A young girl was suddenly confronted by a strange visitor whom she had never seen before in her village of Nazareth. This visitor greeted her with very strange words. “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
What was going on in Mary’s mind as she heard these words? The Bible says that she was troubled in her heart and was quite perplexed. She probably couldn’t understand why this visitor was talking with her. In her humility, she couldn’t believe what the visitor was saying about her character and her close walk with God.
Mary’s life would soon change in a way that she would never imagine. God chose her to give birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because of God’s plan for her life, she would almost lose her future husband Joseph. She would face misunderstanding. She would give birth to the Messiah in a stable. She would see her son suffer and then die upon the cross. Mary didn’t choose this type of life, but God chose it for her.
Mary had a choice when her visitor, God’s angel, shared God’s plan with her. She could fear God’s plan and reject it, or she could heed the words of the angel: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” (Luke 1:30) Mary chose to embrace God’s plan when she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary cast away her fears and embraced God’s plan for her life in spite of the obstacles she would face.
God’s plan can create fear in our lives. We fear surrendering ourselves totally to God because His plan may include pain, suffering, rejection, and sacrifice. Our fear causes us to forget that our loving God knows what is best for us and for those around us. We find it difficult to say: “I am your servant. Do as you please with my life.”
All through the Bible, we see people who did not fear God’s plan, but embraced it.
Abraham embraced God’s plan when he left all that he knew to go to an unknown land.
Moses embraced God’s plan when he left the quiet life in the desert to lead God’s people.
Joshua embraced God’s plan when he defeated Jericho according to God’s plan of action.
Ruth embraced God’s plan when she left her land of Moab to go to Israel.
Jeremiah embraced God’s plan in spite of the persecution he faced.
Hosea embraced God’s plan when it didn’t make sense to him.
Steven embraced God’s plan though it meant certain death.
Will we listen to God’s voice when he says: “Fear Not”? Will we embrace His plan regardless of the consequences? When we embrace God’s plan, we will not only be blessed of God, but we will also be a blessing to others as Mary has been a blessing to the world.
David shares His desire to embrace God’s plan when he wrote: “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.”
(Psalm 143:10) God is good and His plans for our lives will lead us into a life of blessing and joy. Let’s not fear God’s plan today, but let us embrace His plan with all of our hearts.
June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.
The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.
In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.
My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them. She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.
Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss. When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.
My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations. She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA. She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day. Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church. I was proud to be in her Junior High class.
Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.
As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on TV, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups. She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends. She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.
Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing. She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”
Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do? As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway. I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I am glad that I wasn’t with her.
The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God. She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.
After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized. Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.
When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as her grandchildren would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories, as well as having Dad read a story to our children. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years. This would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.
In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children. With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life. However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.
What does it feel like to hear from the doctor that you have only a few months to live? Maria Teresa Standridge recently received this news from her doctors in Italy. Maria Teresa has served the Lord with her husband, Bill, for nearly sixty years in Rome, Italy. Though she is eighty-eight years old, she is still serving the Lord. They have been an inspiration to me because of their faithful service unto the Lord even into their eighties.
I have been given permission to share Maria Teresa’s thoughts about her impending death. Please take time to read this beautiful testimony of God’s peace in the midst of facing death.
I’M GOING HOME! BY MARIA TERESA STANDRIDGE (ROME, ITALY)
“Mr. Standridge, bring your wife to the emergency room immediately for a blood transfusion. The levels in her blood are very low. We have already informed your doctor. ”
I had just finished blood tests in a medical center and things seemed really serious. I did not expect anything like this, even though, for a few weeks, I had been feeling pretty weak and with little energy. We went straight to the emergency room of a large hospital in Rome, close to home, and soon I was lying on a bed with a needle stuck in my arm and a nice bag of blood, which was followed by two more, transferring its liquid, drop by drop, into my veins.
