Faith News Niagara presents another instalment of "5 Questions", the continuing segment where readers can get to know the local ministers of the region a little better.
Today's 5 Questions article with Peter Holtvlüwer is from an interview from August, 2017.
1 What is your name, the name of your church ministry, and the length of time you've been at that ministry.
My name is Peter Holtvlüwer. The name of the church I serve at is Spring Creek Canadian Reformed Church and I've been there for about seven years, since 2010.
2 What is your favourite pastime: reading, sports, outdoors, etc.
If I had to single out a couple of things that I wish I had more time for, one would be writing. The website that we were speaking about (www.peterholtvluwer.com) is something that I'm trying to do on the side. I want it to be a place to put my writings, my articles, whatever, in the hope that people may benefit from it. My idea is to write in order to help Christians, in particular, navigate the issues of life a little bit.
If there's another thing I like to do, it's watching detective movies or TV shows. I like that genre. We've been watching some British ones lately -- I don't know if you've ever heard of Father Brown? He mixes religion and detective stories. In the episodes, there's always a crime, usually a murder, and Father Brown ends up investigating it on the side. It's kinda fun.
I published a book of sermons about seven years ago on the first three chapters of Genesis. I wrote about 13 sermons where I went fairly carefully through each passage in those chapters. I called the book Foundations, because I concluded that God was laying out really foundational matters in these opening chapters of the Bible. So my congregation’s interest in the sermons together with the basic importance of the subject material, sort of compelled me to put it into book form. People were asking for copies, and I was happy to provide them. It’s still available through my website for free.
We made it a win-win; any proceeds from the sale of the book went to mission work. We printed a couple thousand of them, they all sold, and the money went down to Brazil to help with some mission projects there.
3 Favourite all time (or current) Bible book, Bible story, or Bible passage, and why.
Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. I mean, all of God's Word is precious. But, what I've been busy with the last three years, quite intensely, is the Book of Psalms.
You've seen the website. I put that site together primarily in order to promote this new writing project we’re calling Christ’s Psalms, Our Psalms.
I think every believer is drawn to the Psalms because of the comfort that's found there. There's also the personal touch of the Psalms; they really speak to the believer's heart, they speak to our struggles.
As believers, many Christians will say, "God gave us the Bible to show us himself, he's revealing himself to us in the Bible." And specifically, he reveals his Son through the pages of the Bible. I wanted, together with about 15 other pastors, to really flesh out how the Psalms do that: how do we see Jesus Christ in the Psalms? Sometimes there's prophecy -- if you think of Psalm 22, for example, which is quoted in the New Testament, and refers to Jesus Christ and all of the suffering on the cross. You can look at Psalm 23, the psalm of the Good Shepherd, and you can see an image of Christ there. We wanted to do that with all 150 Psalms and show whatever legitimate connections to Jesus there might be in each one.
So for three years, we've been labouring with that. We're just about coming to the end of that project. I hope over the next 4 to 6 months to put the finishing touches and get it -- God willing -- to a publisher, and out into the real world.
4 Briefly describe the series of events that brought you to your church, your current role, ministry in general.
I came to Spring Creek Church in the fall of 2010. In our church circles, pastors don't go and audition or apply for a job or calling. The vacant churches looking for a minister come after you.
I was serving in Manitoba, and I didn't really know much about this church. They basically called up one day and said we'd like to call you to be our pastor. They had done their investigation of me; it then fell to me to come and investigate them. During that time period, probably about a month in length, my wife and I became convinced that we should take up the call here. It's a bit of a subjective thing, it's a feeling you get at the end of the day. We could have stayed where we were, and laboured there in that church. That would have been fine. But there was a need here, and kind of a compelling feeling, to come. So yeah, nothing really dramatic, just that they called, we felt moved to go, so we said yes.
And as for the ministry in general, I started in 1999. I was seminary trained in Hamilton and then ordained as a pastor in British Columbia. We have churches across several provinces, and there was a vacant church in British Columbia, the lower mainland, that called me. So that was my start. I served there for 5 1/2 years, then we went to Carman, Manitoba, and then from there to Spring Creek Church in Tintern.
As far as getting into the ministry, I was actually entering university with the idea to go to law school. But as I was doing my undergrad degree, that desire kind of diminished, and what came up in my mind and in my heart was, what about the ministry? At first I tamped down those questions. I just didn't think it was for me, I didn't think I would fit the bill. But the questions wouldn't go away. So I started talking with some people, friends and parents and people I respected -- pastors and elders -- and the major feedback was to give it a try. So with that encouragement, and with a lot of prayer and asking the Lord for clarity and wisdom, I kinda came to a settled conclusion to at least give it a try, and ask the Lord to bless and open doors, and if it was not his will for me to travel that path and become a pastor, to then do the opposite and close those doors and open up a different avenue. So from that point forward, I didn't wrestle so much. I just tackled the route to enter the ministry, and the Lord opened doors, and here we are. So again, not really dramatic, but it was definitely a persistent sort of call.
I remember during that timeframe hearing sermons on a weekly basis and many times the application would come across to me in such a way that I felt almost guilty for not pursuing ministry. I would hear sermons that would talk about not using your talents for the Lord, and I would take that to mean, yeah, here I am, maybe I'm not employing my talents in the way that I could. Every sermon kinda was pushing me in that direction, so yeah, I do believe it was the Lord, through the preaching of the Word, and your own reading and prayer, and... yeah, those inner promptings are there. It's just the Lord’s work. I don't know. I don't want to speak for the Lord, but that was the end result.
5 Briefly describe how you met Jesus.
In a way, that's a tough question. It might be better to say, that Jesus met me... and maybe, to sort of pull the camera back, to say that God met me before I met God. I mean, he knit you and I in our mother's wombs, according to Psalm 139. So in that sense, God already knew you and me before we knew God.
In my case, the Lord planted me in a Christian family with Christian parents, and he welcomed me into his church family as a baby... I was baptized as a baby. And I see in that, already, God laying his claim upon me, in the sense that (he was saying through that act), you are my child. I claim you as my child.
I just grew up under that claim, and then by God's grace the Holy Spirit worked in me that personal childlike faith that's very immature in your younger years, but then as you grow older... well, it's a little bit like meeting your parents. If I would ask, when did you meet your mom… well, that's kind of a strange question! When did your mom not know you? But it took a while for you to recognize your mom, in a conscious, memorable sense. I think it's very much the same with the Lord.
In terms of maturing in the faith, and seeing myself consciously as a child of God, (that happened) probably somewhere in my childhood. I was taken to church as a little kid, all the way up until I went on my own. We would hear sermons every week but around the age of 10, all of a sudden, I was starting to clue in -- maybe that's the way to say it. The sermons started to make sense, and I started to listen, and I started to really be drawn into them. So I would say from that time on, I was much more conscious of my place and my role as God's child. And that just kinda led eventually to me making a public commitment to him, and it has gone on from there.
To me, it is parallel to a baby growing up in a biological family. In a normal situation, that baby just grows to know his mom and dad, and to recognize his mom and dad. When you're an adult, you can better appreciate your mom and dad. You can even understand all the things they did for you when you were a kid, that you couldn't understand (then), you were just receiving. That's kinda how I was as a child in God’s family.