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Semester in Scotland

I know that Gentle Reformation is not an advertising forum, but here is something that may be of interest to you or someone you know.  It’s a Semester abroad program for College students in Scotland. The program offers 15 hours of credit, incorporating a variety of courses, designed to build the faith and life of any young Christian man or woman.

The Semester in Scotland program is offered in conjunction with Geneva College (, with students from other Colleges being able to transfer easily into Geneva and take the program through a co-operative agreement process.

It’s common place to hype and speak in glowing terms about what a program or College can offer, but I would rather let the success of this program speak for itself.  Even a cursory reading of the weekly student blog ( will give a good reflection of what those participating in the program think.

My personal enthusiasm for this program, during ten years of involvement, has been fueled by the impact I have seen it have on young lives. Comments such as, ‘he was changed by his time in Scotland’, and ‘she came back from Scotland a different young woman,’ are ones which I have heard when visiting the U.S.

So if you have a […]

Is She In Heaven?

How do you answer that question?  How do you answer it when it is being asked by the deaf mother of a 26 year-old woman who has fallen 15 stories to her death?  Should the fact that this is the first time you have met the mother affect what you say?  Should the information that the quiet young woman wrestled with drug addiction influence your response?  Should your answer be colored by the fact that you will be conducting the funeral in 48 hours time?

We are all asked a variation of the question every day aren’t we?  Every day of our lives people ask us to make a choice.  A choice between telling them what they want to hear or telling them what we know God says in His Word.  Sometimes, like on this occasion, the context is unbelievably hard.  But surely the key to being able to speak the truth in real, genuine, tender love on such hard occasions is speaking the truth, gently and graciously, in the day to day simple issues.  What’s the secret to doing that?  What’s the secret to answering the daily ‘tell me what I want to hear’ questions that come our way?  The secret is abiding […]

The world and its ways are winning

We are living at a time when the world and it’s ways are winning in western civilization. On the face of it, It simply cannot be argued against. No matter which way you turn, the ungodly are not only winning the cultural, moral and educational battles, they are evidently prospering as they do so. It appears that they have no concerns beyond the pursuit of their own selfish gratification and dare anyone who would deem to stand in their way. David captured it well when he said that “pride is their necklace, violence covers them as a garment…. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongues strut through the earth ” Psalm 73.

The astonishing thing is not that the openly wicked are being openly wicked, that’s a given. We shouldn’t expect anything less from them. They are who they are, and their agendas have always been eminently clear. The breathtaking thing is the increasing ambivalence of the majority. Each year sees a new level of tolerance and acceptance of that which God decrees as wickedness.

The parallel fact of course is that church is in incredible decline in western civilization. In vast swathes of the visible community which calls […]

Are We Being Exposed To Too Much Of The Bible?

Can I hear you say, did I read that right?  How could anyone be exposed to too much of the Bible?  I am aware that most of you reading this blog will be serious, godly people, but the title is ‘Gentle Reformation’ and surely our desire is that there would be a gentle reformation in the lives of those around us who profess faith in Christ but are struggling to live it.
I think one of the issues facing the church today is the fact that too few Christians are actually living as Christians because too few Christians are actually reading their Bible. Why is this the case?  Is it because too many Christians think that they are probably getting enough of the Bible already, from their multiple contacts with it through the church?  If that is the case, therein lies a grave danger.  For it indicates that many Christians are confusing exposure to the Bible with engagement with God through His Word?  (Even if that exposure is of a really good quality.)
Think about it.  What does the normal church/personal life look like with reference to God’s Word.  On a Sunday you have Sunday school or Bible classes with doctrinal or thematic teaching, one, hopefully […]

Raising Children

I was standing in the hallway of a church in Indianapolis.  I was in my late thirties, it wasn’t long after the birth of our fifth child, and I was talking with an older brother in the Lord.   “How are things with you, Quigley?” came the question.  “They’re good, but having five kids is demanding,” was my heartfelt response.  He took me by my jacket lapels, he’s a converted New York City Jew, shook me backwards and forwards, and said, “Quigley, it will only get harder – wait till they are teenagers and then older.”
That was ten or eleven years ago, we’ve since had another child and what he said was true.  Things were easier when you could just speak, and they would trot after you in Pied Piper fashion.  In those days we were able to travel across the USA, having mastered the art of packing up in 20 or 30 minutes and then setting off.  There weren’t the range of issues that come with the teenager who needs to find themselves in a process that inevitably affects everyone in the family.  Everybody had their role and their responsibilities.  Yes, there was room for personality and diversity, but it was generally managed within acceptable […]

Mum’s Dead

3pm, Monday 16th March, I was teaching a Pastoral Theology class when my mobile phone went.  It was from Heather, my wife.  I thought, ‘this is it’.   Then I heard it, “Mum’s dead”.

