Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Essay Read at Lily Katherine's Memorial Service, March 26, 2010

Jesus called a little child and had her stand among them. And He said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 18:2-4 

Red is the rose by yonder garden grows and fair is the lily of the valley. My flower, my first little girl, has birthed her flower, her first little girl. Like when Jesus was a young boy and Mary could make all things right when he experienced a hurt, I could do the same for Hannah Rose, when she was a little girl, like the day I saved her life, while she choked on a bite of hot dog. However, when Jesus was on his way to the cross, his mother was helpless to heal His situation, just as I am now. As Anselm of Canterbury said, “For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this I believe - that unless I believe I shall not understand.” The silence in our home is as deafening as it was at Lily’s birth. We find great comfort in knowing that as her rosebud lips first parted to speak, it was to praise her Jesus! God obviously ordained the selection of her special name, for when Hannah Rose named her Lily Katherine, she wasn’t aware that Katherine, as well as Lily, also means purity. From the start, HR knew that Lily was special to God, and would be a pure set-apart girl for Him! The inspiration for Lily came from Song of Solomon 2:2 Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. God is good for He has separated Lily unto Himself where the pain, sin, temptations, and suffering of this fallen world can never touch her. She will never taste the saltiness of tears. She will never have to battle the world, the flesh and the devil. She will never have the opportunity to reject Jesus. Hannah Rose’s Lily will remain forever pure! We take exceeding comfort in that! Opening her sparkling, blue eyes for the first time, she beheld her Saviour as He cradled her in His loving arms. This nine month journey has been precious. First of all, and most importantly, Lily saved her mother from her rebellious, back- slidden condition, leading her back to Jesus. HR’s sacrificial love for her Lily brought my prodigal daughter back home to her family. God knew she would need our support, love and strength as she endured a difficult pregnancy and the ultimate loss of her little flower. 

For the girls’ club to lose its newest member is a hard pill to swallow, especially as the earth is bursting forth with new life resurrecting with the beauty and promise of spring. We three immensely enjoyed the time God gave us with Lily: relishing deep, lively discussions and Bible study on living holy lives, forgiveness, repentance, God’s abundant love and His truth, card making, shopping, planning, fulfilling Hannah Rose’s (HR would always say it was Lily’s) food cravings, feathering our nest, making ready her nursery, going to the 4-D Imaging Center where we found out conclusively that she was a girl, enjoying ourselves with good friends at the cozy tea party baby shower in our home on February 13, appointments with Dr. March (how appropriate is his name?), ultrasounds to view our little love and watch her heart beat, traveling, weekly LifeCare classes and the wonderful support and friendships afforded us there, going on a tour of the Rex birthing center, spending all day at the Kids’ Exchange where we bought a matching stroller and swing for only $40., watching numerous birthing programs, as well as many hearty laughs at funny theoretical scenarios we‘re famous for. All of these activities were engaged in with exceeding delight. During her first ultrasound, we quickly became aware that Lily was a spunky girl, as she showed off her many flips. During each ultrasound, she would look directly at us so we could see her pretty, delicate facial features. Some of Lily’s favorite foods were strawberries on cereal, hash browns, Chick-fil-A, and pizza. Her homecoming outfit was the first purchase we made, even before it had been determined conclusively that she was indeed a girl. However, we just knew in our hearts that she was. That very special outfit is the one she’ll be buried in. It’s pink, bearing roses on the dress and hat in honor of her mother. Her brown shoes were a symbol of the possibility and potential her life promised. From the midst of our dashed hopes and dreams arose God’s higher plan. While shopping, Hannah Rose always knew where she could find me - in the baby clothes section of any store. Lily experienced many fun trips with us. Her twin uncles even moved home from VA to NC so they could be with their first little niece as she grew.  She traveled to Thousand Islands in July when she was just a wee one. As she grew, she had fun with her adoring uncles, Adam and Joseph, at the Panthers/Eagles game in Charlotte on September 13, and in October, she was with the girls’ club when Grace took us for a brief respite to Topsail Island. She spent a week at Massanutten where her mother has enjoyed fun family vacations since she was a baby, and attended the annual banquet for the Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia. She too was rejuvenated as we spent a restorative week at our retreat haven, with our devoted little charges, Luke and Lili, on Apple Green Lane in November. She tried to be born in Philly when we were there at Christmas time for the Eagles/Broncos game. Along with the rest of us, she had fun visiting historic points of interest, gawking at skyscrapers, traversing cobblestone streets, discovering quaint coffee shops and indulging in authentic Philly cheese steak subs. In January, she was with us as we marched in the annual Raleigh Walk for Life. She enjoyed listening to Copeland, HR’s favorite band, at their farewell tour in Chapel Hill early in March. All the music Lily heard helped her prepare the myriad dance moves she spent nine months perfecting for the viewing pleasure of her Master as she dances on streets of gold before Him. Of course, we looked forward to her first Easter, pushing her in her stroller on numerous walks, having her sleep in her comfy Moses basket next to her Dukes as she toiled in her garden, taking her to Emerald Isle for her mommy’s twenty-first birthday, her first Christmas, her first birthday, rocking her as we sang lullabies, hearing her say, “ma ma,“ and laugh for the first time, feeling her soft, chubby arms hugging me in return, even changing her dirty diapers. Our arms are empty but our hearts are full of precious memories we will hold forever dear! 

