Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (58)

These devotionals were originally written by Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) teacher Brian D. Dykstra for his fellow teachers. They are posted here for their broader significance and for broader use by Christian parents and other Christian school teachers.

Family Values: Is Education Among Them?

Family Values: Is Education Among Them?

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

An article written by William Raspberry appeared in the Grand Rapids Press (11 September, 2004). He titled his article, “The foundation of any child’s school success—a good home.” Mr. Raspberry begins,

Show me a home where education and learning are central values, and where the parents are reasonably competent at the business of child-rearing, and I’ll show you the home of a good student.

The correlation ... isn’t perfect ... But the correlation between good homes and good students stands. Further, the clearest identifying characteristic of what we call a good school is a critical mass of children from good homes.

If this is so, why do our public policies pay so little attention? Listen to our school leaders and you’d think the difference between school success and school failure lies in the quality of the superintendent, the size of the school budgets or the academic backgrounds and skill levels of the teachers.

After mentioning vouchers, charter schools and other programs, Mr. Raspberry continues,

I don’t mean to suggest that the things that schools and school districts do don’t matter. Of course it matters to have qualified teachers, principals who can provide safety and support, budgets that furnish the tools of learning and competent staff to bring all these things together.

But it matters more what parents do—and believe.

My point is not to let the schools off the hook, but to offer an explanation of why a torrent of school reforms over the past few decades has brought the merest trickle of improvement. We’ve not paid enough attention to improving the homes our children come from.

For Mr. Raspberry, however, what parents “believe” has nothing to do with God’s truth, biblical faith or the keeping of baptismal vows. Mr. Raspberry is speaking only of what parents believe about the power of education. “How can they tell their children of the wonders education will open up for them? Well, they can’t—unless they believe it. And they won’t believe it unless those of us who know the truth take the trouble to teach them.”

From this point, Mr. Raspberry speaks about government programs such as Head Start, Parents As Teachers and a program he began and funds in his Mississippi hometown called Baby Steps. Mr. Raspberry writes, “We tell them that the best help they can give is to make their children know how much they value learning.”

Mr. Raspberry is right as far as he goes, and it is clear that his concern is limited to public education. The family is a fundamental institution created by God. The overall condition of families determines the condition of schools, churches, denominations and even society on a national level. While I was taking graduate classes at Michigan State University as part of a group of thirty teachers, only three of whom taught at Christian schools, the topic of families was discussed often. Single parent and “blended” families are now the norm. A fellow student in the class mentioned that the decline of American family life could even be seen in the school directory. There were multiple entries for most of the students because their weekend address was different from their school day address. Grandparents were sometimes listed because there were times when the single parent was temporarily unfit to provide care. It was awful just to listen to what some of these children had to endure.

I was usually allowed to keep a low profile in these classes because the solutions I had offered in other discussions were quite out of fashion, as you can imagine. I still remember, however, the reaction of the class when the professor turned to me and asked about the condition of the families which used our school. There was disbelief when I reported that out of the nearly ninety families which used our school at that time, there were no blended families, no broken homes, all of the couples were on their first marriage and there was only one single-parent family because it had pleased God to take a mother in death. They wondered how that was even possible. I simply told them that God’s commandments are to be taken seriously and that there are consequences for sin. The discussion moved on.

Yet, Mr. Raspberry’s article causes us to ask how much we as parents value education. Are our schools just a haven from the world and false doctrine, and whatever they learn is just a bonus? Are we satisfied when our children do less than their best or do sloppy, careless work? Do we let them say they hate school or act as though they have no interest in learning anything? As a teacher, I do try to make lessons interesting, but I cannot make students care.

Do our children see us read anything other than the newspaper? Do we show interest in the subjects they study? Do we strive to have our children miss as little school time as possible because of vacations or appointments?

God has blessed us for many years through our schools. The churches of our denomination grow where we have our own schools. Our children have a wonderful opportunity to learn about God’s creation and the unfolding of His council in time. We must make good, diligent use of our schools while we still have them. We sometimes speak of the day our schools close as being the day when our government forces us to do so. How remote is the possibility that we close our schools ourselves because of a lack of interest or not valuing Christian education enough to make the sacrifices our schools require?

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Yes, Darwin Was Wrong

Yes, Darwin Was Wrong

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 28).

The November 2004 issue of the National Geographic had an article written by David Quammen. He began his article with the question, “Was Darwin wrong?” The question also appeared on the magazine’s cover. Imagine! A magazine known for its belief in evolution even asking the question! Could it be possible that an article in the National Geographic would present both sides, creation and evolution, then explain positive and negative aspects of both?

