Summary of Max Lucado’s Book “GOD’S STORY”

4 Comments

Looking Back, Looking Forward

For the past ten months, we have been on a journey to learn more about God and ourselves as we have gone through Max Lucado’s book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  Even though it has only been ten chapters long, it has helped us to look at the bigger picture of what God has done in the world (as seen through the pages of Scripture), and it has also helped us to see our lives from a bigger picture perspective.

Let me summarize in a sentence the journey through the pages of the New Testament that we have been on from chapter to chapter, and then remind us of what we have been learning about our own lives:

Chapter One: “Ordinary Matters”  The Son of God entered into the world and became part of a very ordinary Jewish family when He was born in the manger in Bethlehem.

Lesson: God has always delighted to use those things that are ordinary, i.e. a nomadic shepherd names Abraham, Mose’s walking stick, David’s harp, a donkey (who can talk by the way), a manger, a carpenter’s son, average Galileans.  That gives us great hope that God can use average and ordinary people like you and me.

Chapter Two: “You Know Satan’s Next Move”  Jesus was met head on by Satan before He ever performed any ministry.  The devil did everything he could to distract, to test and to tempt Jesus to take a short cut and serve himself rather than obey God.

Lesson: If Jesus, who is the Son of God, was tested and tempted in every way to sin against God the Father, then we should not be surprised when we encounter trials and temptations which would take us away from God.  Our answer should be like Jesus’ as He referred to God’s Word, “It is written….”

Chapter Three: “You Find Your True Home”  Jesus taught about a Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand.  He taught the multitudes to see that this world is not the only world, but rather is the precursor to the world to come.

Lesson: It is extremely easy for us today who live in such an affluent world to settle down and imagine that this is the “Real” life, and the “Abundant Life”.  But in many parables, Jesus tells us about how these material possessions will all disappear one day, and only by being in tune with God will we become members of His Kingdom, both now and forever.

Chapter Four: “You Hear A Voice You Can Trust”  Long before Jesus lived, there were many people who claimed to be a great prophet from God, or even the promised Messiah.  But Jesus  backed up His claim through His teachings, His miracles and ultimately His resurrection.

Lesson: There are many voices out there screaming for our attention, especially in this electronic and digital age we live in.  They offer so many promises, which are either so short-lived or just empty promises, we must come back to the One whose promises are all “Yes” and “Amen” in God the Father.

Chapter Five: “You Won’t Be Forsaken” There were so many broken and helpless people to whom Jesus ministered His love of healing and forgiveness.  Jesus would not forsake anyone who came to Him in faith and who had a need in their life.  Even when Jesus died on the Cross and seemed forsaken Himself by God, Jesus promised the repentant thief on the other cross that he would not be forsaken but arise to live in Paradise with God forever.

Lesson: We much be absolutely sure in our hearts that the love of Jesus covers over every sin and removes them as far as the east is from the west.  When it comes to our final day on earth, if we have put our faith in Christ, then we will not be forgotten or forsaken in the life to come.

Chapter Six: “Your Final Chapter Becomes A Preface”  On that Easter Friday evening, it looked like it was all over for this man, Jesus of Nazareth.  He died.  He was buried, He was sealed in a cave tomb.  But praise be to God, that was not His final chapter.  Now that Death was defeated, Jesus has much work to do to redeem His followers and bring them too out of death and into life.

Lesson: The grave is not the end of our lives.  It is just the beginning of our eternity with God.  I have often compared death with a graduation, as we leave this perishable life behind and gain a life that is imperishable.

Chapter Seven: “Power Moves In” Jesus told his disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem until the power of God would come upon them.  Finally, the Holy Spirit would now become available for every believer in Christ who would empower them supernaturally to live godly lives and impact others with the Gospel.

Lesson: We are all called to be holy as God is holy and to share our faith with the world and help usher in the Kingdom of God.  By our own strength, we could not do this.  So praise God that we all have the Spirit of God living in us to help us be God’s ambassadors for Him.

Chapter Eight: “The Right Doors Open” Paul was the greatest of God’s ambassadors in the 1st century.  But even he experienced times when God would close doors that he wanted to go through, and open doors of opportunity that he had never expected.  And so the Gospel came over to Europe.

Lesson: There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we must check out these plans with the Lord.  For the Lord may have other plans for us, and they will be plans to help us and to prosper in our service for Him.

