Search

Latest


Monday Morning Humor: Top 10 of 2015

Dec 28, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Why do I post funny clips on my blog every Monday? Shouldn’t a Gospel Coalition blog just stick to the Bible and theology? Well, I’ve been tempted to drop MMH a number of times, not because I feel bad about the posts, but because it is so hard to keep finding clean, funny stuff. I guess I do Monday Morning Humor because I’ve always done it, my kids want me to do it, and I meet lots of people who say “Thank you for blog, especially Mondays. My family and I look forward to laughing together.” Seems like good reasons to keep at it.

Here are the most watched Monday Morning Humor clips from 2015:

1. This is how papers are really graded

2. For all your buying a house and living in it dreams

3. St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies

4. The Fellowship of Cats

5. It’s not brain surgery!

6. Tim Hawkins on men and women texting

7. PSA for bad dad jokes

8. Kiss-cam misfire

9. Speeding Ticket Fail

10. The trust fall–a little too trusting

View Comments

Yes and Amen in Christ

Dec 25, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

God has promised us everything in Christ.

Abraham knew the Lord as a promise-maker, Moses knew him as a promise-keeper, but we know the one in whom all the promises are yes and Amen.

In Christ, there is now no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1)

In Christ we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:16)

In Christ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18).

In Christ we know that he who did not spare his own son, but freely gave him up for us all, will also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32).

In Christ there is nothing in all creation—neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing–that can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).

All of the promises are yes and Amen in Christ.

Think of all that the people waited for and did not see–all the fulfillment that they kept longing for, hoping for, waiting for. And think of every good thing that came true on Christmas day.

At last, there was one born of the seed of the woman and boy who would set everything right. He would crush the head of the serpent. He would be Abraham’s offspring, descendant from the tribe of Judah, heir to the throne of David, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, preceded by the messenger of the covenant, a prophet like Moses, a priest like Melchizedek and a king like David. He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, just as the prophets had said. He was betrayed by his friends. He was sold for 30 pieces of silver and accused by false witnesses. He was stricken, smitten and afflicted. He was hated without cause, crucified with transgressors, buried by the rich in his death. He was pierced for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities. He was buried in a tomb and he rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.

All promises. And all true. Because of what we celebrate today.

Merry Christmas!

And don’t forget about God. He hasn’t forgotten you.

View Comments

Once in Royal David’s City

Dec 24, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

The Christmas Eve service at King’s College always begins with this song. The boy soloist is chosen only shortly before the service.

View Comments

The Church Between Temple and Mosque

Dec 23, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

When theological controversy erupts, my instinct is to go back to old books. So when the blogosphere was on fire with the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I ordered J.H. Bavinck’s neglected missiological classic, The Church Between Temple and Mosque: A Study of the Relationship Between the Christian Faith and other Religions.

At the beginning of the book, while listing “Preliminary Considerations,” Bavinck explains that although Christianity has certain things in common with other religions, the essential elements of the Christian faith are odds with other religious traditions, even if the words as the same.

[T]he resemblance between the Christian faith and other religions has more far-reaching consequences, one of which is that the Bible can be translated into every language and can be understood by all people of every language. There are words which can be used for God, the Creator of heaven and earth, or for sin or for salvation. It hardly needs to be said that each of these words which we borrow from other languages is infected with non-Christian concepts. In the context of the religions which have put their mark upon these languages these words have an entirely different meaning—their god is different from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, their idea of sin is wholly unlike the biblical concept of it. (13-14)

In the book’s final pages, Bavinck circles back to this central idea, extolling the uniqueness of the Christian understanding of God and urging the church to bear witness to this God.

