Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (54)

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.

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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Thirteen!

Thirteen!

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

“I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

I spent a lot of time with my cousins while I was growing up. It was fun. Several of us were about the same age which allowed us plenty of opportunities for play. An advantage for me in this situation was that I came as close as an only child could to having brothers and sisters, but, since I was not always with them, we did not have to go through the arguments which are mandatory for siblings.

One of our favourite activities was playing basketball. I learned a few things during those contests. The calendar said my cousin Bob was two years older than I, but while he was above average in size and strength, I was below average in those two categories. He seemed four years older. I learned strength is an advantage in athletic competition. I also learned that quickness is overrated because although my quickness allowed me to reach the best spot under the basket first, his strength decreed I was not going to stay there long. My winning percentage against him was not high.

Yet, sometimes, you “just gotta win!” So, one morning during breakfast, I asked, “What’s the record here for eating toast?” I do not remember the answer but it might have been eight or ten. I was determined not to leave the table until I had set a new record and not by just one measly piece of toast either! By applying only a thin layer of butter on each piece of toast and progressively loosening my belt one hole at a time, I consumed thirteen pieces of toast, shattering the old record. I felt firmly ensconced as the toast-eating champ! Desire and appetite had produced astounding results.

Psalm 81:10 causes us to consider our spiritual appetites. The Psalm begins by reminding us of God’s grace in the deliverance of Israel from the cruel bondage of Egypt. The events at the waters of Meribah gave evidence of Israel’s unworthiness to be called God’s people. Their rebellion and stubbornness demonstrated that Israel did not deserve to experience God’s favour. Israel’s history also makes clear that their deliverance could not be attributed to any other god. Israel would give no excuse for idolatry.

God uses His covenant name in verse 10. He is the God who is able to keep all the promises He has spoken to His people. His purposes will not be frustrated by Satan nor by the weak and sinful flesh of His own people. Sacred history affirms God’s ability to save His people.

Regarding the future, we are told to open our mouths wide and God will fill it. If we find ourselves hungry, God is not at fault. He has plenty to give. Those who hunger either have their mouths open only a little or find the bread of the Word disgusting, so they keep their mouths clamped shut. Those who have their mouths open wide by the faith given to them by God, will find their desire for bread completely satisfied.

Our children have that opportunity in our Christian schools. I know the Word is not preached here, nor are the sacraments administered here. Yet, in large part our schools exist because of the preaching of the gospel to His covenant people and our commitment to keep the vows spoken at the sacrament of baptism. Also God’s Word is brought to His people in covenant schools when instruction is given in the light of His truth.

The question is, what appetite do our children have in school? Are mouths open wide because the Triune God has been pleased to allow us to have our own schools? How great is the desire to learn of God’s work in time and creation? If the appetite is small, that which is eaten will be as well.

However, Psalm 81 does not end on a positive note: “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.” God had given Israel over to their own sinful lusts. They walked in the ways their earthly wisdom dictated were best. The result was disastrous.

May God give His grace so we learn from what happened to Israel. He is not mocked. As parents must do what we can to send to school children with healthy appetites. As the years of instruction go by, we had better tell them to keep loosening their belts. God will use our schools as part of the means to fill the wide open mouths of His covenant children. By a hearty desire to learn how God’s Word applies to different areas of life and an appetite for the Word which is our guide on earth, God accomplishes the great work of having His people live in covenant fellowship with Him in Jesus Christ.

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Be Thankful for This Burden

 

Be Thankful for This Burden

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

Psalm 55:22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Signs that the school year is still young are all around us. As yet archeologists would find no layers of sediment at the bottoms of junior high lockers through which to sift for artefacts. The cleaned carpets have not yet been redecorated by young impressionist artists with their favourite media of spilled chocolate milk and orange drink. The OD-AB remains securely sealed in classroom closets. Not only do pencils and crayons still have points but most students believe their assignments do also.

Soon, however, lockers will become an archeological dig, spilled liquids will decorate carpets, stomachs will become upset, and pencil points and interest will become dull. We know January is coming. It’s the month when spring vacation is distant and exams have drained a touch of vigour from some students. “Blowing and drifting snow” becomes an eagerly anticipated phrase.

May follows. Students are convinced that homework takes away all opportunity for fun. Parents will wonder whether it really is possible that there is another Bible test for which they must help their student to prepare. Another cheque needs to be written. Another school function requires our attendance when we would rather relax at home. Teachers will look at another pile of papers to be graded, certain they are some strange strain of bacteria which multiplies before their very eyes. The amount of work related to school can become a burden.

This is when we must be careful. Recognizing there are burdens in life is not sinful but how we respond to them can be. What enemy might be near, tuned to the thoughts of our hearts and ready to sow seeds of discontent? Would Satan jump at the opportunity to cause us to envy those who have a few hundred dollars of additional “discretionary income” available each month because they have no baptismal vows to honour or do not see covenant instruction as part of the keeping of that vow?