Chapter Nine: “All Things Work For Good” I’m sure there were times when Paul could not figure out who things were going to work out.  Especially when you consider the trials he went through.  But invariably, God used what happened to Paul to bring about even greater opportunities to witness and spread the Good News about Jesus.

Lesson: We too cannot look into the things that happen at times and know right then and there what good could come out of a terrible or tragic situation.  But then we will never have the perspective that God has on all of this.  Let us trust Him for the good that He promises to bring out of it.

Chapter 10: “God Will Come For You” God’s Word promises us that one day Jesus will return, and He will come with all the Armies of Heaven, the angels of God, who will come to gather those who believe in Jesus and we all together will see the ushering in of God’s Kingdom.

Lesson: God’s coming Kingdom will motivate His people to rejoice; but it will drive those who do not know Him to fear and despair.  The good news is that it is not too late to yet become a believer in Jesus.  Then when God comes for His children, then you too will welcome Jesus’ return, and be rewarded with eternal life with God forever.  I pray I will be seeing you there!

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God’s Kingdom Will Come

1 Comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 19

We now come to the last chapter in this great book of Max Lucado’s that we have been looking at throughout this year.  As we have gone through the book, we have learned much about God and how He is very interested in and involved in our lives today.  That fact alone is a great encouragement to us, knowing that God is with us, guiding and helping us as we go through the difficult stages and events of life.

But now we must ask ourselves about what to expect at the end of our lives.  For those who do not even believe that God exists, or that there is anything past this life, they have absolutely nothing to look forward to at the end of their lives.  And that is why they try so desperately to experience and enjoy all that they can now.

But that is not really a satisfying answer for many people.  And for those who do believe that there is some kind of afterlife, there is often the accompanying feeling of fear or worry because they have no certainty that they will be granted access to the eternal life of joy and happiness.  Even those who joke about the idea of going to Hell would tremble at the picture of what Hell is really like as portrayed in the Bible.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Blaise Pascal was a famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician.  He came up with what is known as “Pascal’s Wager“.  He stated that if we had to bet on whether God exists or not, then the obvious (or rational) decision would be to say that God does exist.  For if we gamble and say yes, and it is true, then we will win with eternal consequences.

Thankfully, as I believe, we do not need to wager as to whether God exists or not.  I work from the point of the resurrection backwards.  If Jesus (whom all people now state that he did actually live and die in 1st century Palestine), actually did rise from the dead, then all the things that He taught and claimed to be true, must be true.

Now giving evidence that supports the resurrection is a whole other topic, but I also believe that there is sufficient strength of evidence and testimony to support this.  Perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on this topic was written by Frank Morison called “Who Moved The Stone?”  Suffice it to say again, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then all that He taught about this life and the next life to come must be listened to as credible.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And this brings us to the topic that Lucado writes about in chapter 10 of his book, namely that there is going to be a day when God will wrap up things here on earth and will usher in His eternal Kingdom.  This is really big news! And the Bible tells us that this will not be quiet or hidden like the first time that Jesus came to earth.  Mark 13:26 says, “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.

Jesus also talked about how His coming would be like lightning as it streaks across the sky.  Everyone is going to see this great event when Jesus comes back again.  But please note this, that great event will not be received the same way by everyone.  This is what Lucado says on page 158:

“There will be one monumental difference.  Some people will continue the confession they began on earth.  They will crown Christ again, gladly.  Others will crown him for the first time.  They will do so sadly.  They denied Christ on earth, so He will deny them in heaven.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 There is perhaps one aspect about the “Kingdom of Heaven” that some people sadly misunderstand.  There are many people who want to be included in God’s Kingdom, and many who believe that they are in fact going to be enjoying the rich blessings of heaven.  But if they have not made the King of the kingdom also the King of their lives here and now, then it will be too late when Christ returns to take His people back home to be with Him and the Father forever.

It is really quite heartbreaking to know that people all around us are unaware of the danger that is coming if they are not prepared to meet with God.  Matthew 24:37-39 puts it this way:

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But for those who have accepted Christ into their hearts and made Him the Lord of their lives, this future day (which may not be too far away any more) will be the greatest day ever in all of history.  No matter how difficult life may have been here while on earth, the eternal life of God’s presence and His blessings for those who have faithfully loved Him and His Son will greatly outweigh all that has been so painful to bear in this life.

