My name is Sam Powell. I am the pastor of First Reformed Church in Yuba City.

I love the Heidelberg Catechism and have from my youth when I first memorized it. I fully and without reservation subscribe to the Reformed Creeds known as the Three Forms of Unity, which are the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt. I would be happy to provide the reader with a link, if you are unfamiliar.

My blog is a record of my thoughts and my studies. I hope and pray that the reader will find those thoughts edifying. I know that there are those who might disagree with me. I bear them no ill will.

There are some who want to discuss things with me that they might disagree with. I don’t mind a discussion, but I have very little time. My church occupies a lot of my time and I do not want to neglect the sheep that God has placed under my care to carry on long debates on-line. I certainly will not take time away from my wife and family to do so. But if I find myself with a moment or two to spare, I may respond.

Others, however, disagree with me and want to post argumentative and reviling comments. These will not be approved and not allowed to post. You may disagree with my decision, but it is my blog. If I have limited time for discussion, I certainly have no time for an argument with a reviler. I love discussion, and I love talking about my faith and my savior, Jesus Christ. But I find argument to be distasteful in the extreme and will not engage. I have never changed anyone’s mind by arguing with them, and they have certainly not changed mine by reviling me or my family.

There are also those to whom I owe an accountability, being a part of a Reformed denomination, and I take that accountability seriously. If I post something that concerns you, or that you wish to discuss, you all know who you are and who I am, and you know how to get a hold of me.

That being said, browse and enjoy my thoughts. You may be challenged, comforted, confronted, wondering, or perhaps indignant, but I pray that whether you agree or disagree you will be edified.

And with that, I leave you with the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism:

  1. What is thy only comfort in life and in death?


“That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.”


26 responses to “About

  1. Anne Odendhal

    I do think that the Bill Gothard teaching and home school program set the stage for the free reign of the unBiblical control and abuse in our home and consequent blowing apart of our family …and the children have never recovered from the travesty of harshness and legalism. Please pray for or family.

  2. cm

    Thank you. Please keep writing. Your voice has what is needed to reach a certain group of families greatly confused and hurt by the teachings of gothard and others.

  3. Pingback: Blog Update | A Cry For Justice

  4. MeganC

    Thank you for all that you do! We have shared your blog on our Give Her Wings FB page.

  5. Sam, I used to be of the Reformed mindset and have abandoned it now for almost for 2 yrs. Strangely, I’m finding my way back. Good writing Sam, keep it up.

  6. Thanks Sam. You’ve prompted me to study the Heidelberg Catechism.

    • It really is wonderful. So relevant to the things we deal with every day. It defines repentance as the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new, for example. a “Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to turn from it always more and more.” And a “Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.”
      How repentance has changed today into carefully crafted PR statements, accompanied by tears – is beyond me.
      So much good stuff in that old book!

  7. F Taylor

    Hello, do you have any disagreement with the WCF?
    (I’ve recently learned that I do, in that the WCF allows for remarriage while spouse is still alive. )
    Thank you,

    • The Westminster is correct there.

      • Love theWord

        I don’t understand why the catechisms are esteemed to the degree they so often are in the Reformed community. I was saved out Catholicism and Mormonism, along from various new age and other spiritual persuasions. Finding complete deliverance, freedom, and truth in Jesus Christ and His Word alone was amazingly eye-opening and refreshing. I enjoy reading other helpful books by godly, Christian writers, but I have noticed over the years that many Reformed believers hold up catechisms just about to the same level as the Biblical scriptures. This has always made me feel uncomfortable and concerned in certain situations.

