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Rev. Steven Houck, the son of Merton Hilmer Houck and Jessie Elizabeth Houck, was born on January 31, 1948. His mother’s maiden name was Line. He was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, and grew up in Cromwell, Minnesota, which is a country town about 40 miles west of Duluth, Minnesota.

As he was growing up, Rev. Houck attended Eagle Lake Grade School and Cromwell High School. After high school, he attended Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, and Bellvue College in Bellvue, Nebraska, which is next to Omaha. He also had two years of pre-seminary at our seminary in Grandville, Michigan.

When Rev. Houck was a teenager, he attended a public school, so he faced many temptations to live like the world. Many in his class drank, smoked and caroused around. Dirty language was common. Someone was always pushing around someone who was smaller than he. Rev. Houck sees that these things are the same temptations facing young people today. A young person has to make up his or her mind whether he or she is going to live as a Christian or not. Rev. Houck says that it will mean standing out in a crowd. You will not be popular, but that is our calling as Christians.

As he was growing up, Rev. Houck’s hobbies included going bird and deer hunting and fishing often. He also liked to play chess. He still goes hunting and fishing now and then. He usually plays a game or two of chess on Christmas and Thanksgiving. He also likes to spend time on his computer.

While he was a student at Grace Bible Institute, Rev. Houck met Carolyn Joyce Riezanstein, who was from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. They courted for about a year and were married on May 17, 1969. The Lord blessed them with six children: Elizabeth, Sarah, Joel, Nathaniel, Jeremy and Daniel. Rev. and Mrs. Houck had many happy times together with their children. Next to spiritual things, children are the greatest blessing God gives to believers. The Houcks were married for 32 1/2 years. Mrs. Houck died on December 26, 2001, at the age of 56. Rev. Houck and his children miss her very much, but they know she is with her Lord and in perfect happiness.

When he was only nine years old, Rev. Houck began to think about the ministry. At that time his father died, and he began to think seriously about life, death and God. His father’s death made him realize that there was another life after this life, a heaven and hell, and that the life to come was the most important. When he was a junior and senior in high school, he felt God calling him to be a minister. God gave him a love of the Holy Scriptures. Rev. Houck would spend hours every day reading and studying his Bible. One of the books which God used to call him to the ministry was the book, “Through Gates of Splendor,” written by Elizabeth Elliot. This book is about the missionary labors of her husband, Jim Elliot, and his martyrdom. God used this biography to give Rev. Houck a desire to give his life for the gospel.

Besides the experiences He gave Rev. Houck while he was growing up, God also prepared him for the ministry through his Bible school training. This training gave him an understanding of God’s Word. Most of all, he values his seminary training where he learned about expounding Holy Scripture and preaching. God used everything in Rev. Houck’s life to prepare him for the ministry. Every person he has known, every experience he has had, in one way or another was part of his training.

When they heard of his desire to enter seminary, Rev. Houck’s family, especially his mother, was very happy. They knew that the ministry is a very high calling and that it is a great privilege for a young man to be called of God to serve Him in His kingdom. Since Rev. Houck attended a public school, his peers did not care one way or another about his desire for the ministry. They did not care about spiritual things, and they mocked and ridiculed him and the few others who were Christians.

Regarding the most memorable event of his years in seminary, Rev. Houck says he cannot remember one event that stands out above all others. He does remember that he greatly enjoyed the study of God’s Word and learning new things. This helped him grow spiritually. Most of all, he was impressed with how faithful God was to him and his family. Even though he had a wife and children and his time was very limited, God saw to it that he could finish his lessons, write his papers, read the outside reading, study for exams and still spend time with his wife and children. They were very dependent upon the Lord for everything, and the Lord never failed them. The Lord was always there and gave them what they needed spiritually and physically. Those were days when the Lord drew them very close to Him.

After he was ordained in 1979, Rev. Houck became a missionary. His first charge was in East Lansing, Michigan, and his second charge was Modesto, California. He has been the pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois for 12 years. This is his first pastorate. He loves the work of being a pastor, but he also misses the work of the missionary. He is thankful to God that He has given him the privilege of doing both kinds of work.