And finally, regarding man’s view of God Himself, we have seen that he struggles with all kinds of hesitations. Is God the High God, the Supreme Being, who travels to a far, inaccessible land? Or is He the mysterious, supernatural power that resides in things and in man himself as well? Is He a “he,” or a “she,” or an “it”? What must we imagine Him to be: We see in the history of religion that man has always struggles with these problems. In masochistic passion he sometimes liked to be tortured and humiliated by a fearful God. He tried to find God’s image in the world round about him, and saw at the moment he discovered the divine powers in the world that he himself, as a microcosmos, was part of these powers. Man has often played with his gods and broken their statues when it was obvious that they did not listen to his wishes. Man has thought that God was like the silent, impersonal, primeval ocean, or like a great fire in which we, like sparks, fly up for a moment only to fall back again when our existence comes to an end.

But in all these ideas about God, important truths are somehow repressed. God is different, totally different, from the way we human beings have imagined Him in our religious fantasies. In Jesus Christ alone, the Logos, the Word, we hear His voice and see His image.

This must be the witness of the Church when it comes into contact with other religions. It is a witness that must be given without any pride. And it is not merely the message of the Western nations to those of other parts of the world. It is God’s message to all of us, without distinction of race and people.

This message concerns God’s Kingdom, God Himself, and His world, in which we have a place. It concerns Jesus Christ, the Savior, on whose suffering, death, and resurrection the future of the Kingdom is founded. The message concerning the Kingdom is to a certain extent an unmasking—it revels the very deep processes of repression and substitution and makes us ashamed of what we have done with God. This message is revealing, as it shows what goes on in man and in the world, and what God’s intention is for all things, and for man, too, His deputy on earth. This message cannot wrap itself in philosophical arguments, it cannot “prove” anything, it cannot be “logical” in every respect. It is poor and small in the world, like that of Paul when he brought it to the world of his day “not with excellency of speech or of wisdom: (I Cor. 2:1).

This message has only one powerful weapon, namely, that its messengers know that if they bring it obediently and honestly, trusting in God’s help and in His Spirit, it will somehow touch the heart of man. For no matter how much man in his wickedness has repressed God’s truth, when the word of the gospel comes to him, something deep within his heart may be touched. Then the engines of repression are stopped, as it were, and only then he sees clearly who he himself is, and who his God, is, and what the Kingdom is for which God intended him. And could this not be what the Bible call “regeneration,” the regeneration of the individual man as a sign of the regeneration of the whole cosmos? (205-206)

The more pressing the current controversy, the more important it is to listen the communion of the saints, especially those who have gone before. Sometimes the best way forward is to first look back.

View Comments

When Character Was King

Dec 22, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

It’s been years since I read Peggy Noonan’s beautiful biography of Ronald Reagan, When Character Was King (Viking, 2001), but I’ve been thinking a lot about that title. If conservatives in this country want to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, or simply want to be true to conservative principles, they will not overlook the question of character when choosing a president (or a nominee, as the case may be). Of course, being an admirable human being does not by itself make one a good president. Character is not a sufficient condition for being a great leader, but it is, I believe, a necessary condition.

No doubt, every politician in our day (or any day?) is bound to over-promise, overestimate his (or her) own importance, and come across a wee bit weasel-y from time to time. But that doesn’t mean we have to settle for the lowest common denominator of personal integrity. Just because Jesus isn’t running for president, doesn’t mean we might as well vote for Barabbas.

We are whole people, with private lives and public lives that cannot help but bleed one into the other. Among other considerations, Christians should insist that wherever possible–and evangelicals will play a big role in choosing the Republican nominee–that their political leaders are men and women with a track record of honesty, self-control, self-sacrifice, fidelity, wisdom, prudence, courage, and humility.

Along those lines, I’m struck by this passage at the end of Noonan’s book:

I asked him [Reagan] how he viewed his leadership. He replied, “I never thought of myself as a great man, just a man commited [sic] to great ideas. I’ve always believed that individuals should take priority over the state. History has taught me that this is what sets America apart–not to remake the world in our image, but to inspire people everywhere with a sense of their own boundless possibilities. There’s no question I am an idealist, which is another way of saying I’m an American.” (317)

“I never thought of myself as a great man.” The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. I think that’s how an even more famous man once put it. Two paragraphs later, Noonan expanded on an overlooked aspect of Reagan’s humility.

