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The words a father speaks        

The words a father speaks to his children in the privacy of the home are not overheard at the time, but, as in the whispering galleries, they will be clearly heard at the end and by posterity. – Richter

*****

One of the earliest recollections I have of my father, Louis Praamsma, is seeing him stand with his face full of shaving lather in front of the bedroom sink and mirror. My crib was in my parents’ bedroom and inevitably he would turn away from the small sink, grimace and pretend that he was coming towards me to chase me. It made me squeal with a mixture of delight and horror. When my own children were very small, this scene was repeated. Opa often chased them down the hall, imparting a shaving lather kiss to those he caught. The boys, fascinated by the ritual of shaving, had a great desire to copy – to do what their grandfather did and what their father also did. The truth is that parents, fathers and mothers, play a tremendously big role in our development.

In 2014 a research group reported that many young children watched an average of three hours of television a day. Today screen time would likely be longer. There are families that turn the television on when they get up and do not turn it off until they go to bed. The study concluded that with as little as twenty seconds of television watching, children just over a year old were able to repeat actions seen during twenty seconds of time. The conclusion being that little ones will copy what they see going on around them.

I have another wonderful and early recollection – the recollection of my father kneeling in front of his big, four‑poster bed – kneeling in his striped pajamas, head down on the rumpled blanket. Every morning, as I passed my parents’ master bedroom on the way to the bathroom, I beheld him through the half‑open door, kneeling and praying. And it filled me with a sense of quietness and awe that I should see my father prostrate in this way – so very vulnerable and submissive to Jesus his Lord.

The biggest memory I have of my father, however, has the title of a hymn. That hymn is The Church’s One Foundation. It is said that he who sings, prays twice. ‘The Church’s One Foundation was one of my father’s favorite songs and, as such, I would like to write a little about why and when it was written.

*****

The Church’s One Foundation is based on Ephesians 5:23b which reads: “Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior.” That text was the cornerstone which my father endeavored during his whole life to pass on to his children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and congregations.

It has been necessary, from time to time, for the church to be defended against heresy. It’s certainly true that she needs to be defended against heresies today. The Church’s One Foundation was written as a defense. The author, Samuel Stone, was also a minister, and he lived during a time in which there was quite a bit of turmoil within the church – his denomination being Anglican or the Church of England.

The year was l866. The first five books of the Bible were being criticized. There were men who doubted; men in the Church of England who openly criticized the historicity of these books. It became a theological debate involving the whole Church of England.

Now pastor Samuel Stone, (1839-1900), loved the church. He desired nothing more than to impart the Gospel to the people in his congregation. In the pastorates he served in London, England, he was affectionately known as the “poor man’s pastor.” In the slums it was said of him that “he created a beautiful place of worship for the humble folk, and made it a center of light in the dark places.” He was a gentle, loving man. His personal faith in the inspired Bible, however, made him a fighter when he realized that his faith was being attacked. He loved the Lord and refused to compromise with the Biblical criticism and evolutionary philosophies that were becoming so popular.

Consequently Rev. Stone wrote. As a matter of fact, he wrote a collection of hymns. This collection was called Lyra Fidelium or “Lyra of the Faithful,” and contained twelve creedal hymns based on the Apostles’ Creed. They were written to combat the attacks of modern scholars on the Bible ‑ attacks which Samuel Stone felt would split up the church.

In the preface of the little hymnbook, he wrote:

“Most clergymen are aware how many of their parishioners, among the poor especially, say the Creed in their private prayers. And they cannot but feel how this excellent use, as also its utterance in public worship, is too often accompanied by a very meager comprehension of the breadth and depth of meaning contained in each Article of the Confession of Faith. Such a feeling first suggested to the Author the probable usefulness of a simple and attractive explanation of the Creed in the popular form of a series of Hymns, such as might be sung or said in private devotion, at family prayer, or in public worship.”

