Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book Review: “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Chicago: Moody, 2009. 128 pages.

The “alternate” title to this book is How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. As humorous as that may sound, so many young people have been taught that one or a combination of those things is exactly how they should be “finding” God’s will for their lives. Just Do Something debunks so many of the “Christian” myths that have been tossed around over the last several decades (or centuries). My reaction after reading this book is “Amen and Amen!” I wish I had read this in my early 20s. What a freeing sense of faithful living instead of fearful and futile “searching”!

Our lives are filled with so many questions and decisions. It’s easy to wonder if we’re making the right choices. We want to please God, but we’re not always exactly sure how. DeYoung provides a Gospel-centered, refreshing perspective that frees us from guilt (and laziness), and tells us to “Just Do Something.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“As the crafters of the Heidelberg Catechism put it so eloquently back in the sixteenth century, ‘Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty–all things, in fact, come to us not by chance, but from his fatherly hand'” (pp. 20-21).

“God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know–and need to know–what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom” (p. 26).

“We may have the best of intentions in trying to discern God’s will, but we should really stop putting ourselves through the misery of overspiritualizing every decision. Our misdirected piety makes following God more mysterious than it was meant to be” (p. 28).

“…God’s plans can include risk–and an opportunity to show courage” (p. 38). “Many of us–men and women–are extremely passive and cowardly. We don’t take risks for God because we are obsessed with safety, security, and most of all, with the future. That’s why most of our prayers fall into one of two categories. Either we ask that everything would be fine or we ask to know that everything will be fine. We pray for health, travel, jobs–and we should pray for these things. But a lot of prayers boil down to, ‘God, don’t let anything unpleasant happen to anyone. Make everything in the world nice for everyone.’ And when we aren’t praying this kind of prayer, we are praying for God to tell us that everything will turn out fine” (p. 40). “Obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live, because showing us the future is not God’s way. ” and “Because we have confidence in God’s will of decree, we can radically commit ourselves to His will of desire, without fretting over a hidden will of direction” (p. 41).

“God certainly cares about these decisions [re: school, where you live, job] insofar as He cares for us and every detail of our lives. But in another sense, …these are not the most important issues in God’s book. The most important issues for God are moral purity, theological fidelity, compassion, joy, our witness, faithfulness, hospitality, love, worship, and faith. These are His big concerns. The problem is that we tend to focus most of our attention on everything else. We obsess over the things God has not mentioned and may never mention, while, by contrast, we spend little time on all the things God has already revealed to us in the Bible” (pp. 44-45). “My point is that we should spend more time trying to figure out how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (as instructed in Micah 6:8) as a [fill in occupation] and less time worrying about whether God wants us to be a [fill in said occupation]” (p.45).

“Our fascination with the will of God often betrays our lack of trust in God’s promises and provisions.” and “We don’t have to say ‘If the Lord wills’ after every sentence, but it must be in our heads and hearts. We must live our lives believing that all of our plans and strategies are subject to the immutable will of God” (p. 47).

“Worry and anxiety are not merely bad habits or idiosyncrasies. They are sinful fruits that blossom from the root of unbelief. Jesus doesn’t treat obsession with the future as a personal quirk, but as evidence of little faith ([Matt. 6]v. 30). Worry and anxiety reflect our hearts’ distrust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Worry is a spiritual issue and must be fought with faith” (pp. 56-57).

“…after you’ve prayed and studied and sought advice, make a decision and don’t hyper-spiritualize it. Do what seems best. Sometimes you won’t have time to pray and read and seek counsel for a month. That’s why the way of wisdom is about more than getting a decisive word about one or two big decisions in life. The way of wisdom is a way of life. And when it’s a way of life, you are freer than you realize. If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others and in your prayer life, then you’ll probably make God-honoring decisions. In fact, if you are a person of prayer, full of regular good counsel from others, and steeped in the truth of the Word, you should begin to make many important decisions instinctively, and some of them even quickly. For most Christians, agonizing over decisions is the only sure thing we know to do, the only thing that feels safe and truly spiritual. But sometimes, oftentimes actually, it’s okay to just decide” (pp. 96-97).

