Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (88)

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 Wise Reprover (2)

The Wise Reprover (2)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

Proverbs 25:12: “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”

The reproof of Elihu in the book of Job turned out much better than that in Jeremiah 43:1-7. As you know, Job was a very wealthy man. However, he lost everything—everything!—in one day and soon he was afflicted with terribly painful sores. Job was miserable. He had three friends come to comfort him. These friends claim that all this evil came upon Job because he must have committed some awful sin for which God is justly punishing him. Job denies his friends’ charges. Job says that he is not a sinner. Well, he knows that he has sinned but he certainly is not guilty of the dreadful sins of which his friends are accusing him. He has not done anything, in his judgment, to bring God’s awful wrath upon him.

The conversation between Job and his three friends goes back and forth. Job cannot convince his friends that he is innocent and the friends cannot convince Job that he is guilty. Job even expresses the desire that God would appear before him in some way because he would like to have the opportunity to ask God some questions. Through all of this, Elihu sat silently listening to this conversation. He was the youngest man there and felt the older men should speak first.

The talk among the other four men was over. They had nothing more to say. Elihu could no longer keep silent. Elihu reproves Job because he justified himself rather than God. He then reproves Job’s friends because they continued to condemn Job without having any evidence that he had done the dreadful things of which they accused him.

Elihu’s words in Job 33:12-13 are really the answer to Job’s horrible afflictions and losses. Elihu points out two essential truths. First, God is greater than man. Secondly, God does not give account of any of His matters. This means God can do whatever He pleases because He is great. The Almighty is under no obligation to explain to us why He does what He does. It’s none of our business.

Job and his friends have no protest to make about what Elihu has said. They know Elihu is right. God then appears to Job and speaks to him. Jehovah points out He is almighty, wise and can do whatever He wishes. At the end of the book of Job, it is important to note that God tells Job to offer sacrifices for the sinful speech of his three friends but He requires no sacrifice for what Elihu had said. God must have approved of Elihu’s reproof.

What can we learn about what makes a good reprover from Jeremiah and Elihu? Neither of them were upset because the sin they witnessed was a personal insult to them. They did not give reproof to vent their own personal anger. They did not speak because they felt this would clear their good name or soothe their troubled conscience of the sins they had witnessed. These reprovers saw sin as an affront to God. They wanted these sins to be put away because sin prevents a right understanding of God and a proper walk with the Lord.

Proverbs tells us a reprover must be wise. Jeremiah knew the spiritual condition of the Jews with whom he was dealing. Elihu let the others speak first so he could properly understand the situation. For us, we need to know whom we reprove. Some reproof needs to be strong, while with other friends we can speak gently. We cannot be hasty in our judgment of others but must make sure we have a good understanding of the matter. We must also be wise to know the proper time to give reproof. Some reproof must be given immediately, while sometimes it is better to wait. For a reprover to be as valuable as gold, he must be wise.

God also tells us in this Proverb that the person being reproved must have an obedient ear. The Jews reproved by Jeremiah did not obey reproof. They disobeyed and went forward in their own stubborn, rebellious way to their own destruction. The ears of Job and his three friends were obedient to Elihu. They did not protest nor give an angry response. They responded with submissive silence. This led to sacrifices being offered and forgiveness being granted.

Receiving reproof properly is not what we do by nature. We take offense. Who are you to tell me what to do or tell me I am wrong! Our natural reaction is to become angry and defend ourselves. The old man of sin in each of us does not take it well when we are told we have sinned.

An obedient ear to reproof is hard to find. I am thankful as a teacher in a Christian school that when I have had to take a student aside and have a little talk, it usually goes well. Part of that could be the student’s recognition of authority. What I pray is that this is proof of the response to God’s Word by one who is redeemed by God. What we also need as a Christian community of believers is to react properly to reproof when the reprover is our equal or, harder yet, holds a position lower than our own.

The greatest and wisest reprover is our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins. When someone gives us reproof based on the Bible, they are really bringing the Word of Christ to us. We have to listen to the minister when he preaches because he brings and applies Christ’s Word to our lives and hearts. In catechism class, you are being taught Christ’s Word. The history of the Old and New Testaments give us instruction in a godly life. Disobedience brings the anger of God, while obedience results in covenant fellowship with Christ. Finally, Christ gives us reproof when we read the Bible, the Word of God. This is the instruction of Paul in II Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

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The Wise Reprover (1)

The Wise Reprover (1)

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

Proverbs 25:12: “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”

Solomon teaches us about a reprover. A reprover is someone who warns somebody else about sin. A reprover witnesses someone’s sin, is troubled by that sin because he understands what sin does to a person’s relationship with God, and then speaks to the sinner to encourage him to put away his sin and walk obediently in fellowship with the Lord. Solomon wants us to know how valuable a wise reprover is.

Solomon teaches us about reprovers by using something from every day life with which we are familiar: jewellery. Many people like jewellery. You can see it around school and these days more girls wear jewellery of some sort than those who do not. Solomon isn’t talking about the kind of jewellery we see here around school though. I doubt that the jewellery we see around here at school is really expensive. The jewellery might be special to its owner for one reason or another, but I doubt we could find examples of jewellery here which cost a few hundred dollars or more. Solomon is speaking of gold earrings and ornaments fashioned from fine gold. These items are expensive.

This jewellery has value because of what it is made. Solomon is speaking about gold jewellery. I checked the newspaper to find the price of an ounce of gold. It is not cheap. Last Friday, gold was selling for $1,127.40 an ounce. My weight in gold would be valued at $3,156,720. So, it is debatable whether or not I am worth my weight in gold. Now a goldsmith is going to take this gold, which is already costly, and spend some time using his skill and expertise to make a beautiful ornament out of that fine gold. The value of this piece of jewellery is now even greater.

