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Monday Morning Humor

Sep 29, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

An oldie, but still a goodie. The context: the men of the family are trying to impress their wives with sentimental gifts, and the wives are trying to prove they can’t be wooed so easily. Mom and Dad Huxtable are up last. Enjoy.

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Thanks Paulie, You’re One of the Good Guys

Sep 26, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

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What Our Pastoral Interns Read

Sep 26, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

For several years we’ve had a part-time pastoral internship program at University Reformed Church. This year, for the first time, our interns work full-time. The bulk of their time is spent in four areas:

1. Reading and writing

2. Ministry observation

3. Personal ministry (they do for others)

4. Personal discipleship (they receive from the pastors)

Under the first category, our interns read several books. Actually, many books. And many papers (relatively short papers–2000 words). You can see below what they will read between now and the end of May.

They will read portions of Lectures to My Students (Charles Spurgeon), Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders), and 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Mark Dever). These selections are for discussion only. The other ten books are read in their entirety and require a written paper.

Our interns tend to be recent college graduates who have not yet gone to seminary. We try not to duplicate the reading they do in seminary. We don’t teach languages. We don’t do church history. We don’t attempt to do what full-time professors can do better. We focus instead on books that touch on the practical side of ministry (yes, I know all theology is practical). Having said that, we want our interns to be squared away on the basic theological categories. We also want them to be challenged with some heavier reading than they probably do on their own.

1. Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity. Biblical, historical, and rich. We thrown the interns into the deep end first.

 

 

2. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Short, but substantial. If pastors don’t understand the salvation and atonement, they aren’t ready to be pastors.

 

3. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism. Well written and still relevant.

 

 

 

4. Robert Plummer, 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible. Nicely organized. A good introduction hermeneutics, genre, textual criticism, and the doctrine of inspiration.

 

 

5. Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship. A good blend of worship theology and praxis. Helpful for interns to see where a more traditional liturgy comes from and why it makes sense.

 

6. David Helm, Expository Preaching. Best book on the how-to and how-come of expository preaching.

 

 

7. Guy Prentiss Waters, How Jesus Runs the Church. PCA-centric, but useful for anyone in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition.

 

 

8. Timothy Witmer, Shepherd Leader. Puts a good theology of eldership into hands on ministry practice.

 

 

9. D. A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited. Balanced and wise. Provokes good discussion.

 

 

10. David Hesselgrave, Paradigms in Conflict. I am more decidedly Reformed in a couple areas, but the format effectively presents the key issues in missiology today and points the reader in a good direction.

 

 

The list of assigned books gets tweaked year by year. In the past, we’ve assigned a few of my books, but it’s hard to write an honest paper for the guy who wrote the book. Other books we’ve assigned over the years include: Exegetical Fallacies (D.A. Carson), Worship by the Book (D.A. Carson, ed.), The Church of Christ (James Bannerman), Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Paul Tripp), Preaching and Preachers (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones), The Message of the Old Testament (Mark Dever), The Courage to Protestant (David Wells), A History of Israel (Walter Kaiser), Biblical Eldership (Alexander Strauch), A Praying Life (Paul Miller). The pastoral interns also study our church’s confessional standards, though that is covered more extensively in our membership class.

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History Helps Put Things in Perspective

Sep 25, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Crying in ChurchI am strongly opposed to providing our kids with alternate worship experiences all the way through high school. They ought to be worshiping with adults, with their families, in “big” church, not having a special service tailored to their teen demographic.

I am a believer in parents bringing their children, even young children, with them into worship. Our kids can pick up more than we know. And even if the content is beyond them, they will learn some songs, pick up some liturgy, and see their parents worshiping Christ.

I’m a proponent of families worshiping together.

I’m not a proponent, however, of taking a good principle and making it an absolute rule. Moreover, I’m not in favor of making other Christians feel like the truly biblical (or Truly Reformed) position is to have your kids of all ages with you in church at all times.

This is where history helps put things in perspective.

In sixteenth century post-Reformation Scotland, church attendance was mandatory. Kirk sessions took their responsibility seriously to see that the Sabbath was observed and the people attended the preaching of God’s word. And yet, they were not absolutists.

