Just Do Something

July 27, 2009

Just Do Something Just Do Something, written by Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in East Lansing, MI, offers a terrific perspective on a subject that impacts all of us, at least all Christians…how do we think about seeking and acting upon God’s will for our lives.  The subtitle to the book is probably the best indication of the direction DeYoung intends to take his readers.  That subtitle is:  A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will – OR – How to Make A Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing In The Sky, etc. 

This is a relatively short book, 128 pages in length, and those pages are bound in a compact paperback format of only 5 x 7″.  So, when I say short, I mean short.  It literally can be read in a couple of evenings.  Maybe one evening if you are a fast reader.

DeYoung’s basic premise is that there are essentially two legitimate ways to think about God’s will.  The first, is God’s will of decree.  That is, everything that comes to pass, is according to God’s sovereign decree.  What God wills, will happen, and what happens is according to God’s will.  This necessarily raises the question of how evil plays into both the sovereignty and will of decree of God.  While the answer to that could take the space of many blogs, the short version would be that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, including acts of evil that are perpetrated by His human creations.  Best evidence of this is the ultimate solution to our sin which was brought about by evil acts, that resulted in the murder of Jesus.  Christ’s death (including the evil acts of men leading up to it), was accomplished according to God’s will of decree.

The second legitimate aspect of God’s will, is His will of desire.  This is best understood as His commands.  These are perhaps the easiest to find, as scripture is filled with commands and imperatives.  These are a clear indication of the way things should be, according to God’s will.

The way in which we get side tracked and distracted is when we seek a third aspect of God’s will, which is unfounded, according to DeYoung.  That aspect might be called God’s will of direction.  He goes on to describe the pitfall we get ourselves into from time to time, all with the noble and pious pursuit of “God’s will.”

“Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything?  And the answer is no.  Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives.  And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus.  And yes, looking backward, we will often be able to trace God’s hand in bringing us to where we are .  But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time.”

Dispelling the notion that we are obligated to seek God’s will of direction for every decision we make about our lives is the subject of the rest of the book.  DeYoung utilizes an enjoyable mixture of what I would describe as wry humor, mixed with examples that can be understood and applied by people of all ages, but perhaps especially by those who are in their early 20’s through mid 30’s (the demographic that characterizes his church, which is located adjacent to the campus of Michigan State University).  But even for someone who completed his college education 33 years ago, his points still ring true for me as well.

This is a quick and easy read, but it is nonetheless, filled with good insight.  I recommend it for everyone who is serious about comprehending the subject of “God’s will” and especially my college-aged friends who have lots of big decisions that they will be making over the course of the next few years, all of which I am sure they would like to make “according to God’s will.”


A Praying Life

July 20, 2009

A Praying Life“IT’S HARD TO PRAY.”   These are the first words written in the Forward to A Praying Life:  Connecting with God In A Distracting World, by Paul E. Miller.  They come from the pen, or more likely the keyboard, of David Pawlison, from the Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation.  Those four words really struck a chord with me.  Because that is exactly my sentiment when it comes to prayer.  For something that ought to be so easy and available, the truth is, it’s hard.  

From the book’s introduction all the way to the final chapter, Miller expands on this idea that prayer generally does not come easily or naturally.  Mostly because of the presuppositions and misunderstandings that we carry with us into the process.  He brings these points to life, largely from well described examples from his personal experience.  But he is careful, and effectively so, to not leave the reader with the impression that this book is about him.  Instead, he uses his difficulties and equally his times of satisfaction and “success” in prayer as helpful examples of what is possible for the reader.

The book is organized into 32 relatively short chapters, grouped into 5 parts.  The titles of these 5 parts give a good indication of where the reader will be taken on their journey into an improved prayer life.  The titles of these parts are:

Learning To Pray Like A Child
Learning To Trust Again
Learning To Ask Your Father
Living In Your Father’s Story
Praying In Real Life

The number of gems-of-wisdom that I underlined as I read this book would be far to many to even begin to excerpt in this blog.  Instead, they serve as a serious encouragement to me to re-read this book in about a month and reclaim the findings once again.  Reading a book a second time is unusual for me.  But that’s how good, deep, and helpful this book is.  Paul Miller successfully diagnoses many of the common problems we have with prayer, and offers very practical ways to overcome them.  I am tremendously encouraged by what I have learned.

I have read several commendable books this year, but this one is by far and away the best.  No matter how satisfied you think you are with your prayer life, I think this book is a MUST read.  I can’t think of another book (apart from the most obvious one) that I can say that about.

You know, we really should just give credit where credit is due.

July 6, 2009

The organization known as Sociologists for Women in Society, is a group advocating a feminist agenda, according to their own website.  I have not scoured their entire site, but I suspect (in complete fairness) that scattered around within their various initiatives, there may be a few things that are helpful to women’s causes in a very general sense.  And to the extent that is true, I applaud their efforts.

However, some of the topics they deal with in their journal “Gender & Society,” are informative (to me, at least) as to what is probably their larger motivation with respect to the feminist movement.  From their website in support of the journal, I found the following:

“Just some of the relevant, timely, and important topics covered in recent issues include:  Queer Parenting, Sexuality, and Transgenderism.”

With this in mind, it comes as no particular surprise when I read that research published by the Sociologists for Women in Society “blames” Disney and other producers of G-Rated films for creating what they call “heteronormativity.”  Isn’t that a great word?  Researchers who are affiliated with the University of Michigan studied the highest-grossing children’s films during the period 1990-2005.  From these films, they conclude that:

Children’s films “construct heterosexuality” through “depictions of hetero-romantic love as exceptional, powerful, transformative, and magical,” and “depictions of interactions between gendered bodies in which the sexiness of feminine characters is subjected to the gaze of masculine characters.”

“Characters in love are surrounded by music, flowers, candles, magic, fire, balloons, fancy dresses, dim lights, dancing and elaborate dinners.” “Fireflies, butterflies, sunsets, wind and the beauty and power of nature often provide the setting for – and a link to the naturalness of hetero-romantic love.”

Really, the naturalness of hetero-romantic love.  Imagine that.  Romantic love between members of the opposite sex.  I wonder who originally thought THAT up?  I would have never guessed that it was the people at Disney?

They continue: 

“Both ordinary and exceptional constructions of heterosexuality work to normalize its status because it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than this form of social relationship or anyone outside of these bonds.”

“These films provide powerful portraits of a multifaceted and pervasive heterosexuality that likely facilitates the reproduction of heteronormativity.”

On some level, this research suggests that the naturalness, or normative quality of heterosexuality is something that has been creatio ex nehilo (created out of nothing) by the imaginations of the creators and producers of these family films.  Furthermore, it almost appears that absent these films, there would be no natural or normal opposite-sex attraction that is rooted deep in the souls of the young people who watch the films.  Apart from the influence of these films, would sexual orientation just be some sort of free-for-all?

 I know it would be perhaps too much to ask, but rather than “blaming” Disney and others, the researchers should go to the source of sexuality and find out what the original, natural, and normative design was.  That is where the credit is due.  No blame is necessary.  Granted, the model was later corrupted by sin, but it remains the original, natural and normative model nonetheless.  As a hint to the researchers from the University of Michigan, it can be found in Genesis 1: 26 through Genesis 2: 25.  (That’s in the front of the Bible, by the way.)

As an aside, I wonder how much of OUR money was used through federal grants to conduct this crazy research?

HT: Tim Challies