Let me close with a beautiful quote from Lucado on page 159:

“Let this sink in.  You will see the face of God.  You will look into the eyes of the One who has always seen; you will behold the mouth that commands history.  And if there is anything more amazing than the moment you see his face, it’s the moment he touches yours.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 21:4)

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please share it and invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 2

3 Comments

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 18

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 9: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Question #1: In what kind of circumstances is it difficult for people to see “all things” as working together for the good of those who love him?  (See Romans 8:28)

There is no doubt that it is difficult for any person to see good in an event that we would classify as “tragic” or where great suffering is involved.  There is a quote that still haunts me from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies.  When King Theoden mourns at the side of his son’s grave, he says to Gandalf, “No parent should have to bury their child.”  I can truly empathize with Theoden as my wife and I buried our stillborn daughter (29 weeks in).  And then we feared for the life of our 12 year-old son who battled leukemia.

It can be very easy, and trite, for someone to say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Even though this old religious saying is ultimately true, it does little to comfort those who have lost a loved one.  And this is especially true, the younger the age of the one who has died.  So it is quite natural for people to feel anger towards God when they see no good reason for that death.

And yet I have seen in our life, and in the lives of others, what a tremendous impact it has on people when we rise up in these moments of despair and still hold on to the promises of the Bible that God is a good and loving God.  One verse that has meant so much to me is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.”  I believe that one day I will see my daughter again, and because all my children have a strong faith in Jesus, I know we will all live with God forever in a world where there will never be any more pain or sorrow.  (See Revelation 21:4)

Question #3: Which of your life experiences of privileges is God using, as He did with Paul, to His advantage?  How are you uniquely able to do what others may not be able to do?

Paul talked about having a “thorn in his flesh”.  Some say that was a spiritual temptation that he could not overcome.  But most believe that it was some physical ailment or condition that he sought healing for, but God chose not to heal him.  No matter what it was, God was still able to use Paul in great ways to advance the work of God and tell others about Christ.

Now I know that I cannot be compared to Paul, but I can empathize with him with regards to having a physical limitation.  For four years now I have lived with the challenge of the genetic muscle disease that has limited my mobility and causes me great pain.  (By faith though, I am believing that God is in the process of healing me, and I have seen some great positive progress in the past few months since some churches prayed with me and over me for healing.)

But these four years have not been easy.  And yet, I have seen God work through me to bless others in ways that I do not think would have been possible if I had been healthy.  When I travel over to Papua New Guinea to do the Bible translation consulting work, people are amazed at what gets accomplished on these trips.  I tell everyone that is is by the grace and strength of God that I can do what I do.

And then when I started this devotional blog site two years ago in November 2010, I had no idea that so many people would come to the site and read the stories.  In 22 months, there have been over 22,000 visits to this site.  Praise God!!  And I love how my wife Jill describes this work that I do propped up in my easy chair with my  laptop in front of me.  She calls this my “Armchair Ministry” to the world.  And for that, I am very grateful to God.

Question #4: How would you like God to sift and stir the difficult situations you see around you into a well-prepared ending to the story?  Describe the preferred future you would like to see in these situations.

This is a hard one.  I really am reluctant to paint a picture that I then turn around and expect God to fulfill it for me.  I have learned so much in these last four years to simply take one day, one week, and one month at a time.  In many ways, that has released me from worrying about the future.

But there is still part of me that is quite human, and I do have a couple of things that I talk to God about from time to time.  I do pray for my own healing and believe He is in the process of doing that.  I would have to say that I yearn at times to be able to walk and run like I used to.

But even if that doesn’t completely happen here, I know I will be running again when I get to heaven.  The other thing that Jill and I talk about frequently is the idea of being able to return to living overseas in Papua New Guinea again full-time.  This one too is possible, but we leave this also in God’s hands.