One significant portion of the congregation was systematically excluded everywhere from Sunday sermons. While sermons were central, the elders knew that they had to be audible to be effective, and so they barred babies and very young children from attendance lest they disturb the adult hearers—a factor that must be borne in mind when trying to gauge actual church attendance in early modern Scotland.

The Glasgow sessions designated eight as the cut-off age; Aberdeen prohibited “young bairns [children]…not at the school and not of such age and disposition as they can take themselves to a seat when they come to the kirk, but vague [wander] through the same here and there in time of sermon and make perturbance and disorder.” These children were to be ‘kept at home, for eschewing of clamour and disorder in the kirk.’

Kingsbarns’s session ordered them not only to be kept away from the kirk, but also to be shut up indoors lest parishioners be troubled by the “running up and down of little ones and young children on the Lord’s day in the time of sermon.”

Perth’s session in 1582 actually ordered warding (gaoling) and a 6s 8d fine for ‘bairns that perturb the kirk in time of preaching’ instead of being kept at home. Such rulings would obviously have reduced church attendance quite considerably, since the adult caretakers would have had to stay at home with their young charges. Sessions routinely excused absenteeism by parents, nurses, and other servants for this reason. (Margo Todd, The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland)

Do I think children under eight should be barred from attending worship? No. A sixteenth century Scottish provision does not need to be our rule (and there is evidence that some Scottish parents disregarded the rules and were fined for bringing their naughty children to church!). But it does suggest we should not make it seem like bringing every child into the service is the only responsible choice for theologically serious people. Just as important, it suggests parents of small children should cut themselves some slack–and we should do the same–if church is interrupted for them or even made impossible at times because of the demands of little ones.

And while we’re at it, we should thank the Lord for nursery workers.

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A Ministry, Not a Lordship

Sep 24, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) to Pope Eugenius:

You have been made a superior. For what? Not to domineer, I suppose. Therefore, highly as we think of ourselves, let us remember that a ministry has been laid upon us, not a lordship given. Learn that you need a hoe, not a scepter, to do the prophet’s work (quoted in Calvin’s Institutes, IV.xi.11).

Now read that again. And one more time, slowly. And pray it through. Down in your soul, and up to God.

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

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The Sanctifying Spirit

Sep 23, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

The opening greeting of Peter’s first epistle gives a clear example of the Trinitarian nature of our salvation. The “elect exiles” are saved according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, that they might be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled by his blood (1 Peter 1:2). We see here the Holy Spirit sanctifies in two ways. First, he sets us apart in Christ that we might be cleansed by his blood. Second, he works in us so we can be obedient to Jesus Christ. Through the sanctification of the Spirit we are given a new position and infused with a new power.

It’s the second element, the new power, that we usually think of when discussing “sanctification.” Though sanctification is positional too, as a theological term it usually refers to our progressive sanctification, the way in which God works in us for his good pleasure as we work out the life of salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13). Or as Romans 8:9-13 puts it, we are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit (position); therefore, by the Spirit we ought to put to death the deed of the flesh (power).

Though we must make effort in our growth in godliness (2 Peter 1:5), the Spirit empowers through and through. The Bible is not a cheap infomercial telling us to change and then assuring our little ponytail hearts, “You can do it!” We have already been changed. We are already new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and have a new strength at work in our inner being (Eph. 3:16), producing gospel fruit in us by the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). The Bible expects that because God dwells in us by the Spirit, we can, by that same Spirit, begin to share in the qualities that are characteristic of God himself (2 Peter 1:4). Of course there is still a fight within us. But with the Spirit there can be genuine progress and victory. The New Testament simply asks us to be who we are.

How exactly, then, does the Spirit empower us for growth in godliness? Well think again of the metaphor of light. The Holy Spirit, as we’ve seen, is a like a light shining into our dark places, exposing our sin and leading us to repentance. The Spirit is also a lamp to illumine God’s word, teaching what is true and revealing it as precious (1 Cor. 2:6-16). And, as we saw in John 16, the Spirit throws a spotlight on Christ so we can see his glory and beauty and be changed accordingly. This is the stunning argument Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Just as Moses had his face transformed when he saw the Lord’s glory on Mt. Sinai, so will we be transformed when we behold God’s glory in the face of Christ. Except we won’t just get a shiny tan face, we will grow more and more into the image of the one we see. We become what we behold.

