29 June 2009

At Home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8)

by Phil Johnson

Jackie and Mike
Jackie and Mike Taylor


ike Taylor was the first friend I made when I came to work here at Grace to You in 1983. His office was right next to mine, and we almost immediately formed a mutual respect and deep affection for one another that did not diminish with time.

In those days, Grace To You operated under the oversight of Grace Church's elders, and I was the first non-Grace-Church person ever hired (from Chicago, no less) to work for the ministry. Mike was still a fairly new Christian—a one-time bartender and frustrated film-school graduate who had been hired to edit study guides. (The study guides were those simple outline-style curricular books Grace to You used to publish as companions to each new series we broadcast on the radio.) Mike's full-time employment began just two or three months before I arrived, so we were the newest employees in the building.

Ironically, although I had worked as an editor at Moody Press, my first job at Grace to You was answering listener mail. Mike was inexperienced as an editor but devoted to the task and committed to excellence. For the first year and a half or so, I deliberately kept my nose out of all editorial affairs. But I needn't have worried. Mike welcomed me heartily from day one, and there was never any tension (and not one cross word that ever passed between us) in more than 26 years of friendship.

As it turned out, Mike had numerous innate abilities that perfectly suited him for editorial work. He was an excellent writer with a powerful instinct for clarity and brevity. He was also a quick learner. Everything he ever wrote or edited was superb. He had enough natural talent and developed enough wordsmithing skills that he would have qualified to work for any publisher anywhere.

When Mike first started working for Grace to You, it was only on an hourly ad hoc basis. Even when he was first hired full time, I presume he still thought of the job as temporary and transitional; not exactly a promising career move. But as a new Christian, he was hungry to learn the Word of God, and that job gave him an opportunity to study Scripture for long hours and get paid in the process. He could hardly believe that Providence would bless him with such a privilege.

Many years later, more than two decades after Mike moved into management at Grace to You and embraced the job as his life's work, he still felt exactly the same way—utterly amazed at the thought that God took him from tending bar in a joint on Hollywood Boulevard to serving in such a strategic, far-reaching role of ministry alongside John MacArthur. Mike had a loud, infectious laugh that echoed daily through our hallways. He became more knowledgeable about doctrine and Scripture than many seminary graduates. He proved to be an excellent teacher himself and was a key person in the leadership of GraceLife (the group Don Green and I jointly pastor at Grace Church).

Mike met his wife, Jackie, at Grace Church in 1982 or so and married her shortly after I first met him. Jackie and Darlene became lifelong friends, too. The Taylors had two precious daughters, Amanda and Emily, who grew to adulthood alongside my three boys, attending all the same schools, riding in the same carpools, and going to all the same church activities together. All five of them are still active in young-adult activities at Grace Church. Amanda and Emily both serve on the church staff. My eldest son, now 29, found a kindred spirit in Mike. They loved going to hockey games together. Our families were close at every level.

Anyway, two or three years ago, Mike contracted Valley Fever, a fungal infection that in most cases causes nothing worse than mild flu-like symptoms. In a narrow percentage of people, however, it can be very serious, or even prove fatal. Mike seemed to recover from the worst of the fever after that initial severe bout, but a few nagging symptoms remained. By March of this year, he was feeling back pain and losing his sense of balance; his walk became slow and deliberate, and he finally began using a cane. By April, those symptoms worsened; Mike was experiencing a creeping paralysis, and he was obviously losing mobility at a disturbing speed. We were all concerned. Mike, however, remained upbeat. He answered all my concerns with reassurances that he was regularly seeing doctors and he believed they understood what was wrong and could treat it.

The problem, as I understand it, is that the fungus had invaded Mike's spinal column, causing scar tissue that constricted those central nerves and was gradually paralyzing him. The lead doctor proposed a heavy steroidal treatment to knock the fungus out.

About two weeks ago, Mike entered the hospital for ten days of treatment with powerful doses of anti-fungal medication and steroids. Apparently the medication had side-effects that caused massive internal bleeding. Doctors were unable to stop the bleeding, and Mike went to heaven Saturday morning.

The entire Grace to You staff is still in a deep state of shock over Mike's death, and we will all miss him greatly.

Mike and I went together from being the youngest rookies to being the longest-tenured employees in the whole building. I find it hard to believe so many years have gone by so quickly, and I can't imagine what life at Grace to You will be like without Mike's laughter echoing in the hallways.

