Articles posts of '2015' 'October'

Growing Healthy Children: An Alternative to Provocative Parenting

Mr. and Mrs. Jones walked into the counselor’s room with smug looks on their faces. They almost let the door slam in the face of their early-teenage son Sam and his younger sister Emma. As the family sat down, the parents locked eyes on their kids as if to say, “We all know you’re why we’re here. Go on and tell the counselor how you are.”

And in truth, the kids had been misbehaving at school. Their church family, too, knew things were not well. Less obvious was the unhappy home the Joneses were cultivating. Mr. Jones, a successful business man, expected everyone else in the family to live up to his unreasonable standards. Mrs. Jones, frustrated and overwhelmed by her husband’s heavy work schedule, had made a habit of yelling at their kids and highlighting their failures.

The Joneses had forgotten Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

It is tempting to blame children for our family problems. But Scripture does not allow us to do this. Children bear the responsibility to obey their parents. But God commands parents to raise their children with godly nurture, being careful not to frustrate them. Inestimable damage is done by parents who provoke their children and cause them to become discouraged.

Grasping the Issue

Who Is God Addressing?

While specifically addressing fathers, God is speaking to both parents. The word translated “fathers” is elsewhere used to mean “parents” (Heb. 11:23). Additionally, fathers are spoken to as covenant heads of the families. Fathers are to see that neither parent provokes the children. Fathers cannot stand idly by if their children are being provoked by their mothers.

What Does It Mean to Provoke?

The word used in Colossians 3:21 means to agitate, often to anger. Matthew Henry explains that parents provoke their children by treating them with rigor and severity, by holding the reigns too tightly and thereby raising their passions, discouraging them in their duty.

Years ago I was invited to participate in a long and strenuous horse ride. Due to fear and inexperience I held the reigns so tightly that the bit began to agitate the horse’s mouth. Before long the horse grew restless and threatened to throw me. I was provoking him to anger by holding the reigns too tightly. He was willing to be directed. But I was undermining his willingness by my heavy hand.

In Ephesians 6:4 Paul contrasts two approaches to parenting. On the one hand, parents can provoke their children to wrath. On the other, parents can bring up the children in the training and admonition of the Lord. Failing to patiently and constructively train our children in the things of God, we often substitute more fleshly methods of parenting which provoke our children’s anger.

What Is Discouragement?

The word literally means to lose energy or passion. Discouraged children lose hope, stop trying, and give up. When children say, “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t matter,” they are often conveying discouragement. It is tempting to dismiss a dispirited child’s behavior as being teenager-ish or childish. But parents must resist assuming that their child’s indifference is normal. In fact, there are hosts of young people who are passionate about life and enthusiastic in godliness. But sometimes this passion is squelched by parental provocation.

Forsaking Dangers

Mishandling the Rod of Discipline

Surely the rod can be used too little: “He who spares his rod hates his child” (Prov. 13:24). Children need to be taught that sin hurts. If they don’t, they may lose interest in pursuing godliness because they don’t see the danger of sin.

But the rod can also be used too much. The Apocrypha says, “He who loves his son will whip him often . . . bow down his neck in his youth, and beat his sides while he is young” (Ecclus. 30:1, 12). This is not Christian discipline. Sometimes a wise rebuke is better than the rod (Prov. 17:10). This is particularly so as a child moves past the early years of childhood. Matthew Henry urges parents to exercise authority not “with rigor and severity, but with kindness and gentleness.” If your children can forget that you love them, either during or immediately following discipline, you might be doing it wrong.

Maintaining a Disorderly Home

God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33). He has created us in his image to promote order and thrive in the context of order. A disorderly home can discourage children. A perpetually messy or especially an unsanitary home can help produce poorly adjusted children. A lack of regularly scheduled meal times and bed times can frustrate children’s God-given desire for order.

Holding Inappropriate Expectations

Some parents expect almost nothing from their kids. In such settings, children can lose energy or passion because they are never helped to “reach forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13). In other homes too much is expected.Experience teaches that unreasonable expectations are the ideal breeding ground for discouragement.If your children regularly fail to measure up to your standards, you might be expecting too much.

Building a Joyless Home

In some homes children are not treated with the dignity that God requires. Some parents rarely congratulate or encourage their children, focusing instead on their faults. Parents must never forget that their children are people created in God’s image. Children of believers are even included in God’s covenant (1 Cor. 7:14).

