FILTER BY:

I worked in the garden today, raking and picking up leaves,

Digging out weeds, scraping up stones that shouldn’t be there.

I found violet leaves, half curled, in cluster- lily-of-the-valley, too,

Bravely sticking up slender tongues through soil made newly bare.

Twigs and branches that a few weeks ago were brittle and scabby brown,

Were now tinged with green, their buds full and nearly bursting;

Promising the full leaf of flower each held within its tiny folds,

They welcomed soft breezes, drank in life-giving rain, no longer thirsting.

So, too, are we from our sin released, aroused by God, our Father,

The covering of willfulness and discontent removed from hearts, filled with grief and pain,

By the Sun of Righteousness; we bask in His eternal love and care,

And joyfully, the fruit of obedience, love and service is returned to Him again.

I prayed in the garden today.

A single woman. Who is she? Is she a “loner” who prefers to be aloof from all personal relationships, living only for herself? Is she one who has been offered a husband, home and family and refused them? Or if not offered this, has she been “left” because of unavailability of men for husbands? Is she one who prefers what she calls “single blessedness” and a career to being “tied down” with a family and its obligations? Could one also call a widow a single woman-as long as she does not remarry? I can imagine that for every single woman there is a certain applicatory reason of one or more of these descriptions. But this I know: her position in life has been just as determined, most assuredly, by the almighty, all-knowing, purposeful God as has the position of her married counterpart. For her there is a unique place that no married woman can occupy, even as a married woman has a position that no single woman can hope to fill.

What then is the place of the single woman in God’s church? Where does she fit in this body of Christ (Romans 12:5)? What are her obligations within the church? Certainly she must follow mandate of Scripture, stated in 1Timothy 2:9-11: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair or gold, or pearls, or costly array: but (which become women professing godliness) with good works. Let the women learn in silence with al subjection.” Peter exhorts wives with unbelieving husbands to live in such a way that by their “chaste conversation” they may be won. Even so a single woman must live that all who see and hear her may know that of her Peter says, almost quoting Paul to Timothy: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (I Peter 3:3, 4). In this respect she does not differ from her sisters who marry.

Is this unmarried state to be condemned, criticized, made the object of scorn and ridicule, considered “wrong”? Paul does not condemn, but rather praises the unmarried state: “It is good for them to abide even as I” but hastens to add: “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to bum” (I Corinthians 7:8, 9). After speaking to the married, he further states in the same chapter, vs. 34: “There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” Jesus, in Matthew 19:11-12, after condemning the evil of divorce, answers His disciples who concluded that it was not good to marry: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

And Rev. D. Engelsma says in his book Marriage: the Mystery of Christ and the Church, Page 64: “The basic thing in the Christian’s life is his own personal marriage to God by a true and living faith. If God should prevent marriage for one of His children, as He sometimes does, the reality of marriage is still his because he enjoys the covenant friendship of God in Christ. If God makes one a eunuch for the kingdom’s sake, he is not hopelessly deprived or impoverished, but still rich, for he has God. Not sex, not earthly marriage, not any creature, but God is God. ”

There is then a definite place in God’s church for the unmarried woman. She is not encumbered with the care of home and little ones although she has her own home to maintain…. and that in a proper, godly way. Her time, however, can be profitably spent in other ways: Titus 2:3-5 urges her to teach the younger women, and Luke tells us in Acts of Dorcas who busied herself with work for others. The unmarried woman can labor with those who work in the gospel as did those who helped Paul (Philippians 4:3) and as Lydia helped him in Thyatira by hospitably opening her home to the apostles and providing for their daily needs. Phebe too was recommended as a helper of many in the early church. The single woman is given more time and strength for helping in the church; her calling then is to do so for the benefit of the community of believers.

There are many of the “older” young women who have no prospects for marriage, who suffer and sometimes rebel against God’s obvious plan for not providing a life’s mate. They must spend hours in prayer for grace to help meet this disappointment and for eyes to see His better plan for them (I Corinthians 10:13- “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”). It is not easy for them to see their friends date, marry, have families-all the joys which they crave but which again, God has withheld from them for His purpose. Their calling still remains to lead an upright, goodly, God-fearing, pure, exemplary life before Him and His church.

The single woman learns in silence as does her married sisters submitting herself “one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 521). Her work within the community of believers does not usurp that of minister, elder or deacon; but supplements, complements it as did the godly women of the early church and as mothers do in the home. She may then, teach in the Sunday School, the Christian day school, those children of the covenant -not her flesh and blood, but those of the spirit. She may love them and be concerned for them, as members of the body of Christ. She may counsel and instruct them in the ways pleasing to the Lord. She seeks out those in need and in pain; she helps provide for them, providing food and clothing if necessary as did Dorcas, who was “full of good works and alms deeds” (Acts 9:36). Her home becomes a haven of rest, a place of spiritual contentment, where weary mothers may rest, children may delight, young people talk in confidence, all find a refuge of spiritual rest and peace. Whether then she has been blessed by gifts and talents of teaching, sewing, music, writing, counseling, speaking, listening, etc., she is used by the Lord in a special way in the service of His kingdom.

