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Posts by Barry York

Just Call Me the Little Drummer Boy

A quick update.  My technician tells me our new launch date for our new look should be sometime between now and Christmas.

Hope so.  My arms are getting tired doing this drum roll.

Gently Introducing Psalm Singing at College

The following post is a guest article by Anna (Pulliam) Carini, a senior at Wheaton College studying cello performance and philosophy.  It offers ideas and serves as an example of how gently to bring to others the means of grace of singing God’s Word.


Psalm singers are rare outside the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

As a senior at Wheaton College, I’ve learned a lot from my fellow believers on the subject of worship and psalm singing. I was blessed to grow up at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, and though I despised a cappella psalm singing when I was younger (especially being a cellist), I grew to love and appreciate it greatly. However, in a campus of a couple thousand believers, I am one of only a few Wheaton students who believe that psalm singing is best, and I have had a great desire to see the practice grow. Read more

Keep the Drums A-Rolling!

Glitches!  Just when we thought our new site would be up last weekend, we discovered behind the scenes that we had a problem with securing our link.  We are working on that and hopeful that this weekend our new look should be unveiled.  We really are not intentionally trying to build suspense!

Some posting has been delayed due to this difficulty.  Hopefully next week we will be up and running with more frequent posting again.

Thank you again for your patience and visiting us here at Gentle Reformation!  To encourage you, I will be putting up one guest post here shortly.


Drum Roll, Please!

Over this weekend, hopefully you will notice a change to Gentle Reformation.  We wanted a bolder, cleaner site that was easier to read and access.  Also, hearing that over 40% of those visiting blogs do so via smartphones and learning that figure may double in a couple of years, we knew we had to do something, for this current hosting site was not working well on smartphones.  We even hoped to throw in a new logo.   Alas, I have seen the preview, and all these changes and some others should be coming soon.

So we want to thank our friend, Ben Brame, who has been the chief one working diligently behind the scenes to bring these formatting updates.  Once they are up, let us know what you think in the comments section or send me an email.

Then let me ask you to consider this request.  These changes come with a cost.  As we are seeing the Lord use Gentle Reformation to bless people near and far; as we are adding new features such as a monthly podcast; and as we plan to add other writers to keep giving you fresh, encouraging posts from a Reformed perspective that focus on gentle persuasion rather than gotcha polemics, might you be interested in sending a gift to help us out?  If so, send me an email at  I’ll answer any questions you have and tell you where to send a gift if you like to do so.

As always, thanks for reading!

Introduction to Reformed Theology by John Tweeddale

Each month the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary hosts helpful “webinars,” which are live online classes addressing a topic of interest to the church where participants can submit questions.  Yesterday Professor and Pastor John Tweeddale of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Pittsburgh gave a concise, encouraging, and devotion-inspiring talk on ten characteristics of Reformed theology.  This teaching was recorded so others might benefit from it.

This is a resource that would be helpful to those wanting to review the basics of the Reformed faith or to learn about Reformed theology for the first time.  I encourage you to watch it, then pass the link on to others via Facebook, email, or all the other ways the Lord of technology has given us to share His word!


Recently Pastor Ken Smith addressed the Reformation Society of Pittsburgh on the topic of justification by faith alone.  As an application of this doctrine, he addressed the subject of the gospel call.  Ken graciously agreed to let us share that important portion of his address below.  


I want to pose a question which has troubled me for a long time.  Why do there seem to be so few conversions among reformed churches?  There could be, I suppose, a number of answers.  But having puzzled over this for many decades, I want to pose one very strong possibility.  Have we in our zeal for proclaiming the sovereignty of God in salvation with the Bible’s doctrine of predestination, election, and irresistible grace slipped into thinking that saving faith is passive?  After all, say many, doesn’t Ephesians 2:9 say “…it (thinking faith) is the gift of God….”?  So, if that’s the case, is it not after all a passive matter?

