Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (62)

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.

"The Fun They Had"

“The Fun They Had”

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

“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zech. 8:5).

This summer a new literature book appeared in my mailbox in the school office. It’s interesting to see how textbooks are changing. The artwork and photography in new textbooks are much more colourful than they used to be. The layout of text and graphics are also very different than they were twenty-five years ago. Women and minority authors are more numerous than before.

There were some stories which caught my eye because my classmates and I read them in English class. This also shows another change in schoolbooks. This new literature text is meant for 6th grade, but my classmates and I did not study these stories until junior high or high school. Topics covered in school continue to move to the younger grades.

One of these stories was “The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov. A friend of Asimov’s asked him to write a short story for young readers. He decided to write about schools of the future. The “Meet the Writer” page at the end of the story reports, “He wrote the story at one sitting and earned ten dollars for it—‘a penny a word,’ Asimov says.”

The story is set in the year 2155 and speaks of a boy who found a “real book” in the attic of his house. He shares the book with a neighbour girl. The children think it is strange that a book would be printed on paper and that the words just stay stationary on the page instead of moving across a television screen the way their books did. The book was about school, which was also different from their experience. Their school was a room in their houses which contained a mechanical teacher. Their lessons appeared on a screen and they would do their work by use of punch cards, which they then fed into a slot of the teaching machine. The “teacher” would then grade their work and report on their progress.

In the book, the children read about a school which was a special building where all the children went. The children learned in groups and were taught by a person. When the eleven-year-old girl in the story returns to her lonely schoolroom and mechanical teacher, “She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather’s grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the whole neighbourhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day. They learned the same things so they could help one another on the homework and talk about it.” The story ends with the little girl “thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had.”

The older our children grow the less likely they are to say they enjoy or have fun at school. It is just not the socially acceptable thing to do. It is part of our society that, as children grow older, they will say that school is boring. As modern society presents American adolescents, we would expect the only matters in which they would show any interest to be various forms of entertainment.

Yet that is not what I see in the classroom or especially on the playground. These children do appear to be having fun. Of course, I realize our school is not built in Nirvana nor is it found at the end of a rainbow. As soon as one person sets foot in school in the morning, there will be a saint facing the spiritual struggle of temptation and dealing with sin. When the school is populated by more than 260 of us, the spiritual challenges only increase. All of us at school must deal with our weak and sinful flesh, and we must strive to mortify the old man of sin. The devil does not leave us alone here because the word “Christian” is on our building. Satan does not consider school property to be out of bounds for spreading his snares.

However, when the regular textbook work is finished and my students have the opportunity to prepare for quizzes and tests together, they make the best of it and often invent ways to enjoy their preparation. When watching the children on the playground, there are hundreds of smiles seen. True, there are tears which are shed on the playground, but almost all of the time it is because the children have not run with each other, but into each other. If something mean has been done and discipline must be administered, it is usually well received. There are many Christian friendships which are developing here. We have much for which to be thankful.

Hope School began in the 1940s with four classrooms. Do you think Hope’s first school society members envisioned what we have today? We had an enrolment high of 374 students in 1984, the year before Heritage School started. Hope has now reached 249 students and Heritage certainly does not have a small student body.

The Jews of Zechariah’s day needed encouragement. They had returned from captivity, but faced enemies and the sins of their countrymen. Jerusalem was a relatively large city by size but the people in it were few. People had to be asked to volunteer to live there. Zechariah encouraged the people by telling them Jerusalem’s streets would be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. The Jews might not have dared to imagine such a sight.

The Lord has blessed the efforts of believing parents and grandparents. God has kept His covenant promise, and has given to us schools and playgrounds full of children. However, how far off is the day when we will no longer be able to have our own schools? We must put this opportunity to good use and see to it that our children have an understanding of their blessings. Is there a day when we will remember the fun we had?

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Our Invincible King

Our Invincible King

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

“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1).

As our school begins its 59th year of parental, covenant instruction, our first song-of-the-week is based on Psalm 110. There is encouragement for us in the first verse of this Psalm. The days will come when we will need to remember this verse.

As we begin a new school year, the students are happy to see one another and renew friendships. The freshly painted halls and lockers are bright and clean, and the new carpet is unstained and still has its nap. The days will come, however, when there will be fingerprints smudging the walls. Lockers will be scratched. The carpeting will become dirty and show evidence of many footsteps.

Also our experiences here will prove to us that our schools are not havens from sin. Each of us involved in our schools will carry with him his own sinful flesh with desires against which he must struggle every day. Students will miss the mark in their duty to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The shortcomings and weaknesses of teachers will either become evident or be remembered as the weeks and months unfold. The school year brings numerous demands on our time and attention. Our schools can begin to feel more as a daily or weekly grind to endure rather than the blessings they truly are.

As we struggle with our weaknesses and sins, and witness the growth of sin in the world, our encouragement is to know that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. This is a place of unmatched glory. Here Christ is exalted over all creation as the Lord of lords. Christ’s enemies may try to resist His will and overthrow His kingdom, but all their efforts will be in vain, because the day comes when Christ’s enemies will be placed at His footstool, a reference to the ancient tradition of victorious kings placing their feet upon the necks of the enemies whom they had defeated.

