Dear Dad,

I was sitting here thinking about our trip back to Michigan, and got to thinking of the visit we had with you at your house in New Amsterdam.

Sorry you were under the impression that we had already left and were gone without stopping in to see you. This could never be, you know, as the two things we went back there for was to visit you and my dad.

Sitting there listening to you and Jean talking together, after looking at your flowers and your garden, I got to thinking about all the years that have gone by and all the good times god has graciously given us. The more I thought of it, the more I was impressed by one thought. Father’s day will soon be here, and although you aren’t my dad, I thought I would sit down and put some thoughts on paper.

Fathers-in-law are generally not made a fuss over. Fathers are one thing, and we make a special effort to send them cards on Father’s Day, but fathers-in-law are not much celebrated.

I remember going out to your barn with an engagement ring in my pocket and asking your OK to give it to Jean. You said that would be fine and gave me your blessing. Then you finished helping that nanny goat deliver her kid.

Some thirty-eight years have gone by since that happened. Jean and I now have children of our own. Now I’m a dad-in-law. Looking back, that time seems to have gone by very swiftly. Your children grow up, and with all the work and care that goes along with brining up of a family, it seems that a good deal of the training of the children in the home falls on the mother. Without a God-fearing mother in the home, a marriage would be doomed to failure. It always struck me that at a time in your life when you have the least amount of sense, you make the most important decision of your life—who you will spend the rest of your life with.

I believe that God provides to every man his wife, and what a blessing when he gives you a God-fearing and good wife. Then the time soon comes when our children grow up, and a young man is soon standing there asking you for your daughter’s hand in marriage. You think back on all the memories, all the love you poured out on that little girl from the day that God gave her to you until now. You think of all the fun you’ve had with her, all the teaching of catechism lessons, all the prayer for her, and suddenly you are asked to give her away! You do, of course, if he is a child of God, and by this time you had better made it your business to know.

I guess what I’m writing about is that I’m not much good with words and being able to say what I want to, so I’m taking this way of putting them down on paper  so that I can sort them out and get them nearly right. What I really want to do is thank you for Jean. For thirty-eight years now she has stood by me through thick and thin. She has been a good Christian wife, and God has blessed our marriage with one son and two daughters. You read in Proverbs about how a husband is blessed by being given a godly wife. It puts her price far above rubies, and the heart of her husband delighteth in her.

Jean and I have brought up our children together. She has clothed and fed them, bandaged up their hurts, sung them to sleep, and most of all taught them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She saw to it that they knew their catechism lessons and that they knew their Sunday School verses. She has been a good wife and mother, and I thank God for her continually.

Since we are now grandparents, she has a new job—that of helping our grandchildren. One imagines that when the children are all gone out of the house, then the responsibility and worry is over. You soon learn that this is not so. A grandmother and grandfather has a position of great importance in the minds of their grandchildren. I watch Jean with the grandchildren and see that she is also a good grandmother.

God has blessed us with ten grandchildren, and we see our childrens’ children being brought up in what we believe to be the true church. The fact that we married in the Lord and are faithfully bringing up our grandchildren is a great comfort to us.

When we left, you said to me, “Take good care of my little girl.” That kind of got to me, I guess, and I guess I started thinking of these things. Don’t worry—I’ll do my best to take care of your “little girl.” You see, I love her same as you do. I received from God a good Christian life that day I married her, and we have been most richly blessed.

You are now 89 years old. That’s old for the children of men. You seem to live a useful and enjoyable life with your garden and keeping old ladies supplied with fresh vegetables—with the hope of fresh-baked pies in return. You expressed your readiness to go the home that God has prepared for you, eternal in the heavens.

So before you do, I take this opportunity to thank you for everything you have done for us, and especially for Jean.

Your son-in-law,

Ray Ezinga

It was a beautiful day The Colorado sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, and at 10,000 feet we could see for miles in the clear mountain air. Far below in the edge of the meadow the two white tents were clearly visible, as were my mules that were contentedly munching on the grass. Elk hunting season has always been my favorite time of the year and today everything seemed perfect—all except for the young man who lay on the ground near me. He was gasping for breath, his pupils were dilated, and he was showing every sign of approaching shock. His face was pasty white and he could hardly talk. Now this was a big strapping fellow, the picture of health, and that morning he had insisted on making the climb with my son, Steve, and I.

