God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors – Pt. 1

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“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.

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Talk About Your Dreams For God

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Keep Your Dream Alive – Part 1

“Can you remember a time before you landed in the wilderness when your dream seemed to be on the verge of coming true? Were you excitedly making plans and working hard to prepare for a lifetime of happiness? Did you feel as if you had the world by the tail, that all the pieces were falling into place and nothing could stop you? Are you now feeling dazed and confused, wondering what in the world went wrong?”

This is one of the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11 of Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“. There have been many other chapters in this book that have contained great words of wisdom and advice, such as: travel along your hard road with good, trustworthy friends; expect detours but keep on walking; trust God, go at His pace and worship Him as you travel along. But this chapter seems to me to be written especially for me and my family. Let me explain.

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In a previous article, (“A Stricken Father“), I tell about the joy of finally becoming a Bible translator, and then experiencing the pain of watching my son suffer a major illness and being pulled out of our translation project in Papua New Guinea. Our story gets better as we were able to return to overseas mission work in 2006. We served with Pioneer Bible Translators for a year and a half in East Africa, but we didn’t quite capture the same level of joy and fulfillment that we had experienced in PNG. Before we left Africa in mid-2007, I had been in dialogue with a number of our PBT leaders in Canada, the United States, and also some of our overseas Branch Directors.

As a result of these discussions, a very exciting picture of opportunities and possibilities begin to emerge. My Canadian Board and I talked about me helping to recruit, organize and expand PBT Canada. The Dallas office wanted me to come periodically to train new missionaries, just like the East Africa Branch wanted me to train national men and women to do Bible translation.

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The door to PNG opened up again as they invited me to come over and be trained to become a translation consultant and check Scriptures before they were published. This would open up the possibility of coming annually or semi-annually to PNG and work with many different translation projects. There was even one more fascinating role that the new President of PBT-US had asked me to consider doing, to act as the facilitator to help open a new country for field operations in South Asia.

As the year 2008 began, it seemed to me that God had arranged all of the skills I had and the training and experiences that I had gone through, to put me in a place where I would be used by God as a Bible translator and linguist literally in countries and continents all over the world. Two months later though, in March 2008, the symptoms of my disease began to manifest themselves and in just six weeks I went from being a globe-trotting translator to not being able to walk across my living room floor. All my dreams and hopes of this promising future were shattered and almost died.

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Let me turn the focus off of me and turn it now on to my two sons. In these past few years, they too have had some of their own dreams and hopes, which up until recently were also seemingly being thwarted. My older son went to Bible college and was nurturing a dream of working with children and teenagers. He talked of possibly completing a degree and then working as a Youth Pastor. Unfortunately, he did not get a lot of encouragement from some people to pursue this dream,.

But even more significantly, the post-cancer fatigue that he is experiencing is limiting him right now from working at any full-time job. My younger son, as you may have read from previous articles, had held for a long time the hope and dream of entering into the Canadian Army. He believed that he was meant to have a military life and career.

It was offered to him in September 2009, but in a moment of doubt and not feeling ready at age 18 to be a soldier, he passed on the invitation. Upon more reflection for six months, he decided that the Army was for him, but positions were filled by then and for more than a year there wasn’t even any hope given to him that he would get another invitation.

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And so for three years, everyone in my immediate family (including my wife who has had her own dreams unrealized) has had to walk by faith and not by sight, trusting in God that He will one day bring our dreams to fruition. What helps us as Christians is that we believe these dreams of a more fulfilling future have been planted within us by God Himself who designed us to be this way.

Atteberry is right in his introduction of this chapter as he recounts the life story of Caleb in the Bible in that his dreams were only deferred, pushed into the future, not defeated. Remember how Caleb had been one of the 12 spies who surveyed the land of Palestine, the land which flowed with milk and honey. But because of the sin of the people, it would be 40 years until Caleb was able to claim the promise of this portion of land.  And so we will pick up this message in keeping your dreams alive in Part Two which will be published in two weeks from now.

God’s Traveling Team Pt. 2

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Who Am I?  Part 5: Which Dwarf?

In my last article, God’s Traveling Team Pt. 1, I mentioned the difficult choice I faced, to return to University, or to join the Teen Missions Fall Travel Team.  And as you now know, I believed God had led me to join the Travel Team and promote Teen Missions.  What a huge disappointment it was then to be turned back at the Canadian border and have the team broken up.  The team went back to Florida and I returned to Calgary.