Failing to Speak as “One Flesh”

Too often, dad and mom are not operating by the same rules when it comes to interacting with their kids. One parent might be more lenient. The other might be more demanding. But such “accidental doublespeak” is dangerously confusing to our children. In irreconcilable disagreements the wife must graciously acquiesce to her husband’s leadership (Col. 3:18).

There are many more potential causes for childhood discouragement. Like good physicians, parents should evaluate the spiritual health of their children and, where applicable, diagnose the source of their children’s discouragement. Sometimes the answer will be found by looking in the mirror.

Pursuing Goals

Make Jesus Central to Your Family Life

In some “Christian” families Christ is simply not central. Too often we emphasize our own righteousness or the righteousness we expect from our children. How is this ethic different from that in a non-Christian home? We sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Do we apply those words in our homes?

Christ-centered parenting also means explaining to our children how they can come to Christ. Too often we tell our children to respect us, to obey us, and to grow up. But we don’t help them bring their troubles to, and find healing in, Jesus. Christ said that his yoke is easy; his burden light. He will give rest for our weary souls (Matt. 11:29–30). We need to lead our children to rest in Christ. God forbid that we would make things more difficult for our children than Jesus would.

Make Grace Shine in Your Family

Is the most powerful principle in your home grace or law? The law merely tells us what God’s will is and that we must obey it. It is grace alone that teaches us how to please God.

William Hendriksen explains that “fathers should create an atmosphere which will make obedience an easy and natural matter, namely, the atmosphere of love and confidence.” Our emphasis should be on the positive.

Imagine that on the first day of a new job your trainer gave you only negative instructions. “Don’t ever be late to work, interrupt the boss during his meetings, use the phone for personal calls . . .” You would eventually wonder, “What AM I supposed to be doing? How do I do my job?” We often lead children to the same exasperation.

Gracious parenting especially applies to correction. Be sure that your children know that you love them as they are, not as you would like them to be. As a good rule of thumb, ask yourself, “What kind of correction is most helpful for me?”

Model Repentance Before Your Kids

Many children are rarely shown what it looks like to seek forgiveness from others for their sins. We tell them to do it, but we don’t show them how. We tell them to “apologize like you mean it.” But we don’t demonstrate what heartfelt sorrow for sin looks like. One way to model repentance is to seek our children’s forgiveness, especially if our provocation has driven them away.

Listen to the Advice of Others

Effective parents seek counsel from their pastors and elders, their own parents, and even their own kids. They also take advantage of good books on parenting. Two great helps on spiritual parenting are Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke.

Our children are a sacred trust. Our task is not so much to rule over them as to lovingly, graciously train them to fear God. If you have ever worked with concrete you know that you have only a few hours to work it into the proper shape before it becomes immovable. So it is with children. We have just a few years to help shape the spiritual impulses that will guide them through the rest of their lives. We must do all we can to avoid misshaping our children by provoking them to discouragement.

This article previously appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Rev. William Boekestein 
is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

2015 RYS Convention

Reformed Youth Services (RYS) might well be regarded as one of best things going for the United Reformed Churches in North America. RYS membership of nearly one hundred churches also includes churches from the Christian Reformed Church, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church of America, Reformed Church in the US, and some independent Reformed congregations. RYS is governed by a board made up of eight men from among its member churches, under the supervision of the elders of Cornerstone URC in Jenison, Michigan, and chaired by one of its elders. RYS sponsors regional retreats for high-school-aged youth and regional Logos conferences for post-high youth.

The highlight that high-school-aged youth from among the member churches look forward to every year is the annual RYS Convention. The 2015 convention drew approximately 720 high-school-aged youth, youth leaders, convention speakers, and staff to Asbury University in Wilmont, Kentucky, on July 13–17. The theme of the week was “Amazing Love,” based on Romans 8:37–39: “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”In five main sessions, all were challenged to comprehend, as much as is humanly possible, the eternal, boundless, and revealed love of God in Christ through His Spirit.

RYS Director Ed DeGraaf, who has held that position since before the first convention, assessed that this was perhaps the best convention ever. Ed said, “A gracious servant-minded committee set the tone at convention from day one as we enjoyed a wonderful week of spiritual blessings and fellowship.” Ed also observed, “Rev. Mike Schout and Rev. Bob VanManen complimented each other well as the main speakers.” The university campus was ideal, leaving minimal walking to get to workshops; the dorms were nice; and the food was good and plentiful. Everyone especially enjoyed the air conditioning.

