My Father-in-law’s Advice to Me

My Father-in-law_s Advice to Me (pic)

I’m blessed to have a godly and wise father-in-law, Rev. Bartel Elshout, who is known for his translation of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. I so much value his wisdom in that whenever I need to make an important decision I always seek his counsel. Recently, I asked him if there’s any advice that he could give to me as a father of now four children. He said (and I’m sharing his advice with his permission),

“Make sure you spend enough time with your children! Life is a one-way street, and you get to spend each day with your children only once. Time not spent with your children can never be relived. When I was a young father, I was a very busy man. I was the principal of a Christian school and also served as elder in the church. In hindsight, I should not have had this double commitment. Even though I did my utmost to spend time with my oldest son David (now 43), he still vividly remembers that often I was too busy for him. Once he called me in the not too distant past, and at that particular moment I could not talk to him. He responded, ‘Dad, are you too busy for me again?’ What a painful moment this was for me! My son still remembered that 30 plus years ago I was too busy for him. Therefore, young fathers, do not make the mistake I made by overcommitting yourself. Each day in the lives of your children is a day that cannot be relived!”

Indeed, one of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, former President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger. Listen to what he said:

“When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.”

The late American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Billy Graham said:

“I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.”

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their children’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to provide for our children’s spiritual and emotional needs. Interestingly, when our children develop sinful habits or patterns of life, we quickly ask, “Why is my son or daughter behaving this way? What’s wrong with my child?” But perhaps, we could also ask ourselves: “Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my children? Do I spend time with them? Do I play with them? Do I read God’s Word and pray with them? Do I discipline them when necessary? Do I encourage them? Do I assure them of my love?”

Fathers, our children need our presence not just our pockets. I remember this touching story: “A little boy who had been begging his father for favors all day came once into his daddy’s office. ‘What do you want this time?’ asked the weary parent. ‘I don’t want anything,’ was the astonishing reply, ‘I just want to be with you.’”

Fathers, if we are honest with ourselves, we all fail to spend time with our children as we should. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace to be able to properly balance our work and family responsibilities. We also need to pray daily that we may be able to model God’s fatherly character to our children, always pointing them to him, who, for Christ’s sake, will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). And when we do fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

 

Note: To read the article in Spanish, click here.

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Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage

On April 28 of this year the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court will see whether marriage equality is a Constitutional right or not. It will determine whether states have the duty to conduct same-sex marriages and whether the states that ban equal marriage should accept same-sex marriages conducted in other states. Currently, there are 13 states (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Ohio, and Tennessee) that still prohibit same-sex marriages. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, all these 13 states will be obligated to conduct same-sex marriages.

Now, this issue that we are facing as a nation is not really cultural or political but religious, for it relates directly to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage. As a Christian, I uphold traditional marriage (a marriage between one man and one woman only). Scripture tells us that God ordained the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:18-25). As such, the idea of marriage did not come from man, but from God. And since marriage originated from God, only he has the right to define marriage. Ultimately, it is not the Supreme Court justices that should tell us what marriage is and what marriage is not. Since it is God who has ordained the institution of marriage, he alone has the right to set forth the meaning of marriage. The justices should therefore define marriage in God’s terms, not in their own terms.

God created marriage and he also provided a manual for its use. That manual is his Word. I once bought a small table for my printer. When I bought the table, it was not yet assembled. I had to assemble it with the help of the manual. But, I thought I would not need the manual because it looked easy to put the parts together. After I was done, the table did not turn out to be strong. It was shaky because I did not follow the manual. Similarly, many marriages today (whether homosexual or heterosexual) are shaky because husbands and wives do not follow God’s manual for marriage as revealed in the Scriptures. What does this manual tell us regarding marriage?