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 1

1 Comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 17

If I were to ask you the question, “What is it that most concerns you?”, I’m positive that your answer would fall into at least one of these categories:

  • the economy, and specifically your job, or lack of a job, personal finances and debt
  • your health, involving fitness, sickness, dieting, medical coverage and more
  • your relationships,  spouse, children, dating partner, parents, or combination of them
  • your possessions, like how to get them, safeguard them, and upgrade them
  • state of the world, including war, poverty, crime, pollution, the ecology, etc.
  • deep questions, like is there a God, what’s life all about, what happens when we die

There are probably other categories that I could add to this list, but I think these six would cover the majority of concerns that most people think about and are anxious about.  Whatever it is that we might be worried about, there is one common element that weaves its way through all of these areas of life.  Namely this: uncertainty.  None of us can or ever will know what will happen in the future, and that can lead us to frustration and anxiety.

For many months now, I have been writing articles on the topics that Max Lucado has included in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  In chapter nine, Lucado does an excellent job of helping us to realize that even though we often fail to understand what is happening in our lives and why they are happening to us, that God is still in control of the situation and is at work all the time to bring good out of the situation.

On page 137, Lucado writes this:

We know…. There are so many things we do not know.  We do not know if the economy will dip or if our team will win.  We do not know what our spouse is thinking or how our kids will turn out.  We don’t even know “what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).  But according to Paul (in Romans 8:28), we can be absolutely certain about four things.

Lucado goes on to state what those four things are, and I will summarize what he has to say to us.  Let me quote Romans 8:28 here so you have the context in front of you.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The first thing we know is that “God is at work…”  This immediately counters two negative positions, the idea that there is no God (Atheism), and the idea that while He may have created the world, He is no longer involved with it (which is called Deism).

No, God is very much at work in our world.  And the good news is that “God is at work for our good…”  This will counter a number of negative ideas about the character of God.  Some people think God is a punishing god, sitting up in heaven with a big stick and just waiting for us to step out of line at which point He will whack us.  Neither is God an ambivalent god who doesn’t care about what happens in our lives.  But He also isn’t a bigger version of Santa Claus who panders to our every wish and whim.  Rather, God is actively seeking to do that which is going to be for our very best, helping us where we most need help.

     

The third thing that Romans 8:28 tells us is that “God is working for the good of those who love Him…”    I will repeat what I said above, that God is not a punishing god.  But on the other hand, God is definitely seeking to bless and reward those people who have committed their lives to Him, to live in obedient service and worship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  That does put the responsibility upon us to be actively seeking to please our God.  And the neat thing about God and His blessings is that as we share the blessings that God gives to us with others, the more that He ends up blessings us.  When we become a conduit of His love, then we end up experiencing even more of His grace and love.  Isn’t that fantastic!!!

Finally, the last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that “God is at work in all things…”  If we truly believe this, then we can face any circumstance or situation in life.  When things are just clicking along and everything seems to be falling into place, we can thank our God who is actively bringing about these wonderful blessings in our lives.  But then when things are not going well, even in the most challenging moments of life, we can be confident that God will do all He can to bring good out of that situation, no matter how terrible it might be.

     

As many of my readers already know, our family has faced many difficult and trying experiences in life.  I think of all the categories I listed above, I believe that critical health challenges are the hardest to face as those are usually the most out of our control events.  In our immediate family then, from 2002 – 2005, our older son went through three years of chemotherapy to battle against the leukemia in his body.  Then, from 2008 until the present, I have battled with my genetically inherited muscle disease that has limited my mobility and has caused extreme levels of pain.

And yet, for both me and my son, we have seen God’s hand upon our lives in special and powerful ways that we would never have experienced had we remained in good health.  And for both of us, who have remained strong in our faith in God, we have seen our lives and testimonies touch countless numbers of other people.  And in many ways, this has come about because we believe the promise within Romans 8:28, “that is all things, God works for the good to those who love Him.

     

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 1

2 Comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles that dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

In the book of Proverbs, the door of the harlot was constantly open with direct invites to any young man on the street. Is it therefore of God?  On the other hand, the door into the promised land was closed off from the Israelites by the threat of the giants who were not about to relinquish power. Was it therefore NOT the will of God?

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

Many years ago I was asked to lead an informal discussion group in a church on the character of God. The group was very reluctant to contribute, but I encouraged them by asking appropriate questions around the circle about what they thought the character of God was like. When we had finished, to their horror, I congratulated them on accurately defining the character of Allah, not God!

