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Unless the Lord builds the house

“…but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” – Matt. 19:14


A baby was laid into my arms this last week – a little baby boy. His name was Bo Anthony. Bo means “to live” and Anthony means “precious one” or “priceless one.” The parents, my granddaughter Emma, and her husband Sam, told me they would teach Bo to live for the precious One, that is, for Jesus. They also told me that the name Anthony had been chosen in honor of his great-grandfather, Anco, my precious husband. Anco went to be with the Lord last December 2022. I cherish the name my grandchildren chose for their son. They are letting God build their house.

Bo lay in my arms. He was a warm, little bundle of soft, cuddly flesh. Full of his mother’s milk, he slept contentedly, totally oblivious to his great-grandmother. Trustingly he fit into the crook of my right arm.

Feeding a newborn is a full-time commitment. Breast milk is ideal. Babies don’t need cereal, cookies, or steak. They need milk. All infants in Christ need milk, not solid food. Feeding on the basic nutrients of God’s Word, covenant children grow into maturity, grow up into salvation (1 Pet. 2:2). This is the way God builds houses.

Solomon was very aware of this. He composed and sang Psalm 127. Verses 1 and 2 of this Psalm drip with milk and read:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

A world in need of milk

Bo’s birthdate in June of 2023, marks almost one quarter of the way through this twenty-first century. There are many, many people walking about on this century’s streets whose houses have not been built by God. They have never swallowed, or have even heard of, God’s milk. These folks hide behind cell phone technology, behind laptops and social media. They are, although not usually willing to admit it, unhappy, insecure, unsure, and generally afraid to engage in personal conversation about eternal life and eternal death. The economic outlook today is somber, marriage is on the decline, families are becoming a minority, and most children have no idea that they have been created in the image of Almighty God. Science is touted, Climate Change has morphed into a god, Wokeism is on the rise and politics and the justice system appear to be infiltrated with bribery and power hunger.

All of these are served up on the world’s platter resulting in a woefully meager diet for the soul. Worshipping self-reliance, the world has turned away from God. Their toil, their anxiety, and their daily striving is all in vain.

Touch and being touched

Baby Bo grasps my fingers with his tiny hand. His grip is solid and it is amazing to think that such a small hand, barely a week old, can clutch mine so firmly. God has endowed this chubby hand with sensitivity. The threshold of touch, that is to say, the amount of gram weight it takes for a person to sense that an object has come into contact with the skin, has been measured. Although the back of the forearm is triggered by 33 milligrams of pressure, the back of the hand is activated by 12 milligrams. But the fingertips, the fingertips are most sensitive and are stimulated by a mere 3 milligrams. Bo continues to squeeze my fingers.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists. J.C. Ryle calls faith the hand by which the soul lays hold on Christ and is united to Him and saved. Will little Bo’s hand grow in strength? Will that strength be planted in his heart by the Holy Spirit? And how will those lilliputian fingers react to the daily things with which it will come into contact?

There are many things which will touch baby Bo. We can look back over our shoulder at history and note that bygone civilizations have totally disappeared – civilizations such as the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Roman, as well as the empire of Alexander the Great. These powers have long been erased from the map of the world. But others have taken their place. Civilizations always come and go. In Bo’s lifetime he will possibly behold the collapse of a number of regimes, as well as the demise of temporal millionaires – men such as Soros, Bezos, Gates and Musk. And he might perceive the dissolution of international godless organizations such as the WEF and the WHO. These regimes, these men and organizations, are all building cities without God. They will all try to touch Bo. They will all try to shape his thoughts. And they will all try to align his values with theirs and position their principles as his.

Baby Bo snuggles into my arm. It is obvious that he is comfortable and feels safe with the embrace he experiences. Touch studies have been conducted with monkeys. In one such study eight baby monkeys were put into a large cage containing a terry cloth mother and a mother figure made out of wire mesh. Both surrogate mothers were fitted with milk flow. Four babies were taught to nurse from the terry cloth mother and four from the wire mesh mother. But all eight babies exhibited a strong need for the terry cloth mother. The four who had been taught to drink from the wire mesh mother went to her only for the feeding. They spent the remaining time hugging, grasping and stroking the terry cloth mother. Intimate soft body contact was essential. As a matter of fact, continued studies showed that many baby monkeys, deprived of warm touch, cowered in the corner of their cages and died.