Please pray for Jackie, Amanda, and Emily. The loss for them is surely even more bitter-tasting than it is for us, and that is almost unimaginable.

And yet in the midst of all that sorrow is a sense of unspeakable joy and rejoicing when we think of Mike. We know he is in the presence of Christ, basking in the glory of heaven, and surely more amazed than ever at by the grace that carried him from Hollywood Boulevard to heaven. Words can't possibly express the triumphant gladness the truth of the gospel brings in moments like this.

What a profound blessing assurance is!

Phil's signature

35 comments:

Chris said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, and for everyone else who knew and loved this man of God! From your description of Mike Taylor's life here, and from the endearing comments about him from others at Grace Church yesterday, he seems like one of those (rare) people whose life just exuded the Truth and love of the gospel in all he did. I wish I knew him, and I can see how everyone who did is experiencing such significant pain. May we all strive to live a life, like Mr. Taylor did, that will have such a legacy amongst those who know us best. How glorious it is, however, that his faith is now entirely realized in the presence of his Lord!

rebecca said...

This is a lovely tribute to your friend. I'm sorry for the loss, for you and Darlene and the rest of your family, but especially for Mike's family.

Take good care of them.

Jerry said...

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
- Psalm 116:15 (ESV)

steve said...

Phil,

Great tribute to Mike. I miss him as a person, and as a Bible teacher. He was a good friend who loved God's Word and carried with him a contagiously joyous laugh which still brings a smile to my face.

Steve

Raulemir said...

Those of us that knew Mike understand that you haven't told the half of it, Phil.

Andy Snider said...

Phil - thanks for this moving tribute. (I never comment on blogs, but this is different.) My three years working for Mike at GTY were unspeakably enriching. I grew so much and in so many ways as I worked under his remarkably wise guidance. I learned so much from that guy! Beyond the good Christian fellowship and spiritual growth, I can't imagine a better complement to my years as an M.Div. student. And his girls are an ongoing blessing to my own daughters. Praise Jesus for gracing us with such sweet brothers.

Rick Holland said...

Phil, Thanks for transforming your grief into tribute. Great piece about Mike today. I am still off balance from Saturday morning. Being with Jackie and the girls when they were told Mike had died was something I will never forget. Their instinctive faith, trust, and hope in God were remarkable. And your gracious pastoral care of them over the past few weeks will be a lasting example for me. I'm glad we do not grieve as those without hope... but I'm grieving nonetheless.

tmssteve said...

Phil, thank you for helping me to get to know Mike better. Our daughters are both very close to Amanda and Emily. In fact, I don't know whose house the four of them spent more time at--ours or theirs--during high school. Amanda and Emily were bridesmaids at our daughters' weddings and they are like sisters in many ways. When my wife called me Saturday, I was in the midst of playing a game and had to apologize for bursting into tears. I rejoice in knowing where Mike has gone, but my heart aches for Jackie and the girls. The lives of his daughters speaks volumes about the godliness with which he and Jackie raised and taught them. The Lord was gracious to Mike Taylor, not only in salvation, but in the great gifts He gave him. Mike Taylor's legacy is rich indeed.

~Mark said...

You have my deepest condolences Phil, and my prayers for Mike's family and all those who love him.

I hope you don't think I'm being facetious when I type *hugs Phil*, 'cause I really do mean it.

Solameanie said...

Praying for all of you, and rejoicing that Mike is now in the Lord's presence.

Mark | hereiblog said...

I'm so sorry, Phil. This is a very courageous and faithful post.

I will be praying for all of you.

God bless,

Mark

Fred Butler said...

By God's providence, Phil had the pulpit yesterday at Grace and gave a moving sermon from 1 Corinthians 15. Don Green, who was also a close friend to Mike, spoke at Grace Life on Matthew 1, relating the title of Christ to our hope when facing death. Both messages are worth downloading once the come available at Phil's sermon site.

Fred

The Squirrel said...

Phil,

A wonderful tribute, thank you.

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'll be praying for Mike's wife and children, as well as all his friends and co-workers.

We grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope!

~Squirrel

steve said...

Phil:

As one of the editors who worked alongside Mike, I can vouch for his tremendous ability for clarity and precision in writing. He did his job superbly, and as we all know, our sovereign God knew Mike was the perfect fit for the task given to him at GTY.