Our first Song of the Week for this school year comes from Psalm 55 which instructs us about burdens. I had quite a surprise when I started to read about this verse. John Calvin makes the point that the word “burden” would better have been translated as “gift.” He would translate verse twenty-two this way: “Cast thy giving upon Jehovah, and he shall feed thee: he shall not suffer the righteous always to stagger.” Sure enough, my concordance supports Calvin by saying that the word translated as “burden” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to give.”

Calvin instructs us to view this giving or gift “as meaning all the benefits which we desire God to give us.” We are to rely upon His providence to provide us those gifts for which we ask. “There is no other method of relieving our anxious souls, but by reposing ourselves upon the providence of the Lord.”

Do we view our Christian schools as gifts from God to supply our need for covenant instruction? I am thankful that the impression I have from those involved with our schools is that we do. Yet it is possible to take our covenant schools for granted, especially now that we have had them for many years. They do require sacrifices of time, effort, money and frequent prayers.

Schools can seem to be a burden. Yet they are gifts given to us by God in His providential care. We are to be diligent in our efforts in supporting our schools in the coming year, yet trusting our Lord not to suffer us to be moved. He will give us His gifts. Is the cost of our schools a burden which is too high? What would it cost to be without them?

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As the Shining Light

As the Shining Light

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

Proverbs 4:17-18: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”

Solomon has just warned us not to enter the path of the wicked. We should not set even a first footstep on that path. Our sinful flesh would find it appealing and, having tasted the way of evil, we would find it difficult to leave. Solomon also warned us about the character of those on the wicked path. They do not seek our good, for their motivation is their desire to see others fall.

Through Solomon, God now encourages us by displaying the antithetical contrast between the path of the just and the way of the wicked. Keeping this instruction in mind will help us to walk the right path.

Solomon speaks first of the path of the just. The just are those who are upright. They can stand before God as those who have no guilt of sin clinging to them.

Some claim they have attained justification before God themselves. They have performed an abundance of good works and fought successfully against their sinful natures. Their remaining flaws are mere foibles which make them no worse than others. They have subdued the man of sin and now are without sin. They have finally conquered sin in their flesh.

The Reformed believer knows better. Yes, we are just and can stand before God the judge as those who have no sin. However, we know this is all of Christ. The perfectly righteous One took all our sins upon Himself and carried them to the cross where His shed blood covered our every sin. That was not all. God then took Christ’s perfect obedience and credited that to our accounts. We are just by the faith which joins us to our perfect mediator.

These just have a manner of living their lives. There is no boasting in self-righteousness. They do not carry themselves as holier than others. They live humbly before God knowing they have been saved by grace alone. They are prayerful, confessing sin and its origin in themselves, then giving thanks for what God has done for their salvation.

This path is as a shining light. Although this light is bright, not being as a candle or firefly, it is not harsh. It is not the type of light which makes one cover one’s eyes with the hands for protection. It is not annoying or blinding. It is not as the early morning or late evening sun which blinds you as you drive to or from work causing you to lower your car’s visor.

This light sparkles pleasantly and glitters with joy. This light brings out brilliant colours making the Creator’s world glorious and a joy to behold. It’s the light that puts the velvety glow on a violet’s petals, the playful, myriad sparkles on a mountain lake and varies the emerald hues of green on the verdant hills of Northern Ireland.

This light shines more and more. It is as the dawning of a new day. The first faint glow of light filters into the eastern sky. Then the sun appears and rises higher in the sky until it reaches its zenith. Strangely, there the sun stops and we have the perfect, complete and finished, light of the noon sun. God’s children will reach that point on the path of the just. God will give us joy and blessing. Our sorrows will be gone. We will walk in the perfect day of God’s kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.

We know all too well that the increasing shining of the light does not mean that our lives are characterized by steady spiritual growth and constant improvement in living in the fear of our great God. Clouds of trouble, anxiety and discontent sometimes gather. We avert our furrowed faces from the light. There are eclipses of the sun for God’s people. David fell into the sins of adultery and murder. Peter denied his Lord. We can all look at our lives and see that it is so. We give thanks that God promises grace for each day and also works repentance in our hearts. Our God’s countenance is gracious and forgiving, an ever faithful, healing light.

The way of the wicked is not anything close to the path of the just. It is dark there, completely dark. God does not strategically place mirrors of common grace to reflect a bit of His light on the way of the reprobate wicked to show them He desires their salvation if only they would accept His gracious offer of salvation. It is only darkness. It is a way of gloominess where the dismal darkness never lifts. It is the darkness of sin. They love to have it so. Their spiritual father is Satan who cannot abide the light. They love the lie, prefer to hear the lie and desire to walk the path of the wicked either in wilful ignorance or bold defiance.

The darkness of the wicked way causes them to stumble. They fall into sin since they have no light and truth. It is foolishness! If you are in the dark and keep falling, find some light for your safety! It is obvious! When my children were very young, they would sometimes neglect to put away some of their toys. As a father of little children, it did not take me long to learn that one should never walk into a dark room. Turn on the light first! Stepping on a small metal aeroplane or Lego building block is not pleasant in bare feet. It was a lesson quickly learned.