“Inshallah, It is the will of God” might well be the cry of much of the church!”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

At first glance, what our friend has written may sound like he is very antagonistic towards the Church and Christianity.  He does certainly end with a couple of shocking and provocative thoughts.  But I would like to look more carefully at what this man has said.  I believe that he has hit upon some very important points that we need to pay attention to lest our faith be not grounded properly upon the truths found in Scripture.

The first thing we need to do when seeking truth is to check out in the Bible if God’s Word has something to say on the topic.  And we do in fact find the words and the concept of this in a number of biblical passages.  Let me list a few here:

Matthew 7:7-8  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Acts 14:27  “On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ”

1 Corinthians 16:8  “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Colossians 4:3  “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Probably the most well-known passage that deals with this idea of God opening and closing doors as a means of giving guidance to His people can be found in Acts chapter 16, where Paul desired to preach the Gospel throughout Asia, but God’s Spirit intervened in some way to close that pathway and opened one up for him to take the Gospel to Europe.  Read that account here:

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

From these verses above, we can truthfully say that God does interact with His people and guide them in some supernatural way to show that one course of direction may not be what He wants us to do, and that another course of action may in fact be what He wants us to do.  But let us still be very cautious about throwing these phrases around so quickly, “God opend the door for me….” or “God closed the door for me….”

I agree very much with my friend who wrote above that we can so flippantly state that God is the Agent behind an event in our lives, when there can be a number of other causes behind the circumstances of our lives.  I have much more to say on this, but I will write a further article on this topic next week.

God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 2

2 Comments

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 16

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 8: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
THE RIGHT DOORS OPEN

Question #1: What blocked doors have you encountered in your life?  As you look back on them, how might God have been protecting you by blocking your path?

I have no doubt that God was watching over me to help place before me the right woman to marry.  There had been three other women I had given serious thought to about marrying, but a number of circumstances and differences in personalities were revealed to me to stop me from making a poor decision.  The funny thing is that Jill had been in front of me all along.

You see, while I was away from home doing mission work, my parents had taken Jill in as a room-and-board person.  When I came home from the mission field, I ended up in our dusty downstairs bedroom.  (We still laugh about that.)  I tried and failed to date these other young women, until Jill asked me one day, “I thought you were interested in me once.”  With our passion for missions, and then focused interest in each other, it wasn’t long before we became husband and wife.

The other event that certainly had to be from God, was how Jill and I ended up being with our current mission Pioneer Bible Translators.  After attending a month long recruitment retreat led by Wycliffe Bible translators, it was clear we were not ready to go overseas yet.  Two years later when we had our finances and other issues taken care of, we applied again, but heard no answer.

God led us next to Illinois so I could do further work on Greek and Hebrew.  That is where we first learned about PBT.  We saw this as God’s direction, so we wrote to Wycliffe to have our personnel file sent from them to PBT.  The women we had worked with said yes she could do that, but asked why we had not accepted their invitation from Wycliffe.  Somehow that letter never found us as we moved.  We were approved by both missions, but God had wanted us to be with PBT.

Question #2: On the other hand, has God opened a door in your life?  Explain what happened and how you could see his hand at work.

Twice, while I was with Teen Missions, I saw God’s hand move and do the impossible for me.  To go on my first TMI team (to build a church in Dominican Republic), I had to have all my support of about $1,400.  But by the beginning of May I was still quite short and it was getting close to the deadline for the final payment.

I looked to the Lord and pleaded with Him to allow me to go to Brazil and serve Him there.  Incredibly, a final check came in for me and it was almost the exact amount of money I would need to pay for the whole summer, and even lasted into the Fall.  I knew that I was called by God to serve Him that year in Brazil.

The second event with Teen Missions happened less than a year later.  I had received a letter from their mission office asking me to join a newly formed Staff Travel Team to minister to churches and advertise in churches about Teen Missions in hopes of recruiting some more young people to come on a summer mission trip.

When I got to the airport, the Customs Officer came to the conclusion that I must be hiding the truth and that once I was let into the United States, I would try to work for pay, which is not allowed   Two supervisors argued about me and I tried to calmly reassure them that I would not be taking a job while in the States.

The supervisors finally left and the Officer wondered what to do with me.  Finally, he said he couldn’t see that I would be a threat, and even though it was going against his supervisors’ opinions, he still decided to approve my US entry visa.  I ran to the plane as they were literally shutting the door.  It was a “God-thing” for sure, and it was a reminder to me all year long that I knew I was where God wanted me.