  1. Marriage is a union between one man and one woman only. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is a sacred union between a man (Adam) and a woman (Eve), not between a man and a man, or between a woman and a woman. Marriage is never intended to be between two people of the same sex (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9).
  1. In marriage a husband must love his wife, as Christ loved the church; and a wife must submit to her husband, as the church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:22-25). When a husband does not show love to his wife, the wife will find it hard to respect him. Conversely, when a wife does not show respect to her husband, the husband will find it hard to love her. Thus, a marital problem starts when a husband and a wife stop doing their duties toward each other.
  1. Marriage serves as a picture of the glorious relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32). As a husband and wife are united through marriage, so we are united to Christ through faith. We, Christians, are collectively the bride of Christ and Christ is our bridegroom. In the gospel, Jesus is in us and we are in him (1 John 4:13). Same-sex marriage fails to portray this sacred union between Christ and his bride. The relationship is between the bridegroom (male) and the bride (female), and not between two men, or two women, as same-sex marriage portrays.
  1. Marriage is not only intended for our happiness but for our holiness as well. God gave Eve to Adam not only to satisfy him but also to sanctify him. Sadly, some homosexual couples think that marriage is all about happiness. They say, “Well, what is important is that we love each other and that we are happy together.” My question is this: “How can you be truly happy when you live in sin, for homosexuality is a sin? How can you be actually happy when God is unhappy with the kind of relationship that you have?” It is when we honor God’s ordained order of marriage that we can really experience true happiness in holy matrimony. In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas asks, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Have you ever thought of that question?

In conclusion, I think same-sex marriage is a rejection of God’s ordained manual for Christian marriage. Now, if you are reading this article and you happen to be homosexual, please don’t think that I hate you. In fact, I wrote this article out of love for you. And I want you to know that you and I are both sinners (Rom. 3:23). I even dare to say with the Apostle Paul that I am the worst of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15). But our God, who is rich in mercy, saved me from the power and penalty of my sins. In Christ I become a new person, for God graciously forgave me and cleansed me from all my iniquities. Through faith in Christ, you too can be a changed person. Jesus Christ can set you free from the bonds of the sin of homosexuality. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Note: This post also appears on Christianity21st.com.

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Adam: His Wedding, Work, & Woe (Part 2 of 3)

Adam’s Work

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and kepictureep it” (Gen. 2:15). Adam’s work is two-fold as far as his role as a husband is concerned.

First, God has placed Adam in the garden in order for Adam to provide for his wife.

The word “work” in this verse is better to be translated as “cultivate.” Adam is to tend the garden. He needs to work for the provision of his wife and for God’s praise. Work was not a result of sin but a God-ordained instrument through which man can glorify his Creator by providing for his family. Husbands, as long as the Lord enables us, it is our obligation to provide for our family. Are you fulfilling your duty?

 

Second, God has also put Adam in the garden in order for Adam to protect his wife.

The Hebrew term translated “keep” in verse 15 also means “watch” or “guard.” God has appointed Adam to watch the Garden of Eden which is Adam’s home. Adam is to look after everything that is in this garden. And since Eve is in the garden, it is also his responsibility to look after Eve—to keep her away from the forbidden tree and to protect her from Satan, the great tempter.

Husbands, it is our holy occupation to protect our family from the Devil and to keep our home from temptations. Fathers, we are to guard our children from “the [sinful] desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Doing such an important responsibility requires time. It may be likened to gardening. If you want to have a good garden, then you must invest time in your garden. Fertilize, water, and weed it.

Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their family’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to protect our family from spiritual dangers. You may work 80 hours a week, but yet you hardly see your children. You don’t have time to talk to them, read God’s Word with them, pray with them, play with them, and counsel them. Then, when your children don’t act according to God’s Word, you ask, “Why is my son or daughter acting this way? What’s wrong with my child?” Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with me? Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my family?”

Husbands, we must also work on our marriage. A husband who desires to have a healthy relationship with his wife must work hard at his relationship with her. He should not expect to have a good relationship with his wife, if he does not cultivate his love for her. Husbands, do you still date your wife? When was the last time you took her out to spend quality time with each other? Remember, the condition of your marriage can affect your children. Someone has rightly observed, “A father’s first responsibility to his child is to love his wife. The most favored children in the world are those whose parents love each other.”

