Archive by Author

Song of Moses: Song of Life

A few weeks ago, I attended an event at my alma mater, Purdue University. Emerging from our parked car that evening, I took in familiar sights and sounds of campus; impulsively, I began to sing the second stanza and chorus of our fight song, Hail Purdue, as my children smirked:

When in after years we’re turning
Alma mater, back to you,
May our hearts with love be yearning
For the scenes of old Purdue.
Back among you pathways winding
Let us seek what lies before,
Fondest hopes and aims e’re finding,
While we sing of days of yore.

Hail, hail to old Purdue!
All hail to our old gold and black.
Hail, hail to old Purdue!
Our friendship may she never lack.
Ever grateful, ever true,
Thus we raise our song anew
Of the days we’ve spent with you,
All hail our own Purdue!

Though I forget most of the details that were taught in the classes I took as an undergraduate, that song still evokes in me a sense of loyal friendship, of identity, of connection with the Purdue family, of warm memories with teachers and students, of respect for (most of) what I learned, and of aspirations the university instilled in us. Remarkably, even particular classes and teachings from those days come to life in my […]

The Sluggard Within: Defined and Defeated

The Bible says that the person who is guilty of sloth, belongs to the same family as the most destructive beings on earth. Proverbs 18:9 says, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Yes, the one who is lazy and indifferent to his call to serve the Lord with zeal has more in common with the likes of Adolf Hitler and even Satan than he might first recognize.

We think of sloth as merely having to do with our work, but it runs deeper in our souls than merely that one outward expression. It is an expression of spiritual boredom and a passive “resistance to the demands of love” as defined by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung. The English word “diligent” connects our work with our motives. It comes from the Latin “diligere” meaning to respect, esteem, or love.

How do we fall prey to and express this sin? Here are seven characteristics of the sluggard as presented in Proverbs:

The sluggard has great desire and ambition. Proverbs 21:25-26: “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.  26 All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” […]

A Matter of Identity

Why were men with crushed testicles, bastard children, Moabites and Ammonites, and to a lesser extent, Egyptians and Edomites forbidden from entering the assembly of the Lord according to Deuteronomy 23:1-8? These verses are admittedly difficult verses to interpret for a number of reasons, but I think that they speak powerfully to the church today that is seeking to know how to respond to those struggling with various matters of identity.

One thing is sure: a preacher needs no illustrative material at the outset of his sermon to arrest the attention of his congregation after reading these verses!

No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.  2 “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.  3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,  4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired […]

Assurance for Seekers – A Gentle Refresher

Until recently, I had missed the contextual power of Isaiah 55:10-11. Commentator Alec Motyer helped me see the wonder of these verses in a new way. They promise:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (ESV).

I had thought of them as primarily a comfort for those who are speaking the gospel; and they are. Often, Christians use this text to encourage a brother who with great trepidation spoke to a non-Christian or in some difficult circumstance. His words may not have been eloquent, but God’s word was spoken, and we take comfort in knowing that they have power. That is not a wrong application, but the context presses us to an higher purpose and even better use for these great promises.

These words of comfort were given to those who were straying and should have been […]

Of Golf Balls and Badminton Birdies

“Understand that people are like golf balls or badminton birdies.” So said a friend giving a tip for effective leadership. You barely tap a golf ball, and it rolls clear across the carpet. You whack a badminton birdie with all your might, and it only moves a few yards. People in Jesus’ church can be like these when you confront them about a matter.

Some people are quite sensitive; a little tap is usually all they need. One gently spoken word will move them to thought and action. Swing too hard, and they’ll flee far from you.

Other people don’t get subtleties; you have to be blunt and hit pretty hard. Direct words cause them to see reality and change their ways. Swing too softly, and they will not progress in life.

Is it an oversimplification? Yes, but sometimes those of us who are badminton birdies need to have things spelled out in black and white in order to at least start understanding nuances. Golf ball personalities need to learn these things lest they be sensitive to everyone in the church except for the badminton birdies who fail to pick up on their “obvious” hints.

If we want to obey Jesus’ words “whatever you wish that […]

A Day in God’s House in the 1850s

The following is a lively description of a typical Lord’s Day in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana in the 1850s. The author, Daniel Cargill Faris (1843-1919), recounts his experience in the church of his youth. He was the son of James Faris who was the first pastor of the congregation. The account is found in his personal writings. Daniel Cargill Faris would later serve as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Barnet, Vermont.

