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Posts from the ‘Musings’ Category

Ferguson, Staten Island, and Jesus Christ

Ruins and Foundations

Our church has at least two sets of pastoral needs. About half of those in worship on a given Sunday are African, and about half are American (mainly white), but right now, none are “African-American” – American-born black. I’m writing this note mainly to my church. I want to give you things to remember when you see ugly things happen as they have in Missouri (and, since I started writing this post, in New York City) in the last few weeks. Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island are all over the news, and if you use Facebook or Twitter, all over them, too. Recent events – the refusal of two grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men – bring to our attention some of America’s most shameful problems and ugliest history.

First, there is systemic racism in the United States. We all know about the horrible crime and sin of black slavery, which ended in the…

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Ducking the Real Issues?

Is it wise for Christians to market their own morality as entertainment? That question seems to be worth asking as the feathers settle after this month’s Duck Dynasty flap.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson entertains. He also markets duck calls for hunters. As a reality television star, his lifestyle and morality serve as his product. His status as a for-profit entertainer ought to inform the debates Christians have regarding his GQ magazine interview earlier this month. Read more

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.

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!

Mistaken Identity

I was offended by the news today. They called me a bad name. It still hurts to even think about it. They called me a…consumer. Blech.

Truth be told, there are times when the horrible name is deserved. Times when the shiny stuff of the world leads me around like the stick-held carrot it is.

But the name still stinks. What’s worse, the more I hear it, the easier it is to believe. A thousand advertisements preach their sermon to me every day, tempting me toward this mistaken identity.

And so back to the pages of God’s Word, where a better name is given.  Read more


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.

Bold or Brazen?

When does bold faith cross the line to become brazen presumption? It is easy as Christians to lose sight of that line, especially when we or those whom we love are hurting. Humble-hearted Christians will sometimes “claim” that a disease is healed, that a relationship is restored, that a job is secure because they have firm faith that these things will be so. They trust in the God who rewards those who “diligently seek Him” by faith (Hebrews 11:6); they trust that God’s plans for His people are for good, and not for harm (Jeremiah 29:11); therefore, they trust that strong, Christ-centered conviction will win from this generous God the particular good which they desire. While well-intentioned, this understanding of faith and therefore of faith’s object is deeply injurious to people who promote it and to the sometimes desperate hearts who receive it as good news concerning their hardships. Read more

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

A Long Line of Godly Men

Sometimes it’s striking how our own lives parallel church history. The subtitle of Ligonier’s biography series, “A Long Line of Godly Men” has been ringing in my head this past week. Not only is it an appropriate phrase to celebrate how God has blessed his church through many godly men, it’s also an appropriate title for his grace in my life.

As God often chooses to use secondary means to accomplish his wonderful purposes, he has chosen to use a long line of godly men in my life to bring his saving and sanctifying grace to me. As we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to give God my public thanks for this long line of godly men he’s used in my life. Read more

Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie

photoI have been a fan of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for many years. I love the art of language and the skill it takes to document the ever changing and living tongue of the anglophonic people.

This week all nerdly eyes were on Oxford as they announced the word of the year. This is an annual event at which a new and influential word is chosen based on how it has come into the language. Sure, it’s not the Superbowl, but some of us get pretty excited about these things.

Did you hear what this year’s word is? Selfie.

Yep. Selfie.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Why is this so interesting? The selfie is not just a way of putting yourself out there for the tweeters of the world to see. The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind. Read more

Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament

The smell of turkey roasting is wafting through the church building even as I write. Preparations are being made in the kitchen so students learning English as a second language can experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal in place of regular classes this evening. Many of us will gather with families next week to give thanks to God for the bounty of another harvest season.

How do we grow in gratitude? Last week, we considered Eight Themes in Thanksgiving in the Psalms. This week, we consider Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament: 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