A word yet for the rest of the saints in their regard for the unmarried woman. For this woman, the church can pray. I think that we, inadvertently though it may be, often omit this, in our personal as well as congregational prayers. Perhaps we think she has no problems, needs or special cares. Perhaps we simply forget, are not aware of her as such. We pray for infants, children, teenagers, parents and older members of the congregation-forgetting her who often has the welfare of so many at heart, especially the children and teenagers of the church. Let us as one body of Christ, therefore, “pray for one another.” (James 5:16)

The wise man sings forth the praise of a virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 but concludes with a doxology for all women, married or single: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Originally published in the February, 1977 “Hope School Highlights

 

It came – – the whirling, shuddering gusts of white – –

One afternoon, through dusk and into the coming night.

Winds blew, ever increasing in their strength.

And spread huge drifts of snow in every breadth and length.

The storm raged on. By day and night it grew;

Roads drifted shut, were plowed, were filled anew.

Businesses and schools were closed, activities were stilled,

As every corner and crevice with ice and snow were filled.

The temperatures stayed near zero almost night and day:

Winter clutched the world in whiteness and held undaunted sway.

And when ’twas over, the sun made our awe-struck eyes to see

Blue shadows on broad, scintillating expanse of white virginity.

What says the church while winds will shriek and moan?

‘‘Thou art God Almighty and Thou art God alone!

The pathway of the storm Thou holdest in Thy hand.

The floods, the quakes, the famines…all in every land.

Teach us then to see Thee in this snow-filled world below

As One who cleanses, makes His own as freshly fallen snow:

Cleanses from sin, adorned in white, to stand in heaven above.

Redeemed by Christ, saved by His grace and His unfailing love.

What does secular music mean to you?  Does it refer to popular songs only?  Or would it include that which is known as folk, classic and non-religious music?  According to Webster, anything secular refers to that which pertains “to this world or the present life; worldly; earthly; not religious or spiritual.”  This definition then certainly makes clear that which we may term either secular or religious. It is either, or.  It is either singing and playing God’s praises or it is not.  And if our calling is to walk before Him and be perfect (Genesis 17:1), if we are to come out and walk separately, if we are to walk antithetically before our God – all else is of the world and therefore, sin.

The questions arise therefore (and perhaps could be used as basis for more detailed articles) in the Christian’s mind:  is classical music necessarily secular music?  can a Christian hear classical music to God’s glory?  can one, knowing the composer to have been a wicked individual, listen to his music and be spiritually edified?  is there right or wrong in the music per se? or is listening to music purely a question of relativity:  what may be edifying to one may leave another person cold and unresponsive?

Classical music, that which is generally accepted as being a standard of excellence, was not originally rooted in the love of God or His Word.  Based on Greek and Roman ideas of philosophy, classical music was certainly man-centered and pagan-worshiping. Without the use of words, this music stirred men to excitement, bravery and expressions of lust and joy.  And when words were latter added, they only increased to serve the idol of Mammon.

Throughout the years, however, other music has become classic.  With the inspired words of Scripture, men were used as instruments of God in setting forth in song the beautiful truth of the Word.  With words, of course, one can more closely identify music and praise to God.  Think of the beautiful words of Balaam who wished to curse Israel and instead, blessed them.  Against his will he proclaimed, “…Behold, I have received commandment to bless:  and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.  He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel:  the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them” (Num. 23:20-21).  With the instrument alone, God has used music to accomplish His purpose.  The same music which soothed and inspired David, filled King Saul with misgiving and hatred for the young musician.  Placing words and music together then, the church has a powerful, wonderful medium to glorify God, whether it be by singing or listening.  Whether or not the composer was wicked or not, God has used him as an instrument in providing a means of joyous expression for His Church.  Who of us have not thrilled to Handel’s Messiah? to the Elijah or Creation?  Certainly these composers were used in order that the Church might use the legacy of their talent today.  And now as before—to some it is a blessing, and to others, condemnation.

A good many oratorios, one may observe, have orchestral parts.  Can they, and purely orchestral pieces, be used by themselves as means of adoration?  Perhaps one may say that this is purely a matter of relativity regardless of the composer’s intent in writing the composition.  Smetana, when writing The Moldau, had undoubtedly the honor of his native Bohemia in his heart in exalting her rivers and thus brought out the theme that he did.  A listener, however, may study the program notes and through the music see and hear God’s creation as pictured in musical rivers, rapids, and forests.  To another, the music may be a mere jumble of instruments and consequently have no meaning at all.  On the other hand, if a composer so writes a piece of music with the corresponding text with the sole purpose of dishonoring God’s name and Word, we must have none of it.  Witness the majority of songs and so-called music on radio, television, records – what percentage would YOU claim to be worthy of Christian listening? – and singing?