I should have known the question was not being posed because there was some genuine debate of evolution or creation in the article. I had hoped the author might point out some of the difficulties and shortcomings of evolution. Such ideas were dispelled immediately upon turning the page where in large letters one reads, “NO. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.” Do you also find it telling that “evolution” was printed with a capital “E”?

An interesting aspect of the article is that Quammen cites Gallup polls in which responders were presented the choices of evolution, creation or a mixture of the two as explanations for human existence. He reports, “Gallup interviewers posed exactly the same choices in 1982, 1993, 1997, and 1999. The creationist conviction—that God alone, and not evolution, produced humans—has never drawn less than 44 percent. In other words, nearly half the American populace prefers to believe that Charles Darwin was wrong where it mattered most.” Evolutionists are frustrated that they have made no headway in reducing the percentage of Americans who hold to creation.

The theory of evolution is very important to those who hold to it. This is evident when Quammen writes, “Evolution is both a beautiful concept and an important one, more crucial nowadays to human welfare, to medical science, and to our understanding of the world than ever before. It’s also deeply persuasive—a theory you can take to the bank. The essential points are slightly more complicated than most people assume, but not so complicated that they can’t be comprehended by any attentive person. Furthermore, the supporting evidence is abundant, various, ever increasing, solidly interconnected, and easily available in museums, popular books, textbooks, and a mountainous accumulation of peer-reviewed scientific studies. No one needs to, and no one should, accept evolution merely as a matter of faith.”

Again, Quammen views faith as “merely” believing something which cannot be proved. Faith is never defined as an assured confidence which the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the elect through the preaching of the gospel (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7).

Yet we are saddened that so many have compromised the clear teaching of Genesis in order to find an accepted place in scientific circles. Quammen even points out that there are papal pronouncements which state that Roman Catholic dogma has room for the view that God begins the process but uses evolution as the means to create all things. We are also aware of Christian colleges where evolution has been allowed to creep into science departments.

Is there a temptation for us to moderate our stance on the biblical truth of creation? Do some think our churches would be more attractive to more people in areas where our denomination does mission work if we were to abandon such a literal reading of Genesis? Would the larger Christian community view us as not being so backward or stridently conservative, if we were to adopt some form of evolutionary thinking? Other denominations have thought there was enough to be gained by accepting some form of evolution to change their positions.

While some churches have thought the gains of evolution outweigh maintaining biblical creation, Lord’s Day 10 of theHeidelberg Catechism tells us what would be lost. God upholds and governs all things with His fatherly hand. Therefore, we know that whatever happens to us is not the result of chance but is the will of our loving heavenly Father. Knowing that our God is the almighty Creator assures us that nothing can separate us from His love. These are not advantages which we are willing to trade for acceptance in the world.

Yet evolution must be presented to our students because it is such an important part of modern society. Not only does evolution dominate the scientific realm which plays a large role in our society but it is also the basis of modern morality (of the lack thereof). We need to know enough about evolution to be able to point out its flaws. Yet while instructing our children we must always answer the question, “Was Darwin wrong?” by saying, “Yes! Because not only does evolution have an atheistic viewpoint, it also denies us the comfort of having all things directed by a loving heavenly Father who is strong enough not to allow anything to separate us from His love.”

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Finding Life in Unexpected Places

Finding Life in Unexpected Places

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Eze. 11:19-20).

The June 2004 issue of Sky and Telescope contained a remarkable article. “New Hope for Life Beyond Earth” was written by Paul Davies, a physicist at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

Davies begins by recounting the surprising discoveries of the research submarine Alvin. In the early 1970s, the Alvin explored volcanic vents on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. “Biologists were amazed to see a variety of organisms living near the vents, in total darkness, and at enormous pressures.” These organisms were called “hyperthermophiles,” which refers to living things which can live in very high temperatures. This term is in contrast to thermophiles, which are organisms that live in high temperatures.

More fascinating discoveries have followed. “A few years later Cornell astrophysicist Thomas Gold ... persuaded the Swedish government to back a controversial drilling project.” Davies continues, “... the borehole drilled in the remote forests of Sweden did turn up something important: traces of organisms living several kilometres keep in the Earth’s crust.”

Davies reports, “At first Gold’s claim to have found signs of life so far underground was greeted with scepticism and even outright hostility. Colleagues were openly scornful, and Gold had trouble getting his results published. But by the mid-1990s several other research groups were finding microbes a kilometre or so deep too. In particular, boreholes drilled in the Columbia River region of Washington yielded a rich harvest of organisms, some of which were extracted and cultured in the laboratory.”