Since then I have been on a rollercoaster of news and surprises, hospitalization, other blood tests, and also samples of bone marrow, that led to a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, to which doctors have added the unpromising adjective “terminal” .
So today, without any particular pain and, apparently, still in good health and with a good measure of strength, I find myself thinking in a very practical and realistic way, of my “going home with the Lord” when He wills. Perhaps very soon.
How have I reacted to a story like this? Honestly, surprised and almost in disbelief. But, even so, with HIS peace.
A few years ago, when I was invited to do Bible studies in a Conference for women, I said with a laugh that, given my age of more than 85, (soon I’m going to be 89), the organizers would do well to also get a “spare tire” in case I had to decline the invitation. But honestly, given my health that I thought was disease-proof, I said it jokingly as if I were actually immortal.
Today, the jokes are over and the reality is different. It is a reality of a certain sadness (I’d be lying if I said otherwise), but also very calm.
Sadness because leukemia is a reality that speaks of separation from Bill, the only love of my life, with whom I have spent more than 56 years, and have had the joy of serving the Lord, in a kind of spiritual and also intellectual symbiosis. I shared a passion for the Word of God, the commitment of raising four children, and the responsibility of helping many to learn and grow in biblical faith.
I know that after my departure Bill will feel a bit as though he was “mutilated”, but I know that his love for the Lord, His Word, and the Italians, will support him and help him serve as long as he has the strength.
Of course I do not like, either, the idea of leaving our four children, three daughters-in-law and also a son-in-law, who love me and twelve grandchildren (one married) and two great-grandchildren, each one more lovely than the other. But the moment of separation will come.
But my joy is that all have trusted the Lord as their Savior and are therefore in his hands.
But now, let’s talk about the reasons for my peace of mind.
I came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord when I was 20 years old. Since then, the grace of God has surrounded me and the unmerited favor of the Lord has wrapped and protected me.
I know I’m saved, and my faith is based on the promises of God’s Word. One that comforts me in particular is the letter of the Apostle Paul to Titus: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7) What more than that could you want or hope for?
Then I had the honor to receive from the Lord a clear call to serve full-time, I went to Bible school, I had teachers of great value, I have experienced the extraordinary time of evangelistic fervor and spiritual growth in Italy after the end of World War II. I was a part of the beginning of the new period of political freedom in Italy that gave us permission to start youth camps, summer schools, conferences and all kinds of activities that the Lord has blessed. I threw myself headlong into every new evangelistic project.
My university studies prepared me to have a ministry of writing and my heart led me to make available to the Lord every capacity that He had given me.
Over the years I learned to study and nourish myself in the Word of God, I understood the importance of furthering knowledge in His truth, and rooted my faith in obedience to what it says. Without a good supply of this type of knowledge, the Christian life can become very severe and be very flat.
I confess also that I have made many mistakes for which I had to ask forgiveness from the Lord, from my loved ones, brothers and sisters, and I realized that forgiveness is the key to the Christian life. It is essential in both the human family and that of God.
He who does not forgive others has understood little of the love of God, but those who practice the confession of their sins to God and asking for the pardon of all they have offended, know that the blood of Christ purifies them and allows them to walk in the light (1 John 1:8-10).
After so many years of walking with the Lord, I realized that “in me, in my flesh, Maria Teresa, dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18), but whatever I did that is good is what he has done for me and in me (Isaiah 26:12).
During a conference in Isola del Gran Sasso, Daniel, one of our sons, in a meditation stressed the fact that after the resurrection, Jesus bore in his body the marks of his suffering and death for us. The disciples have seen his scars and know that, with his resurrected human body, Jesus ascended to heaven.
In the vision of Revelation, John later saw Him as a “lamb, standing, which seemed to have been sacrificed” (5:6) and I, with myriads of believers (and hopefully with you) will behold for all eternity those signs of the price paid by Jesus for our salvation. Those signs will inspire us to worship Him in perfection.