Jewellery has many uses. We decorate ourselves with it. People give jewellery as a gift to those who are dear to them. Some people view gold as a good investment. In Bible times, gold and jewellery were good ways to preserve wealth. For example, there were times when enemies would attack. If the enemy won the battle, they would spoil, take away, all the valuable things they could find from the people they had just defeated. Some people’s wealth was in flocks and herds. It is a little hard to hide all these animals or escape from the enemy quickly when your wealth is in animals. However, if your wealth were in gold and jewellery, a great amount of value could be packed in a small space. The gold and jewels could be quickly gathered up, and you and your family could escape the enemy in a hurry. Once you had arrived at a safer place, the gold could be used to purchase what was needed. You would not have to start your life all over with nothing.

Solomon wants us to learn that people who warn us about sin are just as valuable as gold. Two passages from the Bible, Jeremiah 43:1-7 and Job 33:1-13, have examples of people who reproved others: Jeremiah and Elihu. One of the stories of reproof turned out poorly, and the other turned out well. We will start with the reproof which did not work out so well, Jeremiah and the Israelites of his day.

Judah had just been defeated, crushed actually, by Babylon in battle. The Babylonians took an Israelite, Gedaliah, and put him in charge of the few people left in Judah. Gedaliah told the Jews to go about their work, earn the money they needed to live and submit to the rule of the Babylonians. There was another Israelite who did not like that idea. His name was Ishmael, and he was of the royal seed. Ishmael rebelled against Gedaliah, and killed him and all the people who were with Gedaliah. Another man named Johanan heard about the evil which Ishmael had done, gathered an army, fought against Ishmael, killed many of Ishmael’s followers and forced Ishmael to flee.

The remaining Jews were now afraid of the Babylonians because the man Babylon had left in charge, Gedaliah, had been murdered. The Israelites did not know what to do. Should they stay in Judah and perhaps have an angry group of Babylonians come against them or should they flee into Egypt where they would be safe? The people went to Jeremiah to ask him to go to God to ask Him what they should do. The people said they would do whatever God told them to do.

Jeremiah went to God, and God told him what the Jews should do. They should stay in Judah. God said He would show mercy to them, build them up and plant them securely in the promised land. Do not go to Egypt, God told them. If you go to Egypt to run away from the sword of Babylon, the sword will catch up with you in Egypt anyway, and you will all die from the sword, famine and disease.

That brings us to Jeremiah 43:1-7. Johanan and the Jews accuse Jeremiah of speaking falsely. As it turns out, they had already made up their minds to go to Egypt no matter what God would tell them through Jeremiah. They would obey God, but only if He told them what they wanted to hear. Sure enough, the Jews pack up and go to Egypt. Jeremiah reproves them for their disobedience but again they do not listen. It comes as no surprise to us that God does as He says. The Israelites in Egypt are destroyed.

The golden and wise reproof of Jeremiah fell upon disobedient ears. The result was disaster.

... to be continued

 
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Venus and the Deceitfulness of Sin

Venus and the Deceitfulness of Sin

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

Genesis 3:6: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

The solar system includes the sun and the objects which orbit it. Among these objects are eight planets. There used to be nine planets but scientists have decided that Pluto no longer qualifies. The closest planet to the sun is Mercury. It can be seen with our eyes, but it takes some practice and can only be seen a certain times. The second planet, which we will be talking about more, is Venus. It is also known as the evening and morning star. The Earth is the third planet from the sun. I trust you are quite familiar with Earth. Next comes Mars. It is easily noticed by its red colour. Next is Jupiter, the largest planet. It is larger than all the other planets put together. It has a whitish colour but is not as bright as Venus. Saturn is the planet farthest from the sun which can be seen with just the human eye. It has a golden colour like the colour of ripe wheat which is why Saturn is known as the god of the harvest. Uranus and Neptune come last. They are both bluish and can only be seen with telescopes.

After the sun and moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. It dazzles the eye with its brilliant white light, whether it is visible in the morning or evening sky. Venus can be especially beautiful when it is near the moon. Venus’ size, nearly the same as Earth’s, and proximity, as the closest planet to Earth, puts it just at the cusp of the human eye’s ability to discern it not as a point of light but as having size. Those who have particularly acute vision have claimed to see the slowly changing phases of Venus. This optical challenge is part of the allure of observing Venus.

It is understandable how such a bright, beautiful, purely shining object would be named after the Roman goddess of beauty. The Greeks called this planet Aphrodite, also their goddess of love and beauty. I doubt this love is the “agape” love with which we are familiar from the New Testament but is likely an ignoble form of attraction with which the Greek culture was intimately familiar. Agape love is affection, good-will and a willingness to help when someone is in need. It is the love which Christians have for fellow Christians.

It is a rare astronomical event for Venus to pass between the Earth and the sun. Years ago these were very important events because by observing Venus pass in front of the sun, scientists could learn more about the path which Venus and the Earth take around the sun. In 1761, a Russian scientist used a telescope to observe Venus’ transit across the sun’s face. He wanted to measure Venus’ diameter. He experienced a little difficulty, however, when he noticed the edges of Venus’ disk were not sharp and crisp, but fuzzy. He quickly realized this meant Venus had an atmosphere!

About the same time, a noted French scientist developed an idea called the nebular hypothesis. He proposed that the planets formed out of rings of gas left over from the formation of the solar system. The rings furthest from the sun cooled first, with the inner planets forming later. The belief among astronomers was that Mars was a planet past its prime, Earth was in the prime of life and Venus is what Earth was like many aeons ago.

