a long time. We don’t need to see the distant shore, just the next step. And “the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.”

Growth is a little at a time. It does not happen all at once. People who are looking for God to heal them may need to take the next step in order to see a new level of healing. This is often true of emotional healing or healing from strongholds.

God brought victory for the children of Israel who took the Promised Land phase by phase. “I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you are increased and possess the land” (Exodus 23:29, 30). That is a visual picture of the way God often heals us. It is more often a process than an event.

Sometimes we balk at the process because it is taking longer than we hoped for. Faith is required each step of the way, lest we sink back into passivity.

Vulnerability helps us in the process to accept where we are and by faith move forward into the fuller healing. Being transparent about what is in process gives others grace to walk out their life in God with the same courage and realism.

Healing from depression or serious identity conflicts such as same sex attraction most often comes incrementally. Many steps of faith are needed before the process has been completed. That will take courage and trust when the outcome is not yet clear. “Faithful is he who calls you, and he will do it.”


Balance vision with values. Vision is overrated; values are often ignored. Values undergird vision, keeping vision from going crazy. Think Hitler. Values reflect identity, vision drives destiny. Make it a good ride by choosing values of integrity.

Say no. They can find someone else. Keep your hands to the plow. You have an assignment. Don’t leave it for someone else’s. You will not stand accountable for another person’s vision. Do what you have to do, not what others want you to do.

Build an immunity to discouragement. John the Baptist had incredible vision of Christ’s work (“Behold the lamb of God…”) until he saw life from behind bars. Then he questioned the Christ. Elijah said and did stupid things when discouragement and fear took him out. You cannot afford the luxury of discouragement.

Have a bias toward action. Leave meetings with action items. Many end with talk and go nowhere. Not worth the time.

Record it. Rely on your retrieval system, not your memory. Write down brilliant thoughts–or lose them.

Live above offense. Ask my wife. It took me too long, but now I live that way. (Well, most of the time.) Be like my friend who said, “Just so you know, Paul, it’s almost impossible to offend me.” Unoffendable leaders can build a team; the other kind cannot.

Tend to your soul, or your drive will cause you to implode. First things first. Stay emotionally and spiritually healthy, so you can give yourself away.

Pace yourself. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint. Jesus was not in a hurry. He did what He came to do. He left some people un-healed, and it didn’t bother Him. Remember shabbat. It literally means “to cease.” God rested after a six-day work week. Take your cue from Him. If you think you are indispensable, have another thought.

Take charge of minutes. Time is too precious to waste. Must be invested. It is like money, a great friend and a terrible lord. Minutes add up; use them wisely.

Live with character. Talent wears thin. People should be treated with respect. Don’t overestimate gifting. Faithfulness trumps talent in the long haul.

Go with your strength. That creates passion and vision. Others can do what you can’t. Dreams are worth pursuing. “Most people die with the music still inside of them.” Sing your song!

Put a sign on the bus. If you are a leader, lead. You are going somewhere; tell them where. People who thought you were going to St. Louis will be angry if they end up in Cincinnati. Leadership cannot be delegated. Not leading creates a vacuum. Someone will step in, and you won’t be happy.

Take risks. Leadership without risk is an oxymoron. Make sure they are well-calculated. Then if you lose, it’s not a total loss. Don’t hire anyone without failures on the resume. He’s playing it too safe.

Under-promise; over-perform. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you need a sales job to get them, you don’t want them. Unfulfilled promises create resentment.

Evaluate. You are not into perfectionism, but strive for excellence. If you fail, ask yourself, “What did I learn?” Failure is not final if you learn. Don’t do an autopsy, but find out what you did and do better next time.

Serve. Leaders go low. Think under, not over, and be supportive. Apologize, don’t make excuses. Self-serving leaders are abusive. Serve the people you lead and they will live with gratitude rather than bitterness. Makes them better workers.


Nora, age three, was running up the walkway. I said, “You are such a fast runner.” What did she do? What most kids would do–run faster. Encouragement is needed for every member of the human race. “En-courage” comes from two root words, “en” meaning “in, and “cor,” Latin for “heart.” Positive words give us heart, make us want to try harder. Negative words dis-hearten us, they take away courage, and make it hard for us to keep going.

Had I said to Nora, “You are sure a slow runner,” it would have slowed her down. Instead of a lift, a heavy word. Can you wonder why some kids barely make it–or don’t? They are fired away at with one discouraging word after another. They can barely keep their head above water. Some never recover and come into a true identity that allows them to walk into their destiny. Really sad.

Some older people are tough enough to take your word and prove you wrong. Most will receive it as a word on target and prove you right. No wonder that Solomon said, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” We hold the power to put courage in people or take it out–with our mouth.

Negative comments, even those meant to instruct or correct, take courage out of most of us. A coach told me that when he taught girls’ tennis at a local high school he tried encouraging the gals when they did well and offer advice when they did poorly. It didn’t work. He finally gave up trying to correct them.They found correction hard to receive. He discovered that it was far more beneficial to ALWAYS encourage.

What if you decided to encourage people wherever you went, and you told the boy pushing the carts that he was really doing a great job, and he decided to do it even better. You just changed his day–and maybe his life. What if you let your teacher know that he/she is really good at teaching and that you are learning so much. That person just got better. What if you shared with your pastor that you are strengthened by his Biblical and Christ-honoring messages, and he just improved his teaching.

What if you told your children how fortunate you were to have children that are obedient and bring much joy to their parents. You just increased their joy and their obedience. What if you decided to be an expert at encouragement, and you did it regularly at work, and it changed the atmosphere. You have the power to do that.

Scripture tells us encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today. I think it is still “today.” Is there a mail carrier, a sibling, a parent, a child, a co-worker who is waiting for you to make his or her day?

Flattery is not the same as encouragement. Flattery is given to gain some kind of access. It is self-directed. Encouragement is other-directed and contains no manipulation or control. The more a person encourages others, the more it shows a healthy and humble love for others.

One of the most important assignments of parents is to encourage their children–to put courage into them that they can do it, they can succeed, they can make their mark, they can walk with God, they can be used by Him. Correction is important, but nowhere near as needful as encouragement.

Karen and I work with so many who did not receive enough. They don’t know who they are, and they struggle in life. Many of their parents were too taken up with their own issues to pour life into their children, and young adults wonder if they have what it takes. Children needs tons of encouragement. Don’t become a parent unless you are prepared to speak life into your children–all their life!!