This wonderful thought humbles me, but also fills me with great gratitude.
With love, Maria Teresa Rome, March 2013
Are you too busy? Are you a victim of our hurried lifestyle? Does God seem distant in the midst of all of our activities? A busy lifestyle can take its toll upon our spiritual, emotional and physical life.
Elijah is a prophet, who is busy serving God. He successfully challenges the prophets of Baal concerning the reality of the True God. His prayer for fire to come down upon the sacrifice is answered. He then prays for rain, and rain falls upon the drought-stricken nation of Israel. He then runs a great distance(17 miles) to Jezreel, Ahab’s winter residence. Elijah is a tired man. In addition to his tiredness, Queen Jezebel threatens his life. Elijah falls into the midst of great despair, and flees from Israel in great fear.
However, God takes care of His prophet, just as He takes care of us. God provides Elijah with food and rest. Often, we can became depressed because of too much activity and not enough rest. God provides the rest we need. Jesus said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Elijah speaks to God and asks to die. He says that he is all alone. No one cares for him. Have you ever been there? God doesn’t speak to Elijah in the earthquake or fire. He speaks to him with a “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12) God had to get Elijah to the point where he would listen.
God may have to take us to the depths of despair before we will listen to His still, small voice. Our busyness and self-centredness can keep us from hearing God’s voice.
When God speaks to Elijah with His still, small voice, He asks Elijah a question: “What doest thou here, Elijah?” This question is to encourage Elijah to take his eyes off of himself and his circumstances and look unto God. Unfortunately, Elijah continues with his complaint unto God. He still wants to die, because no one cares and he is alone.
God may ask us this same question: “What are you doing here?” Will we respond with a complaining spirit like Elijah? God’s purpose for this question is not to hear our complaints, but to get us to see the distance between God and ourselves. This question can be rephrased in the following ways:
What are you doing here living in sin?
What are you doing here living in despondency?
What are you doing here living outside of my will?
What are you doing here living by sight and not by faith?
What are you doing here living in fear?
What are you doing here living in selfishness?
What are you doing here living in bitterness?
God’s still, small voice is waiting for us to listen to Him. Life overwhelms us because we don’t take the time to hear His still, small voice. Let’s join Elijah and find rest for our souls and listen to the voice of our Lord. He will bring us deliverance from our sin, despair, and exhaustion in this life.
“Dear Lord, I get so busy. Noise is all around me. Amidst my busyness, I can’t seem to discern your voice. My life seems to spin out of control. I easily become discouraged. Help me to slow down, and find a quiet place to listen to your still, small voice. Bring me back to the place of usefulness and close fellowship with you. Amen”
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58) Every time I read this verse, I can’t help but think of my Father-in-Law, Perry Mayton. He lived out this verse in his daily life before his family, and every person who knew him.
Perry Mayton was born January 3, 1919 in the small city of Harriman, Tennessee. God was preparing Perry’s heart to serve Him through two tragic events in his childhood. His dad died when he was six years old and his mom died when he was a teen. These tragic events would help give Perry a compassionate heart as he ministered to people throughout his life.
Harriman was a city filled with gospel preaching churches. As a result, Perry accepted the Lord as his Savior during his teenage years. For a few years he didn’t grow in his faith, but God was preparing him for future ministry. After leaving the army, Perry began working in one of the mills in Harriman. During that time, he met his future bride Iva Olmstead. In 1948, they married. Soon after the wedding, Perry believed that the Lord had called him into the ministry. He demonstrated this calling by his faithfulness in serving the Lord for over fifty years.
There are several things that stand out in Perry’s life and ministry. One thing that always impressed me was his tireless service for the Lord. During most of the years of his ministry, Perry also had to work a day job. This meant that he would work all day and then take on the demands of a pastor during the evening and Sunday. I never heard him complain because he found great joy and peace in serving the Lord.