The late 1800s saw the rise of a scientific theory called “pluralism,” the belief in the existence of life on an infinite number of habitable planets throughout the universe. This coincided with the period when Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution caught the public’s interest. The conclusion of the scientific community was that, if organisms could develop and evolve on Earth, then why not on other planets? Venus, with its atmosphere (assumed to have oxygen) and nearness to the warmth of the sun, was thought a prime candidate for the development of life. Coupled with the idea of the nebular hypotheses, Venus was thought to be a swampy world, covered with dripping vegetation which flourished in a steamy climate in which some form of life was evolving. Venus was imagined to be a tropical paradise. A book I recently read about the planets, Lives of the Planets, titles the chapter from which this information was taken, “The Greenhouse in the Sky: Venus.”

The reality of this dazzlingly beautiful planet is in great contrast to what was once imagined. The first hint came in the 1920s when scientists began to study the light reflected by Venus to determine the chemicals its atmosphere contained. Scientists were surprised to find very little water vapour there (meaning Venus was not a swampy, prehistoric Earth) but they did find an abundance of carbon dioxide, a gas which would trap the heat of the nearby sun and could possibly make the planet very warm.

Then, in 1956, astronomers turned their radio telescopes toward Venus. They found that Venus was emitting great amounts of microwave radiation, a clue that the surface of Venus was very, very hot. In December of 1962, a space probe launched by the United States, Mariner 2, flew by Venus. Here is a summary of the probes findings: “In fact, the results showed that the surface of Venus is not just hot, it is as hot as the interior of a self-cleaning oven ... [There are] no global oceans, no swamps, no giant tree ferns, no enormous insects, and no amphibian-like creatures crawling their way toward sentience.”

Venus, despite its gorgeous appearance, is no Garden of Eden. The Soviet Union sent several probes to Venus’ surface in the 1960s and 1970s. These probes were built to withstand temperatures of 500° Celsius and atmospheric pressures equal to being 3,000 feet underwater. Soviet scientists were amazed their probes functioned for about an hour because they were designed to work for thirty minutes. Venus, once thought to be lush and verdant, was actually a caustic, extremely hot, pressure cooker. Looks can be deceiving.

Now we’ll go back to Genesis 3. Eve saw the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Its fruit was not foul smelling, nor was it corrupted with rot and worms. While holding it in her hand, the fruit did not ooze through her fingers in some sloppy, rotten mess. She saw fruit which had every appearance of being good. Her eyes were pleased with what she saw. To take and eat would make her wise. The fruit was alluring and desirable.

That is the story of sin. Satan presents the world of sin to us in ways which appeal to us. Satan also knows that different temptations will be alluring to different people. What is tempting to one might hold no appeal at all to another. Yet it is the same in essence. Sin looks good to our weak flesh. To enter into its pleasures would bring us happiness and joy. Satan would have us believe that.

These things can happen in our school. We are tempted to treat someone in a way which we know is unkind. We can think of things to say which we know would hurt the other person. However, by doing these things we feel we can make ourselves look better. We can show how bold we are. We can make others laugh at someone as we put them down.

However, what are the spiritual effects of sin? Adam and Eve learned only too well. The happiness promised by Satan never materialized. Instead, Adam and Eve now fled in shame from God’s face. They couldn’t enjoy His holy company as they previously had. They found they weren’t happy at all, and we must remember that, as yet, Adam and Eve had not learned that their Creator was the God of redemption. They were miserable as they wondered what God would do with them.

The next time we see Venus as the beautiful, glorious morning or evening star and are reminded of the goddess of love and beauty, keep in mind what lurks beneath her clouds. She is not what she appears to be. As we struggle daily with our sinful flesh, we must keep in mind the alluring nature of sin and temptation. What appears to be so inviting and pleasant, is actually very caustic for the soul. Give thanks to the God of our redemption in Jesus Christ who gives wisdom to His people to save them from the deceitfulness of sin.

 
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The Wandering Bird (2)

The Wandering Bird (2)

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

Proverbs 27:8: “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.”

What happens when we wander from our place? We could leave a place of spiritual safety for one of temptation. Temptation and sin are no less dangerous for us than predators are for birds. Leaving the place of godly instruction leaves us to be instructed by the world and its ideas about right and wrong.

A bird who wanders from her place is foolish. For the young to leave the safety of the nest is to expose herself to all kinds of dangers. For the adult to leave the nest also exposes her young to danger and starvation.

A man who wanders from his place is just as foolish. He is exposed to temptation. The effects upon the family are also great. Without a father and mother in their appointed places giving direction to their children, children wander into ways of sin because of a lack of spiritual direction and sound instruction. What is happening to the children of the world who are raised under the instruction of television? Are their hearts in good shape? Many men in the world are more interested in the good times the world has to offer than being in their places in their homes. Are American families in good shape?

David is an example of what happens when a man wanders from his place. He was the king of God’s people. It was his duty to lead the people in battle against their enemies. His place was also that of being an example of godly living because everyone knew of his attitude toward God.

Yet David wandered from his place. In II Samuel 11, he was a bad example as king. He left his place at the head of the army and stayed in Jerusalem for a time of pleasure and relaxation. He left himself open to temptation. He was also on the roof on his palace at a time when he should not have been. His weak flesh was led into terrible sin which had effects on David for the rest of his life.

David neglected his place as a child of God. A servant told David that Bathsheba was another man’s wife. His duty as a child of God was then to leave her alone. After falling into sin, his place was to confess his sin. He did not confess because he wanted to preserve his reputation in the eyes of the people. In order to preserve his social standing, he finally resorted to murder. His place as king was to protect his subjects, not make them victims of adultery and murder.

On the first day of school this year, I had the 5th graders do a quick writing assignment. I asked them to give me the name of an example of faith. Then they had to give me a few sentences about why this person is such a good example of faithful living.