By nature, we were also among Christ’s enemies. God’s irresistible grace has subdued and humbled our haughty and rebellious hearts. The working of His grace through the preaching of His Word has made us see the foolishness of the way we chose in Adam. We confess our inability to save ourselves or change the hearts of those dear to us. We have been delivered by an almighty, gracious hand, while the reprobate will find themselves being ground beneath His feet.

We must, however, wait for that day. Yet it is encouraging to see that, while the world expresses its hatred for God and His Word, Christ is calmly seated at God’s right hand. He is not scurrying about in a panic trying to rescue a plan which has somehow gone terribly wrong. He is not pacing back and forth with an anxious look on His face as He tries to find some way to gain victory for His church. He calmly sits. His counsel is being unfolded in our troubled times. Christ has told us what must come to pass before the end comes. The world is not becoming an easier place for the true church to carry out her work. This is what is taught in our schools to the covenant children God has given us. God has turned the world over to its sin, and we must labour diligently and wait patiently for Christ’s return.

The lordship of Christ will encourage us to be faithful stewards in the work He has given us to do in our small part of His kingdom. Our noses may be bloodied from time to time as we struggle in the battle against sin, but our Lord is seated at God’s right hand where some day all the church will be gathered. John Calvin encourages believers in his commentary on Psalm 110:2 by writing about Christ, “Moreover, as he does not reign on his own account, but for our salvation, we may rest assured that we will be protected and preserved from all ills under the guardianship of this invincible King.”

Let us encourage one another and be forgiving of one another, as we work together in our covenant schools as servants of our invincible King.

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Valorous Service

Valorous Service

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

“Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Ps. 108:12-13).

Our nation observed Memorial Day recently. It is a day to remember those who died protecting our country. Some of our nation’s fighting men died during the Battle of Iwo Jima. This is the most famous battle the Marines fought against the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. The mountain on this small, eight square mile island was the setting for the well-known flag-raising photograph which served as the model for the Marine memorial in Washington, D.C. and symbolized the teamwork and effort demanded to win the war.

The Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima had months to prepare for the American invasion they knew was coming. The Japanese used this time to construct a complex of underground fortifications from which to fight the Marines. Bunkers, pillboxes and sniper pits were built, and many of these structures were connected by miles of tunnels. This underground system was so well made that bombing from the air and shelling from the sea did little damage. The Japanese were so well hidden many Marines reported that during the entire gruelling, month-long battle, they never saw a living Japanese soldier. One army fought below the ground, while the other fought on it.

The Japanese had carefully mapped the island so their weapons could inflict the greatest damage possible on the steadily advancing Marines. It was a battle of incredible violence. Nurses on offshore hospital ships had never seen such terrible wounds. Yet there were some moments of humour. For example, at one point of the battle as an officer tumbled into a shell hole for some protection, he turned to a buddy in the same hole and understated, “I have the distinct impression that we’re not welcome here!”

In the 36-day battle, 75,000 American Marines fought 22,000 Japanese soldiers. Only about 1,000 Japanese survived the battle. One-third of the Marines became casualties, with 6,821 being killed. Several Marines saved the lives of their friends by throwing their bodies on live grenades. Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honour were awarded. The Marines won a great victory and through dogged determination were able to defeat the enemy. One commander said that such a victory would guarantee the existence of the Marine Corps for another five hundred years. Another American general commanding the Marines wrote, “Uncommon valour was a common virtue.”

As members of God’s militant church, we are also engaged in battle. The spiritual battle we face is no less fierce than that of Iwo Jima. We also must grapple with an enemy which is unseen. It is no secret to us what the world thinks about God, His Word and His people. We are not welcome here.

Everyone associated with our school has faced the usual work required during the year. Parents and students have spent many hours on school work or on the job so money can be earned to pay the bills. Grandparents have given their support in various ways, including attendance at chapels and various programs. Have we been allowed to go about this work unmolested by our spiritual enemies? At times, we have been discouraged. There are occasions when the blessing of having our own school seems burdensome. Now and then in the hectic pace of life we, and our children, become distracted and forget that there really is a battle taking place. Satan can lure us to complain about some aspect of school life when we should be more thankful for what we have been given. Words have been spoken before thought was given about the effect such words could have on others. We must constantly be on our guard against Satan’s weapons. They do no less damage than shrapnel.

During this school year, God has been pleased to add to our usual cares. God has taken from the Hope School community a beloved son, father, mother and daughter. Their tours of service here are now over, though God did not give them their threescore years and ten. They are no longer found in the ranks of the church militant, for the Lord of Hosts determined they were prepared for their place in the church triumphant. We know God works all things for the good of His people and we are never separated from His love. Yet Satan attempts to use these same events to fight against us with discontent and to have us question the goodness of our heavenly Father. Our prayer is for Jehovah to give us help from trouble.

