Wednesday, February 26, 2014


“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” Mark 13:31.  Some things are more reliable than others, only a few are absolutely so.  The context of this verse has to do with Jesus’ second coming, but the truth of this verse applies to all that He taught.  His Word is utterly and eternally reliable.

Eleven years ago tomorrow, my mother, Marlene, exchanged her earthly tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).  I am so very thankful that she had learned to “take Jesus at His word” before she died.

My Mom was born in Minnesota but grew up in the greater Portland area.  Her teenage years were spent on a farm in Mountaindale (not far from North Plains).  Grandma was experiencing some personal struggles at that time, so Mom was frequently left to care for her eight siblings.  She learned about responsibility at an early age.  Those life-lessons served her well when later she ascended, over a period of 30 some years, from an entry level job at Tektronix to manage the printer division.

Mom was a Catholic growing up.  Married at age 17 to my father, Chester, in the Catholic Church, Mom had agreed to raise us in the Catholic faith.  Somewhere I have a certificate of baptism commemorating my infant baptism at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Hillsboro.  Mom would drag us to church on Sundays and to catechism classes on Saturday.  I despised those classes as they kept me from doing what I really wanted to do—go fishing with my Dad.  Mom even took me to some weekly Catholic home meetings.  I was a reluctant participant in these things.  I didn’t understand, at all, what it was all about.  Over the years, Mom apparently lost either interest or resolve—our attendance waned.  But Mom remained a Catholic at heart—she had a faith in God via the Catholic Church, but it was not trustworthy.

Years ago, my brother, Bruce, died.  Years of drug abuse had taken a physical and mental toll and then, without warning, he took his own life.  My siblings and I sometimes made poor choices.  But Mom was always there for us.  She loved us and tirelessly worked to put back together the broken pieces of our humpty dumpty lives.  But there was no helping Bruce.  He was gone from us and Mom was devastated.

Mom didn’t know where to turn or what to do.  Her Catholicism bore to her no comfort or help.  She had wondered about her brothers, Pastors Frank and Bob, and the form of “religion” they were involved with.  Likewise, she did not quite understand the nature of the beliefs of non-denominational church that I was pastoring.  She called me, desperate for answers.  She began to read her Bible.

She also began attending Helvetia Community Church in Hillsboro.  She involved herself there.  She began to understand the truth of God’s reliable Word and that salvation was not obtained by being religious or doing good works.  She heard the gospel message—that salvation is by faith in Christ who had died for our sins.  Somewhere along the way she placed her faith in Him.  She was born again.  Her new relationship with Christ did not take away the pain of her loss, but Jesus brought to her forgiveness, comfort, and assurance of salvation.  That assurance would soon play an essential role in her life.

In the year preceding her death Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  She had a tumor that could not be surgically removed.  Radiation and chemotherapy treatments were undergone but to no avail.  As the weeks went by she got progressively weaker.  Her pain increased until it grew to unbearable levels.  An internal pain pump was installed to help her cope.

2 Corinthians 5:16 reminds us that “Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”  That truth became readily apparent in her life.  She faced death with an inspiring, God-given courage.  She arranged a meeting with her Pastor and me.  We sat in the living room—in the house of my upbringing—and planned her funeral service.  She offered to us suggestions regarding hymns and Bible verses.  She gathered the family together in her room and exhorted us all to love one another.  She met with each of the grandchildren individually and passed on to each a special message.  She met all of these challenges with a firm reliance on Jesus and His Word.

It was a day before her passing.  The family was all there.  Uncle Frank and Bob and her other siblings were there.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  We wheeled Mom out to the garden in the back yard.  The garden she had spent so many hours dutifully maintaining.  The sun was shining in her face.  It was a glorious setting.  And it was Frank, who made the comment—weakened as she was by cancer, Frank said she looked “glorious.”  She did!

For years, when I worked at Trojan Nuclear Plant, I had a picture I had hung on the wall in my office.  The picture was of the sky and some clouds and the sun shining through.  Underneath the sun’s glorious rays were these words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  A lot of things “pass away,” only a few things will last.  God’s word is amongst those things.  It is absolutely trustworthy and dependable and “able to give…the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).  I am so thankful that it did that very thing for Mom!  Like a ray of sunshine through a cloud-filled sky the enduring Word bears a message of hope to this sin-weary and darkened world (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-18)!  It’s a good thing to take God at His trustworthy Word!

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