24 August, 2010

The Presbyterian Thoughts Book Tour: Grand Rapids, MI

In a couple of weeks, the VanTimmeren Farm in Belding, Michigan, will be flooded with Reformed Presbyterians. Alex Tabaka (RPCNA Student of Theology) and Melissa VanTimmeran (Carnegie Melon trained French Horn major) are getting married. Those in attendance will not be just any RPs; but many theological students and a number of pastors will be attending the wedding. I told my friend, Pastor Shane Sapp, of Westminster, Colorado, that I would recommend some book stores.

Now, of course, spend a lot of money on their gifts (toasters, blenders, anything marked "As Seen on TV", and the whole nine yards), but save some money for book shopping in Grand Rapids. You will not be disappointed.

Grand Rapids, MI has been a Dutch Reformed Mecca for generations. It is the home to a number of the top Christian publishing companies in the world: Kregel, Baker, Zondervan, Eerdmans, and Reformation Heritage Books. (Baker is the nephew of Kregel, by the way.)

Here are the stores that I recommend visiting:

1. Reformation Heritage Books
2965 Leonard Ave. NE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
616. 977.0889

This is where you will want to spend most of your money. This bookstore is non-profit and has many deep discounts. Even when I was working at Baker Book House in college, I sent people to RHB who were looking for Reformed and Puritan publications. The Soli Deo Gloria collection is also housed here because SDG has been bought out (they wouldn't use that term) by RHB. Go here first and ask for Steve. Tell him you are a friend of mine. You may also ask to have a tour of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary while you are there. You must see the Puritan Resource Center on the second floor. There is a copy of the works of William Perkins that was owned by both Charles Spurgeon and AW Pink. There are notes taken from these men in the margins.

2. The Bookstore
2140 Oak Industrial Drive NE
Grand Rapids MI, 49505

The Bookstore is a great place to find "seconds" of Eerdmans titles. Think NICNT and NICOT at 60-80% off retail? The Church Fathers for dollars per volume? Sounds good, eh? Also when you are there, ask if Jason is working. Tell him that I sent you. He will take care of you.

3. Baker Book House
2768 East Beltline SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Now Baker has the market on used books. The reason why is that Kregal went out of buisness a number of years ago and their inventory was divided between Baker Book House and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Library. Baker has around 100,000 titles in their used book department. You will have to cover your eyes as you pass the front of the store which is filled with Jesus junk and Christian chachkies. Once you pass all of that stuff you will have a wonderful collection of new and discounted theological works on the left. That would make the trip worth it- but the holy of holies lies behind the double doors.

The used book department is manned by Greg, Jim, and a number of seminary students from around Grand Rapids (there are about 5 seminaries in West Michigan). Make sure that you tell them if you are a pastor or a seminary student. There is a 20% discount on many items if you are "vocational clergy." Be warned though, Baker prices on used books is not cheap. They compete with the Amazon, Ebay, Bookfinder, Albris, Abebooks crowd. That means that if something is worth $10... it's marked at $10 or $11. But you will find many, many things that are worth taking home with you.

Baker is also the North American distributor of Cambridge Bibles. They have a nice collection of Cambridge Bibles in ESV, KJV, NASB, etc. You will want to own a Cambridge if you don't already have one. The smell of the leather alone will make you want one. So save about $75-100 for your Cambridge.

4. Credo Books
Victoria Antiques
449 Century Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Credo is a rather new bookseller on the Grand Rapids scene. I know the owner. He used to come into Baker and buy TONS of used books. He would read a bunch, come back to Baker and talk about what he read and buy some more. He gave me a copy of Hendriksen's lectures on "The Bible and the Life Hereafter" once. (Guess he was trying to convert me to a-mil!) As with many independent small bookstores- the love of books eventually leads to selling them. Credo's collection will be a nice variety of Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan works. Tell him that you saw a coupon for 20% off online (there is such an animal, and you have to mention it).

That's what I got! You will be able to spend your whole month's check at these four locations. You may even burn through your entire book allowance there for the year. Enjoy! And tell them that Nathan says, "Hello!"

23 August, 2010

Western and Christian: What's a Mission to Do?