  8. Dear “Love the word”, I also love the word. I use creeds for two reasons: First, they are unavoidable. Everyone has an answer to the question, “What do you believe?” No one just starts at Genesis one and recites all the way through to the end of revelation. We summarize, digest, put it into words. The creeds aren’t contrary to scripture, in fact, the idea, “Scripture alone is our only guide to faith and practice” is a creedal statement, and found nowhere in scripture.
    I find that when churches and pastors refuse to say what they believe they are actually being deceitful. They are hiding something. I say upfront that I believe that the bible teaches the system of doctrine found in the creeds of the reformation. This defines me, and my teaching. It is a contract with my congregation, so they know where I’m coming from, and it is honest. If I teach something different, I violate my vows and my contract with the congregation. So I’m upfront about it. i don’t do a bait and switch.
    Many say, “I believe that Jesus is God.” So far, so good. But then you find that they mean, “just the same way we are all little gods” and realize that their creed was dishonest. But if I say that I hold to the Chalcedonian formula, you know exactly what I mean when I say Jesus is God. (You can google that, if you are unfamiliar.),
    The other reason I hold to creeds is that it is a good defense against wolves. This actually is the reason that they were written by the church – to keep wolves out. The Nicene Creed was worded very carefully so that an Arian COULDN”T subscribe to it and those particular wolves would be kept away from the sheep.
    I think that there is a connection – to me, it is not surprising at all that when the church stopped using creeds, wolves had free access to the sheep. Would Eternal Subordination, designed to keep women eternally submissive to men, have been accepted had the Nicene Creed been taught and enforced properly? I think not.
    I know of a town where the butcher decided he was now a preacher. He stands in front of people with an “anointing” and teaches lies in the name of Christ. But since no one has any creeds, no one has any training, no one has any accountability, he simply has free reign over the sheep.
    My father knew that Bill Gothard was a wolf in the 70, and stayed far away, warning the sheep against him (my father was a pastor) because Gothard did not teach the historic doctrines of the church, he denied justification by grace, denied the true work of the Holy Spirit, and taught the commandments of men, rather than the laws of God.
    Once again, the creeds protected us, the sheep, from what proved to be a very dangerous man.

  9. Maddy's Girl

    Pastor Powell,
    I came across your blog through a link from A Cry for justice and read through every post today! I couldn’t stop reading as your posts spoke to my heart as a past sexual assault victim (more than once, first time age 12) and as a survivor of a 32 year marriage to a cruel narcissistic abuser.
    I am nearly three years out from the marriage and still struggle every day to heal and seek God. I can’t even express how much your words of encouragement mean to me, and knowing that there is another person believes me and so many others like myself.
    Thank you so very much.
    Maddy’s Girl

