The Miraculous in the Mundane

The following is a guest post by J.K. Wall who is a writer in Indianapolis. His modernized abridgment of William Symington’s work, Messiah the Prince Revisited, was published in 2014 by Crown & Covenant Publications. You can e-mail him at jk.wall@gmail.com.

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When Christians think about work, they often get stuck on a theological see-saw.

At times, church work is valued most. Other times, office work is raised up in importance.

These priorities bob up and down in most Christians’ minds, particularly young people, as we figure out where the Lord wants us to serve. It’s not clear how to value the parts of life that happen outside a church and in places where Christ is not named.

Since the time of Martin Luther, who correctly declared that the work of ministers and merchants (and mothers, too) was all equally good and godly, nearly every individual Christian has struggled to actually keep this see-saw level. Our secularized culture now prizes work outside the church far, far more than work inside it. This can lead Christians either to devalue church activities or, conversely, to identify overt acts of ministry as the only truly “Christian” work.

I have a proposal, not merely to level out this […]


Don’t Waste Your Suffering #2

Last time we started looking at the things which waste our suffering. Top of the list is a deficient trust in God. If our faith is weak, misplaced, or unfuelled we will struggle all the more when suffering hits.

So before moving on to the second ‘suffering waster’ let’s look at specific ways to bolster our faith.

Bolstering our Faith

If should be fairly clear what the general principles are that will strengthen our faith, but let me make four specific applications;

a)    Know your God

We exacerbate our suffering when we are too focused on life and not enough on God—therefore we need to redress the balance.

What are you reading in your Bible reading?

If you aren’t suffering make sure you supplement your diet with long gazes at the cross, and at the greatness of God—camp out in the Passion narratives at least once a year, delve into Isaiah 40 & 53, Romans 8, Psalm 103, Ephesians 1 & 2, and many more of those great passages (even work at memorising one of them—far easier done before suffering hits). Another good place to explore is the book of Exodus. Watch God’s suffering people, watch how God deals with them, and above all watch the wisdom and character of God.

If […]


To Condemn Surfing? Define Your Christianity.

“Protestant missionaries… had forced surfing deep into the shadows… To Calvinists, surfing was a sinful exercise, leading only to unbridled licentiousness and godless impiety. Go surfing they pronounced from their pulpits, and eternal flames awaited.” Pacific, 131.

Simon Winchester (one of my favorite authors) makes this passing statement  about surfing and 1820’s Hawaiian Calvinism. Calvinism is condemned in less than forty words in the midst of a 492 page book which concerns the ecological, international, and economic importance of the Pacific Ocean. Why did Calvinism get discredited in the midst of a discussion on the ocean? With no footnote or historical anecdote, the assertion was made that Calvinists believe that surfing leads to hell’s flame.

I am not arguing that such condemnations have never been made. Somewhere someone at some time has most-likely condemned wave riding, yet Winchester’s statement demonstrates that outside of the church people have presuppositions about what defines the Christian. People assume they know what is Christianity. That assumption is based on how we reflect Christianity; how we define it. To an unbelieving world, we define Christianity, not in our words only — but also in our actions.

What defines you?

What defines your Christianity?

Is it defined by a condemnation of surfing or some other lawful activity? Is […]


When Trouble Comes

So many resources to point you to!

Justin Taylor interviews Philip Ryken below regarding his new book When Trouble Comes. Though I have not yet read it, I respect these men greatly and enjoyed this interchange over lunch today. As Dr. Ryken speaks personally about his own struggles, it is helpful to hear him explain how he turned to the means the Lord has given us to persevere during troubling times. Many folks are going through such times, so perhaps you as I would be benefited by reading this work and making it available to others.


The Psalter Project

Here at Gentle Reformation, we love the recent rediscovery of singing the Psalms among many Christians. So many have never experienced this great treasure and we are happy to promote efforts to see these words of God’s praise written on people’s hearts.

The following article “Why Sing Psalms?” is a guest post from Emily Moore, co-founder of Psalter Project, a community resource for singing the psalms with fresh arrangements of faithful translations. Emily and her brother, Pastor Derek Moore, desire to see the broader church know and sing the psalms. They have their first album “Highways in Our Hearts” now available. 

To hear a sample of the music, listen to “To Dwell with God – Psalm 15.”

http://gentlereformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/to-dwell-with-god-psalm-15.mp3

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Often when I introduce fellow Christians to Psalter Project for the first time, their response is “What a great idea!” The psalms contain some of the most beloved passages in the entire Bible.  Likewise, music is a form of expression so instinctive it’s considered “the universal language.”