To answer then the question whether secular music is good or bad, we affirm this:  all that which speaks outright of anything but the praise of God is wrong.  Anything which does not serve God, militates against Him.  From out of that worldly-mindedness (and let us confess it – aside from God’s grace, we would crave the world’s songs, court her bawdy imitations of good music and lust after all forms of entertainment) – from out of this, I say, our God has brought us “and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Psalm 40:3).  We have been redeemed by Christ “and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee sway” (Isaiah 35:10).  The song given is for the church and for her alone – the precious one hundred forty-four thousand, having our Father’s name written in our foreheads.  For as part of the great throng, we may view and say with John on Patmos:  “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of harpers harping with their harps:  and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders:  and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:2, 3).

 

That music should be taught in our schools is not a debatable question.  Because God has given us not only the gift of song, and the ability to bring forth music on instruments, but also the injunction to praise Him, we have our calling to instruct His children in this phase of glorifying their Maker.

The gift of song is an awesome thing.  The wonder of a person’s vocal organs, his ability to distinguish between various musical tones, to make instruments “talk” – all show the might of our Creator.  From tiny tots, copying their mothers and dads, to the well-trained high school and college choirs, our children are singing children.  Theirs is an expression of joy and of sorrow; of happiness and sadness; of humility, praise and glory.  They are a part of that singing church of all ages – to be perfected in life eternal.

The ability to play musical instruments is also a great talent.  As not everyone is a naturally good singer, so is not everyone gifted in this respect.  Some children do not “take to” music until much later in life and sometimes not at all; others can barely crawl up on the piano bench to take their first lessons.  But again, no matter what the age, playing an instrument is another means of glorifying our Maker.  It is important that we provide an opportunity to develop this means, either in band or orchestra, in grade or high school. To be able to put heart and soul into a rendition of a number is not only personally satisfying – it is another expression of praising our covenant God.  We become, then, an active dedicated Church – playing our praises.

The Church also listens.  Who has not thrilled to an especially well-rendered “ Pastoral Symphony “ of Handel’s MESSIAH?  Or ever forgotten the stirring strains of Christian’s High’s Band in rendering their Spring Concert?  To which member of the congregation does not Heaven seem a bit closer when the majestic peal of the organ precedes the Sabbath’s message?  Truly, listening too is a skill and needs much practice to be perfected.  We would do well, therefore, to cultivate a good musical listening and discrimination.

How then can we develop this third musical skill?  The Civic Auditorium of our own city presents many programs; Christian High has its vocal and instrumental concerts; our day schools present Christmas and Easter programs; there are a variety of good records which may be borrowed from the library or bought for one’s own record library.  There is much good music to which we can listen.

Let us take for granted that the students have some kind of musical background such as the fundamentals of notes, sounds and singing.  In this way they will also enjoy music, especially that which is rhythmic and melodic.  At this time we wish to make the student aware of classical music.

We may divide classical music into several categories, all of which cannot be thoroughly discussed here.  Let us take a look at a few of them.

Nationalistic music has been written by the composer with the glory of his fatherland uppermost in his mind.  The music may be partly programmatic in that tells a story, such as Smetana’s THE MOLDAU, but this is not necessarily true.  In introducing a piece of nationalistic music, one would most likely begin with the composer, his life and type of music, a brief exposition of what to expect from his music would be followed by the record itself.  A diagram of the phases or stages may placed on the blackboard and followed throughout the playing of the record.  Thus, one could see and hear THE MOLDAU as it progresses from its beginning in the Bohemian forest to its final, quiet flowing toward Prague.  This may also successfully be carried out with 1812 OVERTURE by Tchaikovsky.

Programmatic music, or that which tells a story, is probably most easily recognized and learned.  One needs to hear the story of  THE  SORCERER’S APPRENTICE or  THE CARNIVAL OF ANIMALS but once or twice to apply the words to music.  What interesting story music can tell!  What a wonderful gift man has been given!  One stands in awe at the brilliance God has given in order to write as he does.

Take, for instance, another form of classical music, that of the symphonies.  In the studies of the lives of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Handel, Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, one marvels at their abilities at such an early age.  Familiarity with their music increases our wonder.  To children and teenagers, however, their music may be a mass of noise and unrelated tones; here again, the simpler ones should be taught first; these would gradually give way to the deeper, more complex ones.  One may begin with the history and presentation of the suites, a group of fairly short movements in various rhythms and tempos but which are all in the same key.  From this, music history tells us, developed the form of the sonata.  With the advent of this new form, audiences were made aware of keys and their relationships; they listened to composers daring experiments of modulation and transposition.  This in turn, developed into the classical symphony.  Orchestras played the sonatas, enhancing and enriching the structure of the original sonata.

Symphonies are hauntingly beautiful and, once recognizable, a joy to the listener.  Children will Tchaikovsky’s PATHETIQUE SYMPHONY, Beethoven’s MOONLIGHT SONATA and FIFTH SYMPHONY as well as Grieg’s PEER GYNT SUITE.  Once more, the teacher will undoubtedly begin with the composer’s life and the background of the selection.  This time, themes and sub-themes would be pointed out.  Repetitious humming of favorite main themes will distinguish them and make them the pupil’s own.

