“Let children learn God’s righteous ways and on him stay their heart, that they may not forget his works, nor from his ways depart” (Psalter #215, verse 6). This is the goal of our Protestant Reformed education. Our children of the church have the blessing of attending a Protestant Reformed school where the truths of God are taught not only in Bible class, but in every subject in the classroom. Question and Answer 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism states that God requires in the fourth commandment that the “ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained.” This maintaining of the school does not mean simply making sure that the building is clean and well kept. It does not mean making sure that the classroom is left neat every day after class. The goal of Protestant Reformed education is to provide children with a well-rounded and God-glorifying education. Three things must be considered: what this education really is, how this education must be taught to children, and the blessing and fruit of this education.
A basic definition of education is the “act or process of acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” Proverbs 1:7 says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” By putting these two definitions together, one can see that the education begins with the fear of the Lord. In Rev. Steven Key’s article “The Biblical Basis and Goal of Christian Education” (Standard Bearer, Nov. ‘05), he states
When you boil all things down, when you take every subject of study known to man, and take it right back to its root, you will find that there is really only one knowledge, one reality behind all things and from which all things flow.” There is only one true education that truly matters and that is one that is infused with the Word of God. “This one knowledge, this ever important knowledge, is what every teacher absolutely must teach his or her students.
How can this knowledge be taught in every subject? In the Belgic Confession, Article II, we read that we know God by two means: “first, by the creation, preservation and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book…secondly, he makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by his holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life to his glory and our salvation.” Obviously one of the greatest blessings of our schools is the teaching of Bible classes and the catechism classes. In these classes children learn the history of God’s people. They can see the early history of Israel and the Jews and then later see how the Gentiles are also included in the covenant. They learn several Bible passages by heart and discover the importance of several doctrines that they will hold dear to their hearts for the rest of their lives.
The teaching of spiritual aspects does not end with Bible class, for simply having Bible class does not constitute a Christian education. Science class is a study of God’s creation. The vastness of the universe makes man realize how small he really is. Psalm 8:3 and 4—”When I consider Thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” The Psalm goes on to show how every creature is under the direction of the Lord. The sand on the beach is a chance to talk of the covenant made with Abraham. The rainbow is a sign placed in the heavens as a promise to Noah. The study of the human body and other intricacies of the world makes one realize evolution is not even a possibility. God’s Word can easily be brought into every topic of science. Without God and faith in his word, the world is stumped by many scientific findings. I had a professor in a biology class who stated that the beginning of life is yet a mystery. The global warming fanatics search back billions of years to try to find a way to save our planet from overheating within the next several thousand years. What a way to live—not knowing where this earth came from and being so anxious about its future! As God’s people, we have faith in his Word, and we know without a doubt where this world came from and how life came about. We know everything in nature is under the sovereign control of God. This is what teachers must strive to teach and show students in the classroom God’s Word can also be taught in other areas. Mathematics deals with numbers, and there are several symbolic numbers in Scripture. When children are taught different colors, the symbolic meaning of colors in Scripture can be taught. Geography can be taught from a spiritual point of view in looking at the four corners of the earth and how God’s people are found in every culture of the earth. Students can learn the different religions of the world and defend their own faith against these other religions.
Incorporating God into every subject is not an easy task. No matter where one attends college, he or she will not be taught, how to do this. At the same time, if a Protestant Reformed teacher does not take this biblical perspective in their teaching, they will fail in their task. The Bible demands this of a teacher. The creeds and Church Order demand it. The parents and the school board demand it. The education children receive must be God-centered. This does not mean that the science, geography, history, and mathematics subject matter becomes less important in a Christian school. As quoted from Rev. Key’s article, “for our children to receive an education in isolation from the doctrinal truths that we profess to hold dear is detrimental to their spiritual health and welfare.” An education is extremely important for all children. This education must be well rounded in earthly matters, but even more importantly, it must be God-centered and God-glorifying. As Professor Engelsma says in his book Reformed Education, Scripture must be the foundation of every subject and worked into every aspect of the school in order for the children to truly receive a Christian education.
The task of teaching this education seems so daunting, and indeed, it is very hard work. But what exciting work it is, to teach others of the greatness of God, to teach them how to honor and serve him in every aspect of their life! A teacher cannot do this work of himself, but is used as an instrument in God’s hands to fulfill his perfect will. One knows that God will provide the strength necessary to carry out this great task. The fruit will be seen as these covenant children grow up and take their place in the church of God. They will be able to continue “in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:14-15).
This knowledge that covenant children will acquire in their younger years will surely bring forth fruit as they grow older. They will become solid church members and godly husbands and wives. Their well rounded instruction will serve them well as citizens of the country God has placed them in. They will be honest and just employers or employees in the work force. There is also a solemn warning here for us as the church of God. We must continue to maintain these Christian schools God has given to us. If we do not he will not continue to bless us in our generations and will also take his blessing from our schools as well. May we continue to strive to teach our children the ways of the Lord within these Christian schools—not for our own benefit, but for the glory and honor of God. He has promised to take care of his people, and we can be certain that we will persevere until the final day when he comes again to take us to be forever with him.