Regarding the teaching of children in catechism, Rev. Houck loves teaching both the younger children in grade school and the older children in high school. It is a wonderful thing for him to see the children grow up in the Lord. Having been at Peace PRC for 12 years, he has taught some of the young people ever since they were in the first grade. He considers them to be his children. He rejoices when he sees them make confession of faith and he is happy for them when he sees that they are sincere about believing and loving the truth. When they struggle with difficulties and face hardships, he sorrows with them. It also brings him much joy to witness young children coming to understand certain truths for the first time. Sometimes the young children bring a little humor into his life. Their misconceptions about certain things bring a smile to his face.

As a minister, it is most rewarding for Rev. Houck to witness a member of the congregation who had gone astray come back to the truth and to the ways of righteousness. The Lord has given him the opportunity to witness this many times. He feels so helpless when a member walks in sin and will not listen to the Word of God. His heart is broken when he sees one of God’s people forsake the Lord. But then God in His grace and mercy turns the sinner around and brings him to repentance so that he returns to the right way. This makes a pastor realize that God’s grace is an almighty power that can do anything. All the work the pastor and elders do is not in vain. The Lord uses their feeble efforts to build His Church.

Even though he is a middle-aged pastor, Rev. Houck does not have any memories of the two major controversies which we faced as churches. He did not even know about the PRC until just before 1974 when he and his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Minneapolis and joined Hope PRC. He has studied the controversies of 1924 and 1953, and is convinced that the issues involved are very important. He says that as churches we must not abandon our heritage. We must be faithful in our rejection of common grace and the free offer of the gospel. We also must stand firm in our view of a sovereign unconditional covenant that God establishes with His elect people in Christ. These doctrines are dear to Rev. Houck. They are the reason why he joined the PRC. He was raised a Methodist and was for a time a fundamentalist, but he became Reformed, specifically Protestant Reformed, because he believes the Reformed faith over against all others to be the truth of God’s Word.

Rev. Houck has fond memories of the love that was shown to him and his family by the Hope congregation in Walker, Michigan. They started attending Hope Church when they moved to Grand Rapids from Minnesota and eventually became members there. They were received with open arms. There was always a place to go for Sunday coffee and Sunday evening. Their calendar was full for months. People were kind to them and helped them in many different ways. Whenever Rev. Houck runs across someone who falsely accuses the PRC of not being friendly, he points out this experience. No outsider could have been received better. It made them realize that the PRC not only had the Truth, but they also manifested their love for the Truth in their lives.

To young men who are considering the ministry of the Word to be their calling, Rev. Houck has this advice: “Every young man ought to consider the ministry. He ought to recognize that there is no higher calling and that the rewards of this calling are great. Not financially, but spiritually. If a young man is to consider this calling, he must love God’s Word, because a minister must spend a great deal of time in God’s Word. He ought to love to study the Scriptures. He also ought to feel a burden to bring God’s Word to others. The truth of Scripture ought to be so important to him that he must tell others.”

Concerning the thinking, attitudes, and behavior of the young people, Rev. Houck says that they, like the adults are greatly affected by the wicked world around us. We are too materialistic. We dress too much like the world. We have too much interest in fun and games. Living the antithetical life that is described in the Bible is the greatest struggle for young people and adults. Too many people call themselves Christians but live like unbelievers.

Rev. Houck is encouraged by our young people’s faith in and love of God’s Word. He has seen young people show great interest in the Truth and yearn to learn more about it. They are eager to discuss doctrine and want to know what to believe about things. They are willing to be mocked and ridiculed for their faith. They stand up for the Truth when they know it will bring them persecution. Unlike some adults, they do not want to be hypocrites. They would rather come out with their unrighteousness than to pretend to be what they are not.

Dear Rev. Houck:

We are writing regarding your article entitled, “Hannah’s Prayer for Motherhood” found in the May issue of the Beacon Lights.

We question the spiritual encour­agement it has for those who are kept, by God’s will, from having children. We feel there is little comfort in this article for those who have been praying for years to be given covenant children. It seems you do not fully understand this text in the light of the whole of scripture. Your statements regarding the fact that Hannah had been given no children, “There could be nothing worse than that. How could she be happy? How could she eat and drink? . . . her life was unfulfilled . . . as long as she was childless, she could not rejoice.” We feel these statements are not true. The Bible teaches to live apart from God is death. That is worse – to be separated from God. To be reprobate is worse than not being given children.