On our merry way rejoicing to the Rex Birthing Center early Tuesday morning, we could never in our wildest dreams have imagined that shortly after arriving there, we would become aware that our precious little lamb had died several days before. Astute Emmaline pointed out to us while Hannah Rose was in labor that it was 3-16. Elaborating further as I appeared puzzled, she said, “John 3:16.” How special! That was my dear dad’s favorite Bible verse. It’s engraved on his grave marker and she will be laid to rest by him. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It’s been encouraging and motivating to read all the chapter 3, verse 16 Scriptures in the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Both HR and I shared the thought that the sky was gloomy because Jesus was weeping along with us. As the sun slipped behind the clouds, God’s Son brought the peace that passes all understanding, Jesus’ healing balm. After she realized Lily was dead, during her long labor, Hannah Rose’s sparkling blue eyes appeared to see heaven, her spirit was supernaturally sweet and she displayed such strength. She truly gave Jesus all authority, and He was glorified through the entire experience. At the same time we said, “hello” to our new joy, we were also required to say, “goodbye.“ Being afforded the blessing of spending time holding and rocking her was healing. In the true, inspirational book The Hiding Place, Betsy tenBoom tells her sister Corrie and the other women in the concentration camp with them that no matter how deep the pit, God is deeper still. The joy Lily brought will always be with us, even during this most difficult part of our journey, because happiness depends on happenings, while joy depends on Jesus! A tiny heart beating steadily for nine months has found its home in Him! I want to encourage each of you to heed what we‘re commanded in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Realize too that the heart cannot exalt in what the mind rejects. 

Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord - teach me Lord to wait. ~Isaiah 40:31

As we have the need for everyone to mourn Lily’s untimely death with us, we also want you to join us in celebrating her lovely life with us! We lift our eyes to the Maker of the mountains we can’t climb!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The "Big Tent" Hipster church versus the Authentic Church, The Body of Christ

I ask you what is wrong with singing the old hymns?  What was so problematic with my grandparents' church?  A new kind of Christianity is needed?  Really?  