“About the same time, the International Ocean Drilling Project was recovering rock samples from nearly a kilometre beneath the seabed that were literally seething with microbes. It began to seem as if microbial life pervades the Earth’s subsurface to a depth of some kilometres. Because temperature rises with depth due to Earth’s internal heat, these deep-living organisms are also mostly thermophiles or hyperthermophiles. While it is too soon to say how extensive this deep, hot biosphere may be, it is clearly widespread, and its existence must be factored into the story of life.”

As is typical, a few scientific facts lead to flights of fancy. Davies then explains the implications of the discovery of deep-rock microbes for the search for life beyond Earth. Since organisms can live in such extreme environments on Earth, there is more hope for discovering life on the moons of Jupiter and on the planet Mars. The article concludes with several new speculations about how life may have evolved on Earth. For example, Davies wonders whether life could have first evolved in rocks on Mars, then transported to Earth when something crashed into Mars, sending rocks (with microbes protected inside) into space. These rocks then could have come to Earth. One cannot help but wonder why evolutionists find the Genesis account to be less plausible.

Nevertheless, what a testimony of God’s power in creation in that He can put life in a place where we would not expect to find it! There is life in solid rock! What would appear to have no possibility of harbouring life, has life.

We are reminded of God’s power of regeneration. Ezekiel 11:19 speaks of God taking away our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. We totally depraved sinners, who have no hope of producing any spiritual life of ourselves, have life implanted in us by God. Our stony hearts, hard, cold, lifeless and resistant to God’s precepts, have been replaced with hearts of flesh which are soft, warm, lively and pliable to God’s law.

The verse above is clear that regeneration is God’s work. We read nothing here of man first being willing to be the object of God’s work. Ezekiel does not say that we must accept God’s offer of a heart of flesh. It is not the case that the elect had stony hearts which were principally better than the stony hearts of the reprobate. God alone has placed life where we could never hope to find it of ourselves.

Ezekiel 11:20 tells us the purpose of this work. We will be His people and He will be our God. We will experience and express the life of God’s covenant. May God grant that our children give evidence of this new life in our covenant schools.

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Watching the Mainstream Rush By

Watching the Mainstream Rush By

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matt. 7:13).

Members of the Protestant Reformed Churches are accustomed to having various labels attached to them. We have been called Anabaptists and hyper-Calvinists. I recently came across another label which others would apply to us. We are “pseudo-scientists.” Because we are creationists and deny evolution, we are false (“pseudo”) scientists. Mainstream scientists place creationists in the same category as those who believe that the Apollo moon landings were faked, and in astrology, alien abductions and UFOs.

Philip C. Plait, who works for NASA, wrote an article in the May 2004 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine titled, “A Commonsense Guide to Cosmic Nonsense.” Plait devotes most of his article to giving advice to amateur astronomers in how to deal with the “cranks” who sometimes attend star parties hosted by amateur astronomy associations. While special attention is given to astrology, the Apollo moon landings, alien abductions and UFOs, what caught my attention was a table at the end of the article. The table is titled, “Web Sites Defending the Truth.” One of the topics listed in the table is “Creationism.” Plait offers this commentary, “Where to go when someone insists that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.”

The web site listed is www.talkorigins.org. This is a valuable web site. Its value is not that it is a place where the truths of God’s Word are carefully explained by fellow believers. Rather, its value is that we can prepare our young people for what they are to face if they continue their education past our own high schools. High school teachers and parents of college bound students might find it useful.

The web site contains scores of articles in many areas of study. Each article follows the same outline. Articles begin with a “false” claim and its source, which is then followed by a response and references.

Going to the heart of the matter but omitting two responses in the interest of space, Talk Origins says,

Claim CH100: God’s Word, the Bible, must be our ultimate authority. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.
Response:
1.1 This claim is dogmatism. It suggests no reason for its conclusion. The views of others, that the Bible is not God’s word or is not an ultimate authority, have just as much validity.
3.1 In practice, this claim really means, “My view of the Bible is the ultimate authority.” (Since there are so very many different interpretations of the Bible, not to mention other religions, the claim would be meaningless otherwise.) In practice, then, this claim displays a great deal of arrogance, hubris, and close-mindedness. It says that the final word on how the universe operates depends on your personal decision of what to believe.
5.1 The Bible says several things that you probably don’t believe.
Slavery is acceptable.
You should kill your child if he strikes you [Ex. 21:15].
If you work on Sunday, you should be put to death [Ex. 35:2-3].
If you curse, you should be stoned to death [Lev. 24:14-15].
Happiness is smashing children upon the rocks [Ps. 137:9].
Women should be subjugated by their husbands [I Pet. 3:1-7]

What a tirade, consisting of anti-Christian philosophy and caricatures of biblical teaching, including ignoring the abrogation of the Old Testament and Mosaic civil law through the cross of Jesus Christ!

