Celebrating the Heidelberg Catechism’s 450th Anniversary

Heidelberg Castle

In 1563 the Lord blessed His church with a remarkably clear and warm-hearted statement of biblical Christianity. The Heidelberg Catechism was written by two men in their twenties, yet it has served as a book of comfort to the international Reformed movement for four-and-a-half centuries. It is doctrinal, experiential, Christ-centered, and practical.

Let me invite you to two opportunities to make use of its historic 450th anniversary to enrich yourself personally and spiritually.

This winter, on January 18–19, 2013, Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario will host a special conference on the Heidelberg Catechism. Lyle Bierma, Herman Selderhuis, Jason van Vliet, and I will speak about the rich heritage we have in the catechism.

This summer, on July 11–19, 2013, Dr. Van Vliet and I will lead The Legacy of the Reformation Tour through Germany and the Netherlands. In addition to learning more about the history and doctrines of the Reformation, you will enjoy delightful scenic excursions to the Het Loo palace and gardens, the Bad Bentheim castle, the Gothic Dom church in Cologne, a cruise on the Rhine River, and, of course, Heidelberg Castle.

Those interested may also register for the Heidelberg Conference on Reformed Theology from July 18–21, 2013. It will be a fitting way to cap off our tour through Europe to Heidelberg. Speakers include Lyle Bierma, Michael Horton, Jason Van Vliet, Jon Payne, Victor d’Assonville, Sebastian Heck, and myself.

Ministry in the Netherlands (II)

Young Adult Gathering, Zeist

On Saturday morning, September 15, Rev. Elshout and I drove to the Poortkerk in Veenendaal, where he preached in Dutch in the morning with considerable freedom on the cross of Christ and I preached in the afternoon on the crosses of the Christian. It was great to meet Leen VanValen there;

Leen VanValen

he is a well-known author of Christian biography as well as a “Barnabas of encouragement for us. We then drove on to the Nooderlichtkerk in Zeist, where I spoke in the evening on “God’s Leading in Your Life” to 550 young adults, mostly in their late teens and early twenties. The entire church was packed—what an opportunity to bring the gospel! By the time we were back to home base, it was midnight again.

Sunday was another full day. Rev. Elshout preached to about 400 people with freedom in the Christelijke Gereformeerd Kerk of Utrecht on Romans 8:28 in the morning. I attended a sermon preached by the now 80-year-old Rev. Cor Harinck in the Gereformeerde Gemeenten congregation in Houten on the woman who was diseased for eighteen years (Luke 13:11). It was a beautiful sermon for poor, needy sinners, to encourage them to entrust themselves to the gospel. Afterward, I had the privilege of meeting with Rev. Harinck and the consistory of the Houten GG for some fellowship and coffee. It was great to see this dear brother again. He was such a major influence on my spiritual life as a teenager. In the afternoon, I preached in English without a translator at the Hersteld Hervormd Kerk in Woudenberg to 350 people on 1 Timothy 1:15-17. That evening I preached (with Rev. Elshout translating) on Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7b) for Rev. Lawrence DenButter at the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk of Culemborg. Both Rev. Elshout and I are enjoying our developing friendship with this able, young minister.

On Monday, I spoke to a few dozen ministers in the morning at the Poortkerk in Veenendal on Puritan preaching. In the afternoon, we had a follow-up Q and A session, then visited the Bert Breunisee family, and had supper with him and Henk and Corry VanderZwaan

Henk and Corry VanderZwaan

at their home. That evening, I spoke on “Parenting by God’s Promises” at the Hersteld Hervormed Kerk at Woudenberg to 350 parents, which was followed by a Q and A session again. We were back to our home away from home by midnight.

Tuesday we went to the DenHertog bookstore in Utrecht, and to the family of Klaas VanderZwaag,

Klaas and Geertje VanderZwaag

an editor for Reformatorisch Dagblad, for lunch. That afternoon I gave two addresses on following God fully to the student body at Fruytier High School in Apeldoorn. After having dinner with the principal of the high school, I spoke for a final time that evening on persevering in the Christian race until the end.

The next morning, September 19, I was up at 5:00 a.m. to wing my way home via Amsterdam and Newark. How good the Lord was to me on this twelve-day journey to No. Ireland and the Netherlands. Friendships with many old friends were renewed and many new friends were made. But most importantly, in these twelve days I was privileged to bring God’s Word two dozen times to several thousand people. Who can tell what God will do with His own Word? How encouraging it is to realize that that Word will not return void to our great God.

Ministry in the Netherlands (I)

Theologische Universiteit van Apeldoorn

Early Thursday morning, September 13, I was up to catch a plane to fly from Belfast to the Netherlands via London. Rev. Bart Elshout, my translator for my Netherlands’ itinerary (and also one of my best friends for the last forty-three years), was on hand to drive me directly to Arnemuiden (a two-hour trek), a suburb of Middelburg, where we had dinner with some good friends, Hans and Allette Pieterman, and their daughter Ruth. (Ruth has translated several of my books into Dutch.) That evening I spoke at Calvin College in Goes, in the province of Zeeland, on the sufferings of Christ in Gethsemane.  I met a few distant relatives there, as well as a few relatives of one of our elders in Grand Rapids, Jacob Nijsse. By the time we made it back to Nellie Elshout’s home, it was well after midnight. (A sister of Rev. Elshout, Nellie graciously opens her home for us when we do these itineraries in the Netherlands, and moves in with a friend, so we have her entire place—including her car!—for ourselves.)

Dr. H.G.L. Peels, Rev. Bart Elshout, Rev. Lawrence DenButter, Rev. Wim Wullschleger

The next morning Rev. Elshout and I, on behalf of the Heritage Reformed Congregations, met at the Theologische Universiteit van Appeldoorn with three members of the Christelijke Gereformeerd Kerk’s correspondence committee (Dr. H. G. L. Peels, Rev. Lawrence DenButter, and Rev. J. Wim Wullschleger) to speak about the possibility of our respective denominations entering into some level of formal church fellowship. This is the first meeting we have ever had with them, and it went well. We shared each other’s history briefly, and then asked questions of each other. The result is that we hope to dialogue more over e-mail, and then present a recommendation for the first level of fellowship to our respective committees, which, if approved, will then go to our respective synods.

Dr. Herman Selderhuis gives us a tour of the seminary.

That afternoon Dr. Herman Selderhuis gave us a tour of Apeldoorn’s theological seminary in his own inimitable style. Later, we drove to Garderen to fellowship and have dinner with a dear ministerial friend, Rev. Wouter Pieters, his wife Arie, and their six boys. Rev. Pieters is pastor of the one thousand member Hersteld Hervormd Kerk of Garderen. What a great time we had with this warm and godly family! Real conversation transpired. We wish we could have spent more time with them.

That evening I preached for the Tabernacle organization at the Hervormd Centrum, Hardinxveld-Giessendam on “A Christ-centered Life” from Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” to a full room of two hundred people. Afterwards, a number of books sold well—particularly my new book of lectures given two years ago at this same place, Christus is Alles! (Christ is All!).

Gathering for the first Tabernacle lecture at Hardinxveld-Giessendam