30 June 2011

The richest legacy for parents and children

by Dan Phillips

As you may recall, in May of 2010 we helped reader Mike Dickey (vcdechagn) work with his dying mother to compose a gravestone as a lasting testimony to Christ. Mike much appreciated your help. His mother was not expected to live much more than a month. In fact, she went to be with the Lord less than a week after that post.

Mike has given me permission to show you the gravestone the family ended up composing.

Mike's mother was very concerned to be a testimony to Christ. Mike showed me a letter his mother wrote an unbelieving friend. I am sure it's now a dear memento to Mike: the letter is earnest, passionate, loving, and Christ-centered. For instance, check this out, unedited:
Here is the problem as I see it, and I don’t mean to be unloving. As I read through your list I can’t help but be struck by the fact that you are setting yourself up as judge. Now, if your morals are perfect and you are the one who judges the entire world that might work. But if each person is the final judge of what is good and what is evil we are going to end up with chaos…which is exactly what we have.

Since God is holy then every act that He performs is holy and righteous. While I know this doesn’t satisfy your questions I think you are seeking a God that you approve of. Instead, what we need to seek is the truth. It is not about a feeling. My feelings are often wrong. It’s about what the truth is. I can identify with a lot of what you’re saying because I used to find so many things in this world that went against my understanding of what God “should be like.”
Then she quotes Calvin, as well as the Word! This, from a lady who knew she was dying of cancer (though she does not mention it in the letter). The sister could have been a guest-poster at Pyro.

Right now, reading this, many of us are wishing one or both of our passed parents had left us such a testimony. They are gone, now; and they did not leave us such clear, shining beacons to their own love for Jesus Christ. Either they were outright unbelievers, or they lefty a murky, muddled profession. Perhaps they left us property, land, money... but we'd gladly trade all of it for the legacy of a crystal-clear, unambiguous testimony to a living faith in Christ.

In my upcoming book of studies in Proverbs (scheduled for September, last I heard), I have an extended section on the legacy parents can and should leave their children. Financial and property inheritance are great things, but they are nothing compared to a clear and unambiguous legacy of godliness, of a professed and practiced living faith in Christ. In fact, to quote, er, well... me, from what will be page 301:
I have seen far too many parents who see to their children’s every material need, but who leave this one crucial, indispensable, all-important necessity neglected. A great many verses in Proverbs point to the blessedness of the children of righteous, God-fearing parents. “In the fear of Yahweh is strong confidence, And his sons will have a refuge” (Prov. 14:26 DJP). See also: Proverbs 3:33; 11:21; 12:3, 7, 12; 13:22; 14:1, 11, 26; 15:6, 25; 17:6; 19:14; 20:7; 24:3. Each of these verses is worth serious meditation by parents who would please God.
So if you're a parent, this is your best and dearest legacy.

But before I leave this, let me add: children are similarly obliged to their parents. God obliges children to give joy to their parents (Prov. 23:25). (I have another section on that in the Proverbs book, as well.) Many parents are forced by their feckless offspring to live in a state of anxiety, since the children either profess no faith at all, or give lip-service to a faith to which they give the lie by their lawless, Christ-shaming lives.

Such sad parents are robbed of the assurance they should have from children who have honored God by honoring them (Exod. 20:12; Mark 7:10; Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph 6:2) in the most meaningful way: by hearing, believing, receiving, and practicing the Word of God which they were taught from infancy on (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15-17).

Have you given that most precious gift to your children? Your parents?


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SandMan said...

A good admonition. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

>>Perhaps they left us property, land, money... but we'd gladly trade all of it for the legacy of a crystal-clear, unambiguous testimony to a living faith in Christ.

I'd heartily say the same for what I want my father to leave to me. So of course that's what I should be working to leave to my sons as well. Thanks for helping me make the connection.

Daniel Meyer

Robert said...

Good post and great advice. Thanks, Dan. I can say for myself that I do not know if my father was a believer or not and it saddens me greatly when I think about that. That makes me all the more dedicated to teach our boys, both in word and deed, about my love for God and the work of salvation He has done for me.

I might add that we need to remember not to compromise with the world when it comes to our children. It will have the same effect on them as compromise has had on the church. We can't just wink at "little" things and say "it's just kids being kids". There are teachable moments throughout every day of a child's life and they are going to either be taught the truth or a lie...and we need to make the right choice.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Nice post Dan. I enjoyed Dr. White's Dividing Line on 6.22.11 (at least that is the date in Itunes) where he is interviewing his children. It goes along with this post quite well and is only 27 minutes.

Well, only 46 more days until I receive my copy of your new book. I will be glad to read it in August.

VcdeChagn said...

Thanks Dan, the post is perfect. I really appreciate you posting it, especially so long after the original post.

And thanks to all the folks who shared thoughts and ideas for the tombstone. Unfortunately my mom didn't end up having any say in it, but my dad and I made the decision.

Mike Westfall said...

The Gospel on a gravestone. That's great! Much much better than a Masonic Lodge symbol.

Robert Warren said...

The Dickeys are clearly a family who understand the Gospel importance of nearly every aspect of the death of a saint.

Rachael Starke said...

The marker is wonderful, and that letter is a masterpiece. Mike, I hope you find a way to preserve it for your grandchildren.

My family has multiple elders, most professing faith in Christ, who are approaching the end of their life. It has been piercingly sweet to see one's heart increasingly glow with love for Christ and hatred of sin. In another, a lifetime of sins left unexamined has led to an atrophying of sin in his life and heart. It's been instructive and both encouraging and discouraging on multiple levels. One will leave me with such thankfulness for a life that I want to emulate, so that I might have the same heart at the same age. The other will leave me with a serious warning to fight my besetting sins now in my "youth", so as not to burden my own children with the consequences of an atrophied heart when I'm old. That's a legacy too, of sorts.

Can't wait to read that book.

JerBro said...

Good post, mister. I'd like to read your book when it is finished.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


First, so sorry for your loss, yet rejoicing at your mom's faith and testimony.

Thanks for the reminder to give thanks for parents who raised us in the knowledge and the grace and the fear and the love of the Lord. And to try to live up to that example.


DJP said...

Thanks, all. To clarify:

The book I quote here is God's Wisdom in Proverbs, currently set to come out from Kress in early September. Not yet pre-orderable.

My first book should be World-Tilting Gospel from Kregel, set to come out August 1, and pre-orderable from Amazon and the usual outlets.

Peter said...


Do you know when your pre-ordered book from Amazon should be shipped?


DJP said...

Peter, thanks for asking. I'm a total n00b at this, so I don't really know. I would expect that they're keeping to the Aug. 1 release date, since I know for an existential certitude that the books have been printed. What I don't know is whether Amazon will do that thing they sometimes do where they ship so that it arrives on the first, or whether they will ship on the first.