Convention speakers and workshop leaders are always chosen from among the pastors of the member churches. The workshop leaders for this convention were Rev. Quentin Falkena on “iLead”; Rev. Greg Lubbers on “Amazing Grace”; Rev. Brad Nymeyer on “Loving God’s Will”; Rev. Bill Boekestein on “Money Matters”; Rev. Paul Murphy on “Guard Your Heart”; Rev. Chip Byrd on “Gigabytes for God”; Rev. Chad Steenwyk on “Love My Neighbor”; Rev. Stephen Wetmore on “Content, Not So Much?”; Rev. Jon Bushnell on “Do You Believe This Stuff?”; and Rev. Andrew Knott on “Wonderfully Made.” There was a mandatory workshop entitled “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” One was designed for the guys led by Rev. Jason Tuinstra, and one for the girls led by Rev. Tuinstra’s wife, Jody. Everyone had opportunity to attend four out of the ten workshops offered.

Each main session was begun with singing, which was beautiful with more than seven hundred voices in a near-capacity auditorium. The song leader was Julie Bussis, along with Rip Pratt and Brent Cooper, who have been long-time convention song leaders. Thursday evening featured a talent show where various voluntary participants performed. A choir made up of conventioneers practiced throughout the week and performed at that time as well. Also at that time a new RYS logo was publicly unveiled for the first time.

RYS conventions always feature a day-away event. On Wednesday, about five hundred people chose to go to Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, while two hundred took advantage of spending the day at the Creation Museum. On Thursday afternoon a time was set aside when all the speakers and workshop leaders were seated together up front to answer questions which were submitted by the students in writing.

The days were jam-packed, beginning before 7:00 a.m. with SON-rise groups for devotions after breakfast, and ending late at night with SON-set groups for closing devotions and a time to share thoughts about the presentations of that day. Ample time was also provided for games and fellowship. Friends from previous conventions were reunited, and new friends were made. It is a great opportunity to bring together covenant youth from churches of like mind from all around North America. Some come from more isolated areas where there are no like-minded Reformed churches nearby and such opportunities are rare.

It takes many adults to run a youth ministry. At one time during the convention, everyone over the age of fifty was asked to rise. It was estimated that there were at least sixty people on their feet. Youth leaders (sponsors) enjoy and benefit from the spiritual blessings and the fellowship during a convention as much as do the youth. Besides the dozen ministers who serve as speakers and workshop leaders, a number of other pastors often come as sponsors and enjoy the fellowship with each other throughout the week.

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 convention for the first time. I am happy to report to the parents and the consistories that as I observed your youth throughout the week, I was extremely proud of all in attendance. It gave a glimpse of the future of the church, and it looks good. These young people were well-behaved, orderly, polite, considerate, attentive, and asked great questions. The convention committee and the board were happy that there were no disciplinary actions required throughout that entire week with so many youth gathered together. We give praise to our God for the many blessings and the safety experienced during this special week.

At the close of the convention it was announced that the 2016 convention is to be held at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, on July 25–29. The 2005 convention was held there, and the campus has since been updated. Next year, 2016, will also be the twentieth anniversary of RYS.

Each year letters are sent out to all member church councils asking for nominations to the RYS board. Councils are encouraged to submit names of mature Christian men able to serve. Men so inclined are encouraged to inform their council that they would like to be considered. This is a great opportunity to be a part of this great ministry to our youth. The lives of countless covenant youth have been changed throughout the years through the RYS programs and particularly the annual convention. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this their special week.

Mr. Myron Rau
is a board member of RYS and is the chairman of the board of Reformed Fellowship. He is a member of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

Professing Tweens: Of Worldlings, Hebrews, and Young Christians (2) He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Devils love young people. For breakfast. First thing. Want to make a great start to a devil’s day? Serve him up a tween. He relishes every part of the baptized and raised-to-be-Christian youth. A bicep, a thigh, an eye. Especially their minds in the making. Tender minds, of folks with hours to kill in thoughtless amusement. Surfing Facebooking tweeting minds minding the social more than the divine. Long on looks and passion and short on faith and principle minds . . . these are a few of fiends’ favorite things.

God loves young people. Forever. For them, and for infants, children, the middle-aged, and old-timers God gave Jesus. He has saved us from being a meal, from being devoured by devils. We are saved from His own wrath, and the hell we sinners deserve. God gave Himself in giving Jesus. The Son of God became a man. This was and is the perfect Savior. Human greats, even angel greats compare not at all with Him. Even temple bulls could not atone. Elijah prophets might only promise. Only Jesus atones and speaks and saves, comes and sees and conquers . . . sin! In these latter days there is forgiveness through His blood shed once for all. He the Word now spoken is the Word Way back to God. Jesus: very God, perfect Man, perfect Savior, Jesus the Christ of God! That is the message of Hebrews, and of the entire New Testament. It is the gospel.

