Friday, November 17, 2017

Omnipotent to save!

This is the first hymn I memorized. My sister Alida taught it to me when I was about four years old and she was ten or eleven. It was a Sunday afternoon. She was babysitting me at home while the rest of the family went to church for the pm service. We were both very proud when  my parents and other siblings returned and we demonstrated what I had learned.

I remember especially enjoying the phrase "omnipotent to save." I loved the way the word "omnipotent" sounded and came out of my mouth and lips.


The saviour died but rose again by George vP

Monday, November 13, 2017

For the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Liberation of The Netherlands by Canadian Armed Forces, I was invited by the organizing committee for the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Taber, Alberta, to give the main address. I was assigned a text, 1 Timothy 2:1-6.

As this commemoration has, these last days, again been on our minds, I thought I would publish it here:

Remembrance Day
November 11, 1995
Taber, Alberta
Soli Deo Gloria

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-6

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

------------------------------------

Mr. Mayor, Honoured Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the passage of scripture which was read, the apostle Paul said that we are to pray for those in high positions (kings and governors) so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. God's people are to pray that the rulers of the country may achieve conditions of peace and security, so that the church of Christ may be enabled to pursue a godly and holy life. Paul tells the church to pray that it may have room. That it may have space in society to live, to function, to be a light in a dark world.

Fifty-five years ago, the people of God in Europe were, to a great extent, denied this space. By the summer of 1942, 400 million people in Europe lay under the yoke of Adolf Hitler and the godless principles of National Socialism. Hitler's empire stretched from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, from the English Channel to the Black Sea. Hitler's partner, Mussolini, had been reduced to the role of a puppet. In the ancient capitals of Europe—in Athens, Rome and Vienna, in Paris and Prague, Oslo and Warsaw—all voices were drowned by the voice of Nazi Germany. Hitler's panzer armies were within striking distance of the Nile River. His U-boats had carried his offensive to the Atlantic coast of North America and into the Caribbean. He seemed to be unstoppable. By the summer of 1942, he had been denied victory only in the sky above London and in the snow outside Moscow.

Those of you who lived in Europe at that time will remember what it was like to live under a regime which denied your most cherished values. Hitler's goal was to establish a world empire. To attain that goal, he formed Europe into a fortress. A fortress from which he could continue to conquer east and west. He was seeking room to live. A word was coined to describe this search for room—Lebensraum! Room for his followers. Space for his antichristian principles and policies.

And if his followers and his principles needed room and took up space, there was then no room nor space for those who opposed him. Already in Nazi Germany, the church had been largely silenced. In 1933, Protestants who supported Hitler seized control of the key positions of power in the national church. The national church fell silent in the face of the persecution of the Jews and the systematic massacre of the death camps. And that part of the church which, under the courageous leadership of men such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, continued to confess the truth of the gospel and spoke against the anti-Semitism and other Nazi policies embraced by the church became marked men. Many who spoke against Hitler and the hypocrisy of the National Church ended up in the death camps.

The oppressive policies of Hitler and Nazism suffocated true Christian freedom in other countries as well. My parents who were young adults in the Netherlands during the war told us children about this oppression. My paternal grandfather died in a death camp—Sachsenhausen—because he dared to speak against Nazi oppression. One of my seminary professors who was a young minister in Holland during the war remembers the secret police sitting in church on Sundays to hear what he had to say in his sermons. To see if he would say anything subversive.

Because of this oppression—because of the Nazi craving for more Lebensraum—others were no longer granted room. The room to lead quiet and peaceable lives (as spoken of by the apostle Paul) became very closed in.

But then God answered the prayers of his people. The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, sitting in majesty at the right hand of God the Father—the Lord Jesus Christ, he who controls the ebb and flow of history, who raises nations up and sends them crashing to the earth—he raised up liberators. God's people prayed for freedom and for space to worship him according to his word. And God answered their prayers.

He used the Allied forces to push back Hitler's armies. He used many Canadian soldiers to liberate Holland. First the south in Sept. of 1944. And then the north in May of 1945. Fifty years ago, Holland fell in love with Canada. And as we could see so powerfully this past May, Holland's heart still throbs for Canada—for the sacrifice of so many young soldiers in liberating Holland from oppression and suffocation. My parents told me that May 5th, 1945, stands out as the happiest day of their lives. For it was on May 5th, 1945, that a Canadian Lieutenant-General dictated the terms of surrender to his Nazi counterpart and Holland was liberated. And on that day, the Canadians, the liberators, rolled through the streets of their city in victory.