“…the last thing I want to do is discourage people from praying. …But isn’t it possible that if we are walking with God in daily prayer, and we have some sanctified common sense, that we should be able to make decisions on the spot once in a while?” (p. 98).

Make a decision. Don’t over-spiritualize. You can serve the Lord in a thousand different jobs. …don’t ever think you are a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God if you aren’t in full-time ministry. You can honor the Lord as a teacher, mother, doctor, lawyer, loan officer, or social worker; you can work in retail, fast food, politics, or big business; you can be a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. You can be just about anything you want as long as you aren’t lazy (Proverb 6:6-11; 26:13-16), and whatever you do you perform to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)” (pp. 102-3).

“Sometimes you feel a sense of calling to your job and, you know what, sometimes you don’t. …But we’ve taken this notion of calling and turned it upside down, so instead of finding purpose in every kind of work, we are madly looking for the one job that will fulfill our purpose in life” (p. 103). “God can be pleased with your work so long as you are taking pleasure in Him as you do it” (p. 104).

“…while I’m jumping on toes, let me explode the myth of ‘the one.’ …don’t think that there is only one person on the whole planet to whom you could be happily married. You’re not looking for that one puzzle piece that will interlock with yours. ‘You complete me’ may sound magically romantic, but it’s not true. Yes, men and women are designed to rely on one another in marriage. However, the biblical formula for marriage is not half a person plus half a person equals one completed puzzle of a person. Genesis math says one plus one equals one (Genesis 2:4)” (p. 109).

“…instead of ‘letting go and letting God,’ we need to make every effort to grow up in our faith (2 Peter 1:5ff).” and “…I encourage older Christians to set a good example of steady, faithful responsibility; to model Christ-centered consistency and risky decision making for the glory of God; and to be honest with the rest of us about when you have failed and where you are struggling to live up to the good example you want to set” (p. 112).

“It would be bad enough if we were just restless, meandering through life, and a little cowardly. But we’ve spiritualized restless and meandering cowardice, making it feel like piety instead of passivity. … If you are going to be anxious about one thing, be anxious to keep His commandments. If we must fear something–and we all do–fear God, not the future. The will of God isn’t a special direction here or a bit of secret knowledge there. God doesn’t put us in a maze, turn out the lights, and tell us, ‘Get out and good luck.’ In one sense, we trust in the will of God as His sovereign plan for our future. In another sense, we obey the will of God as His good word for our lives. In no sense should we be scrambling around trying to turn to the right page in our personal choose-your-own-adventure novel” (p. 121).

“So the end of the matter is this: Life for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God” (p. 122).

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Journey Journal: Days 182-201

coffee

The last few weeks, my life could pretty well be summed up by this picture. I feel like I’m finally getting back to a normal routine with normal sleep and normal family life. Here’s the basic gist:

Day 182: Monday, July 1, 2013

Busy day at work. Rolled out the Registration for our next big event: FX-TW 2013! FX-VB 2013 was great, but the Frontline Experience at the Wilds will have more sessions, more breakout sessions (including a special “Pastors’ Track”), and some amazing speakers! Come! Bring your friends! Bring your Young Adult class! Bring your pastors! Get excited about what God is doing through unconventional missions to unreached people groups! Come…and then go! Hope to see you all there! I cannot wait for the FX-TW conference on September 27-28th! More info at www.frontlineexperience.org!

Days 183-187: Tuesday-Saturday, July 2-6, 2013

On top of being insanely busy at work, I added to the insanity by accepting a request to be a sub on a friend’s paper route. What was I thinking?! I was thinking $500 for 2 weeks of getting up early. But I didn’t realize just HOW early those faithful people who toss printed papers on your driveway have to get up: let’s just say it was somewhere in the neighborhood of before 3AM. Yikes! I will say…the best part about subbing on a paper route (besides the extra cash) is being the first in line for a Panera breakfast date with my man! Fresh coffee. Quiet. Sunrise. (Yes, we did the whole two-week route together! Yes, it rained every single day! And, no, it is not worth it when you factor in cost of gas, lack of sleep, etc.!)

Days 188-189: Sunday-Monday, July 7-8, 2013

Still subbing the paper route and working full-time. So very tired! I am not a morning person–or at least not a “middle-of-the-night” person.

