Stop Texting and Driving

I want to thank Tim Challies for posting this on his blog (www.challies.com).  It is worth taking a few minutes out of your day to consider your texting habits…they could have lasting implications.  I know that I am guilty at times and I needed this helpful reminder.

 

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Bahama Mama!!!

I never thought that I would begin a blog entry with a title like “Bahama Mama”, but as I sit at Denver International Airport en route to Atlanta where I will have the greatest honor a Son can have for his Mother, to preside over her funeral, I am finding  myself reflecting on the many ways my mom, Dorothy Jeane Phillips (Linden), has blessed and impacted my life.

Now, mom wasn’t perfect, but she was almost perfect!  And as I reflect on her life I am amazed at the many ways God used this humble woman to further His Kingdom as well as the many voyages on which God’s will determined she would embark.

1. She was a Woman of Adventure – Now, lest you think that my mom was cut out of the mold of the Amelia Earhart types, think again.  Her adventure began the moment she was born to two pioneer missionaries serving in the Missouri region of India.  Her parents, one of the first missionaries sent out by the Foursquare Church when it was just one congregation, were soon cut off for support for some reason and, rather than return to the USA determined to stay in India where my Grandfather took on a circuit approach to missions, living with the people, and serving the Lord with what God provided.

Just a few years ago my mother told me that her parents wanted her to visit the United States when she was sixteen, so, alone, she got on a boat in Calcutta with New York as her destination.  Back then, however, the passenger ships would pit-stop in Cape Town, South Africa, and when my mom’s ship arrived it was sequestered by the coalition forces – it was right in the middle of the II World War.  For almost four weeks she lived with people she had never met and was finally called back for the final voyage to New York, however, this time it was on a very uncomfortable military ship.  Then she told me that her ship had to traverse the waters of the eastern United States where German U-Boats were like vicious sharks picking off any ocean liner, but particularly the military ships.  When I asked her, “Mom, what were you thinking as your ship was surrounded by German submarines?”  She said, “Well, I just had to trust that the Captain knew what he was doing and I had to trust in God.  There was nothing else I could do.”

Then, after marrying  my father, she willingly followed him to places like Khartoum, Nassau, Tel-Aviv, London and any other place BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation – now British Airways) would send them.
2. She was a Woman of Hospitality – As a child I remember the many people who were invited into our home.  We were constantly hosting a missionary or someone visiting from the USA or England.  Then, when we lived in Germany, my parents began to invite some GI’s home for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  Soon there was a gathering of 40+ every Sunday and many of them looked to my parents as surrogate parents seeking godly counsel regarding their relationship, fears about serving in the Army and their walk with God.  Every Sunday my mom would cook up and present a spread of food for all to eat.

My dad shared one story about one GI who had just received a letter telling him that his wife was divorcing him.  He immediately came to see my mom, but she was in the middle of cooking dinner – in particular, some gravy.  In his grief he buried his head in sorrow and tears on her shoulder and she embraced him with her right arm.  At the same time she stirred the gravy because people were coming over for dinner.

I am thankful for here hospitable example.  I hope that I can emulate some of what she modeled for me.

3. She was a A Woman of the Word – Plain and simple, Mom was a student of the Word.  You can often tell a lot about someone by looking at their Bible and this is especially true of my mom.  I once played a game with my mother’s Bible in hand.  I would randomly flip through the pages and then look and every time I did so I saw some marking in color and often a written note.  You see, long before Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries (a great study method) began, my mom was marking up her Bible with a color scheme.  I vaguely remember her sharing her system with me when I was a young child, but as I look through her Bible there is ample evidence that she not only read it, she contemplated what it said, she made notes, she coded what she was reading in some color and I could not find a page where that wasn’t happening.

4. She was a Woman of Faith – Mom was always one to say two things: First, she would say, “Well, we just have to pray about it.”  At other times she would say, “We just have to trust God.”  You see, she was a passionate woman of faith.

I remember as an unbelieving and rebellious teenager living in Michigan that I would be waiting in the morning for the school bus to come.  At the same time  my mom would be just feet away from me having her personal time with God.  She would be reading His Word as well as going before Him in prayer.  Day after day I would hear my Mom crying out to God on my behalf – for my salvation, protection, wisdom and that God would use my life for His glory.  Even though I laughed it off at that time, those prayers and her heart’s concern was a nagging presence in my mind.  I attribute my salvation and calling to God, but I am convinced that she was a significant player through her prayer and faithfulness to Him.

5. She was a Woman Who Served – Being married to a pastor (my dad retired from British Airways after 36 years and took a pastorate in Clarkston, MI) meant that she had the opportunity to serve her Lord along side her husband and often behind the scenes.  She was always involved where needed – in the nursery, helping with the music program, teaching Sunday School, or simply assisting my father on a call or in traveling to various places.  She never sought recognition for anything and was very happy serving behind the scenes.  When she would visit our home she never stayed still.  She was always washing dishes, cooking dinner, folding laundry or knitting/crocheting.  She simply loved to serve others.

