Monday, August 15, 2016

All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?

All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do?All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed Before You an Open Door. What Will You Do? by John Ortberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Ortberg was become one of my favorite authors. What he writes encourages me, challenges me, and makes me think. This book is about “Doors,” both open doors and closed doors. He describes and teaches what we should do when we encounter these doors. He uses many personal examples to show both the right way and wrong way to respond to open or closed doors. This is a great book for all believers to read. You may not agree with everything he says but you will be blessed. I trust the quotes below will give you a little taste of what he has to say on this topic.

Funny and ironic quotes (six-word memoirs) from the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning
“One tooth, one cavity, life’s cruel.”
“Savior complex makes for many disappointments.”
“Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.” (This one was written not by a wise, old grandmother, but by a nine-year-old boy with thyroid cancer.)
“The psychic said I’d be richer.” (Actually, this author might be richer if she stopped blowing money on psychics.)
“Tombstone won’t say: ‘Had health insurance.’”
“Not a good Christian, but trying.”
“Thought I would have more impact.”

… characters of Scripture might write their six-word memoirs
Abraham: “Left Ur. Had baby. Still laughing.”
Jonah: “No. Storm. Overboard. Whale. Regurgitated. Yes.”
Moses: Burning bush. Stone tablets. Charlton Heston.”
Adam: “Eyes opened, but can’t find home.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: “King was hot. Furnace was not.”
Noah: “Hated the rain, loved the rainbow.”
Esau: “At least the stew was good.”
Esther: “Eye candy. Mordecai handy. Israel dandy.”
Mary: “Manger. Pain. Joy. Cross. Pain. Joy.”
Prodigal Son: “Bad. Sad. Dad glad. Brother mad.”
Rich Young Ruler: “Jesus called. Left sad. Still rich.”
Zacchaeus: “Climbed sycamore tree. Short, poorer, happier.”
Woman caught in adultery: “Picked up man, put down stones.”
Good Samaritan: “I cam, I saw, I stopped.”
Paul: “Damascus. “Blind. Suffer. Write. Change world.”

In Revelation 3:7-8 an open door is symbolic of “boundless opportunities. Of unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; of grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; of heretofore unimagined chances to do good, to make our lives count for eternity. An open door is the great adventure of life because it means the possibility of being useful to God.

Often an open door to another room begins with a sense of discontent about the room you’re already in.

If proof is possible, faith is impossible.

… you must abandon your old life, believe God’s promises are trustworthy, and commit to a new journey. (ABC’s of faith)

“I know that your strength is small,” God says to the church at Philadelphia. People in the church may not have been hugely flattered when they read that line. But what a gift to know that open doors are not reserved for the specially talented or the extraordinarily strong. God can open a door for anyone.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~Viktor Frankl

Frankl discovered that doors are not just physical. A door is a choice.

Life is a sum of all of your choices.

Sometimes the opportunity doesn’t involve going to a new place; it means finding a new and previously unrecognized opportunity in the old place.

Open doors in the Bible never exist just for the sake of the people offered them. They involve opportunity, but it’s the opportunity to bless someone else. An open door may be thrilling to me, but it doesn’t exist solely for my benefit. An open door is not just a picture of something good. It involves a good that we do not yet fully know. An open door does not offer a complete view of the future. An open door means opportunity, mystery, possibility – but not a guarantee.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose. …
Oh, the places you’ll go! …
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t. ~Dr. Seuss

The staggering truth is that this very moment is alive with opportunity. What could you be doing right this moment that you aren’t? You could be learning Chinese. You could be training for a marathon. Etc.

An open door is an opportunity provided by God, to act with God and for God.

God Can Use a “Wrong Door” to Shape a Right Heart

God’s primary will for your life is not the achievements you accrue; it’s the person you become.

God’s primary will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus.

God is primarily in the character-forming business, not the circumstance-shaping business.

God can use even what looks like the “wrong door” if I go through it with the right heart.

Those with an open mind-set believe that what matters is not raw ability; what matters is growth. Growth is always possible. A commitment to growth means they embrace challenge, so the goal is not trying to look smarter or more competent than other people. The goal is to grow beyond where they are today. Therefore, failure is indispensable and something to be learned from.