We must confess with David that the help of man is vain. We can only help each other in this battle when we come with the truth of God’s Word and when we together cling to His promises. It is only by God’s strength that we can serve valiantly in the spiritual battle which takes place not only around us but also in our own weak flesh. Only our Almighty God can tread down our spiritual enemies.

There is no doubt the battles we face in the Christian life are difficult. We have our sorrows. Still, we must be examples to God’s covenant children of how to face our enemies. The Marines on Iwo Jima were never in doubt about the final outcome of the battle. Their only question was how much it would cost. They pressed on through their fears with grim determination to realize a great victory. In the battle’s first week, the Marines gave a joyous shout when they saw the Stars and Stripes raised over Mount Suribachi. We and our children can press forward in God’s grace as well. The price of victory has already been paid in Christ’s blood on the cross. Imagine the great shout of victory and praise there will be when Christ’s standard is raised high over the heads of His victorious church! What great encouragement we have to render to God our best, valorous service!

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Click!

Click!

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

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14).

The 19 April, 2004 Grand Rapids Press contained an editorial entitled “Parenthood Unplugged.” After addressing the issue of what children watch on television, the article states, “A new study shows parents should be equally concerned about the sheer quantity of TV young children consume.”

The survey found that the more television youngsters age 1 and 3 watch, the likelier they are to develop attention deficit problems later in life ... At risk, investigators speculate, is the brain itself. Pliable and quickly-forming in toddlers, the organ may be altered by the fast-paced images and bursts of sound typical of television.

The American Society of Pediatrics recommends no television (their emphasis) for children under 2 years of age. Older children should be limited to one to two hours a day.
The study found that the longer youngsters sat in front of the TV, the greater the likelihood they would have difficulty concentrating, act restless and impulsive and become easily confused.
Even the best programming may change the delicate pathways of the brain and keep neurons from connecting.
As well-intentioned as they are, Kermit and Miss Piggy can’t substitute for Mom and Dad. This study is one more solid reason for parents to unplug and reclaim their rightful roles.

The March 2005 National Geographic also contained an article about the development and function of the brain. The article reports that during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, a baby’s brain cells establish contacts (synapses) with each other at the rate of two million per second. Different areas of the brain continue to develop in various ways and rates even into early adulthood. “If there is a single theme that has dominated the past decade of neurological research, it is the growing appreciation of the brain’s plasticity—its ability to reshape and reorganize itself through adulthood.”

We are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made.

The world’s scientists are concerned about the effects of television on the development of the physical nature of the brain. Some members of society are worried about the possible effects upon behaviour caused by television viewing. Television has become a major part of society and consumes a significant portion of the typical American’s leisure time. An article in the February 2002 Scientific American entitled “Television Addiction is no mere metaphor” reported, “On average, individuals in the industrialized world devote three hours a day to the pursuit—fully half of their leisure time, and more than on any single activity save work and sleep.”

We Christians ought to be concerned about the use of television too. What are the spiritual effects of television viewing? Of course, the primary concern is the (often filthy) dramatic presentations of Hollywood. However, today, with the growth of cable television services, there is a host of non-dramatic offerings on the television. This can involve the issue of stewardship regarding the investment of time. Also, an impressive amount of money is spent to operate our schools each day. We stress the importance of teaching from a Reformed point of view. How much of this instruction is undone when we spend time watching TV?

As an example, a parent recently gave me a review of the movie Shrek, an animated fairy-tale style film about a large, green ogre. He found the review on the internet. I do not have the name of the web address for this review, but I noted with interest (or disappointment) that the line at the top of the first page said, “Shrek / a review from Christian Spotlight on the Movies.”

The author begins with what appears to be a typical movie review. He then explains why the film has a PG rating, assuring readers, “There’s a small amount of mild sexual innuendo, which is bound to go way over the heads of most children.” He then concludes with some comments about why this film would be acceptable fare for Christians. “On the positive side, Shrek has a lot of good, clean humor and some good messages. The biggest moral of the story is the wrongfulness of judging people by their appearance ... A secondary message is the importance of companionship.”

What followed were nine one-paragraph submissions from those who had gone to see the film. Most of the paragraphs related a positive attitude toward the film. There were two, however, which were the most striking. One couple wrote, “We as parents need to be careful that we are not sending mixed messages to our children. Don’t do that or speak like that and yet we entertain ourselves with this kind of junk?” The couple then made a plea to the Christian community based on Ephesians 5. Finally, a sixteen-year-old saw the film and wrote, “This is one of the greatest movies of the year!” Later she adds this, “From the Christian perspective, the only thing that may offend is perhaps a misuse of the Lord’s name ...” So the taking of God’s name in vain is only mildly offensive? Well, it might be to many people, but God surely does not take it lightly.

Covenant families have many sounds in their homes. There are the shrieks of infants, the joyful shouts of toddlers, and the laughter of children and parents enjoying one another’s company. We also hear the sounds of Zion’s Psalms. Perhaps another sound we need to hear more often is the “Click” of the TV being turned off.

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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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