As her son I have been truly blessed.  I have an older brother, Jeff who was born in England.  I was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel.  My sister Shirley was born in Nassau, Bahamas.  And not until this week did I realize that unlike most people Iin the world I can truly say “I have a Bahama Mama!”

Mom, I love you and will miss you!  Your godly example and influence will continue to have lasting effect in me.  Thank you for being a Lady who loved God, His Word and the people He brought across your path.

Contemplations on Death & Dying

One of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges, says,

“Most people, even Christians, live in a state of semi-denial about death.  We hesitate to say a dearly love relative or friend ‘died.’

We prefer to say she ‘passed away’ or she ‘went to be with the Lord.’ Even unbelievers who assume that everyone ends up in heaven are known to say something such as ‘he’s gone to a better place.’”

And, you know, he’s right.  There is something that seems harsh and final about saying that our friend or love one has “died.”  But for we who know the Lord, who have the promise and a certainty of being present with Him the next moment after we breath our last breath on this earth, the prospect of death is really a bitter-sweet reality.  It is bitter because we are losing a friend, mother, brother or nephew, and life will be decidedly different with them not being around to laugh with, to serve along side of, to bake meatloaf’s or to talk politics with.

There “will” be emptiness and an adjustment of varying proportions on our part, yet, there is great comfort in the sweet.  You see, God’s Word, the bible, tells us everything we need to know about death and dying.  It doesn’t tell us everything we might want to know, but it tells us everything we need to know for our instruction and comfort.

So, now that my mom has died – God called her to Himself this past Sunday morning – I am experiencing the bitter, the loss, the emptiness, but I am comforted greatly by the sweet…and oh, how sweet it is.  I love what Martin Lloyd-Jones once said,

“When you are traveling through a bog, you look for solid ground.”

And friends, that is what God calls us to.  He calls us to rest in the comfort of the hope that He promises in His Word.  That is the solid ground…for us to be standing on His truth during times of distress, especially when the reality of death graces our lives.

Listen to how the Scriptures describe the death of a believer:

  • Israel described his coming death as being “Gathered to his people.” (Gen. 49)
  • God said to Hezekiah that he was going to be “gathered to his grave in peace.” (2 Kings 22)
  • Psalm 116:15 tells us that death is precious – “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints.”
  • Believers are “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.” (Luke 16:22)
  • To the thief on the cross Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  • We are told that Jesus is preparing for us a mansion and to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
  • Paul tells us that death is “gain” and “far better.” (Phil. 1:21 & 23)

These are but a few of the ways in which the death of a believer is mentioned in Scripture, and they are for me, very comforting truths.

Now, we are so consumed with life that we often don’t grasp the extent to which our blessings are realized in and after death.  That is what Paul stresses in 1 Cor. 15:19, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” You see, friend, we have hope in this life and in eternity.

“Christian hope is a hope that not only controls our present living, but also our anticipation of what will come to be beyond this life.”  J. Ligon Duncan

In his short but helpful book, “Fear Not! Death and the Afterlife from a Christian Perspective”, J. Ligon Duncan offers these reminders in answer to the question, “What happens after death?”

1.  When believers die, they are immediately with Christ, whom they prize more than all things.

Samuel Rutherford once said, “I am so in love with His love that if He were not in Heaven, I would not want to go there.”  Believers have a longing to be with their Savior because He is their greatest prize.

2.  When believers die, they are immediately perfected in holiness.

It is here that we pause and realize that the sin that has hammered and plagued us throughout life is finally cast off and we are now truly and fully able to live our lives wholly and completely according to His will because our perfection has been completed in Him.

3.  When believers die, they pass immediately into glory.

Paul tells us that when we die it is “gain” and “far better” because we are no longer Ambassadors or Pilgrims journeying in another land.  No, we are finally home.  The minute death comes we are safe at home; safe in our Father’s arms; safe with our older brother Jesus, who shed His blood for us so that we could come home.

4.  When believers die, their bodies remain united to Christ, resting in the grave, awaiting the resurrection.

Paul uses the term “asleep” to describe those believers who have died and are awaiting the resurrection.  It is not a metaphor of inactivity, but of rest.  It reminds us that our painful and relentless struggle does finally come to rest and that the rest we have in Christ will include the future resurrection of those bodies at His appointed time.

My mom suffered from Alzheimer’s and the last year and a half have been difficult to watch and to experience.  Yet, because of my mom’s great faith in God all the above realities are promises that gave her hope and a confidence in God.  I am thankful that I can grieve with hope in the promises given to me by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!