Heather’s mum, a sprightly 86 year old, had fallen a few weeks ago and broken her collar bone.  We had received the news as we had done so on previous occasions when she’d fallen.  It will take her a month or so to get over this, and it will be back to life as normal.  That wasn’t to be.  A bit of confusion in her thinking when she was in the hospital led to a series of MRI and CAT scans.  The outcome was simple and conclusive.  Two brain tumours.  Life expectancy – a few months.  In just over a month she had died.

Tillie, that was her name, had lived almost 87 years.  She had raised a family of four in her 30’s and 40’s, and then ran the small family business when her husband Sam had taken a heart attack in his early 50’s.  She had learned to drive in her 60’s, in her 70’s cared for her husband in declining health to his death, then moved […]

Got 5 Minutes?

Do you find history a bit boring, especially when it’s recounted online? It tends to be done on sites with numerous pages of information, much of which is barely readable because of its density, and there’s often little recognition of the fact that it’s supposed to engage the normal human being.

Here’s a website that will at least open up the world of Scottish Reformation history for you.   It’s a clear, colorful, informative, and easy to use site.  It gives a timeline for the overall period of 1580-1690  as well as timelines for each of the specific periods within that time frame, i.e. 1st Reformation, and 2nd Reformation, and the Covenanters.  You just click on the image and read about the person or the event. There is also a reading list of books on each character and event if you want to delve deeper.

As well as the historical information the site also provides information on the location of the numerous historical sites where some astonishing things happened in the lives of these brothers and sisters in the past.

Have you got five minutes?  Have a look at it –


What Has Love Got to Do With It?

When John writes, ‘Beloved, let us love one another’, what does he mean, and does it matter?  Is it not a bit liberal to be writing about love on a Reformation blog post.  Surely we are about ‘Doctrine, Truth, Discipline, Stewardship etc.’   Well, yes we are, but God says, if we don’t get what love is and do it, we are sunk, regardless of how outwardly correct we may appear to be.

What does John mean when he says, ‘Let us love one another?’   Well we need to begin with a definition of love?  We can’t take the Humpty Dumpty route who, when having a discussion with Alice about the meaning of words says, “when I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean, nothing more or nothing less.”  Love can’t be a word that we use and abuse dependent on what we want it to mean, or who we want it to influence or effect.

So what does ‘love’ mean?  Well there is a very simple and clear definition of ‘love’.  It is found in the root source of ‘love’.  Trace ‘love’ to its source, and there you will find God, for God is love.  ‘Love’ is neither an attribute […]

Are Christians bored with God?

Much has been written about the wave which has swept through the church, of a craving for well orchestrated, talent led, aesthetically pleasing worship? Some denounce it, others question it, many have tried to explain and then justify it. The fact that it has begun to creep quietly into the heartland of the reformed community begs the question ‘what lies at the root of it all?’ It’s something I have thought about throughout my ministry. The conclusion I have reached is that in essence this is an issue of ‘boredom’, boredom with God.

There are a number of factors which feed into boredom in general.  Many, because of a gluttony for self-indulgence, have developed an insatiable hunger for instant gratification.   Inevitably boredom threshold’s have been driven down. Getting what you want when you want it, always results in an increasing frequency in boredom pangs.

But what is this Christian boredom with God?  A boredom which I see as lying at the root of the ever increasing thirst for ‘humanly gratifying worship’.  What is it’s parentage? Is it a phenomenon borne of the fact that too many Christians have become laissez-faire about God’s call upon their lives?  Is it a child of ease.  Has the idea of cross bearing self-denial simply become a step […]

Is There Any Point In Trying?

God tells us that we are to discipline ourselves for godliness. We are to train ourselves to be godly. But how many of us actually take Him seriously? I mean, be honest, do you really try everyday to make serious progress in righteousness? What about ‘mortifying sin’? It’s good to hear a rousing sermon about it occasionally but as to a daily engagement, does it exist in your life? You are reading this blog, so possibly you might be one of those people who actually do it. Most of the rest of us however tend to have a ‘mend and make do’ attitude towards labouring unto godliness.

Why is that the case? I mean we have been bought out of an eternal existence, if you could call it an existence, of absolute poverty and agonising pain. How? Well it certainly wasn’t with the perishable commodities of silver and gold. Astonishingly it was through the sacrifice of death by God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. It was because He bore our sins in His body on the tree that we who were dead are now alive. We who were strangers and aliens, without hope and without God, have been adopted and are now the beloved children of […]