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.

Advertisements

God Wants The Best For Us

3 Comments

What Is Faith – Part 5

In our study of “Faith” so far, we have looked at some important foundational truths such as that faith comes from hearing, specifically hearing the Word of God, that faith is a matter of the heart not of the head, and that all Christians possess faith. The issue with many Christians I think, is whether they exercise their faith and what they believe they can do by faith.

Let me say this in another way. On the one hand, there are some Christians who after they have accepted Christ by faith, live their lives by the strength of their own hands and the power of their own intellect rather than calling upon God in faith to deal with the issues of this life. On the other hand, there are some Christians who “use” their faith to deal with everything in life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is my opinion that the former group of Christians have not really understood the words of Romans 1:17 which state, “The righteous will live by faith”. That is, we are to exercise our faith on a regular basis involving the daily activities of our lives. But the latter group of Christians I believe, will many times inappropriately apply the promise given by Jesus when he says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Surely there must be a middle ground between these two positions. And after listening to the next sermon about faith delivered by Leon Fontaine, I have found some very helpful points that I would like to pass on to all my readers. My hope is that we could all share the belief that is expressed in the title of this article, namely that “God wants the very best for us.” What amazes me and even distresses me is that there are still many people who believe God is a vindictive God or an uncaring God. But I will have to wait to address this in a future article.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So let’s begin with this premise that God is a loving God and in fact does want the very best for us. Does Scripture support this idea? Two verses that immediately come to mind are Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” and John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.” We must be careful though, in how we interpret these two verses.

The promise given in Psalms is not to be taken as a blank check to allow us to wish for and get anything that our heart desires. We must put the stress on the first half of this verse and realize that our primary activity is to “take delight in the Lord”. When we do this, we will find that our heart aligns itself with the heart of God and the mind of God. And so we will find that the things that we will desire will be the same things that God desires. So the emphasis in this verse should not be on our physical or material well-being, but must be spiritually oriented in its application.

The caution on the other side though, is that we may over spiritualize the promises of Scripture. And so some people will interpret John 10:10 as only referring to our spiritual life, and think that this verse is just talking about the wonderful life that we will share with God in heaven throughout all eternity. The truth is that in this verse Jesus is most certainly talking about the quality of life that we will experience here on earth.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What I especially liked in Leon’s third sermon about faith that I listened to was the idea that “every Christian gets a measure of faith to start with from God.” We then have a choice to either exercise this faith, which will cause it to be strengthened and to grow, or not to use this faith and allow it to lay dormant and possibly even to wither away. It would be like the parable of the Talents, where those who used well the resources given to them by their master would receive more, and the one who buried his Talent lost even the one that he had.

Let us tie this in to another important topic in Scripture. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Ephesians 4, Paul talks about the gifts that God has given to every believer. And then in Ephesians 2:10 he writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It would seem to me that whatever God has called us to do, and gifted us to do, God will have also granted us sufficient faith to be able to fulfill all that he has asked us to do. The example that Leon gives is that of young David. God had planted faith within him, and David had nurtured it and grown it to believe that his God could do great things through him. And when he encountered the giant Goliath, that faith within David rose up to meet the challenge, and as we know he was victorious.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so, what about you? Do you believe that God would want you to experience a better quantitative and qualitative life right here and now?  What helps me to believe that this is possible is to picture God’s nature and his resources for us are like a flowing river, always fresh and never depleted. This goes against the picture that some have that God’s nature and resources are like a pie which is cut up into small slices and carefully distributed to some individuals until it is gone.

I challenge you then  to read the New Testament and see whether or not my picture of God is contained there. And if God is truly a loving and generous God as I suggest, then align your thoughts with Him, rise up in faith, exercise your “faith muscles” and see what great and mighty things that he will do in you, for you, and through you.