Questions #5: What blocked doors are you facing right now?  Pray for one another that God would blast them open in his perfect timing.

A door that has been closed to us for many years, but still is within our hearts to do is to actually make the move over to PNG and live back there again.  We have not heard God say “Yes” to us, but He also has not said “NO” either.  It has been assumed by others, and by us I think, that it would be too difficult for us to live in this under-developed country with the health needs that I have.

But I think we need to look at this carefully and consider which is more powerful: the discouragement and sense of defeat which Satan can throw at us because my health has been seriously compromised with this muscle disease, or the power of God and the stripes that Jesus took on our behalf to free us from spiritual death and the diseases of this world.

We leave this decision in God’s hands, but we ask you all to pray for us to have wisdom in this matter.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 1

2 Comments

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 15

What does it mean to say, “God opens doors and God closes doors”?  This sounds like a highly cryptic and spiritual saying.  In practical life, this means that when we get blocked from doing something, it is very possible that it is God who has shut out that opportunity, no matter how hard we want it and how hard we try to get it.  We can’t obtain or achieve something we wanted.  And that frustrates us.  A lot!

But then there are times when everything seems to just go perfectly.  Every piece of a complex puzzle will fit right into place, and just at the right time, often at the very last opportunity it still comes through for us.  We are glad for that.  But do we ever stop to wonder and ask, “Is God behind all of this and that is why the path to this was successful?”  In spiritual terms, did God open all the right doors at just the right time to make this all happen and pull together so well?

These questions are important ones to ask, for it can shed light on our lives in a way we may not have considered or had forgotten.   That God can and does interact with us, His creation.  What does draw our attention usually is when things don’t go well for us.  Max Lucado points out some examples for us on page 122 of his book*.  He says:

You try one door after another, yet no one responds to your résumé. No university accepts your application.  No doctor has a solution for your illness. No buyers look at your house.

     

Another important question is to ask if this idea is Scripturally sound?  Does God interact with humanity and does He do so in an individual way, guiding and leading individuals to specific goals?  It seems to me that the obvious answer in the Bible is “Yes!  He does!”  Throughout the early books, God is seen to have interacted within the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, the many prophets, and more. God continually offered  instructions and guidance to help the nation of Israel to grow and to flourish.

One of the greatest examples in the New Testament is how God specifically guided Paul and his small band of missionary friends.  They prayed to God to show them where they should go, and God would reveal that or impress that upon them and all went quite well.  But there was one period of time that totally stumped Paul and probably got him quite irritated and maybe even frustrated with God.  In Acts chapter 16, Paul and his team kept trying to enter into a new section of Asia, but somehow God blocked that at every turn, and they didn’t go that way.

While wrestling with these disappointments, Paul suddenly then had a vision of a man who was standing in Macedonia (a Roman province in the country of Greece) who was calling Paul to come there to help them.  Paul understood that to be God’s leading and the next day his team crossed the narrow strait which separates Asia from Europe, and he began to teach about Christ and the Kingdom of God.  The message hit home.  A woman responded in faith, was baptized and became the first European convert to Christianity.  The closed door to Asia led Paul to bring the Gospel to Europe.  And the world history has never been the same.

     

Now some may say that all these are stories that belong to history and the ancient peoples contained within the Bible.  And yet, if one was to ask Christians around the world today, he may be surprised to hear the testimonies by the thousands that clearly point to an outside benevolent being (namely, God) who was not only there, but He is very active in their day-to-day activities.  Max Lucado shares a story with us in Chapter 16 of what happened when he and his congregation tried to go ahead with a building expansion project for their church.

The people had prayed and believed that God would have them go forward.  But then a number of obstacles kept hitting them so that the money they raised was never enough to go forward with.  Prices on all materials kept getting pushed higher and higher so that they found it would be too difficult to purchase the material.  In the midst of all this, Lucado was diagnosed with a serious heart condition.  Then later that year, the recession hit North America which spread world-wide.  Wow!  The church expansion ideas were put on the shelf.  But think of what it would have been like if they had tried to push through the door that God had closed on them and which never opened to go ahead with the building project.