 

In the next post we will look at Adam’s woe.

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Adam: His Wedding, Work, & Woe (Part 1 of 3)

In this post we will briefly study Adam, the first husband and father in human history. As we examine his life, we will focus on the following three aspects of his life: (1) his wedding, (2) his work, and (3) his woe.Wedding

 

Adam’s Wedding

Genesis 2:21-22 records the account of the first wedding in the history of humankind: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

God created Eve and brought her to Adam to be Adam’s wife. And God Himself officiated their wedding. From this event we learn three significant lessons.

 

First, Eve is God’s precious gift to Adam.

When I officiate a wedding, I ask the question, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The father of the bride is expected to answer, “Her mother and I.” If we were to ask the same question to God, “Who gives this first woman to this first man?” God would have said, “I do.”

Eve’s heavenly Father walked her down the aisle in the Garden of Eden and presented her to Adam and God was saying to Adam, as it were, “Here’s my special gift to you. I have given you life to live: I have ‘breathed into [your] nostrils the breath of life’ (v. 7); I have ‘planted a garden in Eden’ to be your dwelling place (v. 8); I have given you food to eat (v. 9), now receive another gift from me—a woman who is to be your wife.”

Husbands, let’s remind ourselves that our wives are God’s precious gifts to us. Husband, do you indeed regard your wife as a priceless gift from the Lord? Do you cherish her? Second to Jesus Christ, is she the most important person in your life?

 

Second, Eve is God’s gracious gift to Adam.

After God had put Adam in the garden, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (v. 18). God saw Adam’s need to have a wife. Thus, God took the initiative to meet that need. He created Eve and gave her to Adam. Adam did not ask for Eve yet God graciously gave this woman to him.

Husbands, our wives are God’s gracious gifts to us. We don’t deserve them. Yes, you might have prayed to have a wife but when God granted your request, you realized that He did so out of His mere grace, not because you deserved to have a wife. Husband, do you consider your wife an undeserved blessing from God? Do you humbly thank Him for that blessing?

 

Third, Eve is God’s suited gift to Adam.

Genesis 2:18 states, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” God knew what was best for Adam. He gave him Eve—a woman suitable for him—a woman who would complete, complement, and satisfy him socially, emotionally, & physically—a woman whom God would use for Adam’s good and God’s glory.

Husbands, our wives are not perfect, but God has given them to us because they are suitable for us—suitable to meet our needs, even our spiritual needs. Ultimately, our wives have been given to us for our sanctification. God can use both their strengths and weaknesses to conform us to the image of His Son. The grand goal of Christian marriage is Christlikeness! If you are not yet married and are looking for a wife, pursue a woman who will help you become more like Christ.

 

Conclusion

The wedding was done. And once Adam and Eve were married, they became one flesh: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). In Ephesians 5:32 the Apostle Paul quotes this verse to illustrate the kind of relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and His church. Those who believe in Christ are united to Him. Husbands, our model is ultimately not the first Adam, but the second Adam. The first Adam was not perfect, but the second Adam was. Therefore, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).

 

In the next post we will look at Adam’s work.

Marriage Wedding

Seven Tips for a Happy Christian Marriage

Here are seven tips for a happy Christian marriage coming from Mr. Don Verduin, a member of our church, who has been married for 67 years:

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Don & Alice Verduin

 

  1. Make God the center of your life and marriage. Seek God’s will as found in the Bible, and make His Word your guide for all decisions you are required to make.

  2. Make sure that you read the Bible every day. The Bible has answers for every issue that Christian couples face. For instance, take time to study Ephesians 5 – 6: 18 where God has listed rules for a happy marriage.

  3. Church attendance is a must. As a couple, support your church with your prayers, gifts, and time. The fellowship with Christian friends can be educational and comforting. Also, be sure to tithe, and, if able, to give beyond your tithe. God requires giving and blesses those who give.

