The Relationship of Preaching to Pastoral Counseling

In Colossians 1:28, the Apostle Paul states, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” The goal of Biblical preaching is to bring every man to bear fully the image of God in Christ. Thus, we should preach in such a way that every sinner is called to the justifying work of Christ, every saint is urged onward in their sanctification in Christ, and every person desires and is being prepared to meet Christ in glory. The Spirit-filled preaching of God’s Word from the pulpit is the primary means the Lord has for accomplishing this lofty task.  As the Westminster Larger Catechism asks and answers:

Q. 155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

With this understanding of preaching, we […]


The lost word of motivation

There’s a phrase I’ve read many times and never seen. It has registered on my retina, but not on consciousness. Yet it is used frequently enough to function as a motivation for all areas of Christian living.

And it is one of the sweetest truths I have thought on for a long time.

See if you can spot it:

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”

Colossians 1:10 “…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”

In case you haven’t got it yet, this one should make it clearer:

1 Timothy 2:3 “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour”

This pleases God. Think about it: something you do pleases God. We are so used to thinking (rightly) of the righteousness of Christ being what pleases God that we can miss, or re-translate, or re-allocate these statements of God’s pleasure in the obedience of his people.

Before we go any further, let me clarify: You can’t please God or come to […]


I believe in the (cryogenic) resurrection of the dead

I just heard on the news this morning that in a landmark ruling a judge in England granted the dying wish of a 14 year old girl with cancer to have her body cryogenically frozen until the day when medical knowledge is sufficiently advanced to revive and cure her. In a letter to the judge she wrote,

‘I am only 14 years old and I don’t want to die but I know I am going to die. I think being cryopreserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up – even in hundreds of years’ time. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they may find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance.’

Isn’t it tragic that the very thing this girl was longing for was exactly what is being held out in the gospel? Isn’t it tragic that she put her trust in a quasi-scientific fairy tale for her hope of resuscitation life rather than the resurrection life the Lord Jesus Christ achieved when he rose from the dead on the third day? Isn’t it just so unspeakably sad that someone would put their […]


The Common Sin of Middle Age Believers

Each stage of adult life presents its own unique challenges. Young adults worry about finding work and getting married. Older folks have increasing health problems and the loss of independent living. And those in their middle age years, with their own set of struggles, often find themselves “caught in the middle” trying to help aging parents while guiding their children into adulthood.

In the midst of these challenges, it might be helpful to be aware that there are also unique temptations to sin that are more age-specific. Without denying any sin can tempt any believer at any age, can we not identify one sin in particular that is perhaps most common in the church to each of these ages?

For young people, is not worldliness often the big issue? One of my mentors regularly told me that for covenant children growing up in a Christian home, their biggest struggle was often not whether they would express faith in Christ, but rather would they submit to his Lordship. The tug of the world with its passing pleasures and prominent positions causes many a young believer to wrestle, and some do fall away into these offerings of the evil one.

For the aged, perhaps inflexibility is the prevalent […]


Another Tale of Squirrel Nut’s Kins

Perhaps it was the fact a squirrel blew out a transformer last week and left the seminary without electricity for a few hours. Or hearing even nursing home residents are not safe from these critters. Or maybe it is nostalgia as I miss the folks in my former congregation. Or just as I am about to finish a big project I am a little giddy. Whatever the case, I thought I would dust off this story and share it today for some fun. 

And perhaps the most disturbing thing about the following story is that, except for a few instances of poetic license, it is entirely true.  

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The reader or hearer of this story should be careful not to mistake it for another one that has a similar-sounding title, the popular children’s story known as A Tale of Squirrel Nutkins by Beatrix Potter.  Nor should one think that this story is some type of sequel to Ms. Potter’s account.  Oh, no.  In Ms. Potter’s story, the little squirrel hero of her tale, Squirrel Nutkins, is pictured as a cuddly animal that warms the hearts of children around the world with its delightful antics that have a cute, mischievous nature to […]


The Worth of the Weak

Almost ready for some shut-eye, after a week of preparation….

So before I close the laptop, turn out the lamp & hit the pillow, just a few brief thoughts on why God has designed the church with the strong & the weak. Why not, for example, have a church where we all agree about all the details of the finer points of doctrine? Or be in harmonious accord on how to apply each principle to the nitty-gritty of life? If we had designed the church, we would, no doubt, have ironed-out all the wrinkles, air-brushed all the stains, filled-in all the cracks with rapid-dry cement! So why is the church left with these debates, disputes & dissent? That was the question I asked as I tried to grapple with Romans 14 & ‘the Weak & the Strong’!

Longing For Glory

Well would it be so great if, in our present earthly state, we had no longing for heaven where the unblemished bride will be dressed in perfect white with all the wrinkles ironed out? Surely, our present frustration, with occasional joy in agreement, creates a spiritual hunger for the things that are above!

Growth in Grace

Or would we grow in grace, mature as disciples, progress in our […]


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 […]


Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

What will it take to make progress in peaceful relationships between people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds? Political commentators are paying close attention to attitudes and the racial breakdown of voters in this week’s United States presidential election. Clearly, some voted for Donald Trump out of fear and frustration that white uneducated Americans are being mocked and marginalized. In response, some immigrants and minorities fear what the future holds for them. We stand at a moment of opportunity. What is the way forward?

There are a lot of answers I don’t have, but I’ll never forget a breakfast I attended over a decade ago. Dr. Herb Lusk, pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia spoke on Shamgar, Israel’s judge who followed Ehud and receives scant attention in the biblical record:

“After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel” (Judges 3:31).

Judges 5:6 merely recounts that Shamgar lived at a time when “the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways.”

Lusk may not have drawn out all of the covenantal implications of this judge’s ministry, but he memorably summarized how Shamgar served the Lord by faith and […]


Calamity Brings Clarity

The following is an adapted version of a message I preached during the chapel service at Geneva College, just hours after our nation elected our new President.  In God’s kindness, the message seemed to strengthen some stricken hearts. Whatever your emotional state after an exhausting election season, I hope it’s a blessing to you, too.   It was written to be spoken, but hopefully comes across clearly enough in this format.   Or, click here for an audio link if you like.   

A loss can be very hard to take; but sometimes, so can a win.

We have a new President of the United States.  He won in dramatic fashion, in the early morning hours, and like the campaign season itself, the angst-ridden process left the American public emotionally and physically exhausted, and for so many of us, feeling profoundly sick.  One of the saddest parts of this sick feeling is that had the election gone the opposite way, it likely would have left us feeling much the same, though for different reasons.  Either way this race would have concluded, there was no way for a victory at the top of the ticket which was not also a reason to weep.  We’ve seen so much […]


Rural America: Is Anyone Listening?

I suppose as the citizens of the United States begin to digest the results of Tuesday’s election a lot of us will don the appearance of political pundits. Given the historic upset of the Presidential race there will, no doubt, be an endless flow of commentary, dissection, and analysis. If you’re an armchair politician it might prove fascinating if not also a bit entertaining, but if you’re looking for a measure of peace and quiet it seems this campaign season will not fade so quickly into silence.

I’m not a political pundit or intellectual scholar. Of course, after last night I’ve lost confidence in political “science” and the opinions of the experts. Nevertheless, any reflection I might add to the noise may prove to be superficial or, at worst, completely wrong. While I didn’t support either of the major candidates I cannot help but think last night was a stinging indictment of—maybe even a victory over—the political, social, and media elite. The mainstream seemed completely unable to comprehend what was happening and, to his credit, NBC’s Lester Holt noted several times: “This is because of us.” After hours of wrestling with results the one comment that stuck with me was how […]