The visitor to the web site who wishes to participate in discussions is first encouraged to read an article which explains the basics of evolution. This will ensure an understanding of basic scientific terminology during discussions because, if the basics of evolution are not understood, your contributions will be met “with scorn.” It is interesting that evolutionists will first define God and His Word out of the debate!

We know, of course, that any debate which does not first understand that the Bible is the revealed Truth of the one, only God, will be futile. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). Faith is not, as is claimed by many, “I cannot prove it but I believe it anyway.” Faith is a living bond between the believer and the Lord. Faith is God’s gift to His adopted children in Jesus Christ. This living bond is the proof that God’s Word is truth.

In articles concerning evolution, and on this web site as well, I am struck by how often the “mainstream” is mentioned. It is as though the river of evolutionists is broad, mighty and irrefutable. The river of creationists, on the other hand, is but a shallow and inconsequential trickle. Is truth determined by popular vote? If so, would the evolutionists ever concede that the votes of the mainstream scientific world are infinitely outweighed by God’s one vote?

We know that in stepping into the mainstream of evolution, we would be swept away to destruction. We, by God’s grace, will stay in our insignificant trickle and watch the mainstream rush by.

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Rocks

Rocks

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).

While on a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, my father took my cousin and me to a rock shop. No trip to Kentucky is complete without a visit to such a shop. The proprietor calmly sat on his porch while we diligently searched the tables for something memorable. After some time, my father stopped, picked up a softball-sized rock, held it to his ear and shook it. He had a look of wonder on his face as he reported, “Wow! This one’s got water in it!” I dashed over, eagerly took the wondrous rock, held it to my ear, shook it and realized I’d been duped. The Hillbilly nearly fell off his porch from laughter and surely had another story for family gatherings.

In light of such an experience, it surprises me that I was glad when I saw our new science series included a unit on rocks for the fifth grade. Rocks really are interesting and the Bible has many references to rocks which can be brought into the lesson.

Rocks are mentioned several times in Psalm 18. The rocks of which David is writing in Psalm 18 are not rocks which can be picked up and held in the hand. David refers to rocks which are hills. These rocks rise quickly above the surrounding terrain. These rocks could be a place to hide from the enemy. They could also be used as a natural fortification.

During his days as a warrior, David had used rocks for both purposes. When David describes his enemies as “the floods of ungodly men” (verse 4), we have an idea of David’s view as he stood on his rock. The surrounding countryside was filled with men, all of whom were thirsty for David’s blood. The enemies hated David and would enjoy nothing more than to destroy him. The fact that David wrote songs for the praise of God’s name and was the man after God’s own heart made David’s enemies hate him even more. David began this Psalm by affirming, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.” Openly stating love for the one true God will only result in the world’s contempt. We have come to expect nothing else.

Although only God is unchangeable, rocks are used as a picture of something that is unchanging. Those who have seen Long’s Peak from Loveland, Colorado know what it looks like. We could drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and be confident we could still recognize Long’s Peak because it would have the same shape. We will also always be able to recognize our covenant God because of the faithfulness and mercy He shows to those whom He has elected in Christ. Although David’s enemies changed over the years, God remained his sure, unchanging and immovable rock. Because of God’s faithfulness, David knew he could rely on God to protect his soul.

We and our covenant children must stand upon the same Rock as David. The view we have from this rock is the same as David’s. When we view American popular culture, we witness a flood of ungodly men. Fathers, what is the world’s opinion of you as you seek to fulfil your God-given place of headship in the home and are faithful to your wife? Mothers, what does the world think of your submission to your husband and your diligent work to raise a spiritual seed who will praise the God of salvation? What does the world think of godly young people who are thankful for covenant homes and who walk obediently before God? What does the seed of Esau think of the seed of Jacob when the seed of the promise does not join in all the ungodly pleasures and entertainments which today’s culture has to offer?

Although our rock is high, we can still hear their derisive cries. We can see their hatred for God, His Word and all that is righteous. Yet we can share David’s confidence expressed in verse 3: “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” May God be pleased to use us as parents to teach our children that victory already belongs to God, our Rock who will protect us.

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Longing for Fellowship with God

 

Longing for Fellowship With God

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (Psalm 84:3).