The objection to teaching an appreciation of classical music seems to lie in the fact that the lives of some composers are anything but exemplary.  Aside from the music itself, I would advocate little stress on the composer’s life as such, but would emphasize the fact that, in no matter what circumstances a composer found himself – rich or poor, in health or in sickness – God used him in some small way to bring forth the gift of music.  To know that both, Smetana and Handel were deaf when they wrote their greatest works; that poverty drove many composers to sell now well-known works for a few pence in order to get enough bread to eat in order to live – this shows that man himself if nothing.  By using man as His tools in His Almighty sovereign good pleasure, God has given to us the gift of music – to sing and to play, but especially to hear.  May His Church be a singing, playing, listening Church, now in the midst of sin and disharmony, but later in Heavenly perfection.

“Why must we study grammar? I don’t want to go to college anyway; what good will it ever do me?” We, as teachers, sometimes hear these voiced questions either directly to us or in conversations the pupils carry one with each other. Is English grammar a “necessary evil” with which we can do without? Is it something only for the higher-educated individual? Is it a subject placed in the curriculum to challenge the brighter student and leave the slower learner completely in the dark? Or is it truly essential to all communication, written and oral? Is there a deeper purpose and reason to study this phase of learning?
According to Rev. H. Hanko in his paper prepared for several of our Teachers’ Institute meetings, grammar is “the ability to formulate sentences in harmony with the rules inherent in a language in order to communicate thoughts.” English grammar then, is based on rules which are essential to the English language; Latin, French and other languages have each its own set of rules – necessary to adhere to, if true communication is to take place.
Scripture itself reveals the truest means of communication: the Word. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God shows us that even in the beginning, the WORD was manifest, in that, through Him, all creation was called into being. That perfection, that holiness, that power of speech belongs to God alone. Man’s speech before the fall was a glorifying, God-centered speech. When he fell, his entire person, including the faculty of speech, became corrupt. His speech before the fall was perfect: Adam did not split infinitives, dangle participles, use incorrect grammar in any way: his speech was perfect. After the fall, all changed and man used his speech in the service of the devil. We, too, by nature, want nothing of God’s “regeneration” speech. But, sinners though we are, we are nevertheless called to walk in perfection before Him…in ALL things. Consider the numerous passages of Holy Writ which enjoin us to be perfect in God’s sight. This means, too, in our language, oral and written. “Study to shew thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). This applies to each of God’s people, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, young and old.
A person’s first contact with grammar is made in his early years of life. “Baby talk” often violates the rules of good grammar more often than teen-age slang. Because it is all the child hears and is directly spoken to him, it is the phase of language learned. Children mimic their elders: customs, way of walk, mannerisms and language. Choice of vocabulary impresses a child greatly. An older person may inadvertently say some things which, to his way of thinking, is permissible; for the youngster to repeat the same words would not be tolerated. Too, the child wishes to be “big” and will repeat words which he doesn’t understand—the larger the word, the greater the sense of achievement to the challenged youngster!
Often members of a household know better than to speak in a certain form, but either because they want to be “funny” for the moment or do not wish to be outstandingly correct, will lapse into incorrect grammar. This becomes increasingly easier and less noticeable to everyone. The result, of course, is that it soon becomes the rule rather than the exception and another bad habit is formed.
Soon after a child begins to make known his desires and thoughts verbally, his parents emphasize certain forms. Instead of “me go with daddy,” he is told to say “I go with daddy.” Instead of using his name first in a sentence, such as “Billy wants the puppy,” he is told to say “I want the puppy.” He is learning, unconsciously, the use of the subjective rather than the objective case for the subject of a sentence in the first example and a form of the pronoun in the second. Of course, he doesn’t know WHY they are correct, nor do his parents tell him at the time…but at the same time, he is learning the very fundamentals of English grammar!
As the child develops a greater vocabulary and literary sense, he is ready for the more intricate, formal phases of grammar. He must know the parts of speech – the differences between nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions and prepositions – their definitions and how they are to be recognized. He then puts this knowledge to use in constructing sentences, thereby following the rules governing subjects and predicates. With an ever-increasing vocabulary, he becomes more and more adept at putting his thoughts into writing or oral expression. He becomes skilled in writing various kinds of sentences, inverting the order of a sentence to avoid monotony, making colorful, interesting descriptions, attempting logical comparisons and presenting convincing arguments.
As he reaches junior high school age, the student becomes familiar with direct and indirect object, prepositional phrases, clauses and phrases and other grammatical structures. Grammar becomes an integral part of reading, writing and speaking. After much practice, he is no longer aware of the rule demanding that “a plural subject requires a plural verb” but automatically follows the rule. From being a hesitant, unsure individual groping about for words (as a child), he has reached the stage of selecting from a wide vocabulary and ways of speaking, so that he can think ahead of his speaking choosing carefully and knowing that in the end, he will be understood. A knowledge of these fundamentals makes his reading clearer and his other subjects certainly more understandable. His writing, too, should gradually show more fluency of thought, accurate accounting and description and concise analysis.
By the time young people enter high school, they should be able to speak and write correctly and fluently. Book reports, term papers and essay questions provide excellent opportunities for growth in written expression. And woe to the student who says, “I know the answer but don’t know how to put it down!”
A fundamental knowledge of English grammar is essential to understand everything read – this everyone will readily agree to. How much should one apply himself then, when, in order to know God’s revelation, he is to read the Holy Scriptures! Time and again, one finds a passage difficult to understand only because he skipped the key word or failed to interpret a mark or punctuation! Perhaps if there were more diligence in studying God’s Word, more time spent in daily reading (from the day a child learns to read…yes, even from the time he memorized the 23rd Psalm), one would not hear the cry that things pertaining to God’s kingdom are too difficult to comprehend in our day and age; that the church papers are too doctrinal; that even the Bible is too difficult to understand and should be written in modern day terminology. True, more words are being made very day in industry, business, science and everyday living. But should it be necessary to adapt Scripture to our everyday vocabulary because it makes it “clearer and more meaningful” – substituting you and your for thee, thou and thine? For making virgin mere maiden? Some are inclined to think this is necessary. Others are in favor of changing our confessions as well (see Editorial of the Church Herald, March 27, 1959). And all can be traced to the fact that reading in the Biblical “terminology” is too difficult or irrelevant. But what say WE? Let us be aroused to the danger at hand! By the grace of God, may we be filed with a longing to seek Jesus, overcome with a sense of our inadequacies and sinfulness, assured of His faithfulness and love for His people – and go to His wonderful Word! Let us go to our confessions and His Word and read them regularly; let us study the means whereby our ministers teach us that Word: our periodicals; let us delve into the arguments of the apostle Paul and follow them step by step! Only through frequent repetitious study can we know our distinctive truth and be able to defend it. Only by a thorough knowledge can we witness of God’s marvelous works, whether it be orally or by the written word. Oh, God, grant us the faith and strength that we too may study to show ourselves approved of Thee, workmen “that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth!”

Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 4 May 1959

The day that little Johnnie and Susie set out for their first day in kindergarten, their entire knowledge is based on the home. In a few weeks it will include a schoolroom, a teacher and a host of new friends. In a matter of several years, these two will have gone through several grades, each taught by the same teacher and undergoing the same experiences. One would think each should have the same reaction to new situations, the same amount of knowledge and the same degree of enthusiasm for school. Yet each is different.

Let us look prior to that first day of school. Actually, the first few years of each Johnnie’s and Susie’s lives were more formative than the ones in the early grades. Each family had set up its own pattern of conduct, language, manners and morals. And, as each child accepted that which his parents did, it can easily be seen why Johnnie and Susie are basically different. No matter how parallel their lives seem to be in school, their fundamental home training and background will always distinguish them. Scripture teaches us: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). The home, then, is the builder of all later attitudes, manners and behavior.

But let’s return to Johnnie and Susie. Few people realize the emotional disturbance caused in many children when leaving home for school. With two loving guides, loyalty is often torn between the home and the school. School children yearn for teacher’s recognition but beneath everything else, desire the secure knowledge of their parents’ attitude and love. The approval of teachers can never compete with the love of parents in motivating children’s learning.

If, then, there are differences between home and school, how can they be solved, What must he lone in order that the two may work cooperatively for the benefit of each child? And, from our own distinctive point of view, how can the children under our guidance he led in Christ-loving ways to become the most lively, yet steadfast and firm Christians in the church of tomorrow?

Before one can solve any problem, one must know that with which he is working. Parents and teachers should know first of all what to expect of a given child or age group at one particular level. The mother and father in the home learn to know their child gradually and see him develop in many phases. To the beginning teacher, and even to those who have taught many years, potentials and abilities must be found and studied before she can proceed. Often it takes her an entire year to study and understand one child; and then he passes on to the next grade.

Differences are also found in educational procedures. What has been done in the past is often being replaced with other procedures now. And because parents are interested in their children learning and being successful in their work, it is the responsibility of the teacher to inform them of the progress that is being made. Parents should be helped to understand their children physically, emotionally and socially, not only as a “curriculum absorbing unit.”

In reporting pupil progress, educators have used three methods. The first, with which we are acquainted, is the report card method. Secondly, that of conferences and thirdly, a combination of the two. Of the three, the third, that of having report cards interwoven with conferences, is becoming more popular, especially in the public schools. In many Christian schools, report cards are supplemented with the conferences, very rarely replaced by them.

There are two kinds of conferences. The first is the group meeting, generally held with one purpose in mind that should be brought to the attention of the group. This group meeting may be held for purposes of introducing a new grade to parents, describing the goals which should be attained throughout the year. Here, too, parents may meet other parents with children the same age level as theirs. Many a parent has gone home from such meetings, relieved that she is not the only one with a certain type of problem.