Today, as a Canadian, born of Dutch immigrants, who has heard the stories about the war and about the Canadian effort to free the Netherlands, I salute the men and women of this community who gave of themselves to work for liberation. We salute all the men and women who so unselfishly sacrificed themselves, often to the point of death, in the two World Wars and the Korean war to set an oppressed people free. We wear our poppies. We will not forget those who gave their lives so that others could live and breathe and move.

But I also salute the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. For he, seated at the right hand of his Father, has been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth. He holds the reins of history in his hands. He is bringing history to its God-ordained conclusion. As he does this work, he raises nations up and pushes them down. And as he does so, he keeps his eye firmly focused upon his people, his church. In some periods of history, now here, then there, he, in his perfect wisdom, allows his people to be hemmed in by oppressive overlords and ungodly principles and policies. But then, at other times, he gives his people room to live, to serve, to worship, to breathe. 

We remember those lying in Flanders Fields and in unmarked graves. But let us also remember Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the Lord of heaven and earth who rules history according to his sovereign power and wisdom.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A prayer for Remembrance Day

      Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and Reserves, both at home and abroad. Let them experience your marvelous wonders and heavenly grace wherever they serve. Strengthen them in their times of trial and difficulty, and give them courage always.

      Father, keep our nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land. Help them to be trustworthy, wise, and focused on the well-being of not only the citizens of our Native Land, but also those of other countries where we are seeking to make a positive difference.

Bless those for whom this time of the year is so very poignant as they remember loved ones who died in battle. Be with those who have come back from the wars but are suffering physical disabilities or mental distress.

     Let all people of good will learn from the terrible conflicts that form a part of the world’s history. In those whose motives are malevolent and greedy, instil new hearts that are kind and desiring of a world where peace gently reigns.

     We pray for the early return of our Lord Jesus Christ who will bring all bloodshed and war to an end, forever. 

    In his Name we pray,

    Amen

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reformation Day

Today marks 500 years since Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg. It was not his intention to start a convulsive movement; rather, he was hoping to foster a scholarly discussion on the topic he addressed in his 95 theses. However, thanks to the recent invention of the printing press the theses spread like wildfire throughout Europe. As well because printing became relatively inexpensive and easy, Bibles translated into the common languages of Europe flooded the continent. People could read the Bible in their own languages and preachers could preach the Word of God.

The Reformation was built on the idea that salvation came through faith alone in Jesus Christ as proclaimed in scriptures and not at all through human endeavour. Luther had not expected the impact his actions would make. He described it like falling down the shaft of a tower and reaching out to grab hold of the bell rope to break his fall. That rope for him was the good news that we are saved by Christ alone, and it rang a gospel bell that woke up all of Germany and Europe.

Martin Luther, October 31st, 1517
On this Reformation Day we do well to be reminded of the “five solas” of the Reformation:

1. salvation is by Christ alone,
2. by faith alone,
3. by grace alone,
4. through scripture alone,
5. so that all glory be to God alone.

Thanks be to God and all praise to him alone that there are yet countless churches and pulpits where the true gospel is still proclaimed. At the same time we know that there are many places in the world, and even in our own countries, where the preaching is overshadowed by false doctrines and the candlestick is being removed.

Let us on his Reformation Day, and always, remember the five solas.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Some further thoughts....

In response to my earlier post about Blessing Church some have said to me that Blessings was out of line when they allowed the retiring minister of Stanley Ave. Baptist Church, Pastor Paul Percy, preach his farewell sermon to his congregation in a service that the Blessings elders had called.

In exceptional circumstances a consistory can invite to the pulpit someone who does not necessarily have access to all the pulpits of the federation. Let me give another example: this past Summer the church of which I am joyfully blessed to be a member, Providence Church in Hamilton, invited to preach a candidate who was not from our churches, had not been trained at CRTS, and had not been examined and approved by one of our classes. By a strict reading of the Church Order he was not authorized to preach on one of our pulpits. Only men trained at CRTS have access, and only after having been examined by one of our classes. This man had not met (any of) those conditions. Was it right for the Providence elders to invite him? Yes. He had been trained at a seminary we trust and examined by a classis belonging to a federation we trust. In the circumstances (we are vacant) it was the right thing to do. It is about confidence. (And BTW, he was invited to preach at a number of CanRC churches.)

Similarly, for the Blessings elders to invite Pastor Percy to preach his farewell sermon to his congregation in a Blessings-called service was the right thing to do. The elders had come to know and trust him. By a strict reading of the Church Order he did not have access to our pulpits, but the consistory could make this exception considering the circumstances. This does not mean that Pastor Percy now had access to all our pulpits or that the congregation should be confused by this. Or that the consistory ought to be reprimanded for allowing a man to preach who had not signed our Form of Subscription. It was the right thing to do in the circumstance. The consistory had confidence in him, and the congregation has confidence in their elders.