How to Write More Gooder

Jan 13, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Most people don’t write well.

And by “well” I don’t mean brilliantly, creatively, and profoundly. I mean most people—unless they are gifted or (more likely) have put in a good deal of effort—do not write clearly, understandably, or according to basic grammatical rules.

Many books have been written on how to write better (books which would tell me not to use the passive voice in the previous line, but I like the way “written” and “write” sound closer together). These books are useful to a point. I benefited from Strunk and White when I was in college and enjoyed reading Roy Peter Clark’s 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer several years ago. But I find that books on writing don’t scratch where most people itch. They get into things like transitive verbs and active voice and the difference between affect and effect, useful in hedging the driveway but less relevant in knowing how to turn on the lawnmower. Most people don’t need help going from good to great. They need help going from confusion to clarity.

I wish I knew better how to articulate the keys to good writing. When I write it is a very intuitive process. After the fact I can look back and tell you why I did what I did, and looking at an intern’s paper I can point out what needs to be improved, but coming up with the ten most important principles of effective writing has so far eluded me. What I can point to are a few simple practices which may help a great deal.

1. Read. No matter how hard you work at writing, you will not improve unless you do a lot of reading. Read often. Read widely. Read from different eras. Read from different disciplines. Read different styles. Read different genres. Just keep reading—and not just tweets, and status updates, and blogs. Read good journalism. Read long form essays. Read succinct op-ed pieces. Read well-reasoned journal articles. Read short stories. Read poems. And above all, read books. The best way (or is it the only way?) to grow in your vocabulary, in your comfort with the discipline, and in your feel for the craft is to read.

2. Write well whenever you write. You probably practice writing much more often than you realize. The problem is practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. And in this case, what we’re practicing may not be very good. We text without any thought for punctuation or grammar. We write emails with incomplete thoughts connected by ellipses. The Christmas letter ends up being nothing more than a series of lists strung together. Of course, there is time for shorthand and for shortcuts, but if you have to write emails, and you’re going to write tweets, and you work on the newsletter every month anyway, why not make the effort to write these things more effectively? Say what you will about Twitter (it can be a ridiculous medium), but the discipline of putting your thoughts into 140 characters, in some arresting fashion, is actually quite useful.

3. Speak out loud what you’ve just written. Good writing does not happen without great editing. Almost no one writes well on the first try, and if they seem to it’s because they are constantly revising and reworking as they go. If your writing is often awkward, unclear, and borderline unintelligible, congratulations, so is most good writing! The difference is that good writers don’t leave it there. They take the time to make things better. And the simplest way to do that is to go back and speak out loud (not just in your head, actually audibly out loud) what you’ve written down. You’ll hear things that don’t make sense, things that don’t fit, things that can be cut, and your writing will improve.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you are going to do more than hand in a rough draft, you can’t start your massive writing project the night before it’s due. This is just as true on a smaller scale. Don’t be in such a hurry that you can’t reread your email before you send it or let your report sit for awhile before printing it off. It’s amazing how our beautifully written prose can sound so clunky the next morning. Give yourself some distance from the project. Finish your writing ahead of time and then come back and make it shine.

5. Get a good friend to be ruthless. This will be painful, but worth it. If people consistently find your writing hard to understand, confusing, and full of mistakes, go ask a trusted teacher, relative, or obnoxious grammar nerd to tear your writing apart. Tell him you’ll pay him by the error, not by the hour. Tell her you want at least ten corrections per page. Find a friend to hurt your feelings. You’ll feel better eventually. Writing well is not easy, but it is not impossible either.

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Monday Morning Humor

Jan 12, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

This is how papers are really graded. (FYI, I don’t know anything about this show. And bonus FYI, a teacher sent me this clip.)