  4. If God blesses your home with children, train them according to His way. The rearing of your children is a joy, but also a responsibility. Take time to read and explain God’s will for your children. Take your children to church with you. Teach your children the songs of the church, songs they will continue to carry with them throughout life. When possible, do all in your power to provide your children with a Christian education. To do so may require your family to change its lifestyle, but in the end God will bless your family.

  5. Children will disrespect authority, especially that of their parents. In a loving way explain God’s rules and do not permit this sin to continue.

  6. Sometimes the relationship between a husband and wife can become fragile. Take the time to see what God’s Word says and seek His will through prayer. Remember, God grants forgiveness to those who repent and ask for forgiveness. A husband and wife must do the same. A forgiving spirit will strengthen the marriage bond. Do not be slow to accept an apology and to grant forgiveness.

  7. Whenever possible, a husband and wife should do things together: attend church, instruct your children in the catechism, help each other with the housework, or spend time together in the garden. Doing things together such as these will help build respect for each other, as well as leave a good example for your children.

Marriage

Wedding Homily: Remember Your Pledge

Note: Below is the message that my friend Dr. Jim Cowman delivered on the wedding day of his daughter Courtney.

By Dr. Jim Cowman

Wyandotte Alliance Church,

Wyandotte, Michigan

September 21, 2013

 

When asked how he felt about officiating his daughter’s wedding ceremony,

Dr. Jim Cowman remarked: “Being asked to perform Jake and Courtney’s

Wedding Ceremony was the highest honor of my life.“  

 

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Courtney, Jim, Jake

 

Looking at you with a father’s eyes, in all your bridal beauty, I cannot help being reminded of the little girl with dark hair all made up in braids who used to jump on my lap for one of the many viewings of “Cinderella.” And how could I forget how you covered your eyes when you saw the wicked step-sisters. And how you happily jumped off my lap, and joyfully danced around when the prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot, and it fit perfectly convincing him he had found the girl he had fallen in love with.

At your reception, when you and I dance to the song, “Have I Told You Lately that I LOVE You?” – (something our family asked one another many times), we will close the circle of life on your days in your parents’ household.  Now you have found your own `real life’ prince!  And in Jake, you have found a godly man who has more than enough charm, and heart to lead you through any future hurt, or harm, without alarm.

Truly this is a day that is life-transforming for you both. You will celebrate it every September 21st. And over the coming years, there will be many aspects of this day that will make a special claim upon your hearts and minds: the beauty of decorations and garments; the love of relatives and friends; the bounty of gifts and toasts; the joy of great food, music, and dancing. So many memories, photographs, records and mementos!  But above all these good things there is one higher remembrance to which I would call you both:  “Remember Your Pledge.”

Jake and Courtney, in a few minutes you make a very important commitment: one that you have been preparing for, and anxiously anticipating, since your engagement.  Next to your commitment to Christ, this is the most important one that you will make in your life-time. God calls the relationship and agreement that secures the union of one man to one woman, a `covenant.

You may be thinking, “How does the idea of a `covenant’ differ from a `contract’ when it comes to one’s marriage relationship?”  I am certainly not a lawyer with legal expertise, but I can bring God’s perspective to bear on this. A `contract,’ you see, is a conditional agreement that is only as good as the parties’ wills and capacities to keep the conditions. When the stipulations of this kind of agreement are violated, the contract is null and void.  The end.  For example, if a builder contracts to build a mansion, but builds a dog house instead, no one is going to pay him the contract price.

A `covenant,’ on the other hand, is an unconditional agreement between two parties. The special and mutual obligations, to which husbands and wives are called, are not conditions qualifying the validity of the agreement, but positive reinforcements to make better what God has intended to be very good.  Thus, there are no conditions that must be kept to secure the continuity of the agreement.  Whether due to lapses of weakness or misjudgment, or common misfortune, or genetic predisposition—some difficulties are bound to come and they will tug at the fabric of our union.  But such shortcomings, disappointments and failures have an answer: they are absorbed by love and forgiveness: “Love one another as I have loved you,” said Jesus; “Forgive one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you,” said Paul. (Ephesians 4:32); “Love covers a multitude of sin,” said Peter (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus, the unfailing example of the Christian life, even forgave his enemies who condemned him to crucifixion, speaking from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

To be sure, the rips in the fabric of our trust we may experience can be very painful, but, they generally fall far short of sending us to a cross.  In fact, no matter how strained, pained, or tempted we may become, we are still commanded by God “To keep faith with the wife your youth” (Malachi 2:13-16). The unconditional covenant protects all parties: husbands, wives, children, relatives, friends and society; and it assures them that in their own household they are always accepted and loved.

