In recent days you have been much on my heart. I find myself asking the invariable questions: Where did the years go? How did they pass so quickly? When was it that you passed from adolescence to young manhood? Has my memory played tricks on me? It is like a watch in the night since mother and I brought you home from the hospital. Your toes, they were so small, so fragile, so perfect. And through the years you have grown – toes and all. God has given to you a sound mind and a healthy body. I am reminded of King David’s insightful statement that we are ”fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). In many ways your mother and I were unprepared for being parents. But we loved you so very much and were so eager to raise you in a way that would be pleasing to God. From the beginning, we viewed you as a sacred trust.
And through the years, we prayed for many things for you. Above all, we prayed that you would come to know and trust the Savior. How thrilled I was when, on the day after your fourth birthday, your mother led you to faith in the Lord Jesus. She was a little hesitant to have you make such a momentous decision at such a young age, but you were persistent and clearly understood what was involved. She did not want to stifle the Spirit’s working in your heart and life, and the years have testified to the wisdom of that decision. It was the Lord who said, “Permit the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:14). So far as we know, you never doubted or questioned the reality of your salvation. Perhaps in part that is why we never experienced the “generation gap” that so many speak of. That is not to suggest that we always agreed, but we could always communicate, and you have always shown respect to your mother and me.
It has been our hope that our family lifestyle, values and teaching will help you along life’s journey. We have tried to live before you so that we could say, “Do as we do,” as well as, “Do as we say.” There were times when we failed – but never because we have not been trying. Of this I am certain – you taught your mother and me a great many important lessons. Paramount among them, you taught us of the joy we can bring to our Heavenly Father if we are obedient children (for we often experienced that joy with you). Of course, conversely, you taught us that we can hurt our Heavenly Father when we disobey His Word (for there were those occasions when we were hurt). Mostly, Dave, you taught me when you questioned some of my philosophies of life, challenged an occasional statement in a sermon, interacted with an article I had written or, through logic and persistence, forced me to see a distinction between changing cultures and unchanging truth. More often than you know, you forced me to come out from behind pat cliches and simplistic answers. Music is a good example. You helped me to see the legitimacy of change and to enjoy some of the contemporary music. But I hope too that I helped you to see that not all contemporary music is suitable for true worship and to see the distinction between those who entertain in the flesh and those who minister through the Spirit. Change can be good – but not all change is good.
God has called His children to be a “peculiar” people – not weird, Dave – but different and distinct from the unsaved world – to have the courage to resist godless tides and swim against unholy currents. I fear, son, that in many spheres of the Christian life, it is fashionable today to get as close as possible to the world’s value system without crossing some imaginary line. Christian lifestyles, goals and values are often not very different from those of the unsaved around us. If some of us were on trial for being Christians, there would not be enough evidence to convict us. As a young believer, I remember that many Christians revered the Lord’s day – no shopping, no beaches, no newspapers, yes, and no television, it was a day given over wholly to spiritual things. For many, son, it wasn’t a question of legalism and the Sabbath, but of love, worship and honor of the Lord on His day. Questionable things, like movies, dancing, cards, immodest dress, to many were not questionable – they were wrong. If it is the divine intent that believers be separate from the world, why not avoid doubtful things, and err, if err it is, on the positive side? Unfortunately many in twentieth-century Christianity view separatist convictions as unsophisticated and passe – residual remains, they think, of a former day of parochialism.
Dave, God has called the Church to be salt – we are losing our savor. God has called us to be light – the voltage is awfully low. Many would take issue with that but I believe they are wrong. I hope you will never confuse religious activity and external evangelism for the true working of the Holy Spirit in lives. A true faith always works. If, with the passing of time, there is no fruit in a life – mark it down – there is no life. James was right: “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). And I fear we have a lot of “dead Christians” in evangelical circles.
To change gears somewhat, your mother and I are so pleased that you have finished your first year of Bible college. When you chose to attend Philadelphia College of Bible, we were delighted – not simply because it is the alma mater of your Uncle Stan, your mother and myself; but because we believe with all our hearts that the Bible is God’s Word, that it alone is the map and compass for life. To live triumphantly, you must know that Word. God said to Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8). Everyone is looking for success. Few understand that true success comes from knowing God’s Word and living according to its precepts. How grateful we are that you are studying under a cadre of godly and gifted men like Dr. Showers and Dr. Cawood. Remember to always honor such men and heed their words.
In our materialistic age, many Christian parents are more concerned that their children have prestigious, high-paying careers than to follow hard after righteousness. And often Christian young people follow the advice of unregenerate guidance counselors who care little about the cause of Christ and eternal values. As a result, many of the King’s children are laboring solely for the perishable riches of this world.
Dave, your mother and I don’t know what God has for you. That path is known alone to God. But whatever it is, we pray that you will pursue it with all of your heart and might. And with whatever abilities and possessions we have, know, son, that you will always have our love and support.
I place on you no pressure to follow in my steps – they are far too small and unworthy of emulation. But more importantly, the ministry is a sacred calling. No man rightly chooses that for himself. But if God, in His grace, should choose to call you into the ministry, remember that there is no higher calling or honor, and never stoop to be a king.
Whatever you do out in this world, know now that as a citizen of Heaven it will not be easy. The world is no friend to grace. Opposition will be strong, hills will be steep, obstacles will be large. Christ-denying, satanically-empowered humanism is on the increase. Things are going to get worse.
Our Lord told us that in the world there will be tribulation. But He also said, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Dave, always view satanic opposition as an occasion for God to bare His right arm of power and magnify His name through your life. Our Heavenly Father is available and able.