Ultimately, faith provides the greatest foundation for an open mind-set. The reason I don’t have to prove my worth is that I am loved by God no matter what. The reason I can be open to tomorrow is that God is already there.

Closed-door thinking looks safe, but it’s the most dangerous thinking of all because it leaves God on the other side of the door.

To be an open-door person means to embrace an open mind-set – along with a set of disciplines and practices to help us regularly embrace and walk through open doors.

Open-Door People Are Ready, “Ready or Not”

… a lot of times if we knew what we were getting into, we wouldn’t get into it in the first place.

The truth about being ready is you’ll never be ready.

Faith grows when God says to somebody, “Go,” and that person says yes.

Jesus chooses to change the world. He doesn’t say, “First, let’s get enough numbers” or “First, let’s get enough faith.” He just says, “You go. We’ll work on the faith thing and the numbers thing while you’re doing the obedience thing. I’m sending you out. Ready or not …”

In the Bible, when God calls someone to do something, no one responds by saying, “I’m ready”:
Moses: “I have never been eloquent. … I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10.
Gideon: “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
Abraham: “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17).
Jeremiah: “Alas, Sovereign Lord, … I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6).
Isaiah: “Woe to me … for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
Esther: “For any man or woman who approaches the king … without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death” (Esther 4:11).
Rich Young Ruler: “He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:22).
Ruth: “There was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1).
Saul: (Samuel was going to anoint Saul king; the people couldn’t find him and asked if he was present.) “The LORD said, ‘See, he has hidden himself among the baggage’” (1 Samuel 10:22 NRSV).

The truth is you don’t know what you can do until you actually do it. “Ready” comes faster if you’re already moving.

Jesus takes his friends up a mountain. Not enough of them. Not enough faith. Doesn’t matter. What matters isn’t whether they’re ready. What matters is that He’s ready. And you and I never know when He’s ready. He’s in charge of that.

Open-Door People Are Unhindered by Uncertainty

As a general rule, with God, information is given on a need-to-know basis, and God decides who needs to know what, when.

Open-door people are comfortable with ambiguity and risk. Or, if not comfortable with it, at least they decide not to allow it to paralyze them.

Going through open doors means I will have to be able to trust God with my future when the path I’m called to take does not look like the obvious one.

The God of the open door invites His friends to give up on the project of making their name great, because worth can only be given, never earned.

Open-Door People Are Blessed to Bless

Blessing, for Abram, was an opportunity to know and experience God, and that included being used by God to enhance others. Abram is called to build his life on this offer: that he can receive a gift from God, but only if he allows his life to become a gift to others.

Going through an open door always requires a spirit of generosity. And generosity flows out of an attitude of abundance, not an attitude of scarcity.

The connection between abundance and blessing rests in God, who combines them both.

mission Dei, the mission of God.

God’s mission, God’s project, is to bless. Open doors are an invitation to be part of the mission Dei.

… it is impossible to be blessed in the highest sense apart from becoming a blessing. One of the deepest needs of the human soul is that others should be blessed through our lives.

Open-Door People Resist and Persist

Open-door people resist discouragement in the face of obstacles and persist in faithfulness and despite long periods of waiting.

You never know where you’re going if you’re going by faith.

If you’re going by faith, you’re always a stranger in this world, because your home is God.

When you get the divine “go,” you resist and persist.

If you’re not dead, you’re not done. ~Craig Groeschel

In the Bible, age is never a reason for someone to say no when God says go.

Moses is eighty years old when God calls him to go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The Exodus starts when he’s eighty. Caleb is eighty when he asks God to give him one more mountain to take in the Promised Land.

Timothy tried to say no because he was too young. Esther tried to say no because she was the wrong gender. Moses tried to say no because he had the wrong gifts. Gideon tried to say no because he was from the wrong tribe. Elijah tried to say no because he had the wrong enemy. Jonah tried to say no because he was sent to the wrong city. Paul tried to say no because he had the wrong background. God kept saying, “Go, go. You go.” Sometimes it takes a while for God’s promises to be fulfilled. But if you’re not dead, that’s the clue you’re not done.

