Reviewing “Just Do Something”- Part 2

Ok.  So the previous post (hopefully) serves as a helpful introduction to this topic, including my own kickbacks against the typical Evangelical voodoo approach to the idea of the “will of God”, and a search for a better way to make decisions.

Well, there’s probably more than 1 book out there (judging from the endnotes of the book I just read), but one good option for sorting through this issue of making decisions in life in a way that pleases God is the recent book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.  For good or bad, some will recognize DeYoung’s name from a book he co-authored with Ted Kluck called Why We’re Not Emergent. He also runs a blog somewhere.

First off, if you can judge a book by its cover, then this one had to be good.  There’s a dude sitting a chair in the middle of a field in wintertime wearing what appears to be the clothing of a homeless person, but the threads are a little too new—probably a college student.  I think many 20-somethings could identify with that position, as they face their futures–wide open but fairly bleak.

One nice thing about the book, especially for high schoolers and college students (the group this book is aimed at), is that is fairly short, easily readable, and fits into your back pocket.

DeYoung begins the book by exploring the morass of young adulthood, especially the ever-delayed entry into marriage, career, family, financial independence, etc. that is occurring.  “Peter Pan syndrome” is and will continue to be a major drain on our culture.  He connects it, at least for Christians stuck in the same boat, with bad teaching on the will of God, calling it, “an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose.”

He spends the second chapter exploring the “will of God” in the Bible, essentially settling on two categories- God’s “will of decree” (people being saved, sending his Son into the world, the kind of stuff where words like “predestination” show up) and God’s “will of desire” (what God wants you to be and do as his followers.)  DeYoung tries to leave the “will of decree” unexplained enough in the chapter so that people from various spectrums of the sovereignty-human responsibility continuum will benefit.  (I say “tries”; it’s obvious to a theological student where he lands, but the average reader probably wouldn’t notice.)  I would personally add a third category, “will of providence”, to catch some verses which don’t really deal with either God’s eternal purposes or his commands.  These are places like James 4, “If it’s God’s will, we will go to such and such a place…” or 1 Cor. 16:7, “I will come…if the Lord allows.”  Note that Paul doesn’t say, “I prayed and know it’s God’s will to come”, but rather, “I have decided to come; if I make it, then it’s God’s will.  If not (like a storm crashes him into Carthage on the other side of the Mediterranean), then God didn’t want me to come.)  I just think it’s a helpful category that occurs in Scripture (though less frequently than the two main ones that DeYoung mentions).

DeYoung then spends a chapter outlining five reasons why we want to know God’s will so bad.  Good stuff, but you’ll have to read the book to find them!  The next chapter focuses on some more reasons–this time reasons why the “tap-into-the-Force” kind of decision-making Evangelicals have embraced is problematic.  There’s a pretty hilarious story he tells of a guy who was turned down for a date by a girl under the guise “the Holy Spirit told me ‘no’.”  DeYoung comments, “Poor guy–he got rejected, not only by this sweet girl, but by the Holy Spirit.  The third person of the Trinity took a break from pointing people to Jesus to tell this girl not to date my roommate.”  At the end of the chapter, he leaves us with this question, “If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone longing for God’s will is in such bondage and confusion?”

The rest of the book is devoted to discussion of wisdom (God’s major way of helping us make decisions), some more debunking of some “Christian” tactics for finding God’s will (Gideon’s fleece, etc.), and then specific application in the areas of career and marriage (which is why most college students would pick up the book).

The book is helpful and focused.  I appreciate that DeYoung doesn’t spend a lot of time on pointless rabbit trails.  He knows his audience (he pastors a church across the street from Michigan State) and writes in a way that is understandable but not “dumbed-down.”

If you’re interested in more, read the book. It’s fairly cheap.  I plan on getting some for a couple of our seniors at the church before I leave.  It’s a good alternative to the other confusing stuff out there that continues to fly off Christian bookstore shelves.

God’s Will for me to review “Just Do Something”- Part 1

As much as I appreciate Henry Blackaby’s deep faith and love for God (I think I heard him speak one year at a conference in my teens), I was probably one of 2 Southern Baptists more confused than helped by his Bible study Experiencing God.  It’s hard to critique the book for a couple reasons-a) like half of people in my denomination (much less my own church) have done some sort of study through the book, so any critique of the material may step on a genuine good experience they had while going through it.  b) Even the people who didn’t get that much from it at least felt like it was important (I was sort of here). c) I got half price tuition to an SBC seminary, probably funded greatly by sales of Experiencing God in the last 10 years and also sales of books by the women’s Bible study Pope.  So I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful.

But Blackaby’s book makes the will of God seem uber-mysterious, to be frank.  I got tired of trying to read the tea leaves, and my amount of Abraham-like directional theophanies was pretty low. (Abraham was Blackaby’s paradigm for discovering God’s will, if I’m remembering rightly.) I had decisions to make about life, and quite honestly, didn’t have access to the altar at Beer-sheba to follow in Dishonest Abe’s footsteps.  Not only that, but one of his principles- “Discover where God is working and join him there.” didn’t really square with the kind of risk-taking for God that I found in many of my heroes: William Carey, David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (I can see it now in Bonhoeffer’s mind–“God is moving in the Nazi prison camp, so I guess that will now motivate me to resist them so I can get thrown there…”)

Along the way, I discovered some better principles for doing God’s will and making decisions.  (I haven’t always applied them, but that’s a different story.)  I read through every Bible verse dealing with God’s will (including the context) and didn’t really find this nebulous tapping-into-the-Force kind of thing happening in Scripture that seemed so prominent in the Christian circles I knew.  Plus, there was the problem of sin.  If we miss God’s will today, won’t that put us on plan B for the rest of our lives?  But I know a little about myself, and 1 sin seems to be quite the understatement.  By now, 26 years into life, I’m probably not on plan B or C, but plan VJCKEH.  So I’ll never have the life God wants me to have.  At least not any of the top 20,000 options He made.  And that’s just gross sins; we’re not even talking about non-moral decisions like school or majors, etc.