I had promised myself that I would not be “preachy” in this letter. Your mother and I have always tried to avoid “suffocating” you with theology and regulations while you were growing up. We wanted to give you needed regulations but with enough latitude for you to develop your own faith and Christian convictions. We knew that there would come a day when you could not live on ours.
That promise notwithstanding, permit your father a little preaching. Dave, God has spoken through His Word. That Word is the Bible. God did not have to speak to man. He was under no obligation. He had no debt to pay. That He chose to speak gives occasion for rejoicing. Always reverence that Word and seek to obey it. When the principles of men conflict with the Word of God, it is man who is wrong. Right doctrine must be given preeminence. Today, many are substituting experience for doctrine with disastrous consequence. When right doctrine is missing, a lack of spiritual discernment cannot be far behind. Heretical doctrine, cultic organizations and an anemic Church will invariably follow. Throughout all of history there has always been only a remnant from among the sons of men who have followed hard after God, who maintained right doctrine. It was true in the Old Testament, it was true in the time of Christ, it has been true during this Church age and it will be true as we approach the end of the age. There is so very much religious broadcasting on television and radio that is endorsed by men but rejected by God. Those who suggest that things are getting better, that evangelicals are taking over, that the world is going to be Christianized may be sincere in their thinking – but they are sincerely wrong. They are going to be devastated when the winds blow, the waves roar, the storms descend and the veneered, largely man-made super structure of the Church collapses.
The Church is under orders to go into the world making disciples and identifying men with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Evangelism is a divine mandate – a biblical imperative. But only a remnant will respond to the gospel. Know that in advance, Dave, and your faith will not falter, and disillusionment will not set in when much of what is parading as biblical Christianity begins to crack and crumble.
And now another important matter. Beware son of where you put your affections. Romance has its proper place. After twenty-five years of marriage, I am still romantically in love with your mother. But love is far more than romance. Your mother is my friend, companion, adviser, exhorter, encourager, conscience and so very much more. Intelligence, personality, beauty – they are all important. But towering above all priorities should be spirituality. How often I have seen Christian young people who were instructed in the importance of marrying a believer – of avoiding unequal yoking. But Mr. or Miss “Right” comes along, and physical and emotional “tugging” outpulls the divine injunction. Not only is marrying a believing mate of greatest significance, beyond that there must also be a commitment to the will of the Lord. Many promising believers have been held back by partners of shallow Christian commitment.
Love, Dave, is not only directed toward people; it can also be exercised toward things. The Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:21). It always seemed to me that that verse was reversed – that the treasure should follow the heart – not the heart the treasure. I always knew the Bible was right, but I finally think I understand it. I have little interest in Timbuktu, but if your mother or you were there, if The Friends of Israel headquarters were there, if I had gold or stocks there, I would become very interested in Timbuktu. If my treasure were there, so would my heart be. Therefore, Dave, lay up treasure in Heaven – because if you get your treasure there, your heart will follow right behind.
Now I want to say something to you about the Church. And of course you understand I am talking about the true Church, not Christendom but believers who have been called out of this unregenerate world system and placed into the body of Christ. It is through the Church that the Lord moves, functions and accomplishes His purposes in the world. Often the Church has been weak and beggarly, hypocritical and backbiting. But Dave, the Church has a destiny of greatness. When the Lord is done with her, she will be purified and without spot or blemish. The Church is God’s instrument, and nothing in the world is comparable. Therefore, always love the Church, and when criticism must come, let it be that of a lover within and not an enemy without, and never over trivial things like choir robes, the color of carpeting, padded pews or how the pastor parts his hair. We are commanded to be set for the defense of the gospel and to stand for truth not personal preferences or cultural distinctions.
When your mother and I were married, Dave, some of my family members never attended the wedding. Until this day you have never met my father, your grandfather. I have always been saddened by that fact. He was embarrassed by my Christian testimony and the fact that your mother and I were married in church. Through the years I have made attempts to contact him, to get family ties connected once again. I regret those attempts were feeble and halfhearted. Our lives, my father’s and mine, went in such diverse directions, and we had so little in common. Still, I was the believer and should have been more diligent in making contact. I am increasingly burdened for his spiritual well-being. And in all of this I remind you that you are half Jewish and half Gentile. But what is truly important is that you are one hundred percent Christian. I hope, son, that you will always have pride in your Jewish heritage. Not that pride of heritage that puffs up, but that pride that will cause you to fail prostrate on the ground before God and inquire, “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far?” (2 Sam. 7:18). For God has used our people, David. They have given the world God’s Word and through them, Jesus came according to the flesh. One day believing and restored Israel will be a faithful witness to their God. Though they have strayed from the Lord, they are still beloved for the Father’s sake. There will be increasing anti-Semitism as the end of the age approaches.
Such attitudes have always been based upon perversion, distortion and half truth. Never forget, son, that half truths are whole lies.
It occurs to me that someone of great wisdom once said that if you keep your children, you will lose them, but if you let them go, you will keep them. We are letting you go because we want to keep you. We love you very much.
We have done what we can to give you a solid foundation upon which to build your future. I had thought to share these thoughts with you several years ago as I lay in the hospital. I believe that the Spirit of God had me wait until now.
Dave, don’t live life; attack it for God’s glory. Life is a gracious gift provided by our Heavenly Father. Marking time in place is a misuse of that divine gift.
All my love,
P.S. This is the first time you are reading the contents of this letter. Thank you for the courage of agreeing to its concept as an article for the magazine.