I was also impressed with Perry’s knowledge of the Word of God. He never had much formal Bible training, but he knew the Word of God. He understood the doctrines of the Bible as well as any person who had formal training. He loved to study His Bible. His passion for God’s Word is expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:16: “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”
Perry also had a compassionate heart towards others. He showed concern for any person in need. He had a special compassion for the lost. A few times, I would go with Perry when he did his weekly radio broadcast. His passion for the lost was clearly seen as he would plead for the lost to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord as their Savior. He had the unique gift of having both the heart of an evangelist and a pastor.
The fourth thing that impressed me about Perry was his great spirit of humility before God and others. I never heard him talk about any of his accomplishments. He did God’s work and didn’t think about the praise of men. He sought to please God alone. This humility was obvious to any person who had Perry as their pastor.
The greatest impact that Perry had upon my life was through his daughter, Sharon. Perry did a great job of preparing his daughter for being a wife and mother. Sharon understands to this day what it means to minister in a local church. Her father also taught her how to love the Word of God and minister to people with a heart of compassion.
Perry was quite well-known in the Harriman area because he had been the pastor of several local churches. I never heard anybody say a bad thing about “Brother Perry”. He was beloved by the people in his churches and he loved them. He would continue to minister via the radio and preaching in churches until his health kept him from doing what he always loved.
On September 1, 2003, Perry would enter into the presence of His Savior. The funeral visitation was a great testimony to his over fifty years of ministry. The line to greet Perry’s widow, Iva, went outside of the doors of the funeral home. Many people told us how God had used Perry in their lives. The outpouring of love was a testimony to Perry’s faithfulness in his service to the Lord.
Yes, Perry is missed by his family, friends and many of those to whom he ministered; however, his testimony lives on in the lives of many people. The words of Matthew 25:23 apply to the life of Perry Mayton. “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant;” Perry has finished his labors here on earth, but his legacy lives on through his family and many others who were blessed by his ministry.
“He praised the Lord-then went to Heaven! PASTOR DIED IN A PULPIT!” This front page headline was printed in the Daily Sun, the largest daily newspaper in South Africa.
Pastor John McKay had entered the pulpit to preach on a January morning in 2010. He had introduced his topic as “The Sermon that Must be Preached”.. After the introduction, he entered into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Two days later, I would hear the news about death of my friend, John McKay. He was sixty-six years old. Six weeks after John’s death, I would serve the Lord’s Supper and preach the Word of God at the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church, which John McKay had started several years ago. I enjoyed the time with his family and church; yet John was greatly missed in my visit there.
I had met John McKay in 1983. Sharon and I had recently arrived to minister in a church in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. I had a desire to start an Awana youth program in the church. At the time, The Evangelical Bible Church of Bosmont had an Awana program. I decided to visit their Awana club. Their Awana Club was impressive, but I also met their pastor, John McKay. His love for the Lord and the Word of God was very clear to me. From this first meeting, our friendship grew rapidly.
God used John McKay in my life in many ways. One blessing was that he introduced me to several other pastors who were like-minded in the faith. We would gather each week for a Bible study and then a meal. I found these times of fellowship extremely helpful. Even to this day, I have never enjoyed being with a group of pastors as much as I did with these South African pastors.
John McKay also came to my rescue in a very difficult time in my ministry. In 1987, our family planned to return to the States to fulfill our furlough responsibility of visiting our supporting churches. A recent Bible College graduate had agreed to minister in the church for the year I was away. Two weeks before we left, he said he was unable to minister in our church. John came to my rescue as he assured me that he would oversee the church. I scheduled many of our pastor friends to preach as well. John did a great job of caring for our people. The church was ready for its next growth spurt when I returned. His help was a very sacrificial gift because he had his own church as well.
John was also a blessing when he invited our church to have joint baptismal services with his church. Our people in Hillbrow always looked forward to these joint services. The singing at the Bosmont church was very uplifting for our people. John and I would baptize each person together. These services created an even closer bond in our friendship.