Which brings up the problem of infinite regress…how do I know what decisions are important enough to merit really needing to hear from God about?  I mean, marriage, sure.  People have to find the mythical “ONE” that God has for them (except for all those people whose spouses die or run off and then they remarry.  Apparently they have a mythical “TWO” out there.)  But to marry, you have to date the right people.  and to date the right people, you have to know the right people.  and to know the right people, you have to meet the right people. So today when you go to Taco Bell this afternoon, should you go at 12:30 or 1:30?  Because if the person God wants you to marry is only going to be there at 12:30, and since you don’t know that, you better “use the Force, Luke” and figure out the right time.  (If your spouse is even at Taco Bell at all, and not at Jimmy Johns.) I’m mean–who wants Spouse Option #239???… So now every decision, including what clothes to put on is a matter of cosmic destiny and you better have exact answers or you’ll screw up God’s plan. Can’t imagine why I was disturbed a little by books like Blackaby’s.

So I was going to review a different book.  I guess we’ll get to that tomorrow.  Let’s just say that while I was studying and thinking and living and coming up with my own paradigm for thinking through these things…other people were too.  So we’ll see if “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung is the type of book that will help people think clearly about decision-making or another wild goose chase.

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 14

This chapter is entitled “The Holy Spirit in Connection with Our Ministry.”  From what I have seen, Spurgeon was not lacking in theology regarding the Holy Spirit.

To us the presence and work of the Holy Spirit are the ground of our confidence as to the wisdom and hopefulness of our life work.  If we had not believed in the Holy Ghost we should have laid down our ministry long ere this, for ‘who is sufficient for these things?’  Our hope of success, and our strength for continuing the service, lie in our belief that the Spirit of the Lord resteth upon us.”

“We believe ourselves to be spokesmen for Jesus Christ, appointed to continue His witness upon earth; but upon Him and His testimony the Spirit of God always rested, and if it does not rest upon us, we are evidently not sent forth into the world as He was.”

“If we have not the Spirit which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which Jesus gave.”

“Rightly to divide the Word of God is as important as fully to understand it, for some who have evidently understood a part of the gospel have given undue prominence to that one portion of it, and have therefore exhibited a distorted Christianity, to the injury of those who have received it, since they in their turn have exhibited a distorted character in consequence thereof.”

“We may be conscious of having passed by certain texts, not because we do not understand them (which may be justifiable), but because we do understand them, and hardly like to say what they have taught us, or because there may be some imperfection in ourselves, or some prejudice among our hearers which those texts would reveal too clearly for our comfort.  Such sinful silence must be ended forthwith.”

“I believe that many brethren who preach human responsibility deliver themselves in so legal a manner as to disgust all those who love the doctrines of grace.  On the other hand, I fear that many have preached the sovereignty of God in such a way as to drive all persons who believe in man’s free agency entirely away from the Calvinistic side.”

“We need the divine influence to keep us back from saying many things which, if they actually left our tongue, would mar our message.  Those of us who are endowed with the dangerous gift of humour have need, sometimes, to stop and take the word out of our mouth and look at it, and see whether it is quite to edification.”

“Especially is it the Holy Spirit’s work to maintain in us a devotional frame of mind whilst we are discoursing.  This is a condition to be greatly coveted–to continue praying while you are occupied with preaching; to do the Lord’s commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word; to keep the eye on the throne, and the wing in perpetual motion.”

“We do not stand up in our pulpits to display our skill in spiritual sword play, but we come to actual fighting:  our object is to drive the sword of the Spirit through men’s hearts.”

“Never aim at effect after the manner of the climax makers, poetry quoters, handkerchief manipulators, and bombast blowers.  Far better for a man that he had never been born than that he should degrade a pulpit into a show box to exhibit himself in.  Aim at the right sort of effect; the inspiring of saints to nobler things, the leading of Christians closer to their Master, the comforting of doubters till they rise out of their terrors, the repentance of sinners, and their exercise of immediate faith in Christ.  Without these signs following, what is the use of our sermons?”

“The habit of prayer is good, but the spirit of prayer is better.  Regular retirement is to be maintained, but continued communion with God is to be our aim.”

Regarding congregationalism- “Brethren, our system will not work without the Spirit of God, and I am glad that it will not, for its stoppages and breakages call our attention to the fact of His absence.  Our system was never intended to promote the glory of priests and pastors, but it is calculated to educate manly Christians, who will not take their faith at second-hand.”

“The Spirit claims a sovereignty like that of the wind which bloweth where it listeth; but let us never dream that sovereignty and capriciousness are the same thing.  The blessed Spirit acts as He wills, but He always acts justly, wisely, and with motive and reason.”

“Christ’s Spirit will not be an accomplice with men in the wretched business of shuffling and deceiving.  Does it really come to this?–that you preach certain doctrines, not because you believe them, but because your congregation expects you to do so?”

“I would not shun my Master’s service, but I tremble in His presence.  Who can be faultless when even Moses erred?  It is a dreadful thing to be beloved of God.”

“When you are fullest of the fruits of the Spirit, bow lowest before the throne, and serve the Lord with fear…Remember that God has come unto us, not to exalt us, but to exalt Himself, and we must see to it that His glory is the one sole object of all that we do.