Their answers gave me some interesting reading. First, it was good to see their knowledge of the Bible. We did not have to have a long discussion about what faithful living means. We did not have to think long and hard in a desperate search for some names we have heard in the Bible. The assignment was handled easily and well.

Some of the names given are very familiar to us. Some of the people mentioned were Moses, Elijah, Noah, parents and ministers.

Parents, this speaks well of your children. Their knowledge of the Bible demonstrates you have taken seriously the baptismal vow to see to it that your children are brought up with God’s Word as the most important part of their lives.

However, this list of examples of faithful living overlooks something very important. The people mentioned earlier did great things. They led God’s people for 40 years in the wilderness. They performed miracles and spoke boldly to ungodly kings and queens. They built an ark in the face of opposition of all the rest of the world. Why do we forget the examples of faith near us? Why weren’t more parents mentioned? Most of your fathers are at work now. Do they get up and go to work every morning because they love their jobs so much or do they go to work in faithful obedience to God’s decree that as heads of their families they are to be diligent and provide for the needs of their families? That is your father’s place.

Now, think about mom. It was not that long ago, even for the 9th graders, when all of you were small bundles of responsibility who could not do anything for yourselves. When mom was tired from a long day of work around the house, do you think she joyously leaped out of bed at four in the morning, for the fourteenth night in a row, to care for her squalling baby? Just for another example, think of all the meals she cooks. How often are her efforts appreciated? What keeps this woman going day after day? The pay? A chance for a promotion? Or is she dedicated to the raising of covenant children and putting her hope in the promises of God’s Word? That is your mother’s place.

What about the examples of faith found in godly friends? I mean, true godly friends, not the ones who encourage you to walk in the ways of the world but the ones who will not encourage you to commit sin, who will warn you about the dreadful effects of iniquity. How easy is it to stand for what is godly even in a Christian school? It takes faith to warn our friends about sin. Yet that is your place.

To live a life of faith, to serve God in your place, does not mean that you have to do something astoundingly great. The bird did not have to be the highest or fastest flier of its species to be in its place. It simply had to stay in the nest. You don’t have to spend a few hundred years building an ark to live in faith. You don’t have to kill a lion with your bare hands to show your faith! To stay in your place does not mean you have to be thrown into a fiery furnace, heal the sick, raise people from the dead, write a twenty-two volume Bible commentary or the twenty-first century version of Reformed Dogmatics. We do not have to do the spectacular in order to serve God faithfully in the place He has given us. We must perform our daily, simple Christian duties in whatever place God has given us.

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The Wandering Bird (1)

The Wandering Bird (1)

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

Proverbs 27:8: “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.”

This past summer I was mowing my lawn near a small tree in my front yard. Something unusual caught my eye. There was a baby goldfinch on the ground. He was not yet old enough to fly, and his father and mother were frantically flying from tree to tree. My children and I did the best we could for the little bird. We put him back in his nest, several times. Later we found one of his nest mates on the ground. He was already dead. Also, while working on putting one back in the nest, a third little fellow was stepped on. When putting the last bird back in the nest for the fifth time, a usually sympathetic child of mine muttered, “Stupid birds, they’re just going to have to learn to take care of their own stupid kids.”

Living a life of faith is performing the duties, even the simple duties, which God has given to us. The proverb spoke of a bird which wanders from her nest as being the same as a man who wanders from his place. Such a bird, and such a man, is foolish.

The bird’s place is her nest. Where this nest is depends upon the type of bird. Robins prefer their nests more in the open. I have seen them on the sides of buildings on top of electric meters. Wrens need more seclusion and will build nests in bird houses with very small openings. Oriole nests look like bags suspended from branches. Woodpeckers live in hollowed out tree trunks.

This is the way God has created these birds. They are different and have their own place to fill in creation. Some birds eat seeds. Others eat berries, worms or bugs. Others only eat animals which have died. You can tell about a bird’s habitat and diet by looking at its feet and beak. Whatever its style of nest, wherever its habitat and whatever its diet, each bird has been given its place in creation by God.

A good nest is a place of safety for the bird and her young. There are animals, even other birds, which want to take the eggs from the nest and make a meal of them. Young birds need protection from predators which can even be your neighbour’s cat. Nests are also places of instruction. Eagles are given instruction in their nests. They take small leaps and spread their wings for their first flying lessons. The food brought back to the nest is a lesson on what to eat.

For adult birds the nest is where it is the bird’s duty to be. Her young need her care and protection. It is her duty to attend her nest and feed her young. If she doesn’t do it, who will? It is her duty to give protection to her young. The world is a dangerous place for young birds. You have seen broken egg shells on the ground because some other bird stole them from the nest. Perhaps you have seen young birds lying on the ground dead because they were taken by a predator. The nest is where the bird is supposed to be so her young are protected.

The nest is also the place for the young birds. Young birds sometimes want to leave the nest. As the young grow, the nest becomes more crowded. Maybe they would like some space for themselves. The young always seem to be hungry. They may wander from the nest to try to find food on their own. Perhaps they think they are ready to go out on their own and experience freedom. Many young birds do not survive their first year. They are easy for predators to catch. They may starve because they are not able to find their food as well as they thought they could. The nest is a place of safety.

Just as God decrees that the bird’s place is the nest, He has given each of us our place. Bird nests are found in a variety of places and we have variety in our places as well. Your fathers have different kinds of work which they do. Your mothers’ places are different as well. Some care for older children while others have children who are still very young.

Our places are ordained by God. Just as God equips each bird for its place in creation, He gives us what we need for our places. Your fathers have been given the abilities they need for their work. Remembering that God ordains our places for us can be important. There are times when we are very aware of our limitations and sinful natures. Teachers can wonder whether or not they have the patience and wisdom to make it through another day. Your fathers may struggle dealing with bosses or customers who are troublesome. Mothers can grow weary with the great responsibility of raising children. It is during these difficult times we must remember that God will equip us for the place He gives us.