Yes, Mike's laugh was contagious--I couldn't help but grin upon hearing it. His laughter would bounce off the hollow walls of that old warehouse on Saticoy and travel up and down the hall. He made a great office companion--both Mark Hall and I have wonderful memories of working alongside him. It was a joy to hear him speak with tender, fatherly love of Amanda and Emily.

I'm still deeply saddened at the news, and our hearts (Becky and I) go out to Jackie, Amanda, and Emily. Thanks, Phil, for the updates via Twitter. Our prayer is that through all that has transpired over the last few months with Mike and his valley fever condition, God will be magnified mightily both among believers and unbelievers.

bean said...

Thanks for writing this! I will never forget how you could tell Mike was coming at GTY as his laugh came before him. We will continue praying for Jackie, Amanda and Emily as well as your family. Love you!

David Morris said...

Phil,
I have been and continue to pray for Jackie and the girls, you, and the entire GraceLife family. Thank you for the grace-focused remembrance.

Bobby D said...

Thank you for this, Phil. Reading it makes Mike come even more powerfully to mind and heart. He was both friend and mentor to me. I'll miss him always.

Ebeth said...

Mike was steadfast, immovable, always abounded in the work of the Lord

CR said...

Sickness and disease...no wonder Jesus wept when He learned of Lazurus' death.

Bobby Grow said...

I'll be praying for his family, and those who knew him.

Dan said...

Who can forget those study guides. Mike's impact has gone around the world. I speak for the masses those guides were a huge help to my sanctification. Bravo Mike!

Sir Brass said...

I can't help but think of how applicable this week's dose of the Word of God expounded upon by Spurgeon is.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints, indeed. Mike is now freed of all earthly concerns and is now in Heaven with Christ, and some day all of us who are also in Christ will be with him also. For now, we grieve and we hope, as you've said and we give appropriate tribute as well. But in all things, to God alone be the Glory.

He saved Mike, grew Mike, and finally has blessed Mike to the uttermost in bringing him fully home. And we can hope that Mike's spiritual ears heard that wonderful phrase "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master," as He entered Heaven.

dwitzke said...

Phil, that was a beautiful testimony of Mike's character (I didn't know him, but wish I could have), of your character, and of the work of God's glorious grace in all of you. Thank you for that.

Mommy Roth said...

Thank you Phil for helping us to know your friend Mike and the how the Master touched his life and yours over the years. I do remember Mike's laugh in the hallways of GTY and the smile it brought throughout the building. Praise God his faith is made sight now in the presence of our glorious Savior.

stratagem said...

I am truly sorry for you and for Mike's family. And I am overjoyed for Mike. Thanks for sharing this.

Lisa said...

Isaiah forsaw Jesus, a "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief". I have pondered that alot lately, with some losses in my life, of how grief changes us.
The heart of Jesus, in which all wisdom dwelt, was still impacted by loss. His tender mercies reflect His innate character, yet some how are profoundly deepened by His walk here with us.
Your friend Mike is now face to face with this Jesus, the glorified risen Lord. And yet, this same Jesus wraps His arms around those who are left behind and weeps with you.

CD-Host said...
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Saint and Sinner said...

Thanks for posting that Phil. He is sorely missed.

JAM said...

Phil,

Is there a way we can additionally
(beyond prayer) serve/support the family at this time?

JAM

Jacob said...

Amen, Phil! Nicely written. Condolences to his family and the GraceToYou family as well.

Just a librarian said...

Thanks for your moving tribute, Phil. Although there are a lot of people out there who did not personally know Mike, his work has been and will continue to be used in the lives of many people around the world. May we all be inspired by Mike's life to remain faithful to the Lord to the very end. Galatians 6:9

Caleb Kolstad said...

What a great man! Praise God for His amazing grace!!

Chuck Weinberg said...

Oh to finish the race and be in the arms of Jesus.
Thanks Phil and may grace be with you during this time. God is so good to allow us to minister along side people like Mike and I am sure he would say the same of you.
What a study guide he could write right now, but that is all behind him, even though his work will continue on until Jesus returns.

chopstickschan said...

Thanks for sharing with us such a wonderful example of a Christian. And as you go to work, and miss Mike's presence, may the Lord comfort you with even more of His presence.

Bless,
Lynda

NoNothing said...
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