Day 190: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fantastic day of God-filled conversations! So thankful for refreshment of faithful friends and family! Had a friend stop by the office for a cup of coffee and conversation about her future plans as she headed to a new city to pursue further education, find a new job, and get plugged into a church in the city! After work, had dinner with my dear friend Faith and discussed contentment and the will of God–based on recent sermons we’ve heard, conversations we’ve had, and books we’ve read. Finally, just before bed, I was able to talk on the phone with my grandma who turned 90 today! She is one of the most amazing people I have ever known–and she gives all the glory to Jesus!! So thankful for a godly heritage! Happy Birthday, Grandma T! Went to bed refreshed and encouraged, despite the exhaustion.

Days 191-193: Wednesday-Friday, July 10-12, 2013

panera celebrationLast few days of the paper route. Few things are as enjoyable on a quiet afternoon as dark chocolate, almonds, and coffee.

Celebrated the last paper route on Thursday morning with breakfast at Panera (part of their “hidden menu”). It was two eggs, thinly sliced steak, sliced tomatoes, and avocado with a cup of their Dark Roast (definitely needed that).

Mom made it into town on Thursday. So, on Friday night, we had my mom, my sister and brother-in-law and the nephews over for homemade pizza and kale salad. They loved it! And it’s the last time I’ll get to say “my sister and the boys”–she’s due to have a baby girl any day now!

Days 194-195: Saturday-Sunday, July 13-14, 2013

Welcomed Kassia Jane to the world on Saturday morning! Mom and baby doing well…and she is precious!! Spent the day with my mom and the nephews at our house, while Bryan (“Uncle B”) and his dad (“Uncle B’s dad…Papa”) worked on the back room project (the outside walls are officially up and it is looking like an actual room!). Finally made it up to the hospital for the boys to meet their little sister around 4p.m. on Saturday, and as soon as we walked in, little Mark got sick. Poor kid. Needless to say, the visit was cut short. Fortunately, it didn’t last long…whatever it was.

Sunday night, after several busy, busy weeks, we decided to do date night at the new Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Greenville tonight. Fantastic burgers and fries–and we sat where we could watch the kitchen in action! Everything looked delicious! We’ll be back!

Days 196-200: Monday-Friday, July 15-19, 2013

Still getting back to a normal sleep and work schedule, while hosting and visiting family. It’s been a busy week in the office. Wednesday, I posted to FB:

3 instant messages, 5 email inboxes, and 2 phone calls going on at the same time. #oneofthosedays

And “one of those days” it was, indeed! But it was all worth it. By the end of the week, all of our new English teachers’ paperwork was complete and their flights were booked to head to China next month! There are still a few more details to complete to get them ready, but we are praising God for how He is working on their behalf! This is a very exciting time! On top of that, our test site for the new database system is up (training starts on Monday)! Dad arrived Friday morning. Friday night, Michelle decided to rest at home with the baby, while Alan and the boys, along with my folks, came over for a spaghetti dinner! It really hit the spot!

Day 201: Saturday, July 20, 2013

Plans for today involve laundry (for us and my sister), hanging out with family, Bryan helping with a banquet at church, and rest. Definitely rest!

Book Review: “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence” by Stephen Altrogge

Altrogge, Stephen. The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Illinois: Crossway, 2011. 143 pages.

Review: I picked this book up on sale at WTS Books a couple of months ago. It’s on sale for only about $6, and worth far more than that! The Greener Grass Conspiracy is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time…and VERY convicting! With 12 short chapters, each ending with thought provoking questions, this book would make a perfect Bible study discussion guide! Altrogge is fresh, relevant, current, insightful–and, most of all, biblically grounded. He quotes from modern theologians and saints of old, and backs each of his points up with Scripture and Gospel Truth. This book was challenging and encouraging, convicting and refreshing, all at the same time.

So, what is the conspiracy? “This grand conspiracy of the world, Satan, and my heart is…[t]o have me always believing that the grass is greener somewhere else, always wishing that things were different, always dreaming of a brighter tomorrow without ever enjoying where God has me today” (pp. 13-14).

Here are a few quotes that stuck out specifically to me:

“Circumstances aren’t to blame. There’s something much more sinister at work. That something is my sinful, discontented heart. …The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change” (p. 17).