Your statement that not having children is an affliction, yes, that it is, but the Child of God prays for grace to endure this affliction and that we may learn to be content in whatever state we are in. (Philippians 4:11) Scripture teaches us that we are His and we have been washed by His blood – that we are saved through the death and resurrec­tion of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We must rejoice when God’s children are born in the Church in the sphere of the covenant. This means whether those children are born to us individually or to other covenant couples in the Church. We rejoice that God continues His covenant in the continued line of generations to be our God and we His people. Therefore, the responsibility to raise up our children in the fear of the Lord is not only the responsibility of the parents but of all those in the Church.

Yes, young women must pray for motherhood but they also must pray, “Thy will be done” for “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

In Christ’s Love,

Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Van Solkema

 

 

Dear Bruce and Rosanne,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Who is our only comfort in life and death.

Please forgive me for taking so long to answer your letter. I have been suffering from a ruptured disc in my back and therefore have been unable to sit and type.

If I understand your letter proper­ly, you have two objections to my article, “Hannah’s Prayer for Mother­hood.” First you question whether the article is a spiritual encouragement to those who have no children. Secondly you question whether I understand the text in I Sam. 1 in the light of the whole of Scripture. Specifically, you feel that my statements about Hannah’s opinion of her childless condition are wrong.

I hope that the following points will clarify my position and also help you see that my article is in harmony with Scripture and therefore ought to be edifying to all of God’s people.

  1. The general rule for the believing wife is that she be a mother who, by God’s grace, bears and raises children of the Covenant. I Tim. 2:15 “Nevertheless she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobrie­ty.’’ I Tim. 5:14 “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear child­ren, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Childbearing is the way of life which God has ordained for the wives of the Church. This, then, ought to be their desire and prayer. This is the emphasis of my article.
  2. There are exceptions to this general rule. Children are given by God (Ps. 127:3) and sometimes God closes the womb so that a woman is barren. I certainly acknowledge this in my article. I say, “He gives and He withholds according to His good plea­sure. If Hannah was to have the child she so dearly wanted, then God must do it.”
  3. I did not deal with barrenness in detail because the emphasis of the text (I Sam. 1) is motherhood. Besides that, the worldly attitude of many women (who refuse to have children) demands that we emphasize the duty of believing wives to be mothers.
  4. Barrenness must be viewed as an affliction sent by God which does indeed cause much grief and sorrow.
  5. This was true of Hannah. Words such as “grieved”, “bitterness”, “affliction”, “sorrowful in spirit” are used to describe her condition. (See I Sam. 1:8, 10, 11, 15.)

No, Hannah’s condition was not worse than going to hell. That however is not the point. As a believer bound for glory, she con­sidered her condition to be a great affliction. She was looking for the promised Seed and longed to be a mother in Israel.

  1. This was true of other barren women of the Church. See Sarah Gen. 16:12, Rebekah Gen. 25:21, Leah Gen. 30:31-32, and Elizabeth Luke 1:7 & 24 – 25.
  2. Isa. 54:1 refers to the joy of fruitfulness over against the sor­row of barrenness.

Thus, sorrow is indeed a proper and natural response to this affliction even today. It is proper to pray that this affliction be removed if it be God’s will (I Sam. 7:11, Gen. 25:21). Even a barren woman ought to long for mother­hood.

  1. In the midst of the sorrow of this affliction, the godly also are comforted and filled with the peace and joy of their salvation. This is the way it is with all affliction. It comes from the fatherly hand of our Covenant God and is for our good and our salvation. The sorrow of barrenness does not conflict with the joy of our salvation. We are all saved through the sufferings of this life. (I Peter 4:13 & Rom. 8:17).
  2. Thus, regardless of our condi­tion, regardless of the affliction God sends to us, we must learn to be content. We submit to the sovereign will of God for us.

I believe that these points demon­strate that my article is in harmony with all of Scripture and therefore ought to be edifying to all. Even a barren woman ought to rejoice in and agree with an article that presents the teaching of Scripture on motherhood.

I hope that this will be helpful to you. May the Lord bless you as you consider these things once again.

