Category Archives: Family

A New Citizen

Yesterday I went from being a dual-citizen to being a triple-citizen. Along with most of my family, we all took the oath and became Australian citizens. One of our daughters somehow jumped the queue and became an Aussie before the rest of us did yesterday. Now we’re all officially part of this nation Down Under. We’re thankful that this country has welcomed us. My prayer is that we can be a blessing to our new home.

Why did we do it? There are several reasons. The most important for me has to do with the gospel. Just like with the Apostle Paul and his Roman citizenship, Australian citizenship grants me certain legal protections that I didn’t have before. Being an Australian means I can’t be deported for preaching and teaching God’s Word. As it stands, there is already a law in Australia (in Victoria) that could see criminal charges brought against Christian preachers all across this Great Southern Land. We can’t be naive about the pace of social change and the challenges ahead.

Being a citizen also allows us the opportunity to be more meaningfully involved with Australian society. We can vote. The voice of voters carries more weight with politicians. Especially in a small state like Tasmania, that can have a significant impact.

As citizens, our children also now have access to the full range of benefits afforded to Australians. We were permanent residents as soon as we landed in September 2015, but PRs can’t access government programs which help university students. More opportunities open up when you’re an Australian citizen.

Being Australian doesn’t mean we’ve ceased being Canadian. We’re still Canadian citizens. It also doesn’t mean we’ll never move back to Canada — I just don’t know what God has in store for us in the coming years. Maybe we’ll be here for the remainder of my active ministry years and maybe not. If we do stay, I’d be perfectly happy with that.

So now we’re both Canadian citizens and Australian citizens. But hold on, didn’t I say at the beginning that I’m now a triple-citizen? Yes! You see, my most important citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. Some day I won’t be a Canadian or Australian anymore. But because of what Jesus has done for me in his life, death, and resurrection, I’ll always be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. This is the most precious citizenship of all. The benefits outweigh any afforded by any nation on earth: I have a king who knows me personally, who loves me and defends me; I have a king who will transform my lowly body to be like his glorious body; I have a king who will allow me to reign with him in my blessed inheritance.

Being Canadian is something I’ve always been thankful for. Canada has been good to us in so many ways. Now being Australian is also something to feel grateful about — it’s not a “lucky country,” but a “blessed country.” But being part of God’s kingdom tops it all.


Hey Busy Dad, Do You Have Some Time Now?

For many people, this COVID-19 crisis is starting to slow their lives down.  While we’re not in a total shut-down here in Tasmania yet, it might happen soon.  Certainly elsewhere in the world it already has.  In many places, only essential workers are allowed to leave their homes.  People are being forced to stay home and slow down.  You might look at that as a negative thing, but there’s also an opportunity here.

I’m thinking especially of those busy parents, and especially fathers, who used to say they didn’t have time for family worship.  Now, suddenly, you have the time.  You have plenty of time.  You’re at home, your kids are at home, so what reason could there be not to worship God together as a family?

It’s not hard to get started.  Find a set time each day.  Read the Bible with your family.  Discuss the Bible reading.  A great resource to help with that is the Family Worship Bible Guide.  Teach your children using a trusty catechism like the Heidelberg or the Westminster Shorter.  For that, our family has been using Starr Meade’s Training Hearts, Teaching Minds for nearly 20 years.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Then sing together.  Sing psalms and hymns — try to sing the same psalms and hymns that you’d sing in public worship.  This helps to reinforce the connection between your home and your church.  Finally, there’s prayer.  In our family, we each take turns praying.  Our children started doing this from about the age of 4.  They learn to pray (and lead in prayer) by doing it.

My prayer is that if you haven’t been doing regular daily family worship, you’ll start now while you have the time and energy.  Hopefully you’ll see the huge benefits that come from it — the most important of all being that your children are being taught as disciples of Jesus.  Then maybe, just maybe, when this all passes over and life gets back to normal, you’ll continue to make family worship a priority every day.  It’ll become your new normal.


Ten Ways to Help Your Children Love and Stay with the Church

If you’re in a faithful gospel-preaching church and you have children, wouldn’t you want your children to love that church and stay with it?  I’ve come up with a list of ways to help Christian parents help their children do that.