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Stuart Scott and (Not) Responding to Internet Critics

Jan 08, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Like many people I was saddened to hear about Stuart Scott’s death on Sunday. As a lifelong sports guy (watching and rooting at least, if not playing particularly well), I’ve “known” the ESPN anchor for years. His catch phrases, his professionalism, and his general likeability made him as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Until I went back and reread portions of the big ESPN book, I didn’t know Scott received so much criticism for style. I’m hardly an urban hip-hop kid, but I always found his street-smart style to be genuine and entertaining. Apparently, some people hated it and sent in emails or wrote online about they found his schtick unprofessional, inauthentic, or just plain annoying. Scott’s approach to this kind of internet criticism was refreshing:

I’ve read two blogs in my life. I’m not a big Internet guy. I was talking to a colleague of mine who works here and he said, “Man, I get on the Internet, I see all this stuff written about me and I’m firing off e-mails…” And I’m like, “Why? Why are you firing off e-mails?” I’m not trying to be cool; I just think that if there are people who say I’m trying to do this [act black], and I’m trying to do that, they can believe it if they want. (535)

Of course, there are times to respond to our critics, especially if they know us and really care for us. The internet, at its best, can be an easily accessible marketplace of ideas. But it can also be a butcher’s block. Anyone with any kind of public presence–and that’s almost everyone nowadays–must learn how to process the incessant punditry of online critics.

Again, here he is Scott:

I can’t be that concerned with how I’m perceived. I care about how my mother and father think about me and how my friends and how my loved ones think about me. I care about how my ex-wife thinks about me; she and I are still good friends and we do a good job raising our kids. But it doesn’t matter to me what people who are writing a blog on the Internet think. I can’t think about that.

Being a father. That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s my answer. I’m convinced of that. I remember there was a day—my oldest daughter, who is fourteen now, but when she was about two or three, there was a show called Gullah Gullah Island, a Disney show, that was her favorite TV show. I was doing the late-night SportsCenter that aired all morning long. So there was one morning and I’d done the show the night before, and I got up and I said, “Taylor, do you want to watch Daddy on TV?” And she said—and it’s not just what she said but how she said it—“No, I want to watch Gullah Gullah Island.” And I remembered thinking that day, if it’s not a big deal to hear, and she was my life, then it can’t be that big of a deal. (641-642)

Later in the book, Scott talks about his first bout with cancer and how it put the opinions of others into perspective:

I had cancer last year. I had appendicular cancer, which is very, very, very rare, like extremely rare. I had appendicitis. It didn’t rupture. It was inflamed, it go taken out—I was in Pittsburgh for the Monday night game. It was malignant.

So three or four days later I had surgery to remove, like, anything close. I got a big scar. They took apart my colon, anything. I did six months’ chemotherapy. Now, after they finished the surgery, they didn’t find any more cancer, but they said to do chemo anyway. Every six months I have to have a CT scan. Now, I’ve been clean. I worry, what if this comes back and I’ve go to live every day? So juxtapose that up against what somebody says. (642-643)

As a Christians–and I don’t know anything about Scott’s religious beliefs or lack thereof–we know that living for God’s pleasure and living in God’s pleasure are even better and more freeing than living for our kids. And yet, Scott is definitely on to something. Criticism hurts. Unfair attacks on our character are, well, no fair. But let’s not make it worse by our pride. Most folks, even those closest to us, aren’t fixated on us–either to applaud us or condemn us. And those who are have their own problems. Why get upset when people we don’t know and have never met think we’re dirty rotten scoundrels? The internet critic fires his missive and goes back to whatever life he was living before. Don’t let him (or her) have a place in your life he doesn’t deserve.

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7 Reasons Not to Worry

Jan 06, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Is there a sin nice, middle-class Christians commit more than the sin of worry?

You wake up ten minutes later than you had hoped and anxiety already starts to creep in: what if I’m late? What about traffic? What’s the weather like? You pass by the mirror and worry that your face has more wrinkles than it used to. You rush downstairs and because you are in a hurry you let the kids eat whatever they want, so then you start to worry if sugar really does cause cancer. As you get the kids ready you realize one of your boys didn’t do his homework-again. You worry if he’s ever going to get his head screwed on straight, and as you drop the kids off you worry that they may fall in with the wrong crowd or fall off the monkey bars.

Once you get home you pull up Facebook just to unwind. There you read about how awesome everyone else’s kids are and all the amazing cupcakes your friends make and you worry that you might be a failure as a mom. Later in the morning you feel that pain in your knee again. You worry about having to get knee replacement surgery and whether your insurance will cover that and how you’ll pay for it and who will take care of the kids if you are laid up for a month. Then you worry that maybe the pain is something worse, so you check all the medical web sites and realize you probably have a rare case of whooping cough that’s spread to your appendages.