He added that he had gotten through his presidency only with the help of prayer. “I’ve prayed a lot throughout my life. Abraham Lincoln once said that he could never have fulfilled his duties as president for even fifteen minutes without God’s help. I felt the same way.” (317)

Better historians than me can argue about the personal faith of Reagan and Lincoln, but few (especially those who will vote in Republican primaries) will doubt that they were good men and great presidents. I’m sure their successes can be attributed to many things: hard work, common sense, strong convictions, and a little bit of luck (or happy providences, if you will). But surely they would not have been able to accomplish all they did, with such enduring admiration, if their lives were marked by self-aggrandizement, personal meanness, and wild inconsistency.

Is there one candidate Christians must vote for? No. But are there Christian graces, or at least common grace virtues, that we should pray for and look for in our leaders? Absolutely. Don’t ask “who would I like to have a beer with?” or “who sticks it to the people I’m most fed up with?” Ask: “Who would I trust to put the interests of others above his own? Who has the wisdom, the discernment, and the honesty to make the right decisions when no one is looking?” That’s not all that’s needed in a president. But it’s a start.

When it comes to doing good in this world, no amount of charisma can overcome a dearth of character. In the short term, perhaps. But in the long run: people do as people are. Character is king.

View Comments

Monday Morning Music

Dec 21, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Simply one of the best Christmas songs.

View Comments

Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Dec 17, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

The following is a Christmas sermon I preached a couple years ago. I thought it might be worth posting again as Christmas approaches.

One of the Christmas traditions in my church growing up was that every year during the Christmas Eve service this one particular gentlemen would sing Sweet Little Jesus Boy.  He was the right church member to sing the song.  He was an old African American gospel singer, and he could sing it well.  And even though it was a different style of music than all the other songs we would sing on Christmas Eve, it became a favorite of our almost entirely white congregation.

Sweet little Jesus Boy,
they made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child,
didn’t know who You was.

Didn’t know you come to save us, Lord;
to take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see,
we didn’t know who You was.

The song was written in 1934 by Robert MacGimsey (1898-1979), a white man from Louisiana who made it his life’s work to learn, preserve, transcribe, and make accessible African American folk music from the South.  MacGimsey wanted Sweet Little Jesus Boy to echo the sentiments of black Christians in the Civil War era.  He once described his most famous song as more a meaning than a song: he pictured an aging black man whose life had been full of injustice “standing off in the middle of a field just giving his heart to Jesus in the stillness.”

The connection between our sufferings and Christ’s sufferings is powerful.

The world treat You mean, Lord;
treat me mean, too.
But that’s how things is down here,
we didn’t know t’was You.

And the refrain at the end of several of the verses has a haunting simplicity to it: “We didn’t who you was.”

Just seem like we can’t do right,
look how we treated You.
But please, sir, forgive us Lord,
we didn’t know ’twas You.

Sweet little Jesus Boy,
born long time ago.
Sweet little Holy Child,
and we didn’t know who You was.

Do you know who Jesus was?

Isaiah 9 hails the Messiah as the light of the world in a land of deep darkness.  He is the child born under the oppression and eventual execution of the Roman government.  He is our Wonderful Counselor and the Mighty God.  He reveals to us the Everlasting Father.  He is the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his kingdom and peace there will be no end.  He will rule with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

So who was this child born of Mary?

A good teacher perhaps?  That’s a popular answer: Jesus was really a humble prophet, a teacher of peace and justice. But some of his followers made up all these things about him–they invented the miracles and the exalted language about himself and the resurrection.  Maybe the Christ of faith is completely different from the Jesus of history. Perhaps, but consider two major problems with this theory.

First, the only Jesus we have is the Jesus of faith.  Virtually everything we know about Jesus is given to us through the eyes and pens of those who believed in him.  So any attempt to find the historical Jesus behind the Jesus of faith is an attempt to find what we would like Jesus to be and not an attempt based on history.  The only history we have about him comes from those who were changed by him.  So either we are going to have to accept what Jesus’ followers said about him or admit that we can’t really know anything about this man.