What was the matter with him? His lungs were shot. Ruined by a pack of cigarettes a day. Since that time, having run into this problem often enough, I will not take other hunters that smoke. There was a time when we knew very little about smoking. Although, I can remember way back when my uncle referred to them as cancer sticks, or coffin nails, as he showed me how tough he was by lighting one up and puffing away. I visited him a week before he died from lungs full of cancer. He didn’t look too tough then.

Since that time we’ve learned a lot about this miserable habit. Science and medicine have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that smoking is a deadly habit. Statistics show that in the U.S. 400,000 people die of smoking each year. Tobacco kills more Americans than auto accidents, homicide, AIDS, drugs, and fires combined. Also, 137,979 people die from smoking related cardiovascular diseases each year. One-third of all youth smokers will die from tobacco related diseases. Every day, 339 people die from lung cancer.

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Today, in the U.S., tobacco products will kill 1,200 people.

Recently, my wife and I went to a special exhibit on the human body at the Denver Museum. The most striking thing we saw was the lungs and heart of a healthy human, and that of a smoker. The healthy lungs were pinkish-white, the other a dirty brown like old shoe leather. What was impressive was the size of the smoker’s heart; about twice the size of the healthy heart, enlarged from being overworked.

With cigarettes at about $5 a pack, a pack-a-day habit comes to approximately $1,825 a year. As Christians, we are required to be good stewards of the money God gives us. How does smoking fit in with the 6th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”? Q&A 105 of the Catechism reads, “That I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger.”

When I was a small boy, I went with my dad to First Church at Fuller & Franklin where Classis or Synod was being held. All the men wore black, or dark suits, over white shirts. During break they all went outside, and I can still, in my mind’s eye, see them looking like so many penguins, all puffing on their cigars or pipes. I asked Dad, “How come they all smoke?” Dad said that they thought it added an air of dignity or profoundness. Thankfully, most of our ministers got over this idea.

I’m 73 years old now, and I look at our young people. They are the pride and future of the church. They will bring forth the covenant seed. God has given them healthy bodies, and it is with great sorrow that I see many of them smoking. On the average, it cuts 12 years from your life. Smoking is a filthy habit that destroys and kills these bodies.

Smoking is against the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Do we even think about these things? Do we even care?

Hollywood with all its movies glorifies smoking. It didn’t take long before even the women of the church began to emulate the sleazy women who were promoted as being so very glamorous. Women pay a terrible price for smoking. Statistics show that 178,000 women die each year, and every year cigarettes leave 12,000 children motherless. Her smoking in the home is especially harmful to young children. Because of this, 150,000 infants and children under 18 months of age suffer from lower respiratory tract infection. This results in from 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations each year, and causes 1,900–2,700 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the U.S. annually. Second-hand smoke also aggravates symptoms of asthma in 400,000–1,000,000 children.

Lung cancer is deadly. 85% of patients die within five years of their diagnosis. 85% of people with lung cancer are former smokers. Today, women are smoking and dying because of it more than ever before. In the U.S. 30,000–60,000 people die each year as a result of second-hand smoke related heart diseases.

There is another aspect that seems to have been completely forgotten. We as churches put forth great effort and expense to fulfill our calling to spread the gospel. We send out tracts, we contact neighbors and friends inviting them to visit our churches. Some of these people come from backgrounds of churches that have had the intestinal fortitude and clear understanding of God’s law, and have been brought up to know that smoking is a sin. I have personally seen these people come to attend our churches only to turn away, never to come back, when they see our people smoking at church. Paul in I Corinthians 8 tells us that we may not offend that brother for whom Christ died. Many have given their lives for the gospel. It would seem that giving up smoking is not too much to ask.

Our lungs are wonderful things. They take the oxygen out of the air, making everything else work. We can only marvel at the wonder of the human body. Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

It is encouraging to see that smoking has been banned from our Young People’s Conventions.

Let us as young people and churches give prayerful consideration to this serious problem. You want to DIE—smoke. You want to LIVE—quit, or don’t start. Yes, I know about the guy who smoked all his life and lived to be 90. Just think if he had not smoked, he could have lived to be a ripe old age!

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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Judah: A Story of Redemption

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021.   The story of Judah is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. We often overlook this history because it is nestled in the middle of the story of Joseph. All the […]

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