Hours later when the kids are in bed you turn on the television to forget about the day. As you flip through the channels and get caught up on the news you start to worry about the economy and the polar vortex and the rise in crime in your city. You worry about the racial divisions in this country and how you’ll talk to your friend who see things a little differently and maybe you worry whether the police would treat you fairly or you worry about the safety of your brother who is a police officer. So you turn off the TV and talk to your husband and worry about his cough that doesn’t seem to get better and worry the layoffs they’re having at work. And finally as you lay down for the night you feel a tremendous sense of anxiety and you don’t even know why. For reasons you can’t even understand, you start worrying about life and kids and your parents and your church and your health and flying and driving and sleeping and eating and a general fear that the days ahead could be really bad.

Can you relate?

Jesus can help.

Worry may be the most common sin among your “regular” folks in the church. Now, you may think that’s not very encouraging. “Great, I worry about everything. And now on top of my worrying I am going to feel bad about worrying and I am going to worry about that.” But be encouraged: If worry is just a part of your personality or part of being a mom (or a student or a businessman or whatever), God may not do anything to help you. But if worry is a sin, then God can forgive you for it and help you overcome it.

Matthew 6:25-34 is one of the Bible’s great passages on worry. Three times Jesus says “do not be anxious” (25, 31, 34). But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus is interested in more than handing down commands. He wants to get at our hearts. And so he gives seven reasons why we should not be anxious.

Reason #1: Life is too important (Matt. 6:25). We need to get our priorities straight. Does it really matter that you have the good things in life; fancy food, fancy drinks, fancy clothes. Are you living your whole life for a little tag on the back of your pants or the inside of your shirt that makes you feel cool? Are you going to look back on your life and wish you had been more fastidious about your clothing choices? Isn’t life about more than just a clump of cells trying to get sustenance, trying to feel good, trying to look good.

We live in an age where people freak out about food. While most people in the history of the world have worried about whether they will get anything to eat, we worry about the kind of life the chicken lived before we ate it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned with how animals are treated. But let’s remember that life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.

Reason #2: You are too important (Matt. 6:26). We not only insult God when we worry about food and clothes and money, we insult ourselves. Worry says to the world, “I’m not valuable.” Anxiety is an affront to the kindness of God and the worth of men and women made in his image. Let the birds and squirrels be your preachers. God’s feeding them. When you see them peering at you through the window, they’re saying, “What are you looking at? Trust God.” When you hear the birds sing, they are singing a song to remind you of God’s provision. God takes care of little animals; he’ll take care of you.

Reason #3: It doesn’t do any good (Matt. 6:27). Have you ever looked back on the hard times in life and thought, “I don’t know how I would have made it through that if I hadn’t worried?” Nobody reflects on the past and concludes, “Money sure was tight, but worry really pulled me through.” “Junior High was difficult. I only wish I could have worried more.” “The diagnosis was frightening, but then I got all my friends to worry with me.”

If we all took a few seconds right now and worried about making car payments, paying off the mortgage, being without insurance, we’re wouldn’t live one second longer. I haven’t checked this with the doctors I know, but I don’t think they ever stand at the bedside and say, “Well, ma’am, it doesn’t look good. all we can do at this point is worry.”

Man knows not his time. It is not for us to direct our steps (Jer. 10:23). All our days have been written in God’s book before any of them come to pass (Psalm 139:16). You and I need to admit we are powerless over some things. I am powerless to do all sorts of things. I can’t make someone believe the gospel. I can’t raise the dead. I can’t sit at the crib all night making sure the baby is breathing. And I certainly can’t live one more nanosecond than I am supposed to live.  No one has ever lived an hour longer because they worried about when they were going to die.

Reason #4: God cares about you (Matt. 6:28-30). God makes the wild flowers grow. Why? Because he wants to. Because they’re pretty. Because he’s creative. Because he likes beauty. Because he wants people to enjoy them. Because he cares about flowers. And he even cares about grass. The grass is going to die. Your lawn will be brown. It will be cold, frozen, dead–probably is already. But in a few months, it will all come back. And you won’t have anything to do with it. Maybe you’ll plant some more seed. Maybe you’ll get a lawn care specialist out to help make things super great. But even if you do nothing, the grass will come back. Because God is God and he likes green grass.