In the service of our Lord,

Rev. Steven Houck

 

 

Hannah was very upset. Elkanah, Peninnah, and the children, however, were all enjoying the sacrificial meal. They had all gone to Shiloh “to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord.” (I Sam. 1:1-18). It was a time of rejoicing and festivity. But Hannah was not happy. Elkanah had always been a very loving husband to her. He gave her a better portion of the meal than he gave to anyone else. But Hannah could not eat. Instead of eating, she wept. Year after year it was always the same. Whenever they went to Shiloh, the others ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves, but Hannah wept. For on those occasions Peninnah would provoke Hannah. She would scornfully remind her of the fact that she was childless. All of Elkanah’s children were of Peninnah. In all the years that Hannah had been married to him, she had not been able to give him a single child.

Indeed, this was the source of Hannah’s sorrow. Not the wicked provo­cations of Peninnah. For a godly woman must expect such wickedness of her adversaries. But Hannah was childless. God had shut up her womb. Oh what a terrible affliction. There could be nothing worse than that. How could she be happy? How could she eat and drink? There before her eyes were all of Peninnah’s children, but she had none. She felt as if she had failed as a woman of Israel. Her life was unfulfilled. There was something very important which was left out of her life. This grieved her greatly. Oh how her soul was vexed. As long as she was childless, she could not rejoice.

How different is this attitude of Hannah from that of most women today. They do not grieve because of a lack of children. They grieve because they have too many. Most are more interested in a career than in motherhood. Children do not fit into their plans very well. Therefore, they sharply limit the number of children in order that their life may not be too severely burdened. Often times young couples decide that they will have no children at all. At least not for the first years of their marriage. They say that they are more interested in the quality of life than in quantity. The wife must find her full potential as a woman. To feel fulfilled in life, she must have a career. Besides that, the couple receives a very pleasant bonus when the wife works. They have two sources of income instead of one. With the extra money they can buy the things that they have always wanted to buy and do all kinds of exciting things too. Their chief desire in life is a very wicked one — the advancement of their own selfish pleasures and material prosperity.

Hannah could have had this kind of life if she wanted it. Just think of the things she could have done. While Peninnah was stuck home with her children. Elkanah and Hannah could have enjoyed life. Hannah was a free woman. But she was a godly woman. She was not interested in her own worldly prosperity. Worldly pleasure was not the driving force in her life. Hannah wanted to be a mother. This desire was so strong, that she even brought this matter before the Lord. She went to the tabernacle and there she prayed to the Lord. For she knew that, if the Lord so willed it, He could open her womb and make her fruitful. Children are not simply the products of a man and woman. They are the gifts of God. (Ps. 127:3). He gives and He withholds according to His good pleasure. If Hannah was to have the child she so dearly wanted, then God must do it. Thus we read, “And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (I Sam. 1:11). This was Hannah’s prayer for motherhood.

Notice that this prayer was not a selfish prayer. Hannah, indeed, longed to be a mother. But she did not want a child simply to satisfy her own desires. She prayed for a man child, but in that prayer she also vowed to give that child unto the Lord. Her child, Samuel, would be brought to the tabernacle and there serve the Lord all of His days. The desire for motherhood was a desire for the advance­ment of God’s kingdom and Church. Hannah’s primary concern was not for herself, but for God’s cause in this world. She considered it to be her duty as a godly woman to raise a family in the fear of the Lord. If she was to fulfill her calling in life, then she must bring children into the world who, by God’s grace, would be children of the Church and Covenant.

This must be the desire of the women of our churches too. Our women must be mothers. The message which God gave to His people at the time of the Babylonian captivity, is the message we must hear and heed today. “Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” (Jer. 29:5-6). For the sake of the church of God, we must “be fruitful and multiply.” The women of our churches must be mothers so that God’s people might be “increased and not diminished” in this world. This is not a matter of personal preference or choice. This concerns the kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Young women of Israel, do not seek to be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and electricians as do so many women in our day. Your calling is to marry and be Covenant mothers in the Church. Do not desire the pleasures of the world as do the women of the world. The kind of freedom which they seek is really bondage. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” (Matt. 7:33). Long to be mothers who bring forth the children of the Covenant, by God’s grace. Childbear­ing is the way of life which God has ordained for you. (I Tim. 2:15). It is the way in which He gives you a full and good life. Make your prayer the prayer of Hannah. Pray that God will make you fruitful. Pray that He will give you many sons and daughters who fear the Lord and serve Him always. Pray for motherhood.

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