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy, in their book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Zondervan, 1980), record a remarkable truth. They chronicle:

“As late as 1920, the death rate among infants in some foundling hospitals in America approached 100 percent. Then Dr. Fritz Talbot of Boston brought from Germany an unscientific-sounding concept of ‘tender loving care.’ While visiting the Children’s Clinic in Düsseldorf, he had noticed an old woman wandering through the hospital, always balancing a sickly baby on her hip. ‘That,’ said his guide, ‘is Old Anna. When we have done everything we can medically do for a baby and it still is not doing well, we turn it over to Old Anna, and she cures it.’

“When Talbot proposed this quaint idea to American institutions, administrators derided the notion that something as archaic as simple touching could improve their care. Statistics soon convinced them. In Bellevue Hospital in New York, after a rule was established that ill babies must be picked up, carried around, and ‘mothered’ several times a day, the infant mortality rate dropped from 35 percent to less than 10 percent.”

Exercising our muscles

The church is the body of Christ. It is a house built by God. It is a house that should be touching and carrying the ill, lonely and feeble in prayer care. It has been constructed by God, and should be a visible manifestation of His commandments. Jesus often touched people when He healed. His touch radiated love, power and hope. The church, the body of Christ, is fearfully and wonderfully made.

As I hold baby Bo on my lap he stretches out his tiny arms above his head, giving me an unprompted smile. There are many sorrowful things going on in this world in which he has been placed by God. Jealousy, envy and fear are etched on the faces of countless members of society. Commandments, freely and lovingly given by God, are held up to be inaccurate. Truth is hidden and people are afraid to speak up for truth for fear of being called bigots or racists. The world has become a dark, dark place. It needs light.

Seventy separate muscles contribute to hand movements. Little Bo has no inkling as yet that God has endowed him with such a gift as seventy separate muscles in both his right and his left hand. But a muscle must be exercised for it to grow and to work. Will he exercise his hands under the management of his Lord and Savior? Before Bo was born, God planned this little child’s life. He has given this baby God-fearing parents and He has placed milk in his crib via his mother’s breast and God’s Word. In this way He gives His beloved children sleep.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. So Proverbs 22:6 tells us. It is a sobering responsibility,­­ and a wonderful promise.