Do you see what Jesus calls worriers? He calls us “little faiths.” Our worry is an insult to God’s character. When we worry we are not believing the truth about God. We are doubting that he sees, that he knows, that he cares, that he is more than able. Faith is more than a vague notion that Jesus existed and we are going to heaven if we ask him into our hearts. Faith is a practical way of looking at the world. Biblical faith extends to all of life, not merely to the salvation of our souls. When we worry, we are telling God, “I don’t trust you to run my life. I don’t think you’re really in control. I had better worry about these things. I need to do everything to take care of myself, because I’m not sure you will.” But think about it: God takes care of wild animals. He takes care of wild flowers. He even takes care of grass. Why wouldn’t he take care of you?

Reason #5: Pagans worry (Matt. 6:30-32a).  Some of us worry so much, we might as well be atheists. We are living like God doesn’t really exist. That’s what pagans do.

A pagan doesn’t have to be somebody who worships idols and sacrifices frogs. A pagan is somebody who thinks life is about what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear. Pagans think that life consists in the abundance of one’s possessions. Pagans spend their money and hoard their money like there was no God in the universe watching over them or watching out for them.

Let me pause right here because some of you are asking the question the rest of us are afraid to speak: “But what if God doesn’t take care of me?” What about Christians starving to death? What about Christian’s being driven from their homes? What about the thousands of good Christians who will die this year from cancer or car accidents or cardiac arrest? Doesn’t God promise to take care of them too?

Those are fair questions–and questions that wouldn’t surprise Jesus or any of the writers of the Bible. Revelation speaks of a set number of martyrs. Paul told the Romans that even in hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and slaughter they would be more than conquerors. Jesus told his disciples, “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life” (Luke 21:16-19). Jesus never told his disciples that being a Christian was a get out of suffering free card.

So can we count on God or not?

First, we need to remember the context. Jesus is talking about people serving mammon instead of God (Matt. 6:24). In Luke’s account in Luke 12, Jesus is talking about rich fools building bigger barns and worry-worts storing up treasures on earth. His point here is that we won’t die on account of over-generosity. That’s the first to note.

But that’s only part of the answer. I think the rest of the answer is found in verse 32: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” What is “them?” Verses 30 and 31 suggest the “them” is food and drink. And what do we need these things for? For life. God knows what we need to keep on living. . . . so long as he wants us to live. God knows that we need clothes, food, and drink to live and he will give us all the clothes, food, and drink to live until he wants us to die.

This is based on a profound theological truth: God is not stupid. God sees us. He knows we are here. He hasn’t gone out for lunch. He isn’t taking a nap. He’s not like a parent who loses a child in some other part of the grocery store. He is for you, not against you. Jesus doesn’t promise all your wildest dreams will come true, but he does promise that God will give you what you need to glorify him and to live out all the days he has written in his book.

That may sound sort of dumb, but it is really profound. There is more to life, Jesus is saying, than living. We are going to die. So don’t make it your goal in life to simply stay alive; you’ll fail at that. We are here to do more than avoid death. “God will give you all the food and drink and clothes you need to live,” Jesus says. “And when I want you to stop living, you’ll stop living. I’m in control. You were put here for a reason bigger than to just live.” Be consumed, v. 31 says, with the kingdom. Be consumed with seeing God’s reign and rule over your life, and family, and church, and the lost peoples of the world. You’re not a pagan after all.

Reason #6: The kingdom matters more (Matt. 6:33). Jesus wants to set the worry wort free. When we have nice cars, boats, tractors, and houses, we worry about them. What if an accident happens, or lightning strikes, or a thief breaks in? Jesus says “How about a better treasure? Why not lose yourself for the things that last?” As Randy Alcorn puts it, “You can’t take the money with you, but you can send it ahead.”

Don’t get rid of all pursuits: replace your pagan pursuit with a pious pursuits. Be consumed with the kingdom. Be consumed with seeing God’s reign and rule over your life, your family, and your church. Spend yourself for the lost people’s of the world. Make it your priority to introduce more people to the King, get more people in the kingdom, train people to live under the authority of this King and his kingdom.

