You’re Invited: A Day of Prayer and Fasting

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13

Our session (at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette) has called for a day of fasting and prayer on Thursday, September 8th. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you and your congregations to join us. 



On Being Persuasive

From parenting to preaching, seeking to persuade others about the truths of the Bible and obedience to it is a fine art. One can easily veer off course and come across as harsh, demanding, exasperating, and legalistic. An over-correction in the other direction can make one sound nagging, permissive, whiny, and lacking in authority. Learning how to persuade others winsomely is a skill that needs to be cultivated. As Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

In his work on preaching originally titled Sacred Rhetoric but now usually printed as Evangelical Eloquence, Robert Dabney, a nineteenth century theologian, has a fascinating section on this topic. Dabney reminds us that just as there are laws governing other aspects of nature, so there are rules for appealing to people to work toward a true, willing acceptance of the words that they are hearing rather than a blind obedience, grudging compliance, or outright rejection of them. He says that

…there are facts and laws belonging to man’s emotive system which must also be regarded in dealing successfully with it. It is the emotions which immediately move the will. To produce volition it is not enough that the intellect be convinced; affection must also be aroused.”

In […]


When Christians are Blamed

What should Christians do when they are blamed for problems in culture that they did not cause? Or when they are held responsible for things they did not do?

After the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June, Christians were accused of being complicit. David French and Denny Burk each reflected on this blame-casting. The pattern may repeat itself in future events. It can be easy to become defensive or to go on the offensive, but before we do, it is worth considering the example of Moses.

Moses faced a situation with some similarities as recorded in Numbers 16. After wandering for years in the wilderness, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron in the nation of Israel. Specifically, Aaron’s priestly leadership was challenged.

God called for a public meeting the next day. He told both groups of men to burn incense before the Lord to see which he would accept. In dramatic fashion, the Lord caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abriam along with their 250 followers and their possessions.

The Lord brought calamity of the sort that only he could bring as a warning to those who were tempted to disbelieve. It […]


Seeing Is Believing

This 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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In all ages of human history, belief has required sight.

It is true now in our scientific age, in which we demand observation and quantified data before we’ll accept anything as fact. It has been true for centuries in western legal systems, where crimes were proved only by eyewitness testimony. It is true in many of the world’s religions, which construct idols to represent the gods.

So why doesn’t Christianity allow idols, to help us believe in God?

The Bible, in the Second Commandment, expressly forbids the worship of idols. Even more, it rebukes those who demand any visual proof in order to believe. For instance, when the Jews kept asking Jesus for a sign (which is to say, a miracle) before they would believe, He excoriated them. (Matt. 12:38-39).

Does this mean that living the Christian life requires a completely blind faith? Not at all. Christians have no idols because, instead, we have our neighbors.[i]

That truth has important implications for our life […]


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 […]