Birds have caused me to be jealous a few times. A few summers ago, my survey crewchief and I worked in a wooded area. Although the area was small, we had a hard time walking there. We dubbed the area “woodses” because there were really two woods in one. There were the usual vertical woods (which were challenging enough), and there were also many trees which had been cut down and left on the ground. These were the horizontal woods, and they were overgrown by vines and prickers. As we painstakingly made our way through the “woodses,” we noticed the birds had a much easier time than we did moving from one side of the job site to the other.

The Psalmist is also jealous of birds but not because of their ability to fly. He is jealous of the place where some had built their nests.

This jealousy springs from the Psalmist’s deep love for the tabernacles of God. In the courts of the tabernacle, the Psalmist could meet with other worshippers. God was served there publicly, as sacrifices were brought to the priests. God’s servants sought God’s will for them, prayed to Him and were instructed in the way of obedience to His law. It was the place of spiritual fellowship.

The Psalmist’s soul longs for God’s house. This desire for fellowship with God is not a display for men, nor is it a decorative ornament to obtain the notice of men as the Pharisees would do. It is a sincere yearning for God which is found only in the hearts of God’s children.

It appears, however, that the Psalmist has been unable to go to the tabernacle for some time. Bible commentators suppose David to be this Psalm’s author and that Psalm 84 was written during the time when he was forced to leave Jerusalem because of Absalom’s rebellion.

The pain of the Psalmist’s absence from the tabernacle is more acute because he remembers what he had seen there. Near the altar were places where small birds built nests. These birds lived near the altar, a place where the Psalmist could not go because he was not of the tribe of Levi! It seems as if the birds could draw closer to God than he could! He would love to have such close fellowship with God! The birds could also raise and care for their young near God’s altar.

Hope School’s students will sing this Psalm as they begin another school year. What do we parents and grandparents wish for them? Do we want them to learn how to be popular with their peers, how to get ahead in today’s world or how to be current with popular culture so they are not out of touch with society?

As we strive to keep our baptismal vows, we instruct the covenant seed that fellowship with God is what we desire for them. Covenant parents are concerned about the influence of worldliness, especially since the Deceiver now has so many avenues to present his temptations to our children. How can parents possibly guard against all these assaults? Rules are necessary for the orderly functioning of families. Yet making a multitude of rules, laying down the law or standing over children with a stick will only work as long as they are under our roofs. When they go out on their own, will we find their obedience was only external, sullen compliance? None of our efforts, no matter how sincere, will influence their hearts. We can only depend upon our covenant, promise-keeping God to write His law on the hearts of His elect children in Jesus Christ.

Though we confess our inability to plant the seed of regeneration in the hearts of our children, do covenant parents then simply sit to the side of their children’s lives, do little or nothing to instruct them and placidly wait to see what manner of fruit develops?

We instruct them by our example. Our children must see that we love and long for fellowship with God. They must see our dedication to the matters of God’s heavenly kingdom. They must see God ruling our lives through what we read in the Bible. Spirituality and sensitivity to how the Word governs our lives will serve our children better than any set of lengthy guidelines we might develop.

We desire the fellowship of Father’s house. God’s house is our dwelling place when we demonstrate our love for Christ by keeping His commandments and loving our fellow saints. Then we can confess with the Psalmist: “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee” (v. 4). What we desire for our children is that they will live for the praise of their Lord and long for fellowship with Him.

We are thankful that there are those of like faith with whom we can maintain and operate our Christian schools. Public schools have the latest equipment and here in western Michigan they have many new facilities, but how important is fellowship with God there? Too many Christian schools believe their purpose is to win souls for Christ and prepare students to redeem some aspect of society for God. Fellowship with God has become an antiquated notion.

May God use the efforts of our schools to instruct His promised seed in the beauty of a life spent in fellowship with Him.

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What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher in Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names ...” (Daniel 1:7a)

When one thinks of attacks and assaults, matters subtle and insignificant do not come to mind. These are military terms often associated with large groups of men performing acts with great aggression and often in the open.

Satan’s attacks and assaults are not always so open and obvious. They can include the subtle and seemingly insignificant. In our spiritual battle, Satan knows, whether he can bind with one strong chain or with many thousands of threads, his prey is just as bound.

Daniel and his three friends saw the large, open attack of Babylon’s army upon God’s people. They also saw the open attack of Satan upon covenant families as promising children were taken away from their parents. The changing of their names, though not as violent or aggressive, is still part of Satan’s attack on them to get them to forget their God.

Babylon was the centre of a powerful empire. Anything which the world had to offer at that time could have been found there. Many idols were served there. Idolatry is not an expression of the unique character of a people or culture. Idols were served in the way of sin, quite often adultery. Idolatry was a socially accepted way of satisfying sinful lusts. It was to idolatrous Babylon God allowed His people to be taken into captivity.