Open-Door People Have Fewer Regrets

The divine “go” comes into every life, but we must be willing to leave before we’re willing to go.

Into your life will come a divine “go,” but you live in Ur of the Chaldeans, and you’ll have to decide between comfort and calling.

God is doing something magnificent in this world. When a door is opened, count the costs, weigh the pros and cons, get wise counsel, look as far down the road as you can. But in your deepest heart, in its most secret place, have a tiny bias in the direction of yes. Cultivate a willingness to charge through open doors even if it’s not this particular door.

Open-Door People Learn about Themselves

When I go through open doors, I will often discover that my faith is really weaker than I thought it was before I went through. If I am to go through open doors, I will have to be humble enough to accept failure.

Open-Door People Are Not Paralyzed by Their Imperfection

Perhaps God will keep the door of opportunity open for us as we keep the door of our heart open to Him.

The hero of this story [baby born to Abraham & Sarah in old age] isn’t Abraham. It’s God.

It’s not the quality of our faith that saves us. It’s the object of our faith.

Perfectionism is the great enemy of spiritual growth. ~Ernest Kurtz

If all we did was make progress, we would become conceited, and conceit is the ultimate downfall of Christians. ~Macarius

God is able to do what we ask.
God is able to do what we ask and what we imagine.
God is able to do all we ask and imagine.
God is able to do more than all we ask and imagine.
God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
That’s God. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Biblically speaking, open doors are divine invitations to make our lives count, with God’s help, for the sake of others.

To journey for the sake of saving our own lives is little by little to cease to live in any sense that really matters, even to ourselves, because it is only by journeying for the world’s sake – even when the world bores and sickens and scares you half to death – that little by little we start to come alive. ~Frederick Buechner

Love Finds Doors That Ambition Never Could

We were made for “more”; not to have more out of love for self, but to do more out of love for God.

Actually Noticing People Leads to Doors

Doors open when I actually notice and care about people I might otherwise overlook.

When I look for God’s open doors, I begin to see even the mundane circumstances of my life as an opportunity to serve others.

Open Doors Lead to Relational Intimacy

Love opens doors.

Anytime you step through the open door, your story and Jesus’ story begin to get mixed together, and you become part of the work of God in this world.

The whole idea of God closing a door runs along the lines of “Don’t go there.”

… closed doors can be just as much a gift as open doors.

The doors God opens are like this: “unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; heretofore unimagined chances to do good, to make our lives count for eternity.”

God’s primary will for me is the person I become and not the circumstances I inhabit.

Do not despise the day of small things. For we do not know what is small in God’s eyes. Spiritual size is not measured in the same way that physical size is. What unit shall we use to measure love? And yet love is real, more real than anything else. When Jesus said that the widow gave more, it wasn’t just a pretty saying; it was a spiritually accurate measurement. We just don’t have that yardstick yet.

No project is so great it doesn’t need God. No project is so small that it doesn’t interest God.

Don’t try to do great things for God. Do small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa

I will never go through a “big” door if I do not humble myself to the task of discerning and entering all the small ones.

The apostle Paul says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Ephesians 1:4). In other words, God’s basic will for your life is not what you do or where you live or whether you marry or how much you make; it’s who you become. God’s primary will for your life is that you become a person of excellent character, wholesome liveliness, and divine love. That’s what words like godly and holy (which too often become religious clichés) point to.

God knew I would grow more from having to make a decision than I would if I got a memo from heaven that would prevent me from growing.

When God calls people to go through open doors, what generally happens is life gets much harder. Abraham leaves home and faces uncertainty and danger. Moses has to confront Pharaoh and endure endless whining from his own people. Elijah runs away from a power-crazed queen. Esther has to risk her life to prevent genocide. The entire book of Nehemiah is arranged around resistance to Nehemiah’s work that is both external and internal.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth “a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9 NRSV). Not just a door – a wide door.

Spiritual maturity is being able to face troubles without being troubled.