I kept my hope alive though, that we would still get the team together and we would carry on where we left off.  And in fact, shortly after I got back to Calgary, the Florida office called to say they were hoping to get a new itinerary set up in British Columbia and the northwestern States right away.

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The plan that they had was to send the team back my way in about three weeks and I was to meet up with them in Vancouver, BC.  Not one to sit around and waste time, I decided that in those three weeks that I should get my Driver’s License.  Now you may think it strange for me to be almost 19 years old and still not have my license, but it’s amazing all the places you can go to with a good city transit system, or a Greyhound ticket. : )

So I got the Driver’s Manual, read it and wrote and passed the Learner’s Test in the first week.  I signed up for a two-week Driver Instructor class, took it, drove it, passed it, and by Day 22, I was the proud owner of a new Driver’s License.  Now I was ready to rejoin the TMI Travel Team.  (It turns out that being one of the youngest on the team, that they would not need me to drive, but hey, it was still worth it.)


It was so neat though, to be a part of this team.  It felt good to be wanted, and to believe that the others both valued me and even liked me as a member of their group.  We spent close to three months together on this team, the seven of us packed into the Ford Caravan van, traveling from place to place, never knowing for sure where we would be sleeping the next day, but always seeing God provide safe harbors for us to land at and be received by wonderful Christian hosts.

I do find it interesting now after more than 30 years that many of the details of the places we visited and the people we met have pretty much faded from my memory.  Actually, it was such a whirlwind tour all over the northwestern States and BC that I think I probably forgot many details even before the trip ended.  But one thing I have not forgotten all these years is the names of the seven of us on the team.

Each person was so unique, for which we came to love and appreciate them, that we soon had adopted special nicknames.  It shouldn’t take you long to guess where this story is going to head, in terms of the nicknames we gave each other, but I think you will see why we choose what we did.  There were four ladies and three guys on the team.  And the following is what happened on a regular basis.

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After our visits or presentations at a place were done, we would load up the van with all our luggage and supplies and squeeze everyone in and get ready to go.  But just as we were about to leave, Becky would suddenly sneeze.  Not once, not twice, but at least four or five times.  We never did figure out if she was allergic to leaving a place or allergic to going on the road again.  But then we would start driving, and even before we got to the Interstate, Gloria would slump over and fall asleep.  And she would sleep the entire distance, whether short or long, then wake up and say, “Are we there yet?”

Then we had quite the contrastive pair between John and Linda. It rarely mattered what the topic was, but whenever we got into a discussion about something, Linda’s face would light up about something she found interesting, but John would find some way to “shoot it down” and have a scowling look on his face.  It didn’t help that he had big black bushy eyebrows like Groucho Marx.  : ) And yet we loved them both the same.  They were equally our brother and sister in the Lord.

Now Barb was our leader and the oldest of the group, but I think she was just two years older than Greg.  We could all tell that Barb, being in her mid-twenties, was kind of hoping that her “friend” who sent occasional letters wold be her “prince in shining armor”.  So when we got to a new destination and we were able to beat her to the mailbag, we had lots of fun waving around her nicely perfumed letter.  Needless to say, Barb would turn beet red in the face, and even mentioning his name in public would cause her to immediately blush.

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On the other hand, Greg was a 3rd year scholar from Wheaton Bible College, and being a man and the second oldest of the group, you would expect him to be a little more on the serious side of life, having great words of wisdom and sophistication.  And occasionally, he was able to pull off that mannerism.  But the rest of the time, he was cracking great jokes and putting on the silliest of faces to get us all to laugh.

So that leaves just me.  And if you haven’t figured it out yet.  Here is who we traveled with for three months:  Becky = Sneezy; Gloria = Sleepy; Linda = Happy; John = Grumpy; Barb = Bashful; and Greg = Dopey.  That left only me, and the only name left for me was Doc. I was so disappointed when they first called me Doc because I always thought about him as the near-sighted bumbling and stuttering old Dwarf.

But then I was told that they thought highly of me as Doc, because as they said, he was the smartest Dwarf of the group who had all the main brainstorms for ideas and inventions.  Often they would say I was so wise and knew my Bible well, and so they did look to me as a spiritual leader, even though I was close to the youngest on the team.

So there you have it, the Teen Missions Fall Travel Team was made up of the Seven Dwarves and I was given the honor of being named Doc.  I miss those good friends and those good old days. : )

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