In 1990, we would leave South Africa to minister in Portugal. In 1996, we returned to the States to minister. During those years, John and I didn’t do much communication with one another. In 1999, Sharon and I visited South Africa. We were glad to renew our friendship with John and his family. At this time, John and I participated in the ordination council for Grant Hoyland, whom God greatly used in the Hillbrow church until his death three years later.
John made his first visit to see us in June of 2003. This was a difficult time in my life. My mother was in the hospital living out the last couple weeks of her life. John went with me on the one hundred sixty kilometer trip to visit my mother. It was an encouragement to have my friend with me for several days during this very trying time. Our church in Charlotte also enjoyed hearing John preach.
The last time, I would see John was in 2005. He invited me to preach a series of messages at his church. John was excited because his church had been able to purchase their own church building. I remember his joy as he showed me each part of the church. Little did I know that this trip would be the last time I would see him.
In the Daily Sun article, John’s son, Marlin (who is presently the pastor of the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church) said these words. “My father wanted me to become a pastor…but it gives me goosebumps to think that I could fill his shoes. He was an incredible man–we will miss him. It (John’s death) was not a mistake that God took him.”
Yes, John is with the Lord. He is not only missed by his family, and his church, but he is also missed by the many people he had greatly influenced. I am one of those lives. I thank the Lord for the privilege of having known John as my friend in the ministry. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Note: This is number five in a series of posts on the people who have greatly influenced my life.
“Pastor Mark, have you heard about the accident on I-69 (The freeway by our home)?” This question came over my phone from a young lady in our church. “Yes, I have heard about the accident.” I responded. Everybody knew about this accident on August 6th in the evening because traffic was backed up for miles in each direction.
“My Aunt Trixie is in the hospital with injuries from the accident. ” the young lady continued. There was a pause and then she added: “My Uncle George didn’t make it.” I was in my chair sitting and quite stunned. I had seen George yesterday in church and now I hear the news that he is dead.
The next day, The Lansing State Journal published the details of the accident. A truck had run into George and Trixie’s car. The traffic was already stopped on the freeway because of another accident. George had no way to escape as the truck smashed into the line of cars without braking.
I don’t always understand the ways of God, but this whole event has helped me to focus on the Lord, death and my life. A sudden death has a way of making one think about eternity and one’s relationship with God.
1. George’s death reminds me to be grateful for my salvation. Several months before, I had heard George share his testimony of how he had come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. When I saw him the day before his death, he didn’t know that the Lord would call him home the next day. One of the most difficult things to do as a pastor is to do a funeral of a person who dies without the knowledge of the Savior. I am glad that when I do George’s funeral later this Friday, I can say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” George is in the presence of the Lord because of the saving grace of His Savior, Jesus Christ.
2. George’s death helps me to see the reality of God’s grace. In recent days, I have visited Trixie a few times in the hospital and now in rehab. Thankfully, she is improving physically. I am amazed by the peace of God that is radiating from her life. She grieves for the temporary loss of her husband, but God’s grace and comfort is obvious in her life. God has used Trixie to show me that He is real in times of great hardship and pain. Trixie’s faith has encouraged me to know in a fresh way that God’s grace is real. As the Lord said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
3. George’s death helps me to see that each day is a gift from God. George had invested his life in helping others. He had a gift of helps and service which he used in the lives of others. I definitely have different gifts and talents than George, but am I using what God has given me for His glory each and every day? Paul near the time of his death was able to say: “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Will I be able to say these same words?
In the coming weeks, I will have more thoughts concerning George’s entrance into the presence of the Lord I am glad for the words of Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life.” For the believer, death is the entrance unto eternal life. This is only made possible by the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Some people may feel that George’s death is a waste, but from God’s perspective this is far from true. George affected many people’s lives while he was alive, but he is now affecting many lives in his death, including myself. I thank God for the privilege of having known George.