He [Jesus] did not say, “I’ll give you an easy life.” He said, “I’ll give you an easy yoke.” Taking on a rabbi’s yoke was a metaphor for taking on his way of life. Jesus said that taking his yoke – arranging our lives to be constantly receiving power and transforming grace from the Father – would lead to a new internal experience of peace and well-being with God. In other words, easy doesn’t come from outside. It comes from the inside. “Easy” doesn’t describe my problems. It describes the strength from beyond myself with which I can carry my problems.

Open doors are mostly small, quiet invitations to do something humble for God and with God in a surprising moment.
Open doors to serve.
Open doors to give.
Open doors to repent.
Open doors to be honest.

If you ever think your life is too small or your work too unglamorous to warrant door-opening attention from God, you might want to read about the Rechabites.

It’s not the task we do that makes us great in God’s eyes; it’s the attitude in which we do it.

Often an open door is as simple as a second thought: Do the right thing, no matter how small. Do what any decent human being would do in this situation. Honor a commitment when it would be easier to let it slide. Sometimes going through an open door means just not being a jerk. If the door is not marked “glamorous” just settle for “obedient.”

He says there s a “godly sorrow [that] brings repentance” and a “worldly sorrow [that] brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The right kind of sorrow over a wrong decision always creates energy rather than despair. It enables us to learn from past mistakes and grow into great wisdom. Godly sorrow is filled with hope.

Worldly sorrow is energy depleting. In worldly sorrow we look at our wrong choices as though the world – rather than God – is our only hope. We live in self-pity and regret. We obsess over how much better our lives might have been had we chosen Door #1.

God has given to every human being the door to their own heart, and God Himself will not force His way in (Revelation 3:20).

That means no human being has ever faced the pain of rejection as much as God has. God is not just the one who opens doors; He is the one who stands knocking at closed doors.

The biggest difference between people who flourish in life and those who don’t is not money, health, talent, connections, or looks. It’s wisdom – the ability to make good decisions.

Don’t wait for passion to lead you somewhere you’re not. Start by bringing passion to the place where you are.

It turns out that choosing drains us. It takes energy.

This is why wise people never make important decisions in a wrong emotional state.

… decide on the basis of your faith and not on your fear.

Wisdom may well have you wait to make a big decision until you’re rested. An anxious mind and an exhausted body will lead to a terrible decision nine times out of ten.

The standard word for the condition of being truly problem-free is dead.

… His guidance was not so much about what He wanted to do through me as what He wanted to do in me.

In other words, often what matters most is not the decision I make but how I throw myself into executing it well. It’s better to go through the wrong door with your best self than the best door with your wrong self. Sometimes the way in which I go through the door matters more than which door I actually go through.

Having second thoughts about going through a door is not unusual. It’s not an automatic sign that I’ve made the wrong choice. It’s not even a good predictor of the future.

Jesus says, “I’m sending you out like sheep.” He doesn’t stop there. “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Question: How does a sheep go among wolves? Answer: Very carefully. Very humbly. The sheep doesn’t go out and say, “Hey, wolves, I’m here to straighten you out! Hey, wolves, I’m going to get you to shape up!”  This assignment doesn’t sound very glamorous. But when you think about it, it takes some courage for a sheep to be sent to the wolves.  To be sent as a sheep means I don’t lead with how smart or strong or impressive I am. But it’s a funny thing. Doors get open to sheep that would never be opened to wolves.

If I go through the door with all my heart, I am vulnerable to disappointment and failure. I am vulnerable because I am not strong enough. The paradox of Jesus is that vulnerability is stronger then invulnerability.

Somebody said that what the world needs is not more geniuses but more genius makers, people who enhance and don’t diminish the gifts of those around them.

Jesus wants His followers to know that following Him is not a promise to be successful. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and be covered with glory the way our world thinks of glory. Sheep are not heroic animals. Part of what Jesus is calling His friends to do is to die to the world’s standards of heroism, success, and glory.  “You’re going to have to die to that. There’s going to be resistance. There’s going to be a cost. It’s going to take a different kind of hero.

The church is always at its best when it goes into the world humbly, like a sheep among wolves.

Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer. … But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep.  ~John Chrysostom

Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance uou. Serve others.