A variation of this group meeting is the “question and answer” type of meeting. Questionnaires are previously sent out and collected. A program can then be arranged in more detail. This usually develops into a panel or a general discussion.

Another type of group meeting is one for the purposes of instruction. The more understanding of school procedures, the more harmony and cooperation one will find between home and school. The preschool roundup for beginning kindergartners and their mothers is an excellent example of such a meeting. Open House demonstrations, Achievement Day displays , and lectures are other examples of group meetings held for the purpose of instruction.

The second and more common type of conference, however, is the private parent‑teacher conference. The teacher makes her preparations for the meeting by gathering examples of the child’s work and making note of specific instances of certain attitudes. Friendly greetings upon the arrival of the parents establish good relationship and convinces both parties that this conference is to be the medium through which their particular child may he helped.

Perhaps one of the hardest conferences is the one called because of misbehavior. Emotions of both parents and teachers are highly colored and often emotional outbursts occur which later both parties wish had never happened. An emergency meeting such as this calls for special attention and prayer for guidance by both teacher and parents. At the meeting, the purpose should be stated as simply as possible. Though difficult to do, one should try to divorce the action or misbehavior from the pupil himself without being too objective about it. Once it is clearly understood that the misconduct and not the child is disliked, the conference may terminate successfully.

After the conference, which may take anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes, the teacher may make her report. Note‑taking during a conference is generally frowned upon, but a brief, objective report placed in the child’s cumulative folder is often helpful to his next teacher. The report would contain the date of the interview, who initiated it, the difficulty met and the cooperative planning done. This is not done to “tattle” to the next teacher but is a sincere effort to help her understand the child.

The ideal in parent-teacher conferences has not been met. A regular schedule is hard to establish due to working hours of parents, baby-sitting problems and other meetings as society or catechism. At present, many parents and teachers must be content with brief talks at Mothers’ Club, PTA and Open House. Far from being private, these hurried discussions often are mere formality unless a persistent problem arises; then, usually a private conference is scheduled or the parties involved retire to a private room.

The solution for our schools for better understanding of the home? Perhaps we can arrange conferences by means of a questionnaire; perhaps we can improve our methods at Open House and PTA. I believe this matter needs a lot of consideration, for only through complete understanding between home and school may our Johnnies and Susies have the secure conviction that parents and teachers are interested in their welfare; that they love them and want to guide them in the steps of their Master Teacher. Through these combined efforts, may they, as covenant children, love and seek to attain knowledge of this wonderful world which reveals their Maker. Whatever the solution, may we as parents and teachers always strive for better understanding of each other in bringing up God’s covenant youth – to the best of our abilities.

Christmas! What a glorious, awesome season! A day full of dedication and glorying in the Christ-child of Bethlehem! To this Child we render prayers of thanksgiving for that salvation which is ours. We, His people, do this – for the world can never really praise the Holy One. They are separated from Him, from the love of God and from that wonderful salvation which is for only His elect. And yet, of all the seasons, this one ironically is filled with the trite sayings and mottos of “brotherhood of man,” “peace for all,” and “goodwill toward men.” For does not everyone know about Christmas and its general celebration? Even if the Christ IS omitted (and then there is only X-mas!) isn’t there still a time of gaiety, rejoicing and merriment? Witness not only the brightly colored stores, counters and advertisements, the gaily decorated homes and lawns, but listen also to the oft-repeated, time-worn, soon-wearying phrase, “Merry Christmas!” On everyone’s lips, the message soon loses its significance, ceases to inspire spiritual response, and becomes a cold, formal verbalism – expressing nothing regarding the true meaning of Christmas. Whether written or spoken, the Christmas greeting is rarely given or received in the spirit of Christ.

Soon the mail carriers will be working overtime. A special crew will be recruited to make two or three deliveries of mail a day – mostly seasonal greetings. Some will be sent across the entire continent, others from state to state, from city to city, and some pass from neighbor to neighbor.

Taking as an approximate figure for the total population of the United States 130 million, we can safely estimate on the average of three per family, that there are some 43 million families in the U.S. Each family receives at least 10 cards, making a total of at least 430 million cards. At five cents a card and two cents for postage, we arrive at the staggering sum of thirty million, one hundred thousand dollars, spent annually to send the season’s greetings from house to house.

And that figure is conservative.

What is the prompting behind such an influx of well-wishing? Certainly the whole movement would mean nothing unless the purpose were true, the motive sincere and the outcome would warrant such an outlay! Just what ARE some of the motives which prompt this activity?

Many people send greetings only out of custom. It has been done year after year – it is almost expected of one. Too, it is the accepted thing to do; the approach is one of social obligation which must be fulfilled. Since the Jones family remembered the Browns last year, it is only proper that the Browns remember the Jones this year. Mailing lists grow over a period of years, often to people from whom nothing has been heard or seen for several years. Some will send cards to friends to inform them that they still are in existence, a sort of “Hello, I’m still here” – without feeling the obligation to write a long letter; the Christmas card takes care of that neatly. And then there are the many cards sent to those whom one meets frequently – members of the immediate family, relatives, church members, classmates, friends, bus drivers, milk men, grocery men, garbage collectors, ad infinitum. No matter if this person is given a verbal greeting a day or two before Christmas, a written one is often necessary to complete the list. Lastly are the many greetings which are made in the form of advertisements: calendars, newspaper “ads,” specially printed company cards, etc. And thus the list grows.