Parents, what would your prayers be if your junior high or high school sons were taken away from you, brought to New York and told that whatever they desired could be theirs? Many sinful pleasures can be found there. The Babylonians of Nebuchadnezzar’s day would feel quite at home there.

Daniel 1:4 tells us these children were “well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom.” God had given these young men physical attractiveness and good minds. Human nature has not changed since Daniel’s time. Doors of opportunity are thrown open to the attractive and intelligent. The same would be true for Daniel and his friends. Their parents were not there to correct the godless instruction they were given. If these young men would want to discover what Babylon had to offer, there would be nobody present to refuse them and nobody waiting for them at home to ask where they had gone, what they had done, and reprove and correct as needed. They would be encouraged to discard God’s restrictive commandments and join the Babylonian way of life.

Because their names would remind Daniel and his friends about God, their names had to be changed. Quoting from Matthew Henry’s commentary: “Their Hebrew names, which they received at their circumcision, had something of God, or Jah, in them: Daniel—God is my judge; Hananiah—The grace of the Lord; Mishael—He that is the strong God; Azariah—The Lord is a help. To make them forget the God of their fathers, the guide of their youth, they give them names that savour of the Chaldean idolatry. Belteshazzar signifies the keeper of the hidden treasures of Bel; Shadrach—The inspiration of the sun, which the Chaldeans worshipped; Meshach—Of the goddess Shach, under which name Venus was worshipped; Adednego, The servant of the shining fire, which they worshipped also.”

Babylon wanted to erase the mention of God’s name, right to the “Jah’s” and “El’s” in the names of Daniel and his friends. In recent times, the Supreme Court heard arguments about taking “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. The Supreme Court redefined marriage. Any lawyers who wanted to define marriage as between a man and a woman did not make much headway in court by basing their arguments upon Scripture and God’s commands about family relationships.

Our day is similar to Daniel’s. The world can hardly tolerate the mention of God’s name, especially when it is clear that God is the God revealed in the Bible. God used the early education of Daniel and his friends to preserve His name in their hearts, which was then evident in their way of life. May God be pleased to use the covenant instruction given in our schools to preserve His name in the hearts of His children.

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Beagle 2, Stardust, Spirit and Opportunity

Beagle 2, Stardust, Spirit and Opportunity

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“... and there was light” (Genesis 1:3b).

For those interested in science and astronomy, December 2003/January 2004 brought some fascinating news. Four unmanned space probes completed or arrived at critical stages in their missions. These four probes are listed in the title.

The Beagle 2 is a European probe which was built in Great Britain. The Beagle 2 was scheduled for a six-month mission on the surface of Mars where it would search for signs of life in a region once thought to have been a Martian sea. This probe, which would travel on the surface of Mars, landed on Christmas Day and has not been heard from since. As an aside, it is no accident that this probe is named “Beagle.” It is named in honour of Charles Darwin’s ship. Darwin travelled on the Beagle when he went to the Galápagos Islands, where he developed the theory of evolution.

The other three probes are American and are funded with U.S. tax dollars. Stardust travelled 242 million miles from earth and passed within 311 miles of a comet, Wild 2. Its mission was to take pictures of the comet and gather some of the dust which surrounds the comet in a fuzzy haze. In two years, Stardust will return and drop to earth a canister containing the dust particles gathered from the comet. These dust particles will then be studied in laboratories across the earth. This is an attempt to test scientists’ latest theory of the beginning of life on earth. Some now think that comets contain organic chemicals. Scientists say collisions between earth and comets were common billions of years ago. These collisions “seeded” the earth with the organic chemicals needed for the evolution of life.

The last two probes, Spirit and Opportunity are rovers with missions to Mars. They are to photograph and closely examine Martian soil to search for signs of water which could have supported life. The Spirit has already landed, sent back some photographs and travelled a short distance on Mars. NASA has since lost the signal from Spirit and is trying to contact it again. The Opportunity is scheduled to land January 25. These twin missions have a total price tag of $820 million.

All of these missions are to test the theory of evolution. Perhaps comets are the key to how life started on earth. Since life evolved on earth, could the evolutionary process be observed on Mars as well? Sinful man desires to stamp out God’s creation account and be rid of anything similar to it. In its “Who Knew?” column, the August 2003 National Geographic had this to say in an article which reported that an emerging theory claims our universe is only one of many: “The inflationary theory states that very early in the expansion the cosmos suddenly inflated, becoming unimaginably vast in a fraction of a second.” In the December 2003 National Geographic, a reader had this response: “This idea is hardly new. It’s frighteningly similar to these ancient words: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens ...’” Why the word “frighteningly”?

