Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Last Letter Written

This letter from Ray Ortlund to his family before he died reminds me of my dear friend Jon Mark.

Letter from Ray Ortlund to his family, written in 2000.

Dear Family,

"The time has come for my departure" (2 Tim. 4:6). It's strange to write this when I'm feeling well and vigorous, but unless Christ returns first that departure time will come. When you read this it will have happened.

I have had a great journey with Jesus Christ. From childhood I have known about God and revered Him. The name of Jesus has always been precious to me. I thank my dear parents for this heritage. Now, life on earth is over and I go to meet the Lord face to face. I trust in Him as my sure Savior and rest in His grace at this momentous time of my death. I do not fear death. (I don’t like the pain, blood, and guts of it all!)

Actually I have been anticipating this new adventure and at the time you read this I will be with Christ in heaven. So it’s happened and I’m now in God’s presence, probably shocked at all I’m seeing for the first time.

I am sorry for my sin and failures which have been many, but I know Christ has forgiven them. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Some of those sins have been against you, my dear family, and I am sorry. You probably know my sins better than I. Some you don’t know, I know all too well. But "where sin abounds grace does much more abound."

My dear Anne has been my most treasured friend. If she is still living as you read this I know you will treat her well. When she goes to heaven God will give her blue ribbons and gold medals. What a great woman and wife! She has loved and stood loyally by me all our life together. And our last years have been our best. May God reward her for hard work, a forgiving spirit, relentless faith and enthusiastic acceptance of life as it came. She is a woman of God... my Cadillac. We shall meet on the other side and sing a duet of praise to God. As you know, Psalm 34:3 has been our verse. We trust you’ve seen that we did magnify the Lord.

Each of you children and spouses have been the joy of my life, as have been the grandchildren. I include Melinda and John in this because they are family to us, too. I have never doubted your love for me and you have been too kind. I will see you in heaven and we'll bless God together.

I urge you to remain true to your Savior. I have no doubt that you will. Love each other deeply in your marriages. Keep your family ties strong. Lay up treasure in heaven because the stuff of earth is empty. Bank accounts, houses and furniture mean nothing to me now. Actually they never did. Beware of sin, and confess it as soon as you discover it in your life. And let the Spirit's gift of joy color all your life. As you mature remain a happy person in Christ. Get even sweeter as you get older. Sour old people are a pain.

In my death be sure God is glorified. Jesus glorified the Father most in His death. John 17:1-5 tells us He faced impending death with that prayer for the Father to be glorified. So at my memorial service glorify God. Have a holy party. I was saying to Anne recently that this world has become less attractive lately and I feel a bit out of place. So it's good to go "home" now. I 'd like to make my burial simple. Cremation is fine with me. Bury my remains in a simple container to wait for the resurrection of my new glorified body. If cremation upsets you then don't do it, of course. I want you to be comfortable with it all.

Heb. 13: 20,21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I love you all and each one. I’ll see you sooner than you think!

HT: Josh Harris

The Two Sides of Thomas Kinkade

As those made in God's image we are naturally interested in multidimensional communication that speaks to the deeper things of life. Art, in it's various forms is a wonderful way to do this. This is an arena of life well worth thinking about and enjoying.

I like most of Thomas Kinkade's art. (Sorry if that offends you.) But I also know it has it's limits. I wouldn't compare it to a Rembrandt but I am more likely to have a Kinkade piece hanging in my house than a Rembrandt.

Joe Carter of First Thoughts has an intriguing discussion of Thomas Kinkade's artwork. Here is an excerpt:

Consider two works of on similar themes. Both are images of the Water Tower in Chicago. Both have similar elements—a carriage, trees, people with umbrellas. Indeed, paintings are almost identical in theme and content, if not in style.

And yet the first is unquestionably technically superior. The use of texture and shadow puts the viewer within the picture. You can almost feel the cold Chicago air and hear the sounds of the serene yet bustling city.

The second painting, however, distances the viewer from the scene. Light is overused (notice the light coming from every window and the background lights that resemble a brushfire), presenting a faux golden glow that is unrealistic and dull. And the carriage, though more sharply drawn than in the first painting, is two-dimensional and distracting. While the first work is worthy of gracing a museum wall, the second is only worthy of garnishing a cheap greeting card.

As you could probably guess, the second painting is by Thomas Kinkade, circa 2004.

But what about the first painting, the more aesthetically superior rendition of the Water Tower? It too is by Thomas Kinkade; he painted it in 1998.

This is what is so distressing about Thomas Kinkade: He is both a creator of some of the most inspiring paintings of the past two decades and a producer of some of the worst schlock ever manufactured by a talented artist.

What do you think?

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Memorial Service

Here are the arrangements for Jonathan’s memorial service:

Memorial Service – Thursday, June 25th, 2 pm at King of Grace Church, 28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835. All family, friends & acquaintances are warmly invited to join us for a time to remember and honor this dear man, brother and friend in song, scripture reading, worship and sharing. Please come ready to perhaps share a memory, story or aspect of Jon’s life that will help us celebrate and remember him. A reception with refreshments will follow in the King of Grace church fellowship hall. Please bring any heavy hors d’oeuvres or desserts you are able to prepare.

Graveside Service – Friday, June 26th, 10:30 AM, New Hampshire State Veteran’s Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Highway, Boscawen, NH 03303. Family members and close friends are invited for a graveside service to say goodbye to our friend, commit him to God and anticipate his resurrection upon the Lord’s return.

Please feel free to contact the church if you have any questions.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Passing

Friends & Family,

Jonathan passed peacefully on to be with the Lord this morning around 12:45 AM. His last day was full of love and peace with many family and friends. Worship music was playing per his request and we were able to read scripture and pray with him. Thank God for these precious days we had with Jonathan over the past week.