Jesus wanted people who were not just devoted to Him “spiritually” but who were awake and willing to face up to reality and actually thought about strategy and tactics and being effective. They would take failure seriously and try to learn from it and seek to get better. They would roll up their sleeves.

Jesus wants to put His movement into the hands of people who are as realistic and serious about actually prevailing, actually being effective (with God’s help, which is the only way it happens) – to try it, to evaluate it, to learn, to be wise – as serpents were thought to be in that day. Be as crafty and clever and smart and shrewd as you can. That may not look impressive – I’m not sure all the disciples were as strategically brilliant as Paul. But God doesn’t ask me to be Paul. He’s already got Paul. He just asks me to be as “wise as serpents” as I can be.

“Be … as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Doves are for the bird world of what sheep are for the animal world. They are thought of as quite innocent creatures. The main thing Jesus sends into the world is not what we do; it’s who we are.

May your expectations all be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and
Poverty of a child and can sing and dance in the love
Of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  ~Brennan Manning was offered this blessing when he was ordained

Here’s one of the dangerous things about money: having money makes it easier for us to think we can run away from God, because we’ve got options. Sometimes it’s hard for a prophet and a profit to coexist.

One of the numerous ways that Jonah is unique among prophets is this: his lack of empathy. Every other prophet not only pleads with people on behalf of God, they plead with God on behalf of the people.

Lack of love makes it easy for me to say no to the door.

God doesn’t look at categories the way I do and think. People in this category, they’re my kind of people. I like these kinds of people. But people in that category over there, I can let go of them without much pain. People matter to God. Depressed people. Educated people. Divorced people. People with different politics from yours. They mater to God. Conservative people and liberal people. Muslims. Atheists. New Age people. Every color of skin. Asian people. Hispanic people. Caucasian people. African American people. Gay people. Old people. People matter to God. Every one of them.

Many doors that look large to us are small to God, and many doors that look small to us are very large to Him. This is part of the great inversion of the Kingdom: the first will be last, the greatest will be the servant, the lowest will be exalted.

Think of something big. A mountain? A tree? Get a mental picture of something you call big. Now, consider that it is made up of tiny, tiny atoms. Atoms are made up of even tinier neutrons and protons. Neutrons and protons are made up of elements so small that they can’t be seen with the strongest microscope.
No such thing as big. Everything we call “big” is just a whole lot of “small.”
Small upon small upon small, finally equals big. There is no “big” without lots and lots of small.
Nature as God created it, is the image of the invisible Kingdom of Heaven. … In Kingdom living, small matters. Small is the key to big.  ~Jennifer Dean

In God’s Kingdom, small is the new big. In God’s Kingdom, the way up is down, and the way to living is dying. Mother Teresa used to advise people not to try to do great things for God, but to do small things with great love.

You and I do not know which doors God will open so that our little lives can have an impact beyond ourselves. We do not know up to the moment of our death – or even beyond – who might be affected by our actions. So we are called to never despair, no matter how small our lives look or how many doors that we desperately wanted to go through appear to have closed. We are invited to live as though God is opening doors that mean that our smallest acts of goodness will somehow, through God’s grace, count for all eternity.

There’s an old saying for travelers. A car’s headlights only shine for fifteen feet, but that fifteen feet will get you all the way home. God knows just how much clarity will be good for us – not too much, and not too little. We don’t follow clarity. We follow God.

“Look ! I [Christ] don’t give you opened doors without supplying you with the courage and the strength and the power to go through them. When you have used up your little strength, draw on mine. So stop worrying about your ability. Stop making weakness an excuse for drawing back and turning away from this opportunity. Remember, it is the weak who can become strong. Remember that my strength is made perfect in your weakness!”

I have seen flowers come in stony places;
And kindness done by men with ugly faces;
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races;
So I trust, too.  ~John Masefield

From the mint two bright, new pennies came,
The value and beauty of both the same;
One slipped from the hand and fell to the ground,
Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.

The other was passed by many a hand,
Through many a change in many a land;
For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,
Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.
At length it so happened, as years went round,
That the long lost, unused coin was found.
Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed,
Through rusting peacefully unemployed.

Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear
Through active service year after year;
For the brightest are those who live for duty –

Rust, more than rubbing, will tarnish beauty.

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