The second problem with taking Jesus as simply a good moral teacher is that the people who argue for this approach almost never take into account all of Jesus’ teachings.  What they mean is not so much that they respect Jesus as a teacher, but that Jesus was smart enough to say some of the same things they would say.  So people appreciate Jesus the good teacher when he talks about turning the other cheek or walking the extra mile or giving to the needy.  But they ignore all the parables Jesus told about weeping and gnashing of teeth and being cast into outer darkness.  They love the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, except they breeze past the places where Jesus says those who refuse to forgive will be punished, and those controlled by lust will be thrown into hell, and divorce except on the grounds of sexual immorality is wrong, and everyone who doesn’t build his house on Jesus is a fool.  We gravitate to the peace on earth, good will toward men, and overlook the times when Jesus says his coming would bring division on the earth and turn mother against daughter, brother against brother, and father against son.  No one should hail Jesus as a great moral teacher until he reads through all that Jesus taught.  Then you can decide if still think he was a good teacher.

So who was the baby the Magi came to worship?

How would you answer that question?  As I see it, there are two consistent answers and two inconsistent answers.

The first inconsistent response is to take part of Jesus: “I’ll take the teachings I like and ditch the rest.  I’ll take his good deeds but not his hard words.  I’ll take his love for humanity and not his desire to glorify himself.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, you can pick and choose what you like about Jesus.  People do it all the time, but it’s inconsistent.  Don’t say you follow Jesus or even that you think he’s a great teacher.  Be honest enough to say “I like the ‘judge not’ line, the love your enemies bit, and the cup of cold water thing, and that’s about it.  Other than that, Jesus was a quack and not really very nice.”  To say anything else is inconsistent.

The second inconsistent response is to accept that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and accept that he is the perfect Son of God, the King of the nations, the Righteous Judge, and the hope of the world, and then live like it doesn’t matter.  If you thought I was God–and I don’t think I need to assure you I’m not–you would be very interested in what I thought, and how I wanted you to live, and what I was like.  You would talk to me and worship me and tell others about my true identity.  And if you did none of those things, it would be right to question whether you really thought I was God.  Faith is more than intellectual assent to certain doctrines, it is an entire life based on the conviction that these doctrines are true.

So who is the babe in the straw?

The first consistent response is to say, “He’s a nobody.  He didn’t even exist.  Or if he did exist, we can’t know anything about him.  The gospels are myths and legends with no grounding in history.  I may like the victory from defeat theme in the gospels, but I don’t need Jesus for that.  I don’t really care who this Jesus is and neither should you.  The billions of Christians singing to Jesus this week are worshiping a figment of their imagination.”  That would be consistent.

And the other consistent response is to believe the Jesus is the Son of God, to worship him, and obey: “Yes, Jesus you are the image of the invisible God.  You are the sacrifice for our sins.  You are the only way to the Father.  You are the resurrection and the life.  You are the once and coming King.”

I can’t persuade you to say that for yourself.  I can try to show you that it is not unreasonable, and is in fact, plausible, but if you don’t want to believe, you will find a reason not to believe. Just try to be consistent. My prayer is (1) that those who accept all these things as true will live and die as if they were, and (2) that those who don’t yet accept these things will ask God to help them understand if these things are so.  Because wouldn’t it be terrible to meet Jesus on that great getting up morning, look him in the eye and then look at each other and confess, “We didn’t know who you was.”

View Comments

Internship Program at URC

Dec 16, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

300x300srUniversity Reformed Church is accepting applications for its internship program for the 2016-2017 year. More information can be found here.

We offer one internship program with four internship tracks:

  • Pastoral Ministry Track (full time): To train, equip, and prepare men for effective, responsible, and godly pastoral ministry in the local church through study, practice, counsel, mentoring, evangelism, and discipleship.
  • Campus Ministry Track (full time): To train, equip, prepare, and engage individuals for effective, responsible, and godly ministry to students on college campuses through study, practice, counsel, mentoring, evangelism, and discipleship.
  • International Ministry Track (full time): To train, equip, and prepare individuals, international students or prospective missionaries for effective, responsible, and godly cross-cultural ministry among international students.
  • Counseling Ministry Track (full or part time): To train, equip, and prepare individuals for effective, responsible, and godly counseling ministry through study, practice, counsel, mentoring, evangelism, and discipleship.