My wife loves to watch figure skating (which wife doesn’t?). She loves the artistry and beauty of it. She also enjoys the puff pieces on the young women. I find them nauseating (the pieces not the women), but I have to admit it is pretty remarkable what the skaters can do. I imagine most of them grew up watching figure skating. They probably marveled at all the lay-back spins and double-axles and triple salchows (uh?). I’m sure many of them were mesmerized as little girls by Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan. They probably thought, “I want to do that. That’s amazing! That’s incredible! How can I be like her?” Of course, it takes practice to be a world class figure skater, just like sanctification takes effort on our part. But the effort in both cases is inspired and motivated and modeled after glory. The sight of brilliance and majesty is transformative in and of itself.

That’s why when the Spirit is at work to sanctify us—by revealing sin, revealing truth, and revealing the glory of Christ—and we look the other way, it is a profound offense. The Bible refers to this as resisting (Acts 7:51), quenching (1 Thess. 5:19), or grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). There may be slight nuances among the three terms, but they all speak of situations where we do not accept the Spirit’s work in our lives. When we reject what the word of God has to say to us, when we turn our eyes from the Spirit’s exposure to sin, when we say one thing as Christians and do another, we sin against the Spirit. But when we finally see clearly to acknowledge our sin, accept the truth, and adore Christ, then we can be sure the Spirit is at work within us to will and to do according to his good purpose and for God’s good pleasure.

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Monday Morning Humor

Sep 22, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Not exactly on the same page, I’d say. (HT: 22 Words)

Which, of course, reminds me of this (the action picks up at 0:40):

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What Jesus Didn’t Say

Sep 19, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

But on the other hand, do not think that I have come to completely affirm everything in the Law or Prophets either. There are stories in the Old Testament that did not happen as they are recorded. Sometimes, God’s people thought they heard the voice of God, but were mistaken. Other times, ancient people used God to justify their violence and exclusion. We can still read those parts of the Hebrew Bible and learn how unenlightened people used to think, but those sections are best corrected or set aside.

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Obviously, this is a bit of an overstatement–Jewish hyperbole, poetic license, that sort of thing. By “jots and tittles” I don’t mean every bit of chronology, cosmology, or history. I’m just trying to say that the Old Testament is still really important and that it points to me. But whether, say, the exodus happened like it says in Exodus, or if Isaiah made any predictive prophesies, or whether the whole storyline of the Old Testament is out of whack–that kind of thing is not terribly important.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Again, let me clarify: I’m not actually against relaxing some of the more outdated commandments. After all, who doesn’t like relaxing! I don’t want my disciples getting hung up on minutia. As long as you are concerned about love–whatever you understand that to be–I wouldn’t worry about the particulars. People need relationships not rules, you know.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In hindsight, this is probably not the best way to express myself. I’m sorry for anyone who was hurt by the whole “never enter the kingdom of heaven” bit. That’s just an figure of speech for “the best way to live!” And I apologize if the righteousness piece felt legalistic. When I talk about hungering after righteousness or pursuing righteousness I’m thinking more on a cosmic level, not so much about your personal holiness. The only righteousness I expect to see from you is being right enough to know you are wrong. Look, the last thing I want is for people to get uptight with the Bible and start freaking out about doing everything by the book.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were super cool with his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had a realistic understanding of the Bible and helped the disciples feel better about themselves.

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Magnify Conference

Sep 18, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

The Church Matters with Mark Dever

November 14-15, 2014

University Reformed Church
East Lansing, MI

I’m thrilled to have Mark Dever as our keynote speaker at this year’s Magnify Conference. This two-day event is sponsored by several Lansing area churches.

Whether you are a pastor, church leader, church member, or church drop-out we invite you to attend this special conference focusing on the centrality and health of the local church. Mark will be speaking three times. I will be speaking once and interviewing Mark for another session. Mark will also be preaching at University Reformed Church on Sunday, November 16.

This conference is always one of the highlights of my year. It brings together Christians from all over the area for fellowship and learning–and in a more intimate setting than many large conferences allow. And it’s very inexpensive.

You can register for the conference here.