True You, and Everyone Else

Therefore . . . believe in Him, hope in Him, and love. That is the call that comes with the gospel. It comes to all of us, including the youth of the church. God has come into this world and come near in the gospel preaching and has spoken of His salvation in and through His Son Jesus. Now what to do? Here is what: believe in Him, hope in Him, and love. There is no other way to heaven than to trust, and hope, and love. Now. Not later. Later is never. Now. Or never. Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts!

Today, you youth! You have heard and been taught Jesus. Many young people have not heard, and remain lost worldlings. Many in the church have heard and are like the Jews of old, the Hebrews, the religious lost. These have a creed, maybe, but not Christ, a form but not godliness. These may have and desire circumcision, or baptism, but have not the renewed heart, the regenerating Spirit. These may have a code—a dress code, a vegetarian code, a save-the-planet-and-the-culture-in-the-name-of-God code, a head-covering code, a tolerance code—but have missed and mistrust the grace of the gospel. These may, early on, enlist, as battalion after battalion of Christian youth today are encouraged to do, in the army of a kingdom of God of this earth, which is another kingdom, and not the kingdom of the gospel, of Christ, and of the redeemed.

You, true young believer: believe God, hope in God, and love.

That is the Word of Hebrews at a grand juncture, Hebrews 10:19ff. There already, in the first ten plus chapters, is the great and incomparable Jesus. Now, a therefore. Not just a good idea therefore. A life-and-death therefore. A wonderful life and a bad death therefore.

The Way, and Believing

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–22, NKJV)

Whatever the details of this text, the basics are this: the blood of Jesus shed for sinners, and faith in that blood atonement, is the way to God. This blood way is a new and living way. The blood of bulls and lambs and goats was shed in the Old Testament house of God, the temple, but this only pointed the way to God for sinners. The blood of Jesus paved the way. For His precious blood is shed, and there is the satisfaction of God’s justice on behalf of His elect; then is atonement; and now there is forgiveness and a thousand thousand joys in heaven and on earth! This is the new thing of the New Testament and covenant of grace. Jesus is in these latter days newly slain; He, this truth and way to God, is newly revealed. And He who is the way and the truth is the life, because He has risen from the dead to the right hand of God. He lives, and through this marvelous gift of faith by which all the blessings of His blood flow to us, we have forgiveness and life in Him. We have life in Him and are brought along that way, cleansed by that blood, joined at hip and heart to Jesus by faith, and led into the fellowship of God. So He is altogether the new and living way. It is the King’s highway, the Savior’s blessed way, the only true way to life with God.

Believing, truly believing, is being confident of this new and living way, Jesus and His blood. We are so confident that we draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Not that we are without sin. But we are trusting, completely, that we are cleansed, entirely, by the blood of Jesus—heart, mind, conscience, biceps, thighs, and eyes. We draw near. That means we want God more. We want less of anything and anyone else for more of God. We want more righteousness, less sin. We withdraw, pull away from, flee whatever interferes with and would compete with our fellowship and life and joy with the Holy One.

So, believing youth, draw near to the God you believe, to the God who has come gracefully near, in Jesus, to you. Draw near to this God of your peace and of your good conscience. That is how you show your faith is real: when you truly, actively, always and above all love God and being near to God. As you believe that all your sins of youth, of your hormonal body and of your vacillating, hesitating, oft-confused soul, and of your peer-pleasing nature are forgiven. Do you believe that? Then you do the bold thing: approach God, every day, in every situation, with your cares, your besetting sins, and your praise.

Draw near, nearer, the nearest you have ever been, then nearer still. Wondering how? If far from God you’ve been and felt? Use the means the Lord has given: prayer—real, tearful prayer; hear preaching, hanging on every word; receive sacraments holily; make friends who faithfully and regularly wound your ego; sing yourself near to God, and live the song, though it be trashing the many means and Internet sites and companions even—those means and men and women of disgrace that have long kept you far from God and godliness. Above all, esteem the reproach of Christ of greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, and choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.

See You at the Table

Believe. Believe and draw near. Then hope, and hold fast the profession of hope. Then love. Believing is vain without hope. Believing and hope are vain without love. All three are needed to enjoy Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. More on all those three next time.

But for now, and always, let us just remember: this is written so the devils don’t have you for breakfast. And so that you, instead, dine with God. At whose table would you rather be?


Rev. Mitchell Dick 
is the pastor at Sovereign Grace United Reformed Church located on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, MI. 


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