We will dearly miss this precious man. We are so thankful for the blessing of his life as a gift from God.

We will let you know as soon as possible what arrangements will be made for his funeral/memorial service.

In His love,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Life Insurance

Jonathan’s employer, GES, called this afternoon to assure Jon & Julianne that Jonathan’s life insurance policy is still active. Thank God for their kindness! And thank you all who responded to Jonathan & Julianne’s apparent need. We will still take any donations if you would like to give a gift for Julianne as she seeks to get on her feet. But, the need is not as severe as we perceived it. Thanks so much for your care.

We will update you some more as we can.

Jonathan Mark Update June 18th

Jonathan is laboring to breath this morning. We are not sure how long it will be before God takes him. Thanks for praying and caring for Jonathan and Julianne. We know Jonathan is ready to meet his Savior and King. The loss will be ours, the gain will be Jonathan's.

Yesterday Chris & Kendra Knowles came to visit and Julianne asked if Jonathan wanted to sing some worship songs. Jon said yes. Julianne asked which song. Jonathan replied, "Isn't He Good". It was a holy moment as we all sang with this amazing man. His faith in God's goodness is shining like gold at this moment as he trusts Christ with his whole life and his future. I trust we will shine like Jonathan when our day comes.

With love, Paul

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jonathan Mark Update

Jonathan was moved to Merrimack Valley Hospice House today. It was the first hospice house available and very much a blessing. We see God’s kindness and care in this transition.

The house is located at 360 North Ave. in Haverhill around the corner from a number of King of Grace Church members. You can read more about it here. The facilities resemble a resort/retreat house and should really serve Jonathan & Julianne and those who wish to visit and spend time with Jonathan. There is ample space in the café and family reception area to relax and spend time together with one another without overwhelming Jonathan or Julianne. The room itself is spacious and comfortable with a queen size open-up for Julianne.

Thanks so much for all your care and prayers for our dear friend. He is doing relatively well as the effects of cancer seem to increase. He is still very weak and thin and only speaking a few words or so at a time. His mind is still pretty sharp – he seems to be able to keep track of what’s going on and has often asked about phone conversations and comments he has overheard as he lies in bed.

Please pray for Jonathan’s likely transition to his true eternal home. He has communicated that he feels the peace of God. Please pray he can continue to trust and rest in his Savior and King. Please also pray for Julianne as she faces this difficult loss. Julianne is doing very well considering all that is happening. Jonathan and Julianne’s extended family has been a wonderful support. Please pray for them as they seek to cope with all this.

Thanks for all your help. Please feel free to reply via email or phone if you have any questions or thoughts. I know they would love to see many of their beloved family members and dear friends so we will have to try manage the flow of folks and keep it somewhat quiet in the room.

With gratitude, for Jonathan and Julianne,


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Worship Music - Rain City Hymnal

An Appeal for Our Friends, Jonathan & Julianne Mark

Hi everybody,

Thank you all for caring for Jon and Julianne during these difficult months. They both are doing amazingly well even as Jon dramatically declines physically and faces perhaps his last days. We are hoping to transfer Jon to hospice today. Please pray!

Jon & Julianne have a particular need which you might be able to help. Jon’s life insurance was mistakenly canceled when he was transferred to long-term disability. As a result, they don’t have money for Jon’s funeral costs. It appears he will be able to be buried for free in a veteran’s cemetery in NH because of his veteran status. However, the other costs still add up. Some estimates run as high as $10,000. We are hoping to need less than this - perhaps $3,000.

Would you be able to help by contributing toward Jon’s funeral costs?

You can contribute by writing a check to King of Grace Church Attn: Jonathan Mark and sending it to 28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835 or going on line to the King of Grace PayPal site here.

Thanks so much for considering this and for your love & prayers for these guys!

With gratitude,

Paul F. Buckley - Pastor
King of Grace Church
Sundays 10:00 AM
28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835-7305
(978) 374-6562

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Got Angry Teens?

Got angry teens? Lost hope for a peaceful family? Concerned for the well-being of your son or daughter?

There are two resources that top my list for dealing with angry teens.
1. Bob Kauflin's message on parenting older teens from the Sovereign Grace Leaders Conference, "The Pastor and His Older Children" (for non-pastors too!) with PDF too, and

2. Rick Horne's very helpful book, "Get Outta My Face," (click here for a review and link to buy.)

BTW: If you haven't read "Age of Opportunity" and "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Shepherd Press, I would recommend you get a copy - you will be greatly blessed and helped - in your parenting and in your own life! And if you are still looking for more input, I gave a teaching last year that seemed to help folks: download "Parenting Teens: An Epic Adventure in Gospel-Centered Parenting".

Hope this blesses you!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Understanding God's Word

I have been using a tool my friend Alex Kirk told me about a ways back. It is called "bible arcing". It is a method for studying God's word by diagramming the flow of thought in a passage. I believe it is something John Piper uses having learned it from Dr. Fuller. It has been a huge help for me. Check out one of my arcs below. (I'm still learning.)

Go to for more info. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Piper on Twitter

John Piper comments on why and how he is tweeting. A couple of excerpts:

"... instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can...."
".... Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet."

Read the full article here.

HT: Josh Harris

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

We Love the Beach

Among the many things to enjoy in God's creation, my family and I love the beach. We are so thankful to be within 20 minutes to some really good beaches. Seabrook, Salisbury, Hampton and Plum Island are all nearby.

My most favorite is Sandy Point State Beach on the very southern end of Plum Island. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Plum Island and then probably another 15-20 to get to the end of the Island. But, it is worth it.

I am looking forward to some more time at Sandy Point!