The postmodern church speaks of the religious left, the postmodern church, and the religious right, the Body of Christ.  To me, it's akin to the Reich church, definitely unChristian, under Hitler's evil reign compared to the Confessing Church, the Body of Christ, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The postmodern church is more interested in group hugs, warm fuzzies, providing a shoulder to cry on when folks get "real" with each other, telling folks they're fine the way they are instead of preaching the truth, instead of showing lost, hurting people that Jesus can bring them victory in their pain, as well as save them from their sinful selves!  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.  Those who try to use grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.  Isn't it a blasphemous encouragement to sin boldy and rely on grace?  Is there a more diabolical abuse of grace than to sin and rely on the grace which God has given?  Is this not the sin against the Holy Ghost?"  Words like diversity, pluralism and tolerance have anesthetized us to the reality of good and evil.  We’re called to love all men in the name of Jesus, not ignore their debauchery in the name of diversity.  Sin is a big deal to God.  So much so that He allowed Jesus to die on a cruel Roman cross to rescue us from its grip.  Glossing over evil - whether our own behaviour or something the entertainment media has produced - is to say in essence, “What you did is really of little value to me, God.  My view of sin is different from yours, and frankly I’m not that disturbed by it."  Tolerance is the cultivation of an attitude of indifference to things we see happening around us.  It is a numbing of one’s conscience, a dumbing down of one‘s convictions.  It is political, religious and cultural correctness.  It is being afraid to step on toes.  It is not wanting to make waves.  It is keeping one’s head in the sand like an ostrich.  In the name of peace, we tolerate evil.  In the name of tolerance, we accept sin and call it free enterprise or freedom of sexual persuasion.  We dare not stand up for what we believe for fear of being labeled intolerant.  The postmodern church, whose father is Brian McLaren, has acquired the policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost.  Their humanitarian sentiment makes them give that which is holy to the scornful and unbelieving.  The call to follow Jesus in the narrow way is rarely heard.  What has happened to the warnings of Martin Luther's against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living?  That seduces folks to living on the mediocre level of the world.  Deceived and weakened, men feel strong having possession of this cheap grace -whereas they have in fact lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience.  “Tolerance” and “love” are two very different things.  Tolerance sees your sin and embraces it.  Grace sees your sin and hands you over to Christ's healing embrace.  As exemplary Bonhoeffer said, "Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.  Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son:  'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.  Grace simply means discipleship."  

Attempting to portray half a Saviour, bringing only His love to the lost world, without at the same time illuminating His love with His truth, is the scheme afoot in the postmodern church!  Of course, half a Saviour is no Saviour at all.  Half the Gospel is no Gospel.  It's playing cafeteria Christianity, picking and choosing what parts of the Bible to believe and what parts to discard, like President Thomas Jefferson did.  That is NOT Christianity!  Liberal Christian is an oxymoron.  There can be no such person!

Speaking of tent revivals, the Catholic church I grew up in in Charlottesville, VA, held an honest-to-goodness tent revival meeting this August.  Lives were changed and rearranged for Jesus Christ as folks from many denominations and differing worldviews gathered together to praise, worship and listen to the Gospel preached in its entirety.  They were not there for a riveting performance, or to be told they are fine the way they are.  They already knew they were NOT fine the way they are.  That's why they were there!  They already knew they were living in rebellion towards God, seeking their own way.  In Matthew 9:11-13, Jesus' disciples were asked, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  In essence, Jesus was saying that everybody is living in sin if they have not surrendered all to Him, and everyone is in need of His healing and His salvation if they want to have eternal life.  He didn't tell the tax collectors and sinners that they were fine the way they were.  He didn't join them in their sin in an attempt to relate.  He wasn't down with how they were living.  He boldly declared that they needed His healing and His salvation!  The people in attendance at The Church of the Incarnation, for the tent revival, were there to hear the Truth proclaimed!  Herein lies the crux of the problem with the postmodern church, what they have dubbed the "Big Tent" - we cannot simply embrace all religions as if they are equal.  THEY ARE NOT!  All paths do NOT lead to heaven!  There is one narrow way, folks, and we are told by Jesus, "few there be that find it."  How sobering!  The heresy the postmodern church teaches sends people to hell!  That is NOT love!  That is NOT the Good News of Jesus Christ!    Here is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said to such heresy, "The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty ... before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away, he cannot join us in the house of God ... The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone. That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live.  Unlike cheap grace, which means going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn't really matter much how you live, anyone who truly understands how God's costly grace comes to us will have a changed life.  Costly grace changes you from the inside out.  Actions must follow what one believes, else one cannot claim to believe it."  ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Unlike the unbridled, unholy freedom Donald Miller preaches, the social gospel they proclaim, the worldly preaching focused on sex and pleasure from pulpits such as Rob Bell's, Jim Wallis', Brian McLaren's, the party atmosphere, and the empty 7/11 songs sung in the postmodern church, how about instead offering a courageous man, (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer) who actually knows and craves the wisdom and knowledge in God's Word, to bring the eloquent message of the Truth of the Good News, in all it's grandeur, power and majesty, to the toiling masses?  "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  ~Galatians 5:1  We are free in Christ to do that which is right, to surrender all to Him, His will, His way.  We are not free to go back into bondage in Egypt, back into living for our own sinful will and way.  We are not free to take license in the freedom of Christ to live however we selfishly want to.