Applications are due January 31.

View Comments

Thinking Theologically About Islam

Dec 15, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Islam is in the news. Again. Actually, I don’t think it ever left.

From jihad abroad to terrorism at home to questions surrounding refugees and immigration, there is no shortage of stories about Islam. Depending on who you listen to, you may think that most Muslims are out to kill you or that Muslims are among the most oppressed and ostracized people on the planet. Like almost every other controversial subject in our day, sizing up Islam has become a proxy for where one stands in the culture wars. Either America’s problem is that her leaders are weak, PC, and too afraid to tell the truth about Islam, or the problem is that vast swaths of flyover country are intolerant, prejudiced, and trigger-happy.

So where do we go from here?

Well, as Christians, it’s never a bad idea to go to the Bible. We won’t answer every policy question, but at least we can put a few important truths in place as we try to think Christianly about Islam.

Let’s briefly look at a pair of truths—one positive and one negative—under three different headings.

Identity

Muslims are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. We mustn’t think of Muslims as mere foreigners or strangers, let alone as some sort of sub-human people who can be safely treated with contempt. They are fellow image bearers (Gen. 1:26-27), and we should love them as we would like to be loved (Matt. 22:39).

This does not mean that Muslims are our brothers and sisters. This familial terminology is strictly reserved in the New Testament for those who belong to the body of Christ (1 John 3:1-3, 9-10, 14-16; 5:1-5). Only with God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our reigning and redeeming older brother can we be adopted into the family of God (Heb. 2:11). Muslims may be friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even biological family members. But only those who are born again by the Spirit can rightly be called our spiritual brothers and sisters (John 1:12-13).

Faith

Muslims and Christians share important religious commonalities. Abraham is an important figure in both Christianity and in Islam. Both religions are staunchly monotheistic. Both recognize that Jesus was (at least) a miraculous prophet. Both believe in the abiding significance of inspired holy books.

This does not mean that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The differences between Christianity and Islam are wide and deep. We disagree about the Bible, the Koran, the place of Mohammed, the person and work of Jesus Christ, what happened on the cross, what happens when you die, and how you get to heaven, to name only a few major differences. Christians worship a Triune God, one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20). In the Christian understanding, God is only truly known and truly worshiped when he is known and worshiped as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:6-7; 9-11). The Christian God is the invisible God we behold as visible in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6; Col. 1:15). On this side of the incarnation, all other conceptions of God are not merely incomplete, but idolatrous (John 8:39-59).

Welcome

Christians should look for opportunities to show love and compassion to our Muslim neighbors. I have gotten to know a number of Muslims in East Lansing over the years. They have all been friendly and easy to talk to. Some have lived here longer than I have. Others were just entering the country for work or study. I am thankful for ministries at our church—and in other churches—that seek to make Muslims and other newcomers feel welcomed, cared for, and at home (Rom. 12:9-18).

This does not mean the church has the responsibility to provide for all Muslims everywhere. Christians should do good to all people as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). The church’s priority is the church, and the mission of the church is to make disciples and plant healthy churches (Acts 14:21-23; Rom. 15:19). In an effort to stir up one another to love and good deeds, we must not indict fellow Christians who have different opportunities and different callings. Being marked by Christlike compassion is not the same thing as providing social services for all needy people. To be open to helping anyone is not the same as an obligation to help everyone.

Obviously, my list of important truths is short. There is much more that could be said. But agreeing on at least these three (or six, I suppose) things would help Christians not only start off on the same foot, but perhaps help us avoid running off in the wrong direction.

View Comments

Monday Morning Happy

Dec 14, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Happy Monday. This should put a smile on your face.

View Comments
1 2 3 4 5 219