However, too often initial interest is dampened by various difficulties.  The lyrics of the psalms may seem too foreign, too confusing, or too difficult to accept.  The psalms don’t naturally fit our familiar musical mold.  Many of us don’t […]


RPIC 2016 Messages

As Nathan explained a few days ago, several of us at Gentle Reformation were at the quadrennial Reformed Presbyterian International Conference last week. A number of people have inquired how they might listen to the messages that were given at the conference, so I thought it would be helpful to have the links collected in one place for easy reference.

Preaching Sessions

Several brothers preached throughout the week. I was grateful to sit under the Word as they brought powerful, relevant, and searching messages to us.

A Child’s Powerful Witness (II Kings 5:1-5) | Gordon Keddie

Power. Prayer. Providence. (Ephesians 3:7-21) | Matt Kingswood

Seasoned for the Flames (Matthew 5:1-16) | Jeff Stivason

Can You See It? (Nehemiah 6) | Peter Smith

Plenary Sessions

I spoke five times on the theme of “The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation.”

The Sacrificing Church As a Worshiping Temple (I Peter 2:4-10)

The Sacrificing Church As a Praying Priesthood (Revelation 8:1-5)

The Sacrificing Church As a Believing Community (Romans 12:1-21)

The Sacrificing Church As a Merciful People (James 1:26-2:13)

The Sacrificing Church As a Mission Outpost (Hebrews 10:19-39)


Rural and Small Town Ministry

I hope you won’t mind if I indulge for a moment in some shameless self-promotion. Recently, the denomination I belong to and the one most affiliated with Gentle Reformation, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, held its quadrennial international conference in Marion, IN. As a father of five children, a pastor with some teaching responsibilities, and one who is a fairly energetic socialite, the week was exhausting but filling. One of my personal highlights was being able to speak at a workshop on the topic of rural and small town ministry. See! I told you it would be a moment of shameless self-promotion.

For the last three years I have been pastor of Winchester RPCNA in Winchester, KS. Our small community boasts of a whopping estimated population of 535 people. Even before becoming a pastor there was a soft spot in my heart for rural and small towns. Having grown up in southern Minnesota both my wife and I have been aware that in these areas it can be difficult to find Christ-centered and gospel believing churches. Where they do exist their continuance is often threatened for lack of people and resources. We should do what we can to maintain […]


#Blessed = #Forgiven

So apparently #blessed a thing. If you have time, head over to twitter and search for #blessed to get a sense of how your friends and neighbors define what it means to be blessed. Some will be sarcastic, others will just be sad and a little pathetic.

Thankfully, God’s Word defines blessed too:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-1)

As you might guess, King David says that to be forgiven is to be blessed. No Christian I know would disagree with this.

So why don’t we live like it’s true?


Hebrews 8 and the Credobaptist Objection: A Reply

Paedobaptist: So let me get this straight, one your biggest objections to infant baptism rests on the understanding that the New Covenant is comprised of only the elect/regenerate?

Credo: That’s right. Hebrews 8 (citing Jeremiah 31) makes this plain. Everyone in the New Covenant knows the Lord. That’s what makes it unlike the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant was more ethnic in nature. It included the children of Jews. As such, it was a covenant that included both the regenerate and unregenerate. This is contrasted with that of the New Covenant. Only genuine believers (the regenerate) make up the New Covenant. This fact is a crucial part of its newness!

Paedobaptist: But surely you grant that not everyone in the church is regenerate, right?

Credo: Of course. There are false believers and apostates. But they aren’t part of the New Covenant.

Paedobaptist: But many of these false believers are baptized, right?

Credo: Yes.

Paedobaptist: So they receive the sign of the covenant but are not part of the covenant community?

Credo: That’s right. Only the elect comprise the New Covenant.

Paedobaptist: But isn’t there an external administration of the covenant? In other words, don’t you believe that they are connected to the New Covenant in some sense?

Credo: They are […]


The Glory of God Revealed in the Church

Last week I left the beauty and glory of Southern California. I left behind a peaceful ocean. I left behind the mountain ranges that speak of his glory. I left behind palm trees and cool breezy evenings. I left behind the city and the people that I love. Where did I go you might ask? I went to Central Indiana, of course! Marion to be precise.

Every four years Reformed Presbyterians from around the globe gather for an international conference.

As Reformed Presbyterians gathered from 10 nations we enjoyed the singing of psalms with 2000 like-minded believers. We enjoyed the preaching of Gentle Reformation’s faithful leader, Professor Barry York. We enjoyed sessions on missions, biblical counseling, and various other sessions to encourage, admonish, challenge, and convict.

Why leave Southern California for Central Indiana? Why leave mountains and ocean and glorious natural revelation for the sleepy flatness of  Central Indiana? The answer is quite simple. God’s glory is revealed most beautifully in his people. The church is the fullest expression of his glory on earth. I left my home so that I could be with my people; his people.
Abraham Kuyper said,

It is evident that while every flower and star enhance his glory, the lives of angels […]