The old hymns and Scripture songs are fraught with powerful meaning.  Singing them instills peace, joy, comfort, strength and hope, as well as ensuring God's Holy Word will root deeply in one's heart.  My grandparents were blessed to hear fire and brimstone preaching, the truth of Jesus proclaimed.  They had the fear of God, unlike those in the postmodern church of today - the church that is supposedly so hip.

JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER.  All we need do is get back to His way, authentic Christianity, the Gospel of the Good News!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The most amazing story about God's sovereignty and the power of His Word

During Ravi Zacharias' ministry in Vietnam in 1971, one of his interpreters who traveled with him was Hien Pham, an energetic, devoted young Christian who had worked very closely as a translator with the American military forces, purely as a civilian, with no official or military responsibilities.  He just knew English so well that he was able to be of immense help to them in their linguistic struggles.  By virtue of that same strength he also worked with the missionaries.  Ravi and Hien traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before Ravi bade Hien good-bye when he left Vietnam to return home.  They were both very young, and neither of them knew if their paths would cross again.  Within four years Vietnam fell, and Hien's fate was unknown.

Seventeen years later, in 1988, Ravi received a surprise telephone call that began with, "Brother Ravi?"  Immediately Ravi recognized Hien's voice.  Ravi asked Hien how he had managed to get out of Vietnam and come to the United States.  Ravi was not prepared for the story he was about to hear.

Shortly after Vietnam fell to the communists, Hien was arrested.  Accused of aiding and abetting the Americans he was in and out of prison for several years.  During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailers was to indoctrinate him against the West - and especially against democratic ideals and the Christian faith.  He was cut off from reading anything in English and restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese.  This daily overdose of the writings of Marx and Engels began to take its toll on him.  One of the books he was given to read pictured the communist man as a bird in the ironclad cage of capitalism, throwing itself against the bars of "capitalist oppression" and bloodying itself in the process.  Yet still it continued to struggle in its quest for freedom.

Hien began to buckle under the onslaught.  Maybe, he thought, I have been lied to.  Maybe God does not exist.  Maybe my whole life has been governed by lies.  Maybe the West has deceived me.  The more he thought, the more he moved toward a decision.  Finally, he made up his mind.  He determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or ever think of his Christian faith again.

The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison.  It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began the awful task.  As he cleaned out a tin can filled to overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on one piece of paper.  He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket, planning to read it at night.  Not having seen anything in English for such a long time, he anxiously waited for a free moment.  Under his mosquito net that night after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and shining it on the damp piece of paper he read at the top corner, "Romans, Chapter 8."  Literally trembling with shock, he began to read:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose....What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hien wept.  He knew his Bible, and he had not seen one for so long.  Not only that, he knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for one on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to God, asking for forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day in years that he had determined not to pray.  Evidently the Lord had other plans.

The next day, Hien asked the camp commander if he could clean the latrine again.  He continued with this chore on a regular basis, because he had discovered that some official in the camp was using a Bible as toilet paper.  Each day Hien picked up a portion of Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his nightly devotional reading.  In this way he retrieved a significant portion of the Bible.

The day came when, through an equally providential set of circumstances, Hien was released.  He promptly began to make plans to escape from the country.  After several unsuccessful attempts he began again to build a boat in secret.  About fifty-three other people planned to escape with him, and Hien was taking the lead.  All was going according to plan until a short while before the date of their departure when four Vietcong knocked on Hien's door.  When he opened it, they accosted him and said they had heard he was trying to escape.  "Is it true?" they demanded.  Hien immediately denied it and went on to distract them with some concocted story to explain his activities.  Apparently convinced, they reluctantly left.

Hien was relieved but very disappointed with himself.  "Here I go again, Lord, trying to manipulate my own destiny, too unteachable in my spirit to really believe that You can lead me past any obstacle."  He made a promise to God, fervently hoping that the Lord would not take him up on it.  He prayed that if the Vietcong were to come back again, he would tell them the truth.  Resting in the comfort of that impossibility, he was thoroughly shaken when only a few hours before they were to set sail the four men stood at his door once more.  "We have our sources, and we know you are trying to escape.  Is it true?"  Hien resignedly gave his answer, "Yes, I am, with fifty-three others.  Are you going to imprison me again?"  There was a pronounced pause.  And then they leaned forward and whispered, "No.  We want to escape with you?"