Still, the wicked will have nothing to do with light. They hate it. They would prefer to walk over hot coals on their way to destruction than to dip their feet in God’s stream of cool, living water. Such is the nature of fallen man.

Those are the two paths. They have nothing in common. They do not intersect and they certainly do not end in the same place. God has warned us not to set foot upon the way of the wicked for it brings certain ruin. He understands as well our weakness and our frailty in that our flesh finds the way of the wicked appealing. He has graciously placed us on the path of the just. He has promised us that even our worst sins cannot separate us from His love. He will walk with us on this path as our Father.

May God work in the hearts of our children so they discern the differences of these two paths, and live and walk the way of the just, the way illuminated by the life-giving light of their faithful Father’s face.

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Turn from the Way of Evil

Turn From the Way of Evil

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

Proverbs 4:14-17: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.”

Solomon has just urged his listener to hold fast to godly instruction because it is life, the true spiritual life of fellowship with God. However, what happens once Solomon’s school is out for the day and the student goes his own way; what then? Solomon is not naive but is very aware of what awaits his young listener.

Solomon understands the world is not basically good, with its inhabitants desiring to live virtuous lives of harmony, peace and self-improvement. The world is not neutral so one can influence it for the better by one’s own good example. Solomon has observed life and has discerned the dominance of the paths of the wicked and the ways of evil men. The deeply rutted path, the path whose soil is compacted by many footfalls so there is no longer any vegetation, the path which is wide to accommodate large numbers of travellers does not lead to heaven. The heavenly path is strait, narrow and relatively unpopulated. The broad way, whose many travellers raise a cloud of dust as they pass, is the path of destruction.

Solomon leaves no doubt as to the character of those on the path. This path belongs to the wicked and the evil. Solomon does his listener a service by carefully describing whose path this is because appearances are deceiving. The sole occupants of the path are not the dregs of society. They are not a motley crew dressed in rags. The path does not flow with blood because of murder and violence. We do not hear screams of terror or the tumult of fighting. These people appear quite normal, perhaps even pleasant. We would hear the murmur of pleasant conversation and laughter among friends.

Yet these people are wicked and evil. Although they would claim to be good people, and their companions would concur, God declares them to be wicked. They are not moral in the biblical sense of the word. They do not seek the glory of God, nor are they interested in serving Him. Their outward keeping of God’s law does not please Him because their deeds do not originate from hearts where faith resides. Although they may feel some regret for some of their past actions, they do not confess, repent and seek forgiveness for their sins. They do not extol the God of salvation in Jesus Christ who saves His people by grace alone.

What is Solomon’s listener to do? Solomon does not direct his son to sit in a little corner with a little book. He is not to hike to the top of a distant hill and live an ascetic life. The son knows the wicked path exists because he lives as a member of society and, as a result, must interact with the wicked as he makes his living, but he is not even to enter that path in fellowship.

Solomon understands the organic nature of sin. Sin grows. Unless we quickly repent and recognize the nature of the way we have just entered, we all too easily continue on the path of the wicked and are swept along with the evil. Do not imagine one may only go down the path a certain distance, only just so far, then quickly and effortlessly return to God’s way. Solomon knows life does not work that way. One must avoid the wicked way as one had to avoid those unclean with leprosy. Just pass by. Solomon knows the weakness of the flesh. A curious glance at the evil way too often arouses sinful longing for abandoning the restricted way of God, the constant denying of the flesh through self-sacrifice. Remember, Lot’s wife took a forbidden, yet longing, look back at the way of evil. Solomon knows the danger of us imagining ourselves to be stronger than we are. Turn from that evil way and pass by it.

We must turn from the evil way because of the nature of those who walk it. An often overlooked necessity of life is sleep. We do not appreciate sleep as we should until it becomes illusive. Then we know its value. Solomon teaches that the wicked will not sleep until they have done mischief. When the wicked lays his head on his pillow, he does not investigate his life and ask whom he has helped that day. He will not sleep unless he has done mischief, to make someone good for nothing or do them harm. He would never seek to help a companion develop a closer life with God. His goal is the opposite.

They have to make someone fall. To see someone upright in their walk with God is intolerable to them. Such a person must be brought down. Get the crowd to entice the upright to join with them. Exhibit the fun and good times available if the upright would just let their hair down for once. Join us and there are opportunities to advance socially and materially. They lie as did their spiritual father, the source of lies.

Bread is the staple of life, basic necessary food. The world’s bread is wickedness. They feed off of it. It sustains their ungodly lives. They must have their wickedness or life is finished. That is not the company Solomon would have his son join.

Wine is a luxury, an added delight when enjoyed properly. Violence is like wine to those who are evil: a bit extra to be enjoyed when opportunity arises. They enjoy as a sweet treat the use of underhanded, subtle dealings to enrich themselves materially or delve more deeply into depravity.

May God give us and our children discretion to turn from the way of evil, and the wisdom we need to walk in fellowship with Him and His saints.

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