Should one not be happy that Christmas is so well-known, appreciated and celebrated? Is this matter of Christmas greetings, either by card or verbally, so very serious? No, this would not be serious – if it were not for the fact that Christ’s Name and the commemoration of His Holy birth are associated with all of the above motives. One thinks of the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” You realize that the Name of Jesus, the Son of God, is included in that Holy Name of our God; that as part of that perfect, Holy Trinity, He is one with God the Father. Consider the wonder of all ages, the incarnation of the Holy One as the lowly Babe of Bethlehem. Listen to the heavenly choir as their voices echo and re-echo through the ages, “Glory to GOD is the highest and on earth peace to the men of His goodwill.” Then compare, if you will, the greetings sent out far and wide, in His name, in the so-called “Spirit of Christmas.” What a mockery it becomes! The Perfect One is brought down to the level of common use, is become a trade name, a lure for advertising, an excuse to persuade men to join into the spirit for “peace for the world.” See then the silly, meaningless cards and greetings on display – sparkling scenes and brightly colored figures, all in some way connecting their message with that Holy Name and Event! How obvious it then becomes that a wicked work desecrates every sacred thing with which it comes in contact! Twisting the Scriptures, desecrating the Sabbath, they now dishonor the very name of Christ with their seasonal greetings. It apparently matters not if the holy and profane are indiscriminately mixed – Santa Claus on the cover and the words of Scripture within. One cannot help but paraphrase the third commandment as: Thou shalt not take the Name of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, and the wonder of His incarnation, in vain.

And God will not hold him guiltless who does.

Because of the abuse by the world, must we find seasonal greetings therefore wrong? If not, how then should they be used?

First of all, we must take the stand that any greeting can only rightly be made by a Christian, because it is in any form, really invoking God’s blessing on the object. This is so much so, that a greeting, by kiss in oriental fashion, is, in Scripture, referred to as “an holy kiss.” A Christmas greeting then, can only be made by the children of God, because it is set in direct connection with Christ. None but the righteous understand the joy of His coming, the happiness it brings, the praise it invokes. Only they can express the wonder in a true “Blessed Christmas” greeting – to those of the same household of faith. Thus full of praises and thanksgiving for the wonder of Bethlehem, can His own look forward with gladsome mind to the yearly celebration of His birth.

It is almost CHRISTMAS! Keep it CHRIST-centered, a living dedication and a hope for the future – a future which sees Him coming from heaven as He was seen going to heaven: on the very clouds, to call His elect home. Then and then only may we confidently sing, paraphrasing the angels’ song: Glory to God in the highest and on earth there is peace for the men of His goodwill.

The last exams have been given and taken; books are replaced in cupboards; personal things are taken home; permanent records have been marked; the last report cards handed out; and graduation exercises completed – and another academic year comes to a close.

What a wonderful year! I am sure that our other schools have experienced, as we have at Adams Street, that God has truly been good to us. For as the psalmist said (Psalm 127:1): “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” This verse, spoken so many years ago, also applies to the last bygone days and weeks. In His strength, we have received. Subjects, which at times seemed unnecessary to study, were seen from another viewpoint when seen in the light of His word. Geography and history were not merely chronological happenings without a purpose, but were seen as an unfolding plan and revelation of God. English and arithmetic taught us that God is a God of logic and order. Science showed the wonders of His creation, and the insignificance of man. And Bible brought us the closest of all to the throne of our majestic Lord. True, we received much intellectual knowledge regarding this wonderful Book; but I know, too, that we also drew closer to our Saviour, in an experiential way. And through these, we have grown; have been built; brought closer to maturity and responsibilities we must assume.

“Except the Lord build…” Yes, except He build, all this year has been vain; all those lessons learned, all those hours of study, all those tests; what a wasted time! But thanks to God, it has not been wasted. Truly Protestant Reformed education; daily lessons applied in the light of His word; presented to covenant children by dedicated teachers; has been preserved. With this early fundamental background, our children have a firm foundation for secondary education. And growth will continue; for God has promised to our covenant youth a precious heritage. May we have grace to see that early training of our children in the three-fold atmosphere of home, church and school, is our calling!

To some, our direct calling is that of mother and father in the home. There, the Lord lays the foundation and begins the early building of covenant youth. In daily intimacy, the child quickly learns right from wrong; what is pleasing to God, and what is not. The years fly by, and soon it is time for others to manifest their calling. The minister in the church, with weekly catechetical instruction, acquaints his students with – not only Biblical stories and facts – but sound Protestant Reformed doctrine as well. As he grows older, his interest expands to Young People’s Society, and various other types of church meetings, where again, qualified leaders, called by God, lead the young church in the pastures of God’s Word.