In an utterly incredible escape plan, all fifty-eight of them found themselves on the high seas, suddenly engulfed by a violent storm.  Hien fell with his face in his hands, crying out to God, "Did you bring us here to die?"

As he concluded his story, he said, "Brother Ravi, if it were not for the sailing ability of those four Vietcong, we would not have made it."  They arrived safely in Thailand, and years later Hien arrived on American soil where today he is a businessman - forever grateful for America and praying that she would open her heart as a nation to Christ.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lily Katherine

A year ago today I was informed of the precious life of my granddarling, Lily Katherine, who was born still on March 16, at 40 weeks, 7 lbs. 9 oz., 21 inches long, the picture of robust health and completed development.  What a year this has been for us all.  God works all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purposes!  Lily, you will be very much missed until we meet again in glory, darling!  Thank you for opening blind eyes to the majesty of Almighty God, as well as to the value, dignity and respect He attributes to each and every life He has created.  Your life, albeit brief, helped restore relationships with Jesus and with others.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CHILD LOANED by Edgar Guest - one of my favorite poets

"I'll lend you for a little time
A child of Mine," He said.
"For you to love the while she lives,
And mourn for when she's dead.
It may be six or seven years
Or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call her back
Take care of her for Me?
She'll bring her charms to gladden you,
And should her stay be brief,
You'll have her lovely memories
As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise she will stay,
since all from Earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.
I've looked this wide world over
In My search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes,
I have selected you;
Now will you give her all your love,
Nor think the labour vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call
and take her back again?
I fancied that I heard them say,
"Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
For the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter her with tenderness,
We'll love her while we may,
And for the happiness we've known,
Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for her
Much sooner then we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand.

Bringing Up Girls in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord

Following is the sweetest letter at the back of Dr. James Dobson's (Godson  :)   ) most recent, wisdom-packed book entitled Bringing Up Girls:

Dear Dr. Dobson,

Today is the sixth anniversary of the day my precious little girl, Delaney, went home to live with Almighty God.  As my family and I remember with tears, smiles and confident thoughts of seeing her again one day, I can't help but think of you as you are writing Bringing Up Girls.

Although we had only sixteen short months with her, Delaney is a special gift.  As the father of one boy already at that time (now two), I can tell you that she was a completely different being.  From the time my boys were old enough to reach out and hug me, I always got the sense that they were practicing their headlocks, which they now use on me every chance they get.  To receive a hug from Delaney, however, was an altogether different experience.  She never tired of melting into my arms and burying her tiny face deep into my neck.  She was pure love.  She was my "Sweet Delaney Pie."

When sharing our story with others, especially parents, I am always careful to convey the most important perspective that God has blessed us (yes, blessed us) with through our tragic loss.  I always say to them, "I can live my life here on earth without my precious Delaney, but I cannot possibly conceive of spending eternity without any one of my children."  God has made the significance of this perspective so very clear to my wife, Becky, and me, and we are eternally (literally) grateful.  I wish this truth could become as clear to every parent without having to go through such a tragic experience as ours.

Even through all we've learned, we are still not perfect parents, but we don't have to be perfect in order to pass along God's eternal perspective.  Our sons speak often and with confidence of  "our sister, Delaney, who lives in heaven."  They also smile as they talk about what they will do together when they finally get to see her.  The faith of children is so pure.  I love that.

I don't know what Delaney will look like when I see her again.  Will she still be a little girl, or will she have grown to be a beautiful woman?  No matter.  We will embrace, and I will weep flowing tears of joy for a long, long time.  I will weep because the pain of her death will be gone forever.  What will be left will be the only thing that matters:  we will share eternity together.

May God bless you, Dr. Dobson, as you write this book, that your readers will take seriously the responsibility of raising, protecting and loving these special gifts - these tender, loving, precious little girls God has entrusted them with.

Your brother in Christ,


I implore you to please pick up a copy of Bringing Up Girls, as well as his excellent book entitled Bringing Up Boys!