According to precedent, the title of this article was selected after the name of the established church but I think “Reformation at Grand Haven” is a rather poor title since the actual reformation and missionary work which lighted the spark of enthusiasm that finally blazed forth into our Grand Haven Protestant Reformed Church did not begin at Grand Haven but at Muskegon, Michigan.
It was in April of 1935 that the Mission Committee opened a mission station in Muskegon hoping to find a fruitful field in which to labor among the families of sound reformed persuasion. Rev. H. Hoeksema delivered several midweek lectures which were very well attended. But, alas, in October of the same year, when faith was really put to the test since people then would have to leave other churches to attend and unite with our Protestant Reformed Church, very few people from the Muskegon district attended our Sunday gatherings.
On the other hand, quite a number of families from Spring Lake began to come to our meetings so the Mission Committee decided to relocate this station in the vicinity of Spring Lake. Mr. A. Peterson offered the use of his house for a meeting place until a more suitable location could be found. Our meetings were held in the basement of his home until late in November, when arrangements were made with the Seventh Day Adventists of Grand Haven to rent their building for Sunday services and for some evenings during the week, which we are still continuing to do. This means that our two faithful families from Muskegon must come twelve miles for services, and our three families from Spring Lake must come three miles.
In June of 1936, eight families consisting of twenty-six souls organized “The Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Haven.” At one time we numbered ten families but at present we have nine, although one is located in California for the duration of the war.
In the fall of the same year, Candidate M. Schipper was ordained into the ministry of the Word. He was our faithful pastor indoctrinating us in the Reformed truth of the Word of God until August 1939, when he left for a larger field, the Roosevelt Park Congregation, now known as the Second Protestant Ref. Church of Grand Rapids.
We were without a pastor for nearly three years. In May, 1942, it pleased the Lord to send the glad word (and very pleasant it was after experiencing so many disappointing declines from other ministers) from Rev. A. Petter that he had accepted our call. He has been breaking the Bread of Life faithfully ever since.
From an outward, earthly point of view, it is very discouraging never to have others from other churches join us in the defense of such glorious truth, especially when we know that there are people in this vicinity who show some interest in our truth by listening to our radio broadcasts. It is our constant prayer that the Lord may open their hearts and minds to see His way as He has shown us in the past, knowing that no sacrifice is too great for the Kingdom of God. We look to the future, however, with faith and hope in Him, Who is the Lord and King of His church, for it is His cause and He will prosper us if it is pleasing to Him.
All of us have seen wall plaques containing scripture verses, mottoes, or poems in many homes. Have you ever stopped to think what some of these say or mean? If you have, I am sure you will find many deviating from our reformed doctrines especially if they are misinterpreted as many are. So often we find only part of a verse quoted on these plaques; a fact which very easily leads to misunderstanding since all texts should be interpreted in the light of their context. Then many of them go unnoticed day after day by the people in whose homes they are found because their eye has grown accustomed to seeing that little dark speck on the wall, hardly realizing what it is. If only we could live up to these, but many bear silent testimony against us as we go about our daily tasks, deeply engrossed in only our own carnal interest. There is another danger in such things, that is, that they tend to make an outward show of our religion. Would not the Pharisee of old delight in having his home filled with such pious displays? Often plaques attempt to portray Christ and of course this is always based upon human imagination which is truly incapable of making a likeness of Christ.
Let us take a look at some of the typical sayings we may find. I once noticed a very striking plaque in the form of a little command, namely, “Do not do anything that you would not want to be doing when Jesus comes.” It immediately reminded me that we must truly be prepared for the coming of Christ when He shall judge all peoples. No man knoweth the day and hour, but let us not be found as the five foolish virgins with no oil in our lamps. However, we must be careful not to interpret this wrong. We should not say then that the only reason we must not do that which is improper is because we would not want to, like the little boy with his face smeared with jam after a raid on the cupboard, “be caught at it” if Christ were to come. We should do right at all times, being examples to others.
Usually these plaques try to touch only upon the pleasant things of this life. For instance, “Jesus never fails” or “God is love.” Is it not just as appropriate to say “God is a consuming fire?” But, that sounds a little too harsh for most people. Also when Christ is pictured, He is usually shown as a kind, loving, gentle shepherd, which He certainly is, but He has also rebuked hypocrites, even likening them to whited sepulchers. Do you ever see Him portrayed as such?
A very poor motto is the one saying, “Prayer changes things”. Is it really prayer that changes things or is it the work of God? Indeed we must pray without ceasing, but prayer to be acceptable must be sincere and in faith and truly everyone cannot pray in faith.
A very common verse is “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation.” Christ, to be sure, should be the Head of every Christian home and always is a witness of all our thoughts, words and deeds.
Because of the war a new fad for “patriotic Christian” plaques has arisen. Most of these contain verses whose meanings have been misinterpreted. The word “peace” is often used referring to peach following this war, but a text is used with it which means the peace which passes all understanding as a verse like II Thessalonians 3: 16, “The Lord of peace, Himself give us peace.” Another appealing word is the much emphasized “Victory” of today, misused often with a verse like “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” I John 5:4. A desire for liberty and freedom is frequently expressed by John 8:32. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Certainly, these texts, in their proper interpretation are fine and it is a shame to abuse them by such false applications.
Scripture texts which contain in themselves complete thoughts are very fitting plaques; such as: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose”. Romans 8:28. Or “We have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:1. And “Because I live, ye shall live also”. John 14:19.
Let us therefore be careful of the mottos we select!
Am I a soldier of the Cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies,
On flow’ry beds of ease;
While others fought to win the prize,
And sail’d thru bloody seas?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign:
Be faithful to my Lord,
And bear to toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war,
Shall conquer tho’ they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
And seize it with their eye.