“Thou hast upheld me in Thy grace
From childhood’s early days;
To Thee from Whom I life received
Will I give constant praise—
Will I give constant praise!”
Psalter #190 verse 4
The Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Colorado hosted the Young People’s Convention this summer. It was held just outside of Estes Park, at the YMCA of the Rockies. The theme was “Surrounded by God.” This theme was chosen because just as the mountains surrounded the YMCA and conventioneers during the entire week at convention, so God is always around His people. The text was Psalm 125: 1, 2, and the theme song was Psalter #354, a versification of Psalm 125. The convention began with registration on Thursday, August 14, and ended on Tuesday, August 19.
Speeches and Sermons
Professor Russell Dykstra gave our first speech on Friday morning, and he spoke on “God is Our Protector.” He showed us how we often forget God is there to protect us, even as some of those who live in Colorado sometimes take the mountains for granted, and don’t wake up in awe of them every morning. We know how solid and secure the mountains are, and we must remember that God is even more steadfast than they are. We would never expect to wake up and find the mountains gone, and the same is true with God. He will always be there when we need Him. Prof. Dykstra closed by telling us God will always be our guard and our defense until death.
Rev. Charles Terpstra gave the Saturday morning speech, and he spoke on the “Character and Responsibility of God’s People.” He showed how we must be believing, trusting young people. By nature we don’t enjoy the thought that God is around us. As Christians, however, our character is that we are God’s people, and we must be thankful for that. We need God because we are sinners, and we are foolish to think that we could ever stand on our own, but they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mt. Zion.
This was the first convention to be held over a weekend. Sunday worship services were held in the auditorium. Rev. Eriks brought the Word of God to us in the morning, speaking on “Let Your Light So Shine.” His three points were 1) The Light, 2) The Calling to Shine, and 3) God-glorifying Purpose. The text was Matthew 5:14-16. He brought out how we as Christians have a calling to be lights in the darkness of this world, and that what we do reflects on the church of Jesus Christ. We must confess the truth, and be a witness to the world so that they see we are different, and not hide the truth. The purpose in doing this is for the glory of God. The world will see our good works, and God will use that for His purpose.
Professor Dykstra preached in the afternoon. The three points of his sermon, “Resisting the Roaring Lion,” were 1) Fierce Adversary, 2) Required Resistance, and 3) Unceasing Vigilance. The text was 1 Peter 5:8, 9. This adversary that we have against us is the devil, who has never quit working against the church, and has attacked many times using lies, worldly things, oppressions, and public opinions against the church. He is relentless, and is compared to a roaring lion, roaring in his fury against the church. We must resist this attacking and have courage. Man thinks life is all about fun, but we must not think this way. We resist the ways of the world in their parties and worldly music, etc. To resist the devil, we must not only know, but love the truth, and be steadfast and firm. Our calling is to be strong in the faith, and be sober and vigilant. We must put on the whole armor of God, so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil.
A singspiration was held on Sunday afternoon, immediately after the service. This included a number of songs sung by the Loveland Young People’s, a duet sung by two young people from Iowa, and audience singing. It was awesome to hear, especially the audience numbers, with so many voices joining together giving praise to God.
Rev. Ron Hanko gave the final speech to us on Monday morning. Due to some discipline difficulties that were dealt with on Sunday, he set aside his prepared speech, and spoke to us from his heart. It was very sobering for us to hear that, because of the previous night’s problems, his speech was no longer appropriate. However, his main point was not that the future of the Protestant Reformed Churches are in jeopardy because of the behavior of a few, but that our future was promising as he witnessed the behavior of the many. This promising future is not of our own doing either, but God continues to surround His people, even young people, to protect and preserve them and His Church until Christ returns.
Every day different activities were scheduled for us, which added a lot of fun to the convention. The first activity was on Thursday night, and was held in the Longhouse, a huge gym on campus at the YMCA. It was called the “Maverick Mixer,” and these games were geared so that we would meet new people. We met others with the same birthday, or birth month, as us; people with the same job we had; those who enjoyed the same sport we liked; and then we had to separate into groups according to the color of our shirts. In these groups we played a game with toilet paper. The roll was passed around and we took as many sheets as we wanted to, without knowing why. After that was done, we had to tell one thing about ourselves for every sheet we took. (Those in each group who had the most had to go up in front of everybody and tell at least 10 things about themselves.) After this we played Duck, Duck, Goose and Leapfrog.