 I should say at the outset that I share these first of all because, if your church is faithful, the gospel is at stake.  It’s vitally important for our children to stay in a church where the gospel of Christ is proclaimed in Word and sacrament.  Children get discipled for Christ in such a church.  We can never take this for granted.  Second, I’m writing this to remind myself of how important it is to disciple my own children.  I should also say that there’s never any guarantee your children will remain with the church, or that they’ll be responsive to the gospel promises.  You can do everything right, but the Holy Spirit must regenerate the heart, also the hearts of our children.  It’s all grace.  But, from a human perspective, if you do one, some or all of these ten things, you certainly improve the odds your children will stay and love their gospel-focussed church. 

Be positive about the church and your relationship to it. Make sure your children hear and see your positive attitude.  Remember to pray regularly for the church and for the pastors, elders, and deacons.

Regularly attend worship services.  Communicate to your children that you need the ministry of the Word and sacraments and they need it too.  There’s always room for growth.  God’s call to worship applies to your family just as it does to everyone else.

Be committed to your local church. Have your children involved as much as possible in the activities of your local church.

Make church attendance mandatory for everyone in your home. If they don’t feel like going to church, they should be going anyway (unless they’re sick, of course). There are some things we might not feel like doing (like going to the dentist), but they’re good for us and our parents forced us to because they loved us.  Love your children the same way.

Similarly, make catechism attendance mandatory.  If they don’t feel like going, again you have to insist.  Support the efforts of your pastor to catechize your children.  Check to make sure they’re memorizing the catechism, check to see if they’re doing their homework, and make sure they’re prepared for class.

Sing at home what you sing in the church’s public worship. Communicate to your children that you actually appreciate the Psalms and hymns of the church.  You want them to embrace these songs and value them.  Teach your children the meaning of what they sing.

As much as possible, live close enough to the church so that you can be meaningfully involved in the life of the church.  If you live further out, look for and take opportunities to move closer.

Teach your children about the importance of giving your first fruits to the Lord. Speak to your children about financial contributions to the church.  Be sure to set them an example by faithfully giving yourself.  Be a cheerful giver!

Send them to the Christian school the other children from the congregation attend. This will help them to develop connections and friendships with peers in the church community.

Give helpful guidance with regards to their friends and potential marriage partners. Encourage them to have believing friends and to find marriage partners who love the Lord, but also love his church.

In short, do everything you can to communicate that the church isn’t some human organization or a club where you can come and go as you please.  Make it clear that the church is your spiritual mother (Gal. 4:26), the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), the bride for which Christ died and which he loves (Eph. 5:25), and the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).


Klaas van der Land’s Liberation Story (3)

See here for part 1 and here for part 2.

It seems my Opa harboured anti-synodical sentiments for a while.  He evidently didn’t keep them to himself, either.  In October of 1945, he was called on the carpet before a consistory meeting in Marum.  He tells the story briefly in a document from the archives of Reformed Church (Liberated) in Marum.  The translation is mine:

Declaration of br. deacon van der Land regarding his suspension

I was asked whether or not I could perform my office.  To this I answered that I was chosen by God and the congregation to the office and I hoped to perform it to the end of my term.

And that I would no more recognize a consistory which agrees with the binding of the Synod, for, as I see it, the Synod was not entitled to do this.

Further, I was asked whether I knew that I had placed myself under the discipline of the church, which I had promised at my installation as an office bearer.  To this I answered that I cannot place myself under them, when they have condemned ministers of the Word and office bearers who bring the Word according to the sense and meaning of the Holy Spirit.  They could not understand that I certainly could not continue in the communion of saints with them, nor celebrate the Lord’s Supper with them.  To this I replied that I could not find rest with the idea of sitting at the table with brothers who condemn me in their hearts — after all, when they condemn the concerned, they condemn me also.  Those who are concerned have always been my brothers.

Consequently, they decided to make this announcement:  “We announce to the congregation gathered here present this afternoon that van der Land has withdrawn himself from the discipline of the church and with this he has ceased being a member of the Reformed Church.”

The announcement about his withdrawal was made on Sunday October 21, 1945.

There are a couple of interesting things from this statement.  First, it appears that prior to this meeting he had already been suspended as a deacon.  So he was under discipline as an office bearer.  Second, it’s unusual that the suspension didn’t proceed to deposition.  Instead, they went the easy way and announced him as having withdrawn.  The process of discipline was short-circuited.  I wonder if they would have followed that route if their pastor had been at the helm.

Following the announcement, Klaas van der Land sent two letters.  The first (dated October 25, 1945) was sent to the consistory.  He complained that their decision was unjust.  He respectfully asked them to rescind their decision.  They didn’t.