The lives of your fathers and mothers centre on providing a place for you in the home. Fathers work to care for their wives and children at home. Mothers are concerned with raising their children in the home. Bird nests are to be places of safety and so are your homes. There are spiritual dangers in the world which would do us harm. That is why we do not open our homes to the world’s entertainment. It can ruin the spiritual safety of the home for children to be exposed to the world’s way of life.

Birds are given instruction in the nest. You are given instruction in the home. You don’t learn only about food and safety. You are given spiritual instruction. You learn how God’s Word is our guide in telling us what is right and what is wrong. You learn what your duties are as godly sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and members of the church. You are learning about what your duties are in the home and in the kingdom of Christ.  ... to be continued

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Hearing Ears and Seeing Eyes (2)

Hearing Ears and Seeing Eyes (2)

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

“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).

God’s eyes are sensitive enough to see our needs. I know the needs of some of God’s people and can bring these needs to God in prayer, but I certainly cannot see every spiritual need of even one of you. God sees the condition of our hearts and knows our weaknesses. God’s eyes can see the temptations Satan prepares for us but we often are unaware of them. God sees how to send out His Spirit in order to help all of His people.

God is also able to see everything we do. Students can hide actions from teachers by waiting for them to turn around or go to the other side of the room to help another student. A desktop can also serve as a convenient shield. Our parents cannot see everything we do either. They are not always around when you are playing with your friends. Parents cannot see through walls or the closed door to your rooms. However, none of our actions are hidden from the sight of God. Walls, closed doors and desktops are completely transparent to His eyes. We cannot go anywhere to hide from His sight.

The Creator of the eye can even see things which are spiritual. God can see into our hearts. God can see our desires. He sees whether our hearts desire the things of His kingdom or the things of this earth. Does it give our hearts pleasure to seek to praise God by keeping His commandments? God can see this. Is it the desire of our hearts to please ourselves? God can see this too. God can see the secret desires of our hearts, whether they are good or whether these desires are evil.

This God, Creator of the ear and eye, can hear our cries and see our needs. He can do this as our loving, heavenly Father. This gives us comfort.

However, this God also hears and sees everything as the perfect Judge. We read in II Samuel 11 about David’s great sin. The last sentence of that chapter states, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” How did God even know? We never read in II Samuel 11 that David went to God, told God of his sins and confessed them. Instead, we read of David’s careful plotting to cover his sin by his own clever schemes. Some of the people in the palace might have had an idea of what David had done but David seemed to get away with his sin.

However, we all know that David could never hide his sins from God. This is the God who has made the ear! God heard the sinful desires of David’s heart! God heard David as he made his plans to cover his sin. This is the God who made the eye! All the secret things David had done were all in the open as far as God’s eye was concerned. Nothing which David thought or did was hidden from the ear or eye of God.

God knows our sins too. We often try to hide our sins as David did. Perhaps we think we get away with some of our sins because our parents and teachers cannot hear everything we say. When we have something to say about someone which we know is not nice, we wait until nobody in authority over us is around. Then we can talk and not get in trouble. If we are caught, perhaps a careful denial or lie can cover what we have said. However, not only does God hear what we say, He can even hear what we think. The silent thoughts which we keep in our hearts, sound just as loud to God’s ears as the things we shout to our classmates on the playground.

The same is true of our actions. David tried to hide what he did from the people around him. We try to do the same. When we are about to do something mean to someone, or do something we know is wrong in order to make others laugh or impress others, we don’t do it when our parents or teachers are right there. We wait until nobody in authority is there to see what we do. We often forget that the God who formed the seeing eye is always there and can see everything we do.

God is the maker of the hearing ear and the seeing eye in the spiritual sense as well. By nature, we do not hear the voice of God, nor do we see His truth. In Matthew 13:13-14, Jesus says, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.” God’s voice in His Word and in creation is disregarded. We refuse to hear the call to repent of our sins because we believe we are good enough or certainly not as bad as others. We do not see the seriousness of our sins.

God works in the hearts of His people by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes our ears to hear and our eyes to see. We hear God’s law in church and realize we have sinned. We hear the preaching of the Word and know we cannot save ourselves or pay for our sins ourselves. God gives us the eyes to see our need for a Savior. We see Christ’s life of suffering and especially what He endured on the cross, as the perfect payment for our sins.

God has made our ears and eyes so we can relate to the physical world. God also has ears and eyes and we know that there is nothing which He cannot hear or see. Yet we are most thankful that He gives us spiritual ears and eyes, so we believe His Truth and know that the way of salvation is the way of sovereign grace in Christ.

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Hearing Ears and Seeing Eyes (1)

Hearing Ears and Seeing Eyes (1)

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

“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” (Proverbs 20:12).

This verse in Proverbs speaks of two of our five senses: hearing and sight. These are the two senses most closely associated with instruction. Although there are times when students learn by means of the sense of touch, the use of the senses of taste and smell are not commonly used here in school. Most of what we learn enters our minds through our ears and eyes.

The ear has three main parts. There is the outer ear. This is the part of the ear which we can see. It serves as a funnel to catch sound waves. Our outer ears are not very good at catching sounds when compared to the donkey or rabbit. Some animals can even turn their ears to capture sounds better. We cannot do that. That’s why we sometimes cup our hands behind our ears. Just inside our head is the ear canal. Its function is to bring sound vibrations further inside the head. At the end of the ear canal is the eardrum, a delicate membrane which vibrates when struck by sound waves. The ear canal is rather small and the eardrum is very delicate, so it’s not a good idea to put things in it. The inner ear has three of the smallest bones in the body which move in response to the vibrations of the eardrum. These bones pass vibrations to the cochlea. The cochlea is spiral shaped, is filled with fluid, and has small hairs in it. These hairs move as vibrations pass through the liquid. The hairs are attached to nerves which then carry these messages to the brain. The brain processes this information into the sounds which we recognize.