The hymn, The Church’s One Foundation, is based on that part of the Apostles’ Creed which reads “I believe in a Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints.” Samuel Stone felt very strongly that the oneness of the Church rests, not on man’s interpretation of the Bible, but on the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The words of this hymn are very meaningful for believers. It is a song which is also tremendously comforting. Below is the first stanza:

The church’s one foundation,
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

Samuel Stone based the words of the first stanza on:

  • “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor. 3:11
  • “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
  • “Even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it.” – Eph. 5:25
  • “The Church of God which He purchased with His Own Blood.” – Acts 20:28

*****

As previously mentioned, this was one of my father’s favorite hymns and he sang it with nasal gusto and a deep‑rooted faith.

Before he died, my father wrote: “When I think of the approaching day of my death, I have only one foundation on which I can stand: the free grace of God.”

To his grandchildren he left this message.

“My grandchildren, I love you all. God has something in store for you: a heritage in heaven (I Peter l:4). Never be afraid to confess the Lord Jesus Christ. In that way, you will never have any reason to be afraid. If God gives me the opportunity, I will continue to pray for you; the time is short and by His grace we will see each other again.

“My grandchildren ‑ you often have heard the word ‘covenant’ ‑ which means that God is faithful and gracious to us from generation to generation.

“I remember my own two grandfathers – the one was a cabinet‑maker (he owned a small factory where furniture was made), and the other was the principal of a Christian school. The one lost money because he trusted his neighbors too much; the other was always underpaid because the Christian schools were poor. Both served the Lord with a clear conscience.

“My father and my father‑in‑law were both Christian teachers, sacrificing for the sake of the Lord ‘the treasures of Egypt.’ One of the greatest gifts of the Lord in my life and in that of your grandmother has been that our children chose to profess the name of the Lord.

“That is the heritage that comes to you – God gave to each of you His special gifts. The greatest gift is that He has promised to be your Father for Christ’s sake. Trust Him, trust His Word, trust His promises, and you will experience, even if worst should come to worst, that He is good.”

*****

Thank God for the Samuel Stones in this world! Thank God for Louis Praamsmas! Thank God for all those fathers and mothers who are not afraid to confess their faith each day before their children! Read again the small noteworthy saying by Richter and ponder it.

“The words a father speaks to his children in the privacy of the home are not overheard at the time, but, as in the whispering galleries, they will be clearly heard at the end and by posterity.”