  10. Don Rubottom

    While obliterating an oversimplification—that covenants do not have conditions—this piece fails to distinguish a covenant from a contract, fails to explain what a covenant is (a major failing for too may reformed people who preach covenant), implies that “breaking” constitutes dissolution, implies that insufficient intentions “break” a covenant that was not truly established and in these it fails to address the nature of the spousal commitment any differently from our present-day “market based” contract culture. That is not Biblical and not how the Reformers taught marriage.
    Let me begin from a different simplification: A covenant in the Bible is a blood pact. In the flesh it is satisfied, rather than dissolved, by death. Hence, Christ not only fulfilled the conditions of obedience, He also fulfilled the condition of death, the covenantal consequence of our covenant breaking. Thus, in covenant, death perfects the communion of the parties, it is a condition that subsumes all other conditions and completes, satisfies, fulfills the covenant rather than dissolving it. We are buried with Him and raised free from the penalties of the Law. Those penalties have been fulfilled while the Covenant continues in perfect fullness! Praise God! Revealing Grace, the Covenant keeper dies in place of the covenant breaker restoring what is broken. Mr. Powell misses the “deeper magic”. He misses the Mystery.
    Broken conditions do not dissolve a truly formed covenant any more than breaking the law dissolves the law. In fact, a breach does not even dissolve a contract: some breaches (depending on the agreement) authorize termination at the option of one party; other failed conditions may authorize termination at the option of either party. A key modern distinction is that legal contracts are only rarely subject to specific enforcement (look it up). Payment of damages releases from legal obligation. (Either party may dissolve today’s civil marriage at will, making it less than a contract.) However, real estate and similar covenants presume specific enforcement: rather than dissolving, a breach justifies mandatory enforcement by judicial decree. (Confusion for readers may arise from some contracts that recite preliminary assurances the document calls “covenants”.) Covenants broken in Biblical contexts are specifically enforceable by death. These are “do or die” relationships not “do or dissolve”.
    Heart-breaking stories of brokenness abound. I agree with Mr. Powel that hard hearts necessitate divorce to keep the peace. Paul gives related instruction in I Cor. 7 (live peaceably separate or else be reconciled). And yet Jesus refused to answer the “legitimate” divorce question in Mark and Matthew. He also unequivocally asserted there and in Luke that remarriage constitutes adultery. How could this be if divorce totally dissolves the prior covenant? This confounding nature of divorce is raised in Jeremiah 3: 1. It is the same question faced by Powell: how can covenant promises be indissoluble when brokenness creates a divorce-like state? The answer is sacrificial faithfulness unto death: Hos. 2:14-16, Is. 54:4-10, and Ez. 16:59-62. There we see a divorced and WIDOWED(!) wife restored to full communion with the covenant Husband of her youth. The use of “Ishi” in Hosea 2:16 is an implicit reference to God’s institution of marriage in Gen. 2:23. Paul also connects these two spousal covenants in Ephesians 5. Marriage is not a mere analogy, its purpose is to reveal the Covenantal Nature of God’s Loving Communion, including its indissolubility.
    If “’til death do us part” does not bind me even when abandoned then the marriage proclaimed by Mr. Powell is no more than the condition free jello he mocks. He is correct that covenants have conditions. He is mistaken about the consequences of a breach. The ultimate consequence, DEATH, when fulfilled by Jesus or any bride or groom actually confirms the indissolubility of marriage for the life of the parties. Choose contract concubinage if you must. But no dissoluble contract can reveal the Mystery proclaimed in Ephesians 5. Christ is not in covenant with the Church only as long as she loves him back or keeps her vows. He loves her with all His substance even unto reconciling death, satisfying Covenant.

  11. I just happened upon your blog. I feel I’ve found a gold mine. The posts on roles of men and women are especially encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to write!

  12. Pingback: "The unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believer"? Examining 1 Corinthians 7:13-16 (Part One) | | Here's the Joy

  13. Maryann

    Dear Ps Sam,
    I’ve been trying to study and get a handle on the past in an effort to move toward the future. I just wanted you to know that I have learned a lot from your blogs and sermons. Thank you for blessing me.

  14. RCF

    Hi Sam,
    Could you reply to Don’s comment above? Is he wrong?

  15. He’s wrong. I didn’t answer because I don’t even really know where to start. If you say that “covenant” is indissolvable by the very nature of covenants, then you have some serious, gospel-denying implications – for example, when God said, “The day you eat thereof, you will surely die” what he apparently meant was “the day you eat you won’t really die because the covenant of works is a covenant, not a contract, so I’m stuck with you no matter what”
    If Don is correct, then there can be no such thing as a covenant breaker, since it isn’t possible. The Jews were then correct, that they were children of Abraham and therefore could not be cast away; that one can be a reviler, murderer, adulterer, idolater and still be a “Christian” as long as he was once in the covenant, because it is a covenant, not a contract. Ultimately, it means that Christ did not have to die. If a covenant is unbreakable by virtue of its definition, then we cannot be covenant breakers, and a mediator who keeps covenant perfectly is ultimately unnecessary.
    The whole thing is ridiculous, and makes my salvation dependent upon semantics, legalism, and thinly disguised “grace”. But it makes true grace obligatory on God’s part and therefore not grace at all.

    That seems like a lot of ground to give up just to keep the fiction that wives have to stick with abusive, adulterous husbands no matter what they do…

  16. Kevin Ramsey

    Sam Powell
    I have just finished reading-for the 5th time- your two articles on God hates divorce?”. I am concluding a 13 week adult class study on MDR and find this article is wonderfully prepared in its total analysis of Malachi 2. Beyond this your observations at the end of Article are extremely wise and comforting to all who are concerned with the accuracy of the Bible on this very emotional subject. May God continue to bless to your service.

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