“If you follow Jesus, you will have every spiritual need met. Forgiveness, adoption, spiritual strength, everything. And if we have all our spiritual needs met and are content with what we have, that is great gain” (p. 20).

“We were created for God’s glory. In other words, God put you and me on this planet to bring him glory. I exist to display his worth to the world and to show how great God really is. God is at the center of all things, and we exist for him. Not the other way around. Life is not about my ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment. Does God love me? Yes, absolutely. But he doesn’t exist for me. Everything exists by God and for God. The universe orbits around God.” and “Discontentment happens when I attempt to displace God from his rightful place at the center of the universe” (p. 24).

“Our goal isn’t contentment in and of itself. We’re not after a mystical state of Zen. Our goal is to be content for the glory and honor of God” (p. 25).

“Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him. Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe” (p. 37).

“When we complain, we’re loudly saying that the blessings of the gospel aren’t enough. We’re saying that the death of Christ isn’t enough. We’re saying that the eternal fellowship with God, purchased at great cost to God, isn’t enough to satisfy our souls. We’re saying that forgiveness of sins and peace with God is nice, but not that nice. …We’re saying that God himself, who is the very definition of goodness, isn’t good enough. We would like a little something more, if you don’t mind. …Do you see the utter sinfulness of complaining? …God has emptied his pockets for us, and yet we complain.” and “The only way to cut the nerve of complaining is to regularly and actively remember and savor and apply the gospel” (p. 72).

“The only way to satisfy our thirsty souls is to find our satisfaction and strength in Christ” (p. 88).

“If we’re going to escape the Greener Grass Conspiracy, we must keep our eyes fixed on heaven. We can be content now because we know that very soon all of our longings will be satisfied. We can find happiness in the little we have on earth because we know of the riches that await us in heaven. We can contentedly endure suffering now because we know that soon Jesus will wipe away every tear” (p. 138).

Conclusion: Maybe you have a friend who is struggling with discontentment. Maybe you’re struggling with it even now. Maybe you don’t even realize that your responses and reactions are rooted in discontentment. Or maybe your small group is just looking for what book to study next. Regardless, this book is a must read. Pointing to Christ and His Gospel as our soul’s deepest satisfaction, this book will encourage, rebuke, exhort, uplift, and free your spirit into forsaking the misplaced worship of self and worshiping God, while rejoicing in the truth of the glory of Christ alone.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Bacon, Cranberries, and Goat Cheese by Melissa McKinnon

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick-sliced bacon, crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp. bacon grease, reserved from frying
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 c. chopped fresh kale leaves (discard stems)
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds
  • 1/4 c. crumbled (honeyed or plain) goat cheese (about 2 oz.)
Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce and Fresh Basil; Kale Salad with Crackers

Kale Salad with Crackers, served as a side with

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce and Fresh Basil

Instructions:

1. Cook thick-sliced bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and pat dry with paper towels. Crumble bacon. Let bacon grease cool slightly (pour 3 Tbsp. grease into a glass bowl to help it cool faster, if desired–just don’t let it burn).

2. Prepare kale. I buy the pre-washed, pre-chopped bag of kale, but if you buy fresh, whole kale from your grocery store or farmers’ market, wash thoroughly (I recommend triple washing to remove all the grit), pat (or spin) dry, remove stems and chop as finely as desired. Set aside.

3. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Carefully pour warm grease into vinegar mixture; whisk to combine. (I do this step in the serving bowl to cut down on clean-up.)

4. Toss kale in dressing. Make sure leaves are evenly coated with dressing (use your hands–just don’t burn yourself). Then add crumbled bacon, goat cheese, cranberries and almonds and toss.

5. Serve as an appetizer, a side salad, or as dip with crackers. The combination of crunchy and creamy, tangy and sweet is fantastic! This is definitely a new family favorite! Bon Appetit!

Note: You could also add 2 Tbsp. of finely chopped red onions or scallions for a nice touch.

As an alternative, I made some this week and switched out the cranberries for some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, added juice from half a lemon to the dressing, and used plain goat cheese, along with the almonds and crumbled bacon, and it was a big hit! So whether you go savory or sweet, bon appetit!