It is significant to recognize that when the Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry, He called on men to repent.  In talking with Nicodemus, he made it clear that unless one was born again (from above), he had no part in the kingdom of God.  Later in that same passage Jesus spoke of the serpent in the wilderness, raised up in God’s mercy, so that by looking at it persons with fatal snakebite could be healed.  When Jesus called men to Himself, He called on them to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Him.  His gospel call came in a variety of ways, but he always called for a response.  And the point of this consideration is that unlike regeneration (the inner call) which is indeed passive, faith in the Scripture is always active.  The sinner MUST respond.  So while we hold to sola fide, faith alone, we must never confuse it with a passive attitude. Read more

Wintry Thanksgiving

Most artists use a white canvas,

then add color.  


You did just the opposite.


Upon every leafless tree and forested hill,

you sent from heaven above

a flurry of white

to paint your landscape.


Clearly each flake was carefully directed.


Thousands upon thousands,

blasted by cold wind,

speckle trunks of oak and maple,

defining sharply each tree in the forest.


Yet most gently floated down,

dabbed upon every limb, bough, and twig,

covering them with clean brightness. 


Across the valley,

the morning sun strikes hilltops,

every glistening branch sparkling

with little diamonds of frozen cold.


As I sit on window seat,

beholding your wintry glory,

with sounds of a feast

being prepared in the kitchen behind me,

I give silent thanks

to an artist

who uses white so beautifully

to cover not only trees.

With All the Bad News…

…Why not a piece of good news for a change?  Seeing how these young men rallied around (and especially explained why they did so) a little schoolmate who was being bullied will touch your heart.

He Assumes You Know

One key to understanding perplexing Bible stories is to recognize that the Lord assumes his people will treasure his word greatly.  He relates to his people as though they will remember and apply the Scriptures that came in history before them.

Sometimes the Bible just goes ahead and refers us immediately to the preceding Scriptures to help us in its interpretation.  When we read that “in his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub” in I Kings 16:34, we are not left to guess at the reason for this tragedy.  We read at the end of the verse that this happened “according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”  This takes us back to Joshua’s prophetic oath hundreds of years previously, where he promised this would happen to the one who dared rebuild this city.  “Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates’” (Joshua 6:26).  There is an underlying assumption that this word, recorded in Holy Scripture for the people, will be remembered. Read more

Tornadic Meditations

After having our hearts warmed with fellowship and our bellies filled with the ladies’ cooking on our first visit back to our congregation in Kokomo, Indiana, my son Spencer and I started off east on Sunday to return home to Pennsylvania.  We left trying to beat some severe weather we knew was coming from the west. However, we had no sooner gone down the street than I had to circle around the block and return to the church, as my son had forgotten some things.  

Just then my daughter Emory exited the building.  She had also come to worship with us and was heading back west to Lafayette, hoping also to get there before the weather hit.  As I talked further with her through the window as I sat in the driver’s seat, the western sky growing darker behind her deepened my sense of fatherly concern. Unlike the plans we had made just moments earlier for her to leave, I asked her to stay in Kokomo until the storm passed, said goodbye again, then drove away. Read more

Highlights of Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges

On Friday and Saturday I spent a wonderful time in Indianapolis with over 300 other believers being fed by Tim Challies and David Murray as they addressed the topic of growing as believers in the midst of the unique challenges of the modern world.  The Second Reformed Presbyterian Church hosted the time well by providing a warm welcome to all, making available room for the huge layout of books by Reformation Heritage Books with tasty refreshments nearby, and offering special times of question and answer sessions with David and Tim, be it for youth around pizza or pastors around a tasty lunch. Certainly the time was a taste of the eternal fellowship we will fully enjoy one day.