What will these probes find? This is where we should be careful. After all, years ago many in the church held that the earth was the centre of the universe, and they believed the Bible supported them in this claim. I am also reminded of family history. My great-grandmother had my family over for Sunday dinner the day the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. She refused to watch the television reports which covered this historic mission, because before he passed away, her husband had said that God would never allow man to land on the moon. He based this opinion on Psalm 115:16: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” My great-grandfather felt God would not give the moon to men since it was part of the heavens. Man would be limited to the earth.

The Bible is an accurate account of history. What we observe in creation must be put under the authority of the Word as revealed to us by the Creator. We must not do as the theistic evolutionists and elevate “scientific findings” over the Bible.

There is a story of a now deceased minister which serves us as a good example. Back in the late 1960s or early 1970s, our churches were beginning to do some work with a group in the Houston, Texas area. This minister took a tour of the Johnson Space Center. He is reported to have spoken to an employee there. His words were something to the effect, “Why are you spending all this money to send men to the moon to find out how old it is? I can tell you exactly how old it is! The moon is one day younger than the earth because God created the earth on the third day and the moon on the fourth.”

Creation is tied to the gospel. What kind of God do we need to deliver us from our sins? Are our sins so minor that the perfectly holy God can easily forgive them because our sins are not that offensive to Him? Our salvation depends upon a God of strength, of strength great enough to speak the word and things are brought into existence. A God who cannot create all things in six days could not be strong enough to cleanse us from our sins. An Almighty God speaks. The result is: “and there was light.” This same God speaks, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” Which of those two tasks requires the stronger arm?

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Do We Need Yellow Tape?

Do We Need Yellow Tape?

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRC Christian School in Walker, MI

“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).

Definitions are important in our society. Some lawyers make their living arguing over the exact definitions of words and the meaning of legal documents. Definitions are important in our circles too. When ministers preach or write articles, they are careful to use the right words in the right context.

Our definitions are different from the world’s. God’s Word teaches us that the keeping of His perfect law is not merely a matter of outward compliance and behaviour. The light of God’s law searches the heart and discovers the darkness of our natures. Sinfulness lurks in our nature and at times our sinfulness is evident in our behaviour.

Does the sin of murder take place in our schools? Do we need the yellow crime scene tape used by the police? By the world’s definition, we have had no murders here. In fact, in many years of teaching, I have not even seen a handful of fights. On the surface, things seem to go well. However, murder is a matter of the heart and it begins with hate.

What is hate? Is hate at the extreme end of an emotional spectrum with love at the other end and apathy in the middle? Can we say, “I dislike that fellow and I have animosity for this one but I keep my emotions in check well enough so that I am not actually guilty of having hate for him.” Or is it the case that any negative emotion we have regarding a person, no matter how strong, is hate? Are all of our emotions regarding others divided into two categories, love and hate, but we have these two basic emotions to varying degrees?

I did a little reading on how the word hate is used in the Bible and I came across something which some might find interesting. In a lexicon, I read, “Not a few interpreters have attributed to [hate] the signification to love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight; through oversight of the circumstance that ‘the Orientals, in accordance with their greater excitability, are wont both to feel and to profess love and hate where we Occidentals, with our cooler temperament, feel and express nothing more than interest in, or disregard and indifference to a thing.’” By the way, this explanation of hate is why some who do not care for the doctrine of predestination believe Romans 9:13 should be translated, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I loved less.”

Now let us look at our children. Words are spoken to and about others which ought not be spoken. Some are treated in ways which they should not have to experience. Some classes present more of a struggle than others in this regard. It has nothing to do with a class’s overall academic ability either. I have had classes which were not very academically gifted but displayed great kindness to each other, while other similar classes could not get along well. Some gifted classes have been very kind, while others were smart enough to know just what to say or do to make someone suffer.

Is the cause of this treatment hate? At times it is. More often, however, the perpetrator is more concerned with his social standing than treating the victim as he should. Some seek to provide evidence that they belong with a certain crowd by how they treat others who are not part of that crowd. A place on the social totem pole is more secure when those lower down are stepped on now and then. Students fail to understand or appreciate how others may be affected by their words and deeds. Christian compassion is not easily learned.

My heart breaks a little when a phone call is received or a conversation is had because some student’s day was ruined. Maybe it was made known that their wardrobe does not quite measure up or someone was treated as worthless because their lack of athletic ability caused a game to be lost. Is this a big problem among us? If it happens at all, it happens too often.