The hearing ear is a wonderful creation of God. We can recognize the voices of our loved ones and have fellowship with them. We hear the songs of birds and waves at the beach. There is the sound of the wind in the trees and soon we will hear the leaves scurrying across the ground. Perhaps in several weeks we will hear the favourite sound of junior high students: the sound of blowing and drifting snow.

God is also the creator of the seeing eye. As we follow a beam of light into the eye, we first come to the cornea. It is a transparent membrane which has a delicate curve. Light then travels through the pupil which is a small opening in the iris, the coloured part of the eye. The pupil can change size. The brighter the light, the smaller the pupil will be. When the light becomes darker, the pupil becomes larger to allow more light to enter the eye. Light then passes through a lens. This lens can change shape depending on whether we are looking at something close or far away. The back of the eye is covered with cells which are sensitive to light. The cells are nerve cells which then send messages to the brain where all this information is processed so we can understand what we see.

With our eyes we can see the wonders which God has made. We can recognize the faces of our loved ones. Imagine the confusion there would be after church if you couldn’t recognize the family vehicle or if everyone looked the same to you! How would you be sure to return to the right family? We see the beautiful autumn trees and clouds in the sky. We see fields ready for harvest and freshly mown lawns. During Thanksgiving, we will see tables filled will delicious things to eat.

Our ears are very sensitive and can hear a wide ranges of sounds. Since God is the creator of our ears, no doubt His ears are much more sensitive than ours. If sounds have a pitch which is either too high or too low, we cannot hear them. Bats can hear sounds which have a much higher pitch than what we can hear. Elephants can hear lower sounds. Robins can hear the sound of worms crawling through the ground. Also, there are sounds which are too faint for us to hear clearly. If sounds are too loud, we can suffer damage to our ears and they might not ever be the same again. God does not have that problem. He can hear sounds of every pitch and all volumes.

Our Father’s ears are sensitive to the sound of our prayers. He heard the prayers offered to Him this morning in school. He hears the prayers of families at dinner tables. God’s ears are so sensitive, He can even hear the prayers which we utter in the silence of our hearts. We don’t have to speak out loud in order for God to hear us.

God also hears all the words we speak. I cannot do that. If too many students are talking at once in the classroom, I cannot pick up all the words in order to understand all the words which are being spoken. That’s why students have to have permission to speak in class. When I am out on the playground during recess, I hear the many voices of happy children but I cannot listen to all of the different conversations at once. God does not have that problem. He hears every word we speak, no matter how many people are speaking at that time.

God’s ears are so good, He can even hear the thoughts of our hearts. What would the people around us think of us if everything we ever thought, we said out loud? There are many things which we think in our hearts which we are glad nobody can hear. If everyone could hear all of our thoughts about them, how many friends would we have? God can hear all of these things. There is no thought which we can keep secret from Him.

It is the same with our eyes. There are wavelengths of light which we cannot see. Doctors do not have X-ray vision in order to determine whether or not we have broken our arm or leg. We cannot see the markings on flowers which bees can. There are things which are too small or too distant for us to see. God does not have this limitation. He can see all things.

... to be continued

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Insulting the Hosts

Insulting the Hosts

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

“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:16-18).

Max Tegmark is a physicist, cosmologist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He recently wrote a book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2017). An excerpt from this book appeared in the November 2017 issue of Discover magazine in an article titled, “Our Next Billion Years.”

Here’s how Tegmark’s article begins:

Thirteen point eight billion years after its birth, our universe has awoken and became aware of itself. From a small blue planet, tiny conscious parts of our universe have begun gazing out into the cosmos with telescopes, repeatedly discovering that everything they thought existed is merely a small part of something grander ... Although these self-aware stargazers disagree on many things, they tend to agree that these galaxies are beautiful and awe-inspiring.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the laws of physics. So before our universe awoke, there was no beauty. This makes our cosmic awakening all the more wonderful and worthy of celebrating: It transformed our universe from a mindless zombie with no self-awareness into a living ecosystem harboring self-reflection, beauty and hope—and the pursuit of goals, meaning and purpose. Had our universe never awoken, then it would have been completely pointless—merely a gigantic waste of space. Should our universe permanently go back to sleep due to some cosmic calamity or self-inflicted mishap, it will become meaningless.

In the rest of the article, Tegmark makes some proposals which he claims are not impossible if mankind’s progress in science and technology continues at its present pace. For example, to ensure mankind’s survival and, thus, the consciousness of the cosmos, Tegmark dreams that, someday, mankind could send space probes to the stars programmed with artificial intelligence. These probes could prepare planets for man’s habitation. Men could follow these probes across space and live on the planets prepared for them or the probes could fabricate people from the matter available to populate other planets. Tegmark speculates man could spread across the galaxy at one-third the speed of light.

Oh, the things men might accomplish in the next billion years! If it weren’t for the promise of walking on streets paved with gold, one might wish to be there to witness the marvels of man’s achievements.

An unregenerate man gazes at the starry host and sees a place fit for the habitation of man. The universe is so large and beautiful that is a suitable setting for man to pursue his goals, find meaning for his existence and give his life purpose.

Man’s pride is so great that he views the universe as being vain and pointless until he evolved enough to take it all in and discover some of its mysteries. It’s as though the universe owes mankind a great debt of gratitude since we finally showed up to make it all worthwhile.