As I believe it would be well worth the investment of time to listen to their messages, here are four paragraphs highlighting each one.  To listen to the particular talk, just click the title’s hyperlink.  Read more

The Trinity’s Hymnbook (Part I)

Certain congregational songbooks use the word “Trinity” in their titles.  For instance, there is the Trinity Hymnal and the Trinity Psalter.  Yet how aware are we that the songbook found in the middle of the Bible, the Psalms, is filled with references and allusions to the Trinity?  In one sense this should not surprise us, as they were authored by the Triune God (II Timothy 3:16; I Peter 1:20-21).  However, if my own growing awareness and recent experiments pointing this out to students are any indication, many believers are missing out on this particular vein of richness in the Psalter.

My eyes were opened to this while sitting under the teacher of Robert Letham, author of The Holy Trinity.  During this wonderful week of learning, Dr. Letham showed how the knowledge of the Trinity is present in the Old Testament but is veiled and only progressively revealed. For instance, do you know where in the Bible is the first place the Trinity is referenced?  The first three verses of the Bible!  God (the Father) is mentioned in verse 1, the Spirit of God in verse 2, and the Word of God (whom we know is Jesus) in verse 3.  He then lead us through an exercise where we saw how the Trinity is abundantly present in the Old Testament, but then rightly showed how it is not until the New Testament that there is a virtual explosion of Trinitarian passages.  From Jesus’ baptism to his discourse at the Lord’s Supper to the Great Commission to the apostolic epistles, seeing the fullness of Trinitarian doctrine growing and expanding through the Scriptures was a blessed experience. Read more

Conference on Sanctification with Tim Challies & David Murray

After classes, I’m racing off to Indianapolis next Friday, November 15th, to attend the conference “Sanctification: Overcoming Modern Challenges” being held at the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church there.  Two of our blogging friends, pastors David Murray and Tim Challies, will be addressing this topic.

Here is the description from the brochure:

Is a believer’s sanctification simply believing more in his or her justification? What place do effort and discipline have in this process? How can we focus on growing in Christ as we live in a fast-paced and distracted society? Through this conference, Dr. David Murray and Tim Challies will address these questions, focusing on four modern challenges to our sanctification and giving practical steps to overcome them so that we daily grow more and more to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. They will address the radical and extra-ordinary kind of life strongly advocated by many Evangelicals and look at the modern version of “let go and let God.” They will call us to live lives of focused godliness and pursue positive sanctification. In all, we will be strengthened as we seek to fight the “good fight of faith” and press on in righteous and holy living.

The conference is free of charge. A freewill offering will be collected to help defray expenses.

So let’s get this straight.  It is a free conference on a much needed topic, two energetic kingdom thinkers are speaking, and there will be a Reformation Heritage Books book table available to boot.  Why would you not go if you can?  Hope to see you there!

For more information, you can see the conference brochure at   Here is the schedule:


What Math Teaches Us

I was interested to see, via Tim Challies, this article entitled “The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math‘” at The Atlantic.   For just yesterday, in teaching on discipleship, I fell back on my experience as a math teacher and shared the following (you can ask my students!):

The word for “making disciples” is just one word in the Greek (matheteuw).  It means to make learners, pupils, or students out of people.  We get English words like man (so called because he is a “thinking” being), mind, and mental from this word.  Yet it entails far more than mere mental understanding.  That is why this word also gives us English words denoting fields of mental practice, such as ”medicine” and “mathematics” which are derived from it. To become a disciple means then that you put yourself under the correcting influence of another who will shape and mold your life, so that you “learn the practice.” Read more

Three Kinds of Righteousness

There are three kinds of righteousness, or at least three kinds of righteousness which bear that name.  

There is inherent righteousness, of which we have none.

There is imputed righteousness, which is all our justification.

And there is imparted righteousness. when God the Spirit makes us new creatures, and raises up in the heart that “new man, which after God” (that is, “after the image of God”) “is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

When the Lord said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven,” he did not mean only an external righteousness wrought out by his obedience to the law for them, but an internal righteousness wrought out by the Holy Spirit in them.

-J.C. Philpot, Through Baca’s Vale