Remember that the pledge you make today lists no condition, or exceptions to your commitment.  You will say, “For better or for worse,” “for richer or for poorer,” “in sickness or in health.”  You might add wrinkles, pounds, senility, joblessness, irritability, and cancer. Come what may, covenant keepers you must be. If you are tempted to think otherwise, remember your pledge.

Your parents do not cease to love you because, by your marriage, you begin a new household.  The porch light will always be on and the door open. There will always be a place at our table and a bed in our home for both of you and what children may come – but we also realize that from now on, whenever you say, “there’s no place like home,” you will be referring to the home of Jacob Wesley Oosterhouse’s household, and not your father’s house!

May God crown your new home with a permanence, stability, and strength great enough to embrace all of its members in unbreakable unity!

So I say again, “Remember Your Pledge!”

 

 

Marriage Wedding

“Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times”

By Annemarieke Ryskamp (guest blogger)

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From left to right: Richard Ryskamp, Annemarieke Ryskamp, Jordan Lorence, Brian Najapfour

 

On October 16, 2013 my husband (Richard) and I along with our pastor (Brian Najapfour) attended a meeting hosted by Michigan Family Forum. Given the ongoing discussions on marriage and religious freedom, the theme of the meeting was very relevant— “Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times.” The guest speaker was Mr. Jordan Lorence, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. Mr. Lorence is known for his passion to defend religious liberty, sanctity of life, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

An expert in First Amendment right and marriage litigation, Mr. Lorence explained the troubling effects of the legal redefinition of the family. For instance, he told the story about the photographer Elaine Huguenin who was sued by a lesbian couple for refusing to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony. Elaine declined to take pictures because she believed that the ceremony would only promote the practice of same-sex marriage—a practice that she thinks is wrong.

The lesbian couple wanted Elaine to tolerate them in their practice, but they were unwilling to tolerate the exercise of her religious belief. Also, why did they single out Elaine and demand her to take pictures of their ceremony? She was not the only photographer in their area. There were other photographers who would gladly take pictures of same-sex commitment ceremonies. Where was the respect here on the part of this couple for Elaine’s religious conviction? Mr. Lorence rightly observed that madness was a strong factor behind this couple’s decision to sue Elaine. Those who reject the Bible are simply mad at those who uphold it. This attitude should not surprise Christians at all. Haters of Jesus Christ will also hate and even persecute those who follow Christ. But Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Nevertheless, while the legal redefinition of the family has caused difficulties among Christ’s followers, it has also produced positive outcomes. First, it has challenged Christians to study and defend their views that are under attack. Those who were once lax are now forced to know what they really believe and why they really hold to their belief. Second, it has brought Christians closer together. In fact, the people who attended the meeting came from various Christian backgrounds. Yet, these Christians of different persuasions work together for the advancement of the biblical principles of marriage.

At the end of the meeting the speaker entertained some questions. When asked what Christians could do in response to persecutions, he admonished everybody to be courageous in the Lord. We need to be willing to step forward and fight for the biblical principles of marriage.

Dear reader, will you join us in defending marriage as defined by God? Satan is actively seeking to destroy our marriages. He knows that once a marriage is destroyed, it will also affect our church, community, and ultimately our country.

 

Note: A member of Dutton United Reformed Church, Annemarieke Ryskamp is wife to Richard and mother to their two sons (Sam & Tom). She would like to acknowledge Pastor Najapfour’s editorial help for this post.

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