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A Prayer for the Revival of Religion in Scotland

Sep 18, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Scotland CastleAs Scotland goes to the polls to vote on the question of independence, it would be fitting for all Christians–especially Reformed Christians–to give thanks for the rich Christian heritage in that nation and pray for a revival of gospel truth and grace.

I don’t claim to be an expert on contemporary Scotland or the church scene there. But I do know how concerned John Witherspoon was for his homeland in the 18th century. Here is a prayer adapted from portions of his sermon Prayer for National Prosperity and for the Revival of Religion Inseparably Connected preached on Thursday, February 16, 1758 on a public fast day in Scotland. Perhaps it captures how Scottish Christians might pray today, or how any of us in the West might pray for our own country

O Lord, let us not for Scotland, or for any nation, ask for national prosperity without a revival of religion. Our prayers are only warrantable when we adjust and proportion our esteem of the mercies of God to their real worth, and desire them for their proper ends. A love to one’s country, and a desire of its outward welfare, is, no doubt, an excellent an amiable disposition. But it is much more so to be concerned for their everlasting interest. When we ask for temporal prosperity, without an equal, or rather superior solicitude for the enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost, we are alienating his mercies from their proper use, turning them into weapons of rebellion against him, and cherishing that love of the world which is destructive of the love of God.

Are we not also, O Lord, in a very low and fallen state as a church? How have all ranks, from highest to lowest, corrupted their ways. How gross and prevalent is infidelity? How many of high rank have wholly deserted the house and worship of God? And with how much zeal and diligence does the lower part of the nation emulate the higher in that which is the reproach of both? So great is the prevalence of irreligion, contempt of God, sensuality and pride, that many of the grossest crimes are not only practiced but professed, not only frequent but open, not only persisted in but gloried in and boasted of.

It is not, indeed, to be wondered at that not only this nation, but the Protestant states of Europe in general should be brought under the rod, as they have so shamefully departed from that purity of faith and the strictness of morals which was the glory of the Reformation. How many have of late been ashamed of the cross of Christ and the doctrine of the grace of God? And what hath been substituted in their room? A pliant and fashionable scheme of religion, a fine theory of virtue and morality. A beautiful but unsubstantial idol, raised by human pride, adorned and dressed by human art, and supported by the wisdom of words.

For this reason, we ask that we might discover Christ’s power and glory in an eminent and remarkable revival of religion among all ranks.

That our blessed Redeemer, the king of Zion, who reigns to all generations, who hath ascended up on high and received gifts for men, would send forth his Spirit in a large and plentiful measure.

That his work and power may appear in all his gracious influences, convincing and converting sinners, sanctifying, quickening and comforting believers.

That this may be a common blessing on all corners of the land, on persons of every class and denomination, of every rank and degree, from the highest to the lowest, of every station and office, civil and sacred.

Above all, that he would “clothe his priests with salvation, that his saints may shout aloud for joy.”

O when shall the time come when “the Lord of hosts shall be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the residue of his people”? When instead of fine schemes spun for the honor of their makers, those who are called ministers of Christ shall preach the gospel, “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” When the truth of God, by its simplicity, majesty, force and efficacy, shall make its way into the hearts of the most obstinate, and Satan’s kingdom fall as lightning before it.

We plead that believers may be brought back to their first faith and their first love; that the unhappy divisions among us be abolished; and that the bond and centre of union may be Christ crucified, the only author of salvation.

Let us not give way to desponding thoughts. Though infidelity unresisted spread its poison, though profaneness and enmity to religion and seriousness everywhere abound, though there are few to support the interest of truth and righteousness, let us not be discouraged.

We plead the cause that shall finally prevail.

Religion shall rise from its ruin; and its oppressed state at present should not only excite us to pray, but encourage us to hope for its speedy revival. While every one is diligent in his own sphere, and in his proper duty, and earnestly pleading for the revelation of the arm of the Lord, let us recollect his favor and protection to the church in every time of need, and his faithfulness which is to all generations. Let us say with the Psalmist, “Walk about Zion and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever, he will be our guide even unto death.” Amen.

Almost every word of the prayer above was taken directly from scattered portions of Witherspoon’s sermon. The message, based on Isaiah 51:9, can be found in Volume 2 of The Works of the Revd. John Witherspoon (Woodward, 1802), pages 453-477.

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