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.

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Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” Part 5

This chapter is titled “Sermons- Their Matter”.

Quotes:

-“…the true value of a sermon must lie, not in the fashion and manner, but in the truth in which it contains.”

-“Set no store by the quantity of words which you utter, but strive to be esteemed for the quality of your matter.”

-“Rest assured that the most fervid revivalism will wear itslef out in mere smoke, if it be not maintained by the fuel of teaching.”

-On theologically-driven sermons-“I believe the remark is too well grounded that if you attend a lecturer on astronomy or geology, during a short course you will obtain a tolerably clear view of his system; but if you listen, not only for twelve months, but for twelve years, to the common run of preachers, you will not arrive at anything like an idea of their system of theology.”

-On staying with the text- “Some brethren have done with their text as soon as they have read it.  Having paid all due honor to that particular passage by announcing it, they feel no necessity further to refer to it…Why do such men take a text at all?  Why limit their own glorious liberty?  Why make Scripture a horsing-block by which to mount upon their unbridled Pegasus?”   That last sentence there immediately reminds me of the greater descriptive abilities of a generation raised on words and not video.

-“It is due to the majesty of inspiration that when you profess to be preaching from a verse you do not thrust it out of sight to make room for your own thinkings.”

-On not keeping select teachings away from the majority of your people-“It is not true that some doctrines are only for the inititiated; there is nothing in the Bible which is ashamed of the light.”

-On keeping doctrinal balance- “A nose is an important feature in the human countenance, but to paint a man’s nose alone is not a satisfactory method of taking his likeness: a doctrine may be very important, but an exaggerated estimate of it may be fatal to an harmonious and complete ministry.”

-On Cross-centered preaching- “Brethren, first and above all things, keep to plain evangelical doctrines; whatever else you do or do not preach, be sure incessantly to bring forth the soul-saving truth of Christ and him crucified.”

“Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore.  He is the whole gospel.  His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.”

-On a focused sermon- “Do not overload a sermon with too much matter.  All truth is not be comprised in one discourse.” “One thought fixed on the mind will be better than fifty thoughts made to flit across the ear.”

-On clarity- “Your doctrinal teaching should be clear and unmistakable.  To be so, it must first of all be clear to yourself.  Some men think in smoke and preach in a cloud.”

-On heretical writings…(pastors take note!)-“For my part, I believe that the chief readers of heterodox books are ministers, and that if they would not notice them they [the books] would fall still-born from the press. Let a minister keep clear of mystifying himself, and then he is on the road to becoming intelligible to his people.”

-On “prophetic” speculation and End-times drama-“Blessed are they who read and hear the words of the prophecy of the Revelation, but the like blessing has evidently not fallen on those who pretend to expound it, for generation after generation of them have been proved to be in error by the mere lapse of time, and the present race will follow to the same inglorious sepulchre.  I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries.”

Reading Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students”-Part 4

Some quotes and thoughts from the 4th chapter of “Lectures to My Students” called “Our Public Prayer”:

-First, I think the entire chapter was interesting if for the only reason to see how much prayer has been “de-emphasized” in church gatherings today.  Spurgeon spends much of the chapter encouraging his students to avoid repetition, “cliche phrases”, poor/inaccurate uses of Scripture in prayer, passing prayer off as a “courtesy” to someone else in the church, and lengthy prayers.  Most people who have been in church for more than a year will have a good laugh or two at some of the prayer follies Spurgeon points out that still exist today. (Like the pray-er who begins to close only to launch into 3 more subjects of prayer or who say “Dear Lord” as filler).  Spurgeon spends a great deal of time discussing the length of public prayers and concludes they should be no more than 10-15 minutes!  Wow!  I can’t imagine pulling off a 4 minute prayer in church without being publicly chastised and perhaps burned in oil.  I wonder how much of our shortness of prayer is related NOT to attention spans (Come on-people still read huge books and watch 3 hour movies) but rather to a lack of belief that prayer actually does anything.

Quotes:

-On preaching as continuation of “worship”-“Reverently hearing the word exercises our humility, instructs our faith, irradiates us with joy, inflames us with love, inspires us with zeal, and lifts us up towards heaven.”

-On boldness and against “demanding of God”-“We are taught to say, “Our Father,” but still it is, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  Familiarity there may be, but holy familiarity; boldness, but the boldness which springs from grace and is the work of the Spirit; not the boldness of the rebel who carries a brazen front in the presence of his offended king, but the boldness of a child who fears because he loves, and loves because he fears.”

-“Pray as one who has tried and proved his God, and therefore comes with undoubting confidence to renew his pleadings.”

-On the need for passionate prayer-“If ever your whole manhood was engaged in anything, let it be in drawing near unto God in public.”

-On length of public prayer-“Long prayers either consist of repetitions, or else of unnecessary explanations which God does not require; or else they degenerate into downright preachings…It is not necessary in prayer to rehearse the Westminster Assembly’s Catechism.”

-On variety of service order- “Let us have anythign so that our people do not come to regard any form of service as being appointed, and so relapse into the superstition from which they have escaped.”

-On purposeful prayer as cure for monotony- “‘I never am tired of praying,” said one man, “because I always have a definite errand when I pray.'”