But at the same time that the young child enters catechetical work, he also begins his academic training. Blotches of colors are no longer nameless, but can be distinguished; symbols take on meaning and form words; and even the art of printing his own name is mastered in a very short time. Years pass by, and the fundamentals of reading are applied to branches of higher learning of geography, history, and so on. Arithmetic becomes more involved – and mystifying – but also very challenging. Science, civics, and nature study, are constantly demanding earlier learned material to be applied to new situations. These various learning procedures are the calling of our Protestant Reformed teachers. And these teachers see, that just as the early training in school work is important, is basic, for a child’s future studies and work, so is his training and upbringing in the spiritual realm necessary for a full Christian life. For truly, as Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Teaching – what a glorious calling! True, it is not the easiest nor the most popular profession. Years of training are necessary, and a lot of hard work is involved – but I do believe it is the most satisfying. For a job well done, results cannot always be found in black and white or rewards given a tangible form. To further explain: At the end of each school term, I try to remember how the boys and girls were at the beginning of the term – and am amazed at the transition which has occurred. In one short ten-month period, students have gained so much in the way of knowledge, attitudes, and habits. They have become older in their thinking – decisions come more easily. Indeed, one stands in wonder at the creatures God has made and His wonderful work within them.

Not in just one, but in each grade level, there is a challenge. To see youngsters work, study, play, developing into Christian young men and women, is one of the most gratifying and humbling experiences to encounter. Four years have slipped by since I began teaching at Adams; and my first class, sixth graders, this year graduates. How they have changed! From mere children, they have grown to young people on the threshold of a new, exciting life at Christian High. Of course, they have grown physically – all children do; and they have grown mentally – all children do. But I think you will agree with me when I say that our young people, from our own schools, have also grown spiritually. Their powers of spiritual discernment, shown in sermon reports, is amazing; discussions in Bible, and their general attitudes toward our churches, certainly show that God loves and preserves His own covenant youth as the future church. God grant that we may keep it so – distinctively Protestant Reformed, always!

And, we remember, the LORD builds. God does not merely lay the foundation and then hand over the cement, stones, etc. to us to complete the building of His church. For then all would be lost and vain. But no, through the years, HE continually builds, forming and shaping that perfect church. How beautiful! God as the Great Architect, plans a beautiful structure; forming and building as a potter makes a vessel from the clay. And as in an earthly building there are always just enough stones – not too many or too few – so it is with the heavenly building. An earthly builder does not leave one or two stones out of that wall; that would not be complete. Nor does he, when the building is complete, add to that building, stones which serve no purpose, and which do not belong there; that would be superfluous. No, there is just enough – always!

And so it is with God’s building. He has all the “stones” necessary. His spiritual home will be complete. None will be missing, for then God would be lacking; would be insufficient; there is not one extra, for then God is not perfection. But again, there are just enough; only those “stones” for whom Christ died, will be members of that wonderful Structure. And then the Church will stand; pure, holy, redeemed – a fit Bride for the Majestic, ever-glorious Bridegroom, unto all eternity.

Summary of a speech given by Rev. Walter Hofman reported by Miss. Hulda Kuiper

 

What is the greatest of all things? Many have tried to define it and many were scorned. Both Christ and Paul were considered insane because they believed that the greatest thing was LOVE. Not only they, but we as well, are scoffed at because we do not enjoy ourselves according to the custom of the world. But what do we consider to be the greatest thing in our lives? Is it the high ideals of the world, to be the best in the profession of our choice to the extent of pride? No: the greatest is LOVE; greater than faith, greater than hope, for they both spring from the Love of God which is in our hearts. Nothing is of value without being rooted in, performed in love.

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that though we could sing or speak as angels; prophesy and understand mysteries; have the faith to remove mountains; though we could make the best use of our talents and still have no love—we are nothing. THAT love must be the motivation and end of everything we do, for without it we are “become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

God Himself is love and made His world in love. And though man fell into sin, love did not, for do we not read in John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have ever-lasting life.”? And because God has given us that love and has given us to Christ, Christ returns us to God, to the sphere of perfect love, true sons and (laughters of the Father, into that lovely home above there and there only will love forever endure.

And whose is this love? It is God’s love. He is the source. Everything of love is a reflection of His beautiful working. Because God loves Himself, all love given must be a manifestation of Him. Those whom He chose, he implanted with love. In His beloved Son on Calvary He showed forth His love; at the ascension of Christ, He showed His love for He received Christ into the glorious heaven of heavens.

“Herein is love, not that we first loved God, but that He loved us.” Seeking to walk in His ways is the manifestation of that love in us. God’s love in us, shown in our daily walk and returning to Him again, is the expression of exercise of His gift.

And that love NEVER faileth! How little we actually have shown this love in our lives! The principle which is expressed in our lives will, in the life to come, be perfected. For in eternity love.

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

Continue reading

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

Continue reading

The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

Continue reading

Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

Continue reading

Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

Continue reading

Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

Continue reading