Jesus may not make your life easy. But he will make your life joyful. He wants to set us free from pursuing all the dead ends we’ve been driving down. If you live for money, you have reason to be anxious. If the most important thing in your life is your career, that can go bad. If your health or your looks or your kids are your real passions, you may be colossally disappointed. You have reason to fret. But if you seek first the kingdom, you can’t lose.

Reason #7: Tomorrow will be anxious for itself (34). Today’s grace is for today’s trials. And when tomorrow’s trials come, God will have new grace waiting for you there.

Anxiety is living out the future before it gets here. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:22-24).

What will happen tomorrow?

I can give you a thousand things we don’t know–medical reports, accidents, jobs, tests, dates, babies, criticisms, hard conversations, even death. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But here is one thing you and I can count on: there will be new mercies from the Lord when we get there.

How can I stop worrying? Look to Jesus. But also look at Jesus. He sees. He knows. He cares. He is a sympathetic high priest. And he will never leave you nor forsake you.

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Monday Morning Humor

Jan 05, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

Yeah, it’s Monday. Vacation is over. School has started again. The daily grind is back. But at least your day is going better than this.

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Internships at University Reformed Church

Jan 02, 2015 | Kevin DeYoung

University Reformed Church is accepting applications for its internship program for the 2015-2016 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.


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Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

Dec 31, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

I like lists-top ten lists, book lists, year end lists, new year lists, all kinds of lists. I’m always interested to see the list of best books put out by various magazines and bloggers at the end of the year. I also enjoy it when the blogs I frequent list their most trafficked posts of the year.

So, in case you were curious-or missed some of these the first time around-here are the most viewed posts from my blog in the past year.

(1) “Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage

On such a critical matter, it’s important we think through the implications of our position, especially if it means consigning to the bin of bigotry almost every Christian who has ever lived.

(2) “10 Promises for Parents

My kids need Bible promises, but on most days I need them even more. I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I want them to love.

(3) “The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy

We are entering the days and the decade of a great shifting and sifting of evangelicalism. The capitulation will not happen all at once.

(4) “Christ and Keg Stands

Many professing Christians will live duplicitous lives-getting smashed on the weekends while still trying to be the good Christian boy or girl their parents and ministry friends imagine them to be. The problem is huge and anyone wishing to minister to college students needs to think about a biblical approach.

(5) ”University Reformed Church Votes to Leave the RCA

For the past three years, our church has wrestled with our place in the Reformed Church in America. . . . We did not come to this decision lightly.

(6) “But What About Gluttony!?!

We can’t settle for gotcha headlines and arguments that are more slogan than substance. We have to be open to reason, open our Bibles, and think this through.

(7) “What We All Agree On and We Probably Don’t In This Sanctification Debate

Maybe we agree on more of these points than I imagine. Maybe on some issues the disagreement is over matters of emphasis. Maybe my thinking needs its own tweaking. That’s all possible, likely even.

(8) “Not That Kind of Homosexuality

There is simply no positive case for homosexual practice in the Bible and no historical background that will allow us to set aside what has been the plain reading of Scripture for twenty centuries.

(9) “100 Bible Knowledge Questions

There is much more to effective ministry than passing a written test. Much more.  And yet, we do not want our staff, teachers, and officers to be biblically illiterate.

(10) “What a Difference Six Years Can Make

Conservative religious persons and conservative religious institutions could be embarrassingly wrong about gay marriage. But if they are, they haven’t been embarrassingly wrong about it for very long.

(Note:  Two guest posts, ”10 Personalities that Have No Place in Christian Marriage” and “7 Signs We Are Worshiping the Family” by Jason Helopoulos, had enough hits to make the top ten.)

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You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Global Missions

Dec 30, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Guest blogger: Jason Carter

Thinking of missionary service? Maybe you should. It’s not as farfetched as you think. So, you have a spouse and kids? Moving to the other side of the globe is a not a manned-mission to Mars. People still breathe oxygen in Mongolia, Mozambique and Malaysia – and actually everywhere in between.