Truly, “They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth” (Ps. 73:9). Tegmark has great hopes that man can populate the galaxy with its diameter of thousands of light-years and do so at one-third of the speed of light. Meanwhile, people have actually travelled less than two light-seconds to walk on the moon and this relatively short trip took three days.

Tegmark refers to the universe as a “mindless zombie.” Scripture uses many active verbs when discussing creation, so creation is not a mindless zombie. Just thinking of Psalm 19, we see the heavens “declare;” the days “utter” speech; the nights “show” knowledge; the sun is “as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.” In Isaiah 35, the wilderness is glad and rejoices with singing. The creation also waits for its redemption by Christ so it can be cleansed from the effects of sin.

Also, there is no place in Tegmark’s universe for God. The mindless universe simply runs by the laws of physics, not God’s “eternal providence and infinite power” (Belgic Confession 12). The unregenerate live in God’s creation, then act as though God, their Host, doesn’t exist. They help themselves to the food providentially provided, then don’t give thanks for it because they think the food comes of itself as the result of the laws of physics.

Tegmark also says there was no beauty in the universe since there was nobody there to behold it. In the text quoted above from Genesis 1, it’s clear there was Someone there to behold the universe before man was there and the Creator’s declaration was that “it was good.”

Such is the view of the unregenerate. They insult the hosts, both the starry host and the divine Host Himself.

Now it’s our turn to consider His heavens.

Since the evening twilight ended thirty minutes ago and the stars are out, let’s step outside. For us who live in the middle latitudes, if it’s spring, we witness the renewal of life which reminds us of the newness of life God has promised us in Christ. If it’s summer, the coming of night brings relief from the heat of the day, which great heat teaches us of God’s hot anger against sin. If it’s fall, we hear the rustling of fallen leaves which had previously put on such a grand display of God’s autumn palette reminding us that the death of God’s saints is precious in His sight. If it’s winter snow covers the hard, lifeless earth picturing what happens to us spiritually when we turn away from the light of God’s countenance. Each season has its lessons and so do the stars.

Now, let’s look up. There they are, the stars! They are “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen. 1:14). When we consider the vastness of the universe we humbly admit, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4). Being aware of our utter insignificance, we are deeply gratified to remember that God really does more than merely notice us. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17). The great God who formed all the universe merely by His Word and continues to uphold it by His Spirit is, to our great astonishment, our God, and He has made us His children. The great, transcendent Creator is yet immanent enough to take delight in having covenant fellowship with us in Christ.

Tegmark is excited about what he imagines man’s next billion years might have in store. Our fellowship with our Father in His beautiful, recreated heaven and earth will last much longer than that, and it will be grander than we can imagine.
























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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The Path of Life (1)

The Path of Life (1)

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

Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Last summer, my family and I went on a long camping trip out West. Although not all members of the family would agree, one highlight of the experience was hiking in Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Parks. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was pleasant enough to allow us to do what we wanted to do.

If you are going hiking, there are some things which you had better bring with you. This is especially true when hiking with children. You had better bring ample food and you had better have plenty of water. It also helps to have a good map and a compass. The more popular trails are marked with signs but, if you wish to hike in areas of the park which are more remote and away from the crowds, you should have a map and compass.

Years ago my wife and I lived in Loveland, Colorado, so we could hike in the mountains. There used to be a sign in the Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park which said, “The mountains don’t care.” The rangers were giving a warning with that sign. What the rangers meant was that if a hiker found himself in trouble, the mountains would not help. Did you not dress warmly enough? Don’t expect the mountains to give you a sweater or make the clouds go away so the sunshine can warm you. Did you not plan for the daily afternoon rain? Don’t expect the mountains to keep you dry. Did you not bring enough food or water? The mountains will not provide a convenience store for you.

Hiking and camping are good reminders about our place as pilgrims on earth. When we camp, we are only passing through for a short time. A permanent home awaits us at the end of the trip. When the weather is unpleasant, chilly or rainy (perhaps even snowy, if you are in the mountains) hikers and campers can look forward to the comforts of home. As Christians, we are to look forward to the promise of our lasting homes in heaven.

There is one hiking trail from this recent expedition which stands out in my memory. The trail began at a lake in the Grand Tetons. The trail went up the side of a ridge. The ridge was rather steep, so the trail had many switchbacks in it. Although the switchbacks make the trail longer, the fact that the trail goes up hill more gradually makes the hike less difficult. A hiking trail which goes straight up the ridge, though shorter in distance, would not only be harder, it would also cause erosion when rain water runs down it.

God can do this to us in life sometimes. We may believe we have a better, simpler or more pleasant way planned for our lives. The Israelites thought this when they left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The promised land was only a short hike away along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea! Yet God led them by way of the Red Sea! God’s path for them did make sense. The Israelites had to learn to trust God and confess that His ways were always best, even in times when they could not see how that was true.

The trail in the Grand Tetons had some hazards along the way. There were many pine and aspen trees along the trail. The roots of these trees would often reach across the trail. If I did not watch my step, I could easily trip over the roots. The path also had many rocks in it. I had to keep my eyes open so I would not stumble over them.

We can trip or stumble on our path of life, too. Satan places temptations along our way. He would love to see us fall into sin. He especially enjoys it when our sins can cause us not to trust each other or even dislike each other. We have to be alert, constantly, for the many ways Satan tempts us in life, even here in our Christian school. We stumble when we call someone a name. We stub our toes when we make some one feel unwelcome. We fall when we spread or repeat nasty stories, whether they are true or false, about one another. As we grow older, and Satan gets to know us better, life’s temptations become more serious. We have more opportunities to experience what the world as to offer and we gain more independence from parents.