Lucado wrote this on pp 124-135:

It was a classic God’s story/our story contrast.  From our perspective we saw setbacks.  God, however, saw an opportunity to keep us out of dangerous debt and bolster our leadership team with a new senior minister.  A plan to protect us from a budget-busting mortgage and to grant us fresh leadership.  God closed the wrong doors so he could lead us through the right one.

I don’t know where you are at on all of this.  If you don’t believe in God, then you will have trouble with all I have written and suggested.  But even some Christians who read this may have difficulty believing that God interacts with us in our daily lives.  I challenge you to really go out there and listen to the thousands of stories of people who can testify that if it had not been for God opening or closing some door in their life, then they would have been so much worse off.

And consider Lucado’s last words on page 131, “And this is what God is trying to teach us.  Your blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you.  Quite the opposite.  It is proof that He does.

     

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 14

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 7: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
POWER MOVES IN

Question #2: The chapter asks, “What got into Peter?”  How would you answer this question?  (See Acts 2:4, 17-18.)

It should be rather obvious to anyone who reads the Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and compares the stories that deal with Peter there with what happens in Acts chapter 2 that Peter had become quite a changed man.  In the Gospel accounts, Peter was known to be hot-headed, loud-mouthed and then a cowardly man when the chips were down.  But in Acts 2, we see Peter was publicly bold as he clearly articulated the message of the Gospel and the need for people to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus for their salvation.

This kind of transformation is something that is normally impossible for a person to do on their own.  Although we do read of stories where someone is suddenly heroic in a dangerous situation, and there are plenty of “self-help” books out there.  For the most part, people do not change drastically in such a powerful and positive way like Peter did, unless something outside of themselves happens which has the power to cause such a change.  By reading more of the biblical account, we discover that it is the resurrected Christ, and the release of the Holy Spirit into his life that brings about this newly transformed Peter.

Question #3: These days, do you feel more like the early Peter or the later one?  Or do you vacillate between the two in any given week?

This is a good question.  And I believe that for myself, and probably for most Christians, the truth is that we do a lot of vacillating between being alive and vibrant in our faith and then sinking into times of discouragement and spiritual desert experiences.  For some Christians though, they may start out their journey of faith quite strong, but through the busyness of life and through neglect of spiritual disciplines and activities, their spiritual vitality slowly fades until there is not much left of their original zeal for God.

Speaking for myself again, I don’t think that I flip-flop in my spiritual life on a weekly basis.  But I can look back over the years and say that there have been “seasons of life” which can be marked with greater or lesser spiritual vitality.  I don’t consider these long ups and downs to be necessarily bad, as much as they reflect the ebb and flow of life itself.  What I do consider to be important though, is whether or not the kernel of faith in Christ remains strong, especially during those dry spells and tough periods in life that happen to us all.

I have found that I have reflected often on that great poem “Footprints” over the years.  It is great when life is going along well and we feel very connected with God.  Those are the times when we can look back and see both of our footprints going along side-by-side in the sand.  But during those tough times of life, when we even feel like God has abandoned us, and we only see one set of footprints in the sand, that is when God says to us, “Those were the times that I carried you.”  That is what my faith is like for the most part.  I believe God is walking beside me, or He is carrying me, and in either case, God strengthens me to be able to handle whatever life dishes out to me.

Question #4: What was the difference between Jesus living near the disciples and the Spirit living in them?  What were the results?  Do you long for such results in your life?  What difference might that make in your life right now?

When Jesus lives among the disciples, they saw the power of God at work through all that Jesus did.  But once Jesus released the Holy Spirit to live within the disciples, they found that they had the power of God within themselves to do all the things that they had once seen Jesus do.  What a wonderful thing that must have been to go from being witnesses of God’s power to being instruments of God’s power.

In the years that I have been in ministry, both here in North America and in overseas mission work, I have definitely seen the power of God active in the lives of others as well as being released through me to impact other people.  I have had spiritual encounters with evil forces and demonic beings.  I’ve experienced healing in my life in the past and am seeing it happen in the present.  God is very much alive in today’s world.

What we need to do is to first believe that this spiritual power is available to us to do God’s work and will in the world.  And then keep our eyes open, both to look up to God for our daily strength and to look out around for opportunities to act on God’s behalf.  When we do this, then God will bring about the circumstances to work in and through us to impact the world.  But just remember one thing: it is always about God and His power in us, never about us and what we think we can do.  That’s how we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Older Entries