Friday afternoon we played games in the “Rocky Top Rodeo.” Ten separate games were set up, and there were 20 teams, with two teams playing at each game station. After a round of games was over, ten teams would rotate around in one direction, while the other ten rotated in the opposite direction, so that no two teams would compete against each other more than once. Some of the games included: balloon stampede; a relay race over hay bales, through tires, and under more hay bales; wheelbarrow race; “barrel” racing with bikes on cement; horse-and-rider tug of war; and a gunnysack race.
Friday night all the conventioneers split into two groups and did separate activities. Saturday night we switched places and did the activity the other group had done the previous night. One group went to the Longhouse. Activities included roller-skating, and “crab” soccer. We also played another game where half the players laid on the ground with their heads all in a circle, and the other half stood around in a circle by the feet of those lying down. The object was for those lying down to kick the cage ball over the heads of those standing up, and once this was accomplished, everybody switched places, and so on. We could also play basketball or volleyball.
The other activity was outdoors in a field west of the lodges. We played Capture the Hat, with brightly colored cowboy hats. When it started getting dark, we headed over to a campfire where Jim Huizenga and Sara Huizenga were playing their guitars, and we sang along with them.
Saturday afternoon’s activity was called “Country Fair with a Western Flair.” Carnival-type games were brought in and set up in the open field. Some of these activities were: a climbing wall named “Climbing Longs Peak,” revolving ladders called “Raging River,” a dunk tank into which some of the chaps and ministers were dunked, and human foosball. There were some other games that were really fun too, and the whole thing was a blast.
Sunday night we played Bible Trivia. We split into 38 groups, and answered all the questions in the time we were given. After this, the two teams with the most answers correct went up to the front of the auditorium and competed for first place, while the rest of us watched. The first place team each got a T-shirt for their prize. This was an enjoyable game fit perfectly for the Sabbath.
“Spur-of-the-Moment” activities were done on Monday afternoon. We could sign up earlier to do archery, easy or moderate hikes, or horseback riding. We could also do other things around the YMCA, such as swim, mini-golf, go to the crafts building, etc. I went on the moderate hike. The name of this trail was “Bible Point,” and was a very pretty sight, especially at the end. We hit a rainstorm on the way down, which only added to the fun.
Discussion groups were held on Friday, Saturday, and Monday. After lunch we all met in the auditorium to listen to the introduction to each of these groups separately. We split into groups of about 20 with two chaps to discuss the topics.
The first discussion topic was “Is it Cool to be a Christian?” and was introduced by Rev. Charles Terpstra. We discussed Christian contemporary music, WWJD bracelets, bumper stickers, shirts, and hats, etc., that advertise Christ, and whether they were right or wrong. I think most of us concluded that there are so many other, Biblical ways to witness in the world, and by our walk people should be able to tell we are different. We don’t need to use the world’s methods to prove that we are Christians.
The second discussion group was “Taming the Tongue,” introduced by Mr. Larry Abel. We looked at many Scripture passages, and saw how the tongue affects our whole lives and shapes our character. We saw how we can use our tongues in so many different ways, both bad and good. We must control how we use our tongue, because what we say to someone may affect him for the rest of his life. We must always be on our guard about what we say, and not just speak without thinking. We cannot do this without God’s grace working in us, and must pray for strength to control our speech.
“Modesty” was the topic of the third discussion group, introduced by Rev. Garry Eriks. The guys and girls split into groups separately to talk about this. We discussed how the fashion designers are using swimsuits to “undress America,” and that wearing modest clothing is being downplayed by all fashion industries. By this we saw that we as Christians must wear modest clothing to set us apart from the world.
Banquet and Lock-in
The banquet was held at the Lazy B Ranch in Estes Park on Monday evening. We were given cowboy hats as we got off the buses as a souvenir of the convention. There were many things to do at the Lazy B, including a trivia game, shuffleboard, “bowling,” basketball, and volleyball. We just played or did whatever we wanted until it was time for supper. We were served roast beef or chicken, a baked potato, biscuits, baked beans, spice cake, and lemonade, coffee or water. After we were finished eating, four cowboys came out and entertained us by singing western songs. After they were finished, prizes were given out to conventioneers and chaps for many different things.
We then headed back to the YMCA, and went into the Longhouse for the night. The Y was strict on its quiet time, but they allowed us to spend the entire night in this huge gym. Most people went to sleep, but others stayed up all night and had a lot of fun. We played basketball, volleyball, and a variety of board games. In the morning we all headed for our last breakfast at the Y. We then all got ready to leave, and went to get on the buses that would take us to where we needed to go to get home.
On behalf of all the young people who attended the convention, I’d like to thank all those people who made, even in the slightest way, this convention possible. A special thanks to those who led the speeches and discussion group introductions, assisted ones who were sick or hurt, and all the chaperones who traveled from far and near and did a great job leading devotions and discussion groups. Also thanks to the committees who worked hard for over a year planning and organizing everything. Many friends and memories were made, and I believe it is a blessing for us as young people to be able to gather together so that we may grow more in the knowledge of the truth. I really enjoyed the convention this summer, and look very much forward to it next year.