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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Question!

Have you ever questioned why God only provided one way? Or have you ever had someone ask you that or argue that there cannot be just one way? It is a tough question to handle, especially in our pluralistic culture, but I believe if we understand who God is and who we are then we and everyone else should be asking another question: Why did God provide any way of salvation? The video below explains everything:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are All "Open Doors" a Confirmation from God?

It has often been said, "If God opens a door you should go through it" or "if God makes a way, take it." While that sounds encouraging and very pastoral, is it biblical? I have struggled with this concept ever since I surrendered my life to God for ministry. The picture painted by this phrasing leads me, if not others, to believe that if a door has been opened there is your answer without any problems and/or confusion. In my experience this has not been the case. Along the way it seemed as though I had rusty doors that may have been cracked a little but needed a good pulling to get open and others were wide open with a tripping hazard as I went through. As I encountered such situations I began to wonder if I could open a door myself or if God would allow me to open a door of my own choosing.

Biblically man is fallen because of sin. That means he is dead spiritually (can do nothing to please God), his health is fallen (prone to deterioration), his intellect is fallen (cannot fully understanding things truly without God's illumination) and his will is fallen (desires to sin or live contrary to God's will). The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9). This being so, when we come to decisions in life, as discerning or biblically minded as we may be, can we still choose wrongly/selfishly even if it appears to be a supposed open door? First we must understand the how the "door" gets "open." Most Christians would say that it is God that opens the door and if there is such a thing as a door, I would agree that it is God who opens it. The problem is whether that door being open is a confirmation from God or not? If it is not a confirmation from God then what is it? I propose that it is God letting us, at times, chase after our own desires (for good or for worse). Some may think that sounds bad of God but it is really the fault on our side. Think about it; if you pray and pray for something and God has revealed to you that it is better that you don't have or do whatever you have been praying about and you continue to ask for it and then He allows it even to your detriment, who is at fault. We are! God said no therefore the answer is no. Remember the purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want Him to do but to get us in alignment with His will and purpose for our lives. This being so, then it would be fair to say that not every "open door" (though some are) that we come across in life is God saying this is what I want you to do.

Two examples: The first is Balaam from Number 22-24. As crazy as the story of Balaam is (especially the talking donkey), he is an example of this problem of whether or not an "open door" is a yes from God or Him letting us go our own selfish ways. Balaam is a false prophet from Pethor with the ability from God to curse people. The Israelites were securing the lands of the Transjordan and the Moabites were fearful that they were next to be conquered. The king, Balak, knowing of Balaam's ability to curse, sent his messengers to him with a bride to come with the king and curse the Israelites. Balaam told the messengers that he had to ask God if he could go and God responded no for he could not curse Israel, whom He had blessed. Balaam tells the messengers and they return to the king and he sends them back with a higher offer for Balaam's assistance. Balaam, intrigued by the money and knowing the answer from God was no, again tells the messengers that he had to ask God. Knowing Balaam's greedy heart, God told Balaam to go (an open door) but that he could not curse Israel. The next verse in the passage says that God was angry that Balaam went with them and was against him from that moment. What can be taken from this? Though there was an "open door" placed before Balaam to go with the Moabites, it was not what God wanted and He was against Balaam afterwards. God, if we ignore His answers to our prayers, will "open doors" for us, giving us what we want (for the worse).

The second example is Israel before they had a king. Throughout its history before having a king, Israel had been ruled by judges and prophets but they were not happy with the way that God had founded their nation. The last prophet to lead the land was Samuel and as he aged, his sons did not following in his ways and the Israelites demanded a king like the other nations around them. The Lord in response, said to Samuel that they were not rejecting him but that they were rejecting God Himself. Then He tells Samuel to warn them of what would come along with a king. Refusing to listen to Samuel the people continued to demand a king, so God told Samuel to appoint a king. From that moment on we can see a steady downfall of the nation through the ways of their kings. Just as Balaam had asked and gotten the answer no so the people of Israel were going against God's desire for them but He allowed them to have what they wanted (opened a door) for the worse. We, sometimes, do the same things. We see the ways in which the world is prospering and we want our spiritual lives and church to be the same way, so we set out in prayer asking God to provide this success and when we get "no" from Him, in our selfishness we press on ahead and open the door ourselves (with God giving us over to what we want).

When we come across a decision (fork in the road) in life we MUST do several things. First we must examine ourselves. Is this a decision or open door that I want to go through of selfish motives or is it something that can only be done in humility with the strength of God? We must discern our hearts because they even deceive us. Make sure that you have not pushed the door open yourself when God closed it in the first place. Secondly we must seek God in prayer. Not just once but without ceasing until we are given the peace of God of a "yes, no, maybe later." Thirdly, we must get godly not friendly counsel from those that have been there and done it (and done it well to the glory of God). Lastly we must be in His Word to know what God is like and how we are to live. In concluding: Are all "open doors"a confirmation from God that you are doing what He wants? We have seen that not all are Him saying yes but rather some, by our fault, are opened because God is allowing us to do what we want because we would not listen to Him. This is the hard part of life and I have found especially hard in ministry. Everything in ministry can be seen as doing what God wants but many times we do things because we want to and to make us happy or look good to others. So please be discerning, examine yourselves, study the Bible and pray, Pray, PRAY!