After hearing that they would not back down, Opa sent a letter to all the members of the Reformed Church at Marum.  He informed them of what had transpired.  He told them that, from his perspective, he had not withdrawn from the church.  He had not abandoned his office.  He called the other congregation members to join him in liberating themselves from the unscriptural binding being imposed on them.

On Sunday October 28, 1945, the first gathering of Liberated believers took place at my Opa and Oma’s house in Nuis.  There were five present — three brothers and two sisters.  Rev. H. Bouma from Niezijl read with them from Romans 9:1-13 and led in prayer.  He explained the struggle in the churches.  They decided to distribute literature and then organize an information evening.  The meeting concluded in prayer.

The next gathering was on Sunday November 11, 1945, again at Opa and Oma’s house.  This time thirteen were present — ten brothers and three sisters.  Both Rev. Bouma and Rev. Woldring were also present.  They gave encouragement to those present.  They made further arrangements for another information evening.  After that evening (which took place on November 22), they would begin worship services at the Community Hall in Marum under the supervision of the church in Kornhorn.   That’s what happened.

Opa and Oma only stayed in the Marum area for a few more years.  In 1951, they immigrated to Canada.  First settling in the Peace River area in Alberta, eventually they found their way to Edmonton.  There they found a whole new bunch of church struggles amongst the Liberated immigrants.  But that’s a completely different story…


Klaas van der Land’s Liberation Story (2)

Klaas van der Land at his home in Edmonton.

I hated church history in school.  There were reasons for that — one of them was the textbook, another was the teaching style.  One day I came home from school and Opa and Oma were visiting.  Opa asked me about my day.  I told him straight up that it was terrible.  He asked why.  I said, “We had church history.  And I hate church history!”  That was one of the few times I’ve seen Opa blow his top.  There was fire in his eyes as the words shot out, “Vat do you mean you hate church history?  Dat is zo important!”  He reamed me out, but to little effect.  I continued hating church history through my school years.  I didn’t understand until later why Opa got so passionate about this subject.

As mentioned yesterday, my Opa van der Land experienced a momentous event in church history, the Liberation of 1944.  In his small corner of the Netherlands, he was a leader in this event.  Sadly, I didn’t realize that until after having a meaningful conversation with Opa became impossible.  His last few years saw him struggling with worsening dementia and by the time I cared about church history, he couldn’t talk about that, or much else of anything for that matter.

Eventually, some of his personal effects relating to this period came into my possession.  With these items, I can piece together a little bit of the story.  For example, how did Opa come to his Liberated convictions?  There are a couple of clues.  One is a booklet by Dr. Seakle Greijdanus.  It was published on cheap wartime paper in 1944.

From the postmark, we learn that it was sent to him in 1944, probably from the city of Groningen.  Someone peeled off the stamp, so we don’t have the full name of the place of origin, nor the full date.  It was sent to Klaas van der Land the store keeper in Nuis via the post office in Niebert (a village next to Nuis).  But who sent it and the background behind its sending is a mystery.

The pamphlet itself was written by Greijdanus, a close colleague of Klaas Schilder at the seminary in Kampen.  The title comes from Acts 7:1,2 “Are then these things so?  And he said….listen now.”  However, it’s not an exposition of Acts 7:1,2 but an explanation of the events surrounding the suspension of Klaas Schilder and what happened with the autocratic synods.  I would imagine that this pamphlet was influential in my Opa’s thinking about these things.

There were also two local ministers who appear in the documents I have.  As I mentioned yesterday, Marum’s pastor was underground hiding from the Nazis and so out of the picture.  He wasn’t supportive of the Liberation anyway.  However, to the north of Marum was the village of Kornhorn.  Rev. E.H. Woldring had been serving there since 1922.  It was his first congregation.  By 1945, he was 61 years old — a veteran pastor who followed the Liberation.  Some 20 km to the northeast of Marum was Rev. H. Bouma in Niezijl.  Niezijl was his first congregation and he was just 28 years old in 1945.  He too became Liberated.  He would later author a book translated into English as Secession, Doleantie and Union: 1834-1892.  The veteran pastor Woldring and the greenhorn pastor Bouma supported my Opa and the other Liberated believers in Marum.  After the Liberation happened, Woldring and Bouma took turns leading the worship services for them.  I’m inclined to think that these pastors probably had something to do with shaping my Opa’s convictions as well.  Especially with the absence of Marum’s pastor, it’s quite conceivable that Woldring and Bouma occasionally led the services in the church there before the Liberation — and that’s likely where the connection was forged.

More tomorrow…