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My Self-seeking, Pointless Praying

Recently I was given cause to think about prayer, or more honestly my prayerlessness.  So I read through a few of the prayers in the Bible.  Three things struck me as a result.

First – Those praying were highly sensitised to the fact that God speaks.  Of course I know God speaks.  I spend my life telling other people that.  But the idea that God speaks, and therefore I need to listen when praying, well that gained my attention and held me in thought for a while.  It forced me to ask questions about my approach when speaking with God.

Second – Prayer arises out of a deep sense of need.  Hannah prayed because she was in desperate need.  The prayers of David, Daniel, Nehemiah ….. the Lord Jesus, they’re all fuelled by a real sense of need. A deep awareness of being in a situation that is beyond them. As I mulled that over, I was struck by the absence of that in my life.  Yes I’m conscious of my need/s and genuinely pray, but as to an overwhelming sense of utter helplessness…..? That sense of being totally incapable of being a loving husband and a godly, caring, and genuinely interested […]

The Signage of Your Life

Whilst traveling in the USA last month I stayed for a few nights in accommodation provided by a church.  It was basic, but I genuinely appreciated it as it saved the Scottish church the price of a hotel.  (I say that not because the Scots are tightfisted, but because we’re trying to invest our kingdom resources as prudently as we can.) Anyway to get back to my accommodation in the church.  After a long day of travel, and it was long, I arrived at my destination and was kindly led through a myriad of corridors to the room where I would be staying.  This corridor was one of, I think four in the building, and it alone had seven doors on it leading to a variety of rooms. Three of those rooms had signage on them.  One had a sign marked ‘Ladies’, another ‘Gents’, and the third had a bright pick notice with the words ‘Shower Room’ on it.   But the room I would be staying in had no sign saying what it was.  Well to be fair it had a sign, but not on the door. When I woke up the first morning, having had a decent 6 hours […]

Semester in Scotland

Have you got three minutes to spare?  If you have, then check out this promotional clip for the Semester in Scotland study abroad program:  Semester in Scotland Video

The program is offered primarily through Geneva College ( with students from other Colleges being able to transfer easily into Geneva through a co-operative agreement process.

You never know, the next three minutes of your life could lead to you sharing this unique opportunity with a young person you know, and who knows, in God’s providence, what benefits might come their way through participation in it.



Crippling the Church

There are a number of things crippling the life and witness of the church at present: a failure to preach God’s Word, a disinterest in the real care of people, a preoccupation with self indulgence, but the one I want to speak to is ‘giving’.  Specifically the giving of money.  It’s a sensitive subject when in reality it shouldn’t be.  That’s because too many of us are mistakenly invested in pursuing our happiness in ‘things’, when the real source of our joy is found in our being increasingly conformed to the image of Christ.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth to gently stir them to fulfill what they had started a year earlier but not finished – the weekly collection for the relief of their fellow believers in Jerusalem. (2 Corinthians ch 8)

By way of encouragement he points them in the direction of the church at Macedonia.  What he writes is simple and yet astonishing in its radicalness.  He says of the believers in Macedonia, who are struggling with the hardships of extreme poverty, that they had begged him not to prevent them from the privilege of giving to the needy in Jerusalem.   Generous giving which was funded, not out […]

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 […]