“PREACHING”

by D. C. Faris

Written on Nov. 21, 1904

While the building in which the congregation gathered for worship on the Sabbath was called the “meeting house”, the services held there were not called “meeting”, that name being given to the week-day services held from house to house in the homes of the people. The religious exercises in the “meeting- house” were named from their principal part, “preaching”. That is the meaning of the noun which I am not able to find in the dictionary; but it was so used among us in my boyhood. My mother might have said to us, “It is time to get ready to go to “preaching”; and one of the boys might have asked […]

Is the Sin of Gluttony Really that Serious?

That question was asked by a church member as I recently preached on gluttony. Why might we ask? Christian culture approves of giggling about gluttony in ways that it would never bless laughing at lust. We probably laugh more comfortably about gluttony because the right use of food and drink is a very public matter where the right use of sex is a very private matter.

But the fact that we giggle about gluttony might reveal it as a most pernicious sin. The English word comes from the Latin and means “to gulp.” Gluttony idolizes food to feed our own self-love. The holidays being upon us, it’s a good time to ask the question. Is gluttony really that serious? Consider the following:

Gluttony plunged the whole human race into a state of sin and misery with the first transgression (Genesis 3:6).
Gluttony, or “excess of food,” helped earned a curse of utter destruction upon Sodom, the standard example of God’s wrath and judgment (Ezekiel 16:49).
In Moses’ day, When Israel craved meat in the wilderness, the Lord sent quail. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD […]

Happy Wife. Happy Life.

The beeps. The buzzes. The vibrations. The earbuds. The squinting eyes. The bluish glow. They all indicate that the world has invaded our homes in new ways through online portals, and it clamors for our attention. Relationships at home suffer when we are so distracted that we abandon the ones we love…or ought to love. That leads to sadness and loneliness. The unmitigated invasion of the online world into our homes ruins marriages. As husbands know, a happy wife means a happy life. Conversely, when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Part of the problem, especially for men, is that these online portals call us to legitimate responsibilities in the world beyond the home in addition to the illegitimate ways they clamor for our attention. The good news is that there is nothing new. Even in Moses’ day, God addressed the challenge of a man’s responsibility in the world and his calling to make his wife happy.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5).

Notice the key: dedicated […]

At Seventeen – Harry Wilkey (1942-2016)

Harry Wilkey passed into glory last week at age 73. He lived most of his life as a quadriplegic after being injured at age 17. My grandfather was his pastor at the time. Sterling, Kansas was his lifelong home. He was a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Harry was a friend of our family and an encourager to me. With his family’s encouragement, I’m posting his testimony here. Jesus was faithful to Harry, and, by God’s grace, Harry was faithful to Jesus. Now, his soul is with the Lord. His body, which is still united to Christ, will be held by the grave…but only until the resurrection.

At Seventeen

A personal testimony to God’s increasing grace

By Harry Wilkey

At age seventeen, a Nickerson High graduate, I packed up my stuff and made my first move away from home to Sterling College.  I had no clue that God would cut short my stay.  Many choices faced me there.  It surprised me that a Christian college offered most options of worldliness right there on campus.  Some fellow dorm mates involved themselves in pornography, gambling, and homosexuality.  We watched, smiled, and some cheered as one fellow daily dressed up […]

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Are you giving thought to words you might speak at your Thanksgiving Day table or worship service? Whether you are the host of the meal for the extended family, a head of the household, or a ministry leader, you’ll have the opportunity to take a few moments to lead the family in some reflection of gratitude.

Over the years here at Gentle Reformation, we’ve written a few article on the topic of thanksgiving. Around this time of year, we hear from people looking to our archives to help prepare thoughts. We’ll surely keep writing more, but here are links to posts of Thanksgivings past. They might give you ideas of themes to emphasize as you lead those under your charge.

Biblical Themes:

Growing in Jesus on Thanksgiving Day explores how Psalms of thanks stimulate growth in our souls, and Eight Themes in Thanksgiving pulls more themes of praise from the Psalter.

Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament explores exactly that.

Historical Themes:

A seventeenth Century prayer of thanks following deliverance or prayers of thanksgiving from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer will lead your hearts to the throne of God like they did for saints of old.

A Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from 1777 or a Thanksgiving Day […]