Discovering Philippians (1:1-2)

3 Comments

The Opening Greetings

Last weekend was Easter weekend.   So instead of our Bible study group meeting on Thursday, some took the opportunity on that Easter Thursday to go to a special service to prepare their hearts and minds to reflect upon the greatest historical events, the death of the man-God Jesus on the cross, and the victorious resurrection of our Lord and Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately I was not able to go.  But I still rejoiced in my heart as I individually had my own time of reflection.

And so, we did not meet to look into the first chapter of Philippians in greater detail as planned.  Which turned out all right from my perspective as I was not totally ready last week to begin.  It has taken me quite a while to figure out how to go about doing this group Bible study.  And I think I might finally have what I want that will hopefully be helpful to others as I present one way to study Scripture from an inductive and self/group-guided process.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The process I developed for the study of Scripture has four main components to it.  The four stages for studying Scripture that I will use just happen to match some of the main language software tools I have on my computer, and which I use extensively when I am preparing for my translation consultant checking work.  The following then is a summary and some breakdown of the Four Stages to Doing Inductive Bible Study:

A.  Text Comparison:  the idea here is to take at least two, or up to four, different English Bible versions and read slowly a section (a portion from one section title to the next) to get a grasp of the main ideas of the section, and to see the similarities and the differences between the various translations.

This screen shot is from Logos Bible Software shows four translations of Phil. 1:1-2.

B.  Review the Greek Text:  This step may sound too difficult to the average reader of the Bible, but today there are so many ways to assist people, especially in this electronic age.  Now a person can find an Interlinear Greek to English Bible in book format, but not only is it easier to navigate in a computer program, but usually the Greek words are linked to English study tools such as we will mention in the next stage.  To get an idea of what I am talking about, let me put up another print screen picture.

This screen shot is from a linguistic program called Translators Workshop.

C.  Commentaries and Lexicons:  there are so many, many commentaries on the open market, as well as a good number of Lexicons (another word for dictionaries).  A good idea would be to talk to a sales person at a Christian book store, or to a pastor, or to a Bible college professor to get suggestions as to what commentaries and lexicons would be best suited for you.  And as some of you may have read in my last blog, I now have a way to help readers obtain good books.  (Go back and read that article if you would like my help.)  These are the tools that can help you get into and understand the meaning behind critical key words and phrases in your studies.

D.  Concordances:  and finally this tool can help you a great deal, especially if you are trying to do a word study in Scripture.  A good commentary tells you how many times the word you are studying appears in the Bible, what the references are to each usage of the word, and some even help provide the shades or ranges of meaning of a word, based on biblical context.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So after reading the opening little paragraph to the book of Philippians (1:1-2), I took these principles of good Bible studying and applied them to this little section.  I read and reread the two verses in th four translation versions that are listed above.  And from that Text Comparison, I gave the section my own title, “Greetings and Blessings to the Philippian Believers“, and I wrote out a summary sentence in my attempt to capture the main idea of this short section.  It goes like this:

Paul and Timothy greet the church at Philippi and extend blessings from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Doing this process of reading a section (now most sections are much longer than this two verse opening section we see here in chapter one), we will generally get a good sense as to what the whole section or main idea is all about.  After all, the people who have introduced the section divisions must have felt there was a good reason as to where they made the divisions.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But just thinking about what the passage/section is about is not really good enough if we are on a quest for knowledge and understanding of what God’s word says and means.  No, I believe that it is when we try to write out a summary sentence, and to write out a new Section Title, that we have to wrestle with the text until we “get it”.  Then while the moment of clarity of understanding arrives, that is when we need to write our thoughts down.  This reinforces what we just discovered, and it leaves a permanent record of what we have learned to which we can turn to later.

Okay, well, we did not get very far into the book of Philippians, but that is okay.  We are setting down good principles by which we can study and learn from God’s Word.  Next week (Thursday) I will continue with what insights and thoughts I have gained after studying chapter one of Philippians.  I pray you will join me then.  And until then, may God bless you and keep you safe from all harm.