Up Next


Parenting

A Tale of Two Fathers

"…even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:4-6) *** Our Father in heaven is the perfect example of what a father ought to be like. He is, therefore, the model that should be followed in families. Children who have godly fathers – that is fathers who obey the Lord in faithfully following His commands and displaying humility, love and mercy – have a wonderful guideline for how to behave in their own lives. Children who do not have godly fathers, will have a difficult time finding their way in life. *** There was a rather unique story in an English newspaper recently about a little girl who had lost her father, a man by the name of Tony, when she was just four months old. The article gave no information as to how her father had died – whether the man had been ill, had been a casualty of war, or had suffered an accident. The readers were simply told that since the age of 4 months the little girl had been raised by her mother. Such things do happen and, by the grace of God, they can work out fine. The eight-year-old girl was from Braunstone, Leicester in the UK. In June, when Father's Day rolled around this last summer, the child felt uneasy and somewhat left out. All her friends were making cards and presents for their dads, but she had no one for whom to make a gift. So she thought to write a letter to her dead father, something she had done before on special occasions. Her mother said it was fine for her to do so again. When the little girl had finished her letter, which was filled with "I love you, Dad!" and "I miss you, Dad!" she asked her mom where her father now lived and what address she should put on the envelope into which she had neatly folded the letter. Her mother replied: "Put down Heaven, Cloud 9." There are two reactions that the initial part of this anecdote brings to mind and heart. One is anger and the other is compassion. Obviously, there had been no interaction between the girl and the mother about where dead people might be. For the mother to tell her child that she could connect with her earthly, dead father by mailing a letter to an imaginary, fuzzy, warm-feeling type of place was fundamentally misleading; and for the mother to leave out the comfort of a very real Heavenly Father Who desires a relationship through prayer was to put her child on a path of hopelessness. The letter was duly mailed and when a postman named Simon opened the red pillar mailbox on his route he happened to notice it. He saw that the envelope did not carry postage and that it was addressed to "Dad in Heaven, Cloud 9." Having recently lost his own father, he asked his manager if he could try to locate the family to discover who sent the letter. Having obtained permission, he took a picture of the envelope and posted it on Facebook. Thousands of people responded. The mother and child were subsequently tracked down and the Facebook responses were sent on to them. The mother was astonished at all the responses that had come in. "I haven't stopped crying since," she said, "I never thought for a second that anyone would find the letter or do anything with it." Simon the postman later met the little girl and gifted her a father-daughter figurine as a remembrance. Her mother placed the Facebook comments in a box for the little girl as a memento. Perhaps some of the people who responded to the Facebook photo sent messages of a heavenly Father. We are not privy to that information. *** My own father, Louis Praamsma, was also very young, (he was six years old), when his father, Riemer Praamsma, passed away. Riemer Praamsma, who was a Christian school principal, died of pneumonia. Before he died, however, he left instructions for his children as to how to deal with his death, and his wife made sure that all the children would receive these instructions. My father, Louis Praamsma, decades later, still remembered what had happened, and he wrote it down before he himself died, so that I and my five siblings would also be guided even as he had been guided. These were his words. "When my father suddenly fell ill in 1916, I and my six siblings were all parceled out amongst relatives for ten long weeks. At the onset of these weeks, however, I was sent for to stand at his bedside. My father had himself taught me to read, and the family Bible was placed in my small hands. I have now forgotten so many things, but I have never forgotten that my father asked me, at this time, to find Psalm 25. When I had found it, he said, 'Read, Louis. Read the first few verses of this psalm.' And I read:                  ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul, O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.'  “I have especially remembered the next few verses - verses 4 and 5 of this psalm:  'Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long.'" The picture of my father as a little boy standing in front of his father's deathbed is solidly imprinted in my mind. All of six years old, he was undoubtedly not totally aware of the gravity of the situation. His miniature hands could barely hold the large Bible and his immature voice read in a thin, childish treble. When he was done with the passage, he saw his father nod with satisfaction and that made him feel good. My father always recalled that moment. It was the last time that he saw his father alive. He told me more about his father's death. He related that a huge crowd of schoolchildren followed their principal's funeral carriage on its way to the cemetery. Every child and adult wore black and the carriage itself was also shrouded in black. And at the grave-side hundreds of voices sang: Lo, as for man, his days are like a shadow, Like tender grass and flowers of the meadow, Whose morning beauty fadeth with the day; For when the wind but lightly passeth o'er it 'Tis gone anon and nothing can restore it; 'Tis found no more, it vanisheth for aye. After the funeral, the Praamsma house was filled to overflowing with people, all bringing their condolences to the bereft widow and the brood of seven children. My father, Louis Praamsma, walking between the crowd of legs, hardly realized that his beloved friend and companion was gone and would never come back. He later penned for his own children to read: "I had such little conception of death that I did not fully understand that I would never see my father again. Caught up in the crowd of mourners who surrounded my mother, I suddenly walked up to a grown man, reached for his hands, and tried to 'climb up.' It was something my father had always done with me. Taking both my hands, he would allow me to 'climb up' and then, with a flourish, would swing me through the air before depositing me on the ground once more. But even though for a moment I thought that the stranger was my father, I quickly comprehended that he was not. "When I later questioned my mother as to why my father was not coming back, as to why he had died, she gave me an answer that I shall also never forget. ‘It is,’ she told me, ‘because God has better use for father in heaven than He has for him here on earth.’ "That answer gave me peace." Evangelism, making disciples of all nations, surely begins at home. Perhaps that little girl in England will also have someone who will speak to her at some time about a heavenly Father with whom she can have a relationship. Perhaps someone will point her to all the notes and letters that this Father has written to His children. *** It is incumbent upon all of us to endeavor to make disciples of our children, of little neighbor girls and boys, and of all the people God places on our way each day. Jesus has said so: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 Christine Farenhorst has a new book out, “Listen! Six men you should know,” with biographies on an intriguing selection of famous figures: Norman Rockwell, Sigmund Freud, Samuel Morse, Rembrandt, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King Jr. You can find it via online retailers including Dortstore.com....


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