There comes times in the life of a mission where they must ask the question, "Are we promoting Western ideals or are we preaching the Gospel?" There are ways in which the Gospel does transform culture, and thanks be to God for that! But at the same time there are cultural aspects of life where the Church needs to say- this is cultural.

This was experienced in the Chinese Mission of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the 20th century. But it only came AFTER a number of years of work in the field. In 1884 the RP Church began plans to work in China; and it was not until 1921 when the attitude towards Chinese culture changed. The early years of the RP Mission were met with frustration that the Chinese did not want to conform to American ways of life in work or in the home.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only changes those being ministered to; but also those who are ministering.

"In twenty years the mission had learned that many Chinese methods were very good methods for them, well adapted to their way of life and to the physical conditions under which they lived. It was not the main purpose of this mission to teach a Western way of life; the purpose was to teach the Chinese that they, like all other humans, were sinners and that their only hope of love, joy, and peace, here or hereafter, lay in acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives. When they accepted him and his salvation, followed his guidance and his principles, it mattered little what tools the carpenters used or what utensils the women used in cooking. When Christianity permeated their lives their social attitudes changed radically, such as the position of girls and women, their idolatry, ancestor worship, polygamous marriage, dishonesty and deceit in business, even the cleanliness of their surroundings. So long as Christians lived Christ the mission felt that they should lead their lives in their own Chinese way." Hoi Moon, 163.

19 August, 2010

Your Crooked Little Life

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

13 August, 2010

RP History Mystery Solved!

When was your presbytery founded? For many Presbyterians the answer is easily accessible since many of the conservative Presbyterian bodies were not founded until the 1930s or 1980s. For the Reformed Presbyterian, things are generally less new.

At the beginning of 2010 I inherited the coveted "Clerk of Presbytery" position, and have been researching our history ever since. Last week I finally stumbled upon the jewel that I was looking for: "When did our Presbytery begin?" You see our records only go back to 1930, and I was unable to locate our older Minutes (they have since been located at RP Archives on Penn Avenue). I knew we were older than 1930!

Last week I found this in a dusty copy of the Minutes of Synod from 1911:

"Paper number (3) is a petition of the session of the Seattle congregation for the organization of a new Presbytery consisting of the congregations and mission stations on the Pacific Coast. We recommend that such a presbytery be organized and that it be call- ed the Presbytery of the Pacific Coast, that the boundary between it and the Colorado Presbytery be the Colorado River, the Wahsatch mountains and the Rocky mountains to the borders of the British possessions, thence east along that border to the western border of Ontario taking in all the British possessions west of Ontario; all the country in the United States and Canada lying to the west to be under the jurisdiction of this Presbytery; that the ministers and elders present here included in these bounds be directed to meet in this place before the final adjournment of this Court and to organize said presbytery and that PJ McDonald act as moderator and constitute that court."

That was the key to the RP History Mystery. I promptly began my search for Paper (3) from the 1911 Synod- and found it! I also was able to find the exact date of our organization of a Presbytery. The Pacific Coast Presbytery met for the first time on June 6, 1911. Amazing.

Below you will see a scan of Paper (3) from 1911. The back of the request reads: "Transferred to Synod by Colorado Presbytery, May 31, 1911." Under that it reads: "June 3: Transferred to committee on Discipline."


09 August, 2010

Take the Time to Think on Him

We live busy lives. Our lives are full of activity: work, school, duties at home, family, chores, bills, entertainment. How does a Christian have time think on the things of God? Well, we make time for what is important to us, and thinking on God needs to be a priority in the Christian life. We must know God in order to be in relationship with God. We must meditate on how His Word reveals Him. But how?

JI Packer gives us some insight on the lost art of Christian meditation. He writes,

"Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.

Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace."

07 August, 2010

Homophobe: Bigot or Biblical?

Have you had to come to a biblical understanding of homosexuality, or has your understanding of its sinfulness been handed to you as a cultural more? Does the Church have a skewed view of homosexuality? Do unmarried couples living promiscuous lives get a "pass", while young men and women struggling with same sex attraction get condemned? Are churches in need of getting into the Scriptures to see what they actually say, as apposed to what we think that they say?