The weather during our hike was typical for the mountains. It was a partly cloudy afternoon with scattered showers. When the sun shone, it was pleasantly warm. I even took my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist because I was becoming a little warm. Then the clouds would return and sometimes bring rain. The temperature would drop and I would put my sweatshirt on again. We hoped the rain would not settle in for the rest of the day.

Our lives are similar. There are times when God gives us the sunny days of prosperity. We enjoy what God gives us to do and the fellowship of those around us. We have the health we need to do the work God gives us to do. We have the ability to perform our responsibilities. These are the times for which we give thanks to God. However, there are also times when God sends cold rain into our lives. I can promise you, if God has not yet brought great sorrow to your life, the day comes when He will. We will all have to deal with the death of loved ones. There will be times when we struggle physically and spiritually. We may experience sickness. We may feel inadequate to do the tasks God lays before us. We begin to wonder if there is any point to doing our work anyway. These are the times when God instructs us to be patient in adversity.

We continued along the trail. We really could not see much of what was ahead of us because the trees were tall and thick. We could see some mountain tops through the trees from time to time and knew there must be some beautiful views ahead. The trail was beginning to feel a little long. As we continued up the trail, we met a man coming back. He stopped to talk with us. He told us, “You only have about 15 more minutes to walk. Then the trail opens into a beautiful valley. The view is spectacular!” That news gave a little more energy to our steps. I felt encouraged! This long hike would have a rewarding destination after all!

We have a rewarding destination too. No one has come back to earth from heaven to tell us what it is like. No one can even tell us how much longer we will have to continue on our pathway until God brings to heaven. However, we do have the Word of God. He has told us enough about His heavenly kingdom to know that it is beautiful and that we will love it there in perfect fellowship with Him in Jesus Christ.  ... to be continued

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The Path of Life (2)

The Path of Life (2)

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

Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Now I have to tell you about one bad experience I had along this path. I had something with me which I had counted on to give me help as I hiked this trail. I wore my nice, new Wolverine work boots. I depended on them to support and comfort my feet. However, my boots were not helpful to me that day. You see, I was not wearing two pairs of socks and the one pair I had on were rather thin. As I walked down the trail for the return trip, my toes, not having enough of a cushion, were slamming into the front of my boots. After a while, it was annoying and uncomfortable. I even wondered if I were bruising my toenails. There was even a time when I considered taking them off and hiking barefoot. I decided it would be worse to be without them, so I kept them on.

We all have something on which we depend to help, support and comfort us along our paths. In fact, you have about 250 of them right here. They are our Christian friends. God provides us with friends so He can help, support and comfort us. God’s Spirit uses means. We all need godly friends. They will support us with godly advice and prayers. They will comfort us with God’s Word when we are sorrowful. Perhaps most important of all, they will warn us when they see us walking in sin.

Unfortunately, just as my boots did, there are times when we don’t support or comfort each other as we should. We face a world of enemies. The world does not love God or His Word. Just as they hated Christ, they will hate those who do what Christ said. They will tempt us to leave His way. Our enemies will appear to be friendly, as they try to do us spiritual harm. We must support each other by warning our fellow Christians about the dangers of sin. Just as the mountains do not care about what happens to hikers, the world does not truly care about our spiritual well being.

We must also deal with our own weak flesh. Because we are sinful, we often think only of ourselves instead of others. We can be too concerned about our standing among our peers. If we know of someone who is less popular, instead of comforting them and letting them know they are welcome, we sometimes make them feel bad so we can be accepted by others. We all need to know that as we go through life we are not alone, but have Christians for friends with whom we can share the joys and fellowship of salvation.

When hiking in the mountains it is a good idea to bring a map and a compass. A map can help determine distances so you know if you have enough time to finish your hike. A map also helps when someone in the group asks about the name of a mountain or lake. The compass is not just for telling you which way is north. The compass can prevent you from becoming lost. A map and compass also help if you would like to hike a circuit instead of a simple out and back trail.

God has given us a map and compass for Christian living. He does not put us on this earth and tell us to make our own way or determine for ourselves what is right and wrong. The light God gives us is the light of His Word. Although all things are planned by God, He made us with the ability to think and make decisions. All of us have to make decisions in life. Some decisions are harder than others. We do not have to blindly guess about what to do. With God’s Word as our light, we will be able to recognize the difference between the path of sin and the path which pleases God.

If a hiker becomes lost and stubbornly refuses to use his map and compass, we would think he is foolish. If he insists on trying to find his own way back, we would doubt if he would ever return safely. What would you think of a hiker who is in a misty fog and needs to know which way is north, then just guesses instead of taking out the compass which is right there in his pocket?

Having spiritual wisdom so we can recognize sin is not something which happens to us automatically. Just praying for God to give us wisdom does not help. The wisdom of God is found in the Bible. In order to be wise so we can avoid sin, we must read the Bible. To pray for wisdom, then not make the time to read God’s Word, is foolish. I doubt that any one of us would have a hard time finding a Bible which we could read. It is much more likely that we could choose from several we have in the house. Our Bibles should not be for decorating tables and night stands. We must read them. I remember a classmate trying to explain to our pastor why his catechism work wasn’t finished. He claimed his brother had taken the Bible to do his work and didn’t return the Bible to its proper place so he couldn’t find it. The minister simply replied that my classmate should have used the Bible he read every night in bed just before going to sleep. The minister made his point.

We have a pathway to walk in life. The path is not always smooth and easy. It will involve difficulties and sorrows. That is the Christian life. However, we should not become so involved with the next step on the path that we forget the beautiful end God has in store for His people. We have to take the time to remember the wonderful promises God gives to us in our crucified and risen Saviour. We need wisdom to walk this path. God has promised to give us the light of His Word to guide us along the way.

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