What can be done? Our children have to learn how to give evidence of living the life of the redeemed. We all must instruct them in the way of Christian love when we have the occasion. We can do this by setting an example by how we adults speak about each other. We and our children can do better by the grace of Jesus Christ. With God’s Spirit in our hearts we can follow the instruction He gives us in I John 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

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Secure Barriers

Secure Barriers

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Although many people believe I should be, I am not at all embarrassed to admit that some of the most interesting surveying I have done in the summer has been at the Hastings landfill. Not only did I learn much about surveying there but also the landfill supplied a lesson in ecology. A few summers ago, I saw a new cell of the landfill being constructed, and I learned how the bottom of a landfill is built to ensure that nothing hazardous seeps out of the landfill and into the groundwater.

Around the outside of the landfill are monitoring wells. Groundwater from these wells is tested regularly to determine whether anything harmful from the landfill is seeping into the groundwater. The liquid which filters its way to the bottom of the landfill is called leachate. Every morning that we entered the landfill for work, I was reminded how important it was for us to be very careful while we worked because across the street from the landfill’s main entrance was a beautiful lake. It struck me as ironic that the lake is named Leach Lake.

To ensure that nothing leaches out of the landfill into the groundwater, the bottom of the landfill must be properly designed, surveyed and constructed. Leaving out some of the components, here is your simplified landfill lesson! First, the native soils have to be graded to the proper elevation. Then there is a two-foot layer of compacted clay. A special, thick plastic liner is placed over the clay. This liner comes in large rolls which are “welded” together into a single piece. Another layer of clay is placed over the liner but this layer of compacted clay is three feet thick. Over this layer of clay is another plastic liner. A foot and a half of granular material (similar to pea gravel and works great in aquariums!) finishes the bottom of the landfill.

Finally, the bottom of the landfill is not flat but is sloped so that the leachate which forms flows to a sump. The sludge is pumped from the sump into a special tanker truck which hauls it to a specialized landfill.

A lot of money is spent constructing a landfill. I do not know how much it costs to operate earth-moving equipment each hour but it is not cheap. While I worked at the landfill, there were eighteen scrapers, two graders and a bulldozer being operated. The earth-moving company also had two men who constantly checked the elevations to make sure each layer was constructed properly. There were also mechanics who would maintain all the equipment. The employees of the earthmoving company worked twelve hours a day, seven days per week. A soil expert hired by the state checked the quality of the clay being used. Who knows how many people worked on this project whom I never saw?

The project lasted for months. As the project neared its end, one of the earth-moving workers asked me how I thought they were doing. I looked and saw that the top layer of clay was beautifully smooth and so well compacted that as I walked across it, I hardly left a footprint. I told him, “You men have done such a nice job that it will be a shame to dump trash here.”

Everyone working on the project had to do his job to ensure the safety of the landfill. From the director of the construction project (whose favourite saying was, “Trash is cash!”), down to me and the two college kids who used screwdrivers to remove stones out of the clay and hauled the stones away in five-gallon buckets, we all had our part to do. Every worker was supervised to ensure no mistakes were made.

I must admit that there were times as I hiked along on the bottom of the landfill, slogging through the dirt, carrying two armfuls of surveying equipment and pounding in stakes, that I wondered whether this investment of work and money was worth it. After all, how much longer would this environment need to be protected? The day is coming when God will clean this whole mess with purifying fire. Yet, there is a huge expenditure of work and money to protect our earthly environment.

What is the condition of our homes’ barriers against the world’s spiritual leachate? Much of the entertainment which the world has to offer has an odour resembling the active part of the landfill. How is family life portrayed? Are parents honoured as a source of godly wisdom and advice concerning life’s questions? Do friends warn each other about the perils of walking in a way contrary to God’s law or are friends merely partners in adultery? How does the world’s drama smell to God?

The world has many avenues by which its leachate can seep into covenant homes. Television offers channels by the score. Through DVDs, we can see Hollywood’s productions in the privacy of our own homes. The internet has its presentations which are only a mouse click away.

We need the barrier of God’s Word to keep the world’s sludge out of our homes. God designed the way of obedience to preserve us from worldly living. We must constantly survey our home life to check the condition of our barriers against the world. We need to be vigilant in constructing a wall of truth around our homes. We must all do our part, for what leaches into one home will seep into another.

World flight is not the answer. Antithetical living is. Walk worthy of your calling in Jesus Christ! Our homes must be a reflection of the beautiful city of Zion. Do not allow the world to dump its trash here. Keep the barriers secure!

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