I know, I know all this comes with enormous caveats: “You can serve God anywhere.” “Moving overseas doesn’t make you a missionary.” “Your missionary field is right next door.” If you’ve attended a missions conference at a local church, speakers nowadays usually go out of their way not to lay a big guilt trip on the whole congregation for not moving to Timbuktu.

Would that be so bad? Maybe we don’t need a guilt trip, but how about a challenge?

Yes, Jesus did say: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8). But he didn’t stop there. He proceeded to wildly expand the geographic vision of these Israel-centric young-buck disciples: “and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

The message: “Be my witness in downtown Chicago (where you work) and in your suburban Chicago neighborhood (where you live)” is a truncated message. Jesus came to save more than suburban soccer moms and urban hipsters. The North American church is dangerously close to making provincial what Jesus meant to be global.

I think it started with good enough intentions. We’re all called to be participate in Christ’s mission. (Yes, we are.) You can serve Christ right where you are. (Yes, you can.) Over and over, Christians are being told that their mission field is right where they are. That’s true. But only partially so.

Let’s not gloss or oversimplify the Great Commission into a metaphor for “going across the street” or “being bold for Jesus at the water cooler.” It’s so much more than that. It’s a global clarion call for disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations.

In our good intentions to help people serve right where they are locally, let’s not stamp out the few remaining embers of fire in the local church for global missions.

There are dangers in making “the mission field” a provincial little place to mean “wherever you happen to be now.” This kind of thinking, if left unchecked, has the potential to cripple the cause of global missions by reducing the global message of Jesus to your circle of acquaintances.

Yes, your “mission field” is, in one sense, right where you are.  But it doesn’t have to be. You could move! Your mission field could be at-risk children in the favelas of São Paulo. Your mission field could be a network of HIV/AIDS support groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Your mission field could be a people group in Southeast Asia with no access to the gospel. Your mission field could be training indigenous leaders for ministries of the gospel. (I am especially fond of this last one.)

Churches who continuously indoctrinate their people with “your mission field is right where you are” without simultaneously challenging the congregation to follow Christ into cross-culture missionary service are effectively splashing an ice-bucket challenge on the global, ethnē-centered words of the Great Commission. The cross-cultural response of “O Lord, send me” is silenced in the local church when the cross-cultural question is never seriously considered.

A house payment and having kids settled in a good school need not be IRS ironclad exemptions from participating in global missions. Don’t assume that college-aged kids have a monopoly on obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus called Simon Peter and his business partners James and John to drop everything at the least opportune time – on the verge of becoming a regional powerhouse in the first-century fishing industry (Luke 5:1-11).

You should consider that global missions is a real vocational possibility. But not from a place of guilt nor to muster up some radical desire to “really” follow Christ like some modern-day desert father or medieval monk. It’s a possibility because Christ has already commanded us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” And as we “go” and step out in obedience, Jesus promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

Mission is not just about you and where you happen to be at this particular moment. It’s about the Lordship of Christ. He’s King. And not just of your neighborhood or office suite. But of the whole earth.

Global missions? Don’t take it out of the realm of possibility.

Don’t exclude the possibility that God might want to call….you.

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Monday Morning Humor: 2014 Top Ten

Dec 29, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

“Your blog is great, at least every Monday.” I’ve heard that, or something like it, often. I’m never sure if I should cry or smile. I usually just thank you. If people can laugh a little on Monday, that’s not all bad. Here are the most watched MMH clips from 2014:

1. You’re Doing Twitter Wrong

The real facts about using 140 characters or less.

2. Atheist Kids’ Songs

Tim Hawkin’s take on Children’s Church at an Atheist Megachurch.

3. Motorcycle Crash in Church

Some props are best left outside.

4. Frank Caliendo’s Rapid Fire of Impressions

Sports report, Frank Caliendo-style.

5. How to Play Oceans on the Drums

Proof why musicians should attend worship practice.

6. Things We Say Wrong [published 2011]

The English language is a mystery.

7. Nolan’s Cheddar

My kids favorite.

8. Dogs, Cats, and Trust

Why dogs are better than cats.

9. Kale

Jim Gaffigan doesn’t like kale. Neither do I.

10. Olympics

The Olympics according to Jerry Seinfeld.

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Do You Know Who He Was?

Dec 25, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

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.”

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