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A Tale of Two Fathers

"…even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:4-6) *** Our Father in heaven is the perfect example of what a father ought to be like. He is, therefore, the model that should be followed in families. Children who have godly fathers – that is fathers who obey the Lord in faithfully following His commands and displaying humility, love and mercy – have a wonderful guideline for how to behave in their own lives. Children who do not have godly fathers, will have a difficult time finding their way in life. *** There was a rather unique story in an English newspaper recently about a little girl who had lost her father, a man by the name of Tony, when she was just four months old. The article gave no information as to how her father had died – whether the man had been ill, had been a casualty of war, or had suffered an accident. The readers were simply told that since the age of 4 months the little girl had been raised by her mother. Such things do happen and, by the grace of God, they can work out fine. The eight-year-old girl was from Braunstone, Leicester in the UK. In June, when Father's Day rolled around this last summer, the child felt uneasy and somewhat left out. All her friends were making cards and presents for their dads, but she had no one for whom to make a gift. So she thought to write a letter to her dead father, something she had done before on special occasions. Her mother said it was fine for her to do so again. When the little girl had finished her letter, which was filled with "I love you, Dad!" and "I miss you, Dad!" she asked her mom where her father now lived and what address she should put on the envelope into which she had neatly folded the letter. Her mother replied: "Put down Heaven, Cloud 9." There are two reactions that the initial part of this anecdote brings to mind and heart. One is anger and the other is compassion. Obviously, there had been no interaction between the girl and the mother about where dead people might be. For the mother to tell her child that she could connect with her earthly, dead father by mailing a letter to an imaginary, fuzzy, warm-feeling type of place was fundamentally misleading; and for the mother to leave out the comfort of a very real Heavenly Father Who desires a relationship through prayer was to put her child on a path of hopelessness. The letter was duly mailed and when a postman named Simon opened the red pillar mailbox on his route he happened to notice it. He saw that the envelope did not carry postage and that it was addressed to "Dad in Heaven, Cloud 9." Having recently lost his own father, he asked his manager if he could try to locate the family to discover who sent the letter. Having obtained permission, he took a picture of the envelope and posted it on Facebook. Thousands of people responded. The mother and child were subsequently tracked down and the Facebook responses were sent on to them. The mother was astonished at all the responses that had come in. "I haven't stopped crying since," she said, "I never thought for a second that anyone would find the letter or do anything with it." Simon the postman later met the little girl and gifted her a father-daughter figurine as a remembrance. Her mother placed the Facebook comments in a box for the little girl as a memento. Perhaps some of the people who responded to the Facebook photo sent messages of a heavenly Father. We are not privy to that information. *** My own father, Louis Praamsma, was also very young, (he was six years old), when his father, Riemer Praamsma, passed away. Riemer Praamsma, who was a Christian school principal, died of pneumonia. Before he died, however, he left instructions for his children as to how to deal with his death, and his wife made sure that all the children would receive these instructions. My father, Louis Praamsma, decades later, still remembered what had happened, and he wrote it down before he himself died, so that I and my five siblings would also be guided even as he had been guided. These were his words. "When my father suddenly fell ill in 1916, I and my six siblings were all parceled out amongst relatives for ten long weeks. At the onset of these weeks, however, I was sent for to stand at his bedside. My father had himself taught me to read, and the family Bible was placed in my small hands. I have now forgotten so many things, but I have never forgotten that my father asked me, at this time, to find Psalm 25. When I had found it, he said, 'Read, Louis. Read the first few verses of this psalm.' And I read:                  ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul, O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.'  “I have especially remembered the next few verses - verses 4 and 5 of this psalm:  'Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long.'" The picture of my father as a little boy standing in front of his father's deathbed is solidly imprinted in my mind. All of six years old, he was undoubtedly not totally aware of the gravity of the situation. His miniature hands could barely hold the large Bible and his immature voice read in a thin, childish treble. When he was done with the passage, he saw his father nod with satisfaction and that made him feel good. My father always recalled that moment. It was the last time that he saw his father alive. He told me more about his father's death. He related that a huge crowd of schoolchildren followed their principal's funeral carriage on its way to the cemetery. Every child and adult wore black and the carriage itself was also shrouded in black. And at the grave-side hundreds of voices sang: Lo, as for man, his days are like a shadow, Like tender grass and flowers of the meadow, Whose morning beauty fadeth with the day; For when the wind but lightly passeth o'er it 'Tis gone anon and nothing can restore it; 'Tis found no more, it vanisheth for aye. After the funeral, the Praamsma house was filled to overflowing with people, all bringing their condolences to the bereft widow and the brood of seven children. My father, Louis Praamsma, walking between the crowd of legs, hardly realized that his beloved friend and companion was gone and would never come back. He later penned for his own children to read: "I had such little conception of death that I did not fully understand that I would never see my father again. Caught up in the crowd of mourners who surrounded my mother, I suddenly walked up to a grown man, reached for his hands, and tried to 'climb up.' It was something my father had always done with me. Taking both my hands, he would allow me to 'climb up' and then, with a flourish, would swing me through the air before depositing me on the ground once more. But even though for a moment I thought that the stranger was my father, I quickly comprehended that he was not. "When I later questioned my mother as to why my father was not coming back, as to why he had died, she gave me an answer that I shall also never forget. ‘It is,’ she told me, ‘because God has better use for father in heaven than He has for him here on earth.’ "That answer gave me peace." Evangelism, making disciples of all nations, surely begins at home. Perhaps that little girl in England will also have someone who will speak to her at some time about a heavenly Father with whom she can have a relationship. Perhaps someone will point her to all the notes and letters that this Father has written to His children. *** It is incumbent upon all of us to endeavor to make disciples of our children, of little neighbor girls and boys, and of all the people God places on our way each day. Jesus has said so: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 Christine Farenhorst has a new book out, “Listen! Six men you should know,” with biographies on an intriguing selection of famous figures: Norman Rockwell, Sigmund Freud, Samuel Morse, Rembrandt, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King Jr. You can find it via online retailers including