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What does a text written by two white dead guys who lived in Europe over 568 years ago have to say to urban young people?

Much, if it’s translated from the streets.

In 2006, my church began integrating our post-high school young people. Over the years, we struggled to put community and church youth in the same room. My children and youth director Minerva Griffioen asked to me to take an ancient 16th-century teaching tool of Reformed theology and translate it for 21st-century, digital-minded, hardcore individuals, some of whom had Bible knowledge and others who didn't have any. I had my work cut out for me. Could Heidelberg speak to the hip-hop youth’s hopes and fears? I think it can if it’s contextualized for the school of hard knocks.

I have spent over twenty years of pastoral ministry living in an urban context where the issues of life center on the big questions. For the young people I have ministered to, the issues of hell and heaven, judgment and grace, and salvation are constantly on their minds when we meet together. When it gets right down to it, they wonder: Does God have any good answers to my hopes and fears? Does God care about my economic life, my relational life, and my spiritual life? Does God care about me at all?

It's important to know the context. In the year I met with these young people, two church members intervened in an incident in the church parking lot where a young woman was stabbed and hid under a car from her client. Does God have an answer for her?

It was followed by my next-door neighbor who intimidated young people who were not members of his gang with violence. Is there a good word from the Heidelberg? Also, a young man, who attended Bible study, wanted to be mentored but his family life overpowered his intentions to try to follow Jesus. Do the words of two young cats from faraway Germany in the distant past have anything to encourage him? I think so.  

I believe the Heidelberg Catechism has a great deal to say to our young people if it’s translated to address their hopes and fears. When author and pastor Eugene Peterson was asked why he translated the Bible into one of the best-selling reading Bibles, he replied that he had learned that listening to how American people spoke was helpful in his translating the Bible into American. He said, “I have been a pastor for the last thirty years. If there (was) anything that I am bringing into this translation, it (was) that I have been listening to people’s speech, that idiom, that distinctive American note into (The Message)  so that Americans learn how to answer God as biblically as they can” ( As Peterson translated the Bible to speak American, I am translating the Catechism to speak Hip Hop.

Hip Hop Catechism (based on the Heidelberg Catechism developed by Reginald Smith)


Lord’s Day 1  

Q & A 1      WHO’S YOUR DADDY?

I am the property of Jesus Christ, all of me,

body and soul, for all times, in life and in death!

I am his property because he purchased me with

His blood; and then he freed me from the grasp of the


I know this because the Holy Spirit assures me that it’s

true, and he makes me wholeheartedly ready and

willing to live for him.


Matt. 10:29-31

Lk. 21:16-18

Jn. 10:27-30

Rm. 14:7-9

I Jn 3:1



 I have to understand how great my sin is.

I have to understand the hugeness of what

God did to save me.

I must be filled with a desire to express my

gratitude to God for what he did.

Lk 15:11-32    Prodigal Son



Lord’s Day 2


The Law of God

Romans 3:20   Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.


           The Summary of the Law

Matthew. 22:37-40      Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."


            I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor

Romans 3:9-20

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

As it is written:

   "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands,  no one who seeks God.

 All have turned away, they have together become worthless;

   there is no one who does good, not even one.

 "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit."

   "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."  "Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.


                     Lord’s Day 3


God created people good, and in his own image – totally right and pure – because he wanted to have an awesome relationship with them.      


Things changed when Adam and Eve decided to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. Their disobedience got in our DNA because Adam is the father of us all. So now we are born sinners.

8          CAN I GET HIGH?

Yes, you can get high with God when you are born again.


Gen. 1:27        So God created man in his own image,

                          in the image of God he created him;

                          male and female he created them.

Gen. 1:31        God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Eph. 4:24         created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 5:12   Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

Romans 5:18-19   Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Ps. 51:5           Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

John. 3:3-5      In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"  Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

IDEA:            -Adam’s sin passed on to us - sneezing

SIN:    JUSTICE      

 Lord’s Day 4

 Q & A 9          IT’S NOT MY FAULT, RIGHT?

                    Sorry! God created us with the ability to keep the law. We just keep making bad choices.


God is mad about the sin we were born with and the sins we personally commit; because he’s holy, he insists that someone has to pay the price.


                                                            You certainly can!

“Sin is not only an act we commit, not only a human failure that makes us inadequate, not only a condition of spiritual impotence, but also a power that enslaves us -- power from which no one but God can rescue us. That power rules us from birth. None of us is born free. We are born in prison.” A.K.


            3 excuses we use to avoid the reality of God’s justice

                        -It’s not my fault

                        -It’s no big deal

                        -God’s too nice to get mad.

More to come soon.             


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