divine guidance

Finding the port in Opportunity

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:8)

In God’s economy, closed doors are meant to direct us to open doors. Closed doors are blessings in disguise because they save us wasted time, energy and pain. Open doors on the other hand are opportunities for productivity, provision and fulfilling purpose in our lives. For that reason we need to learn to thank God for closed doors rather than grumbling and complaining about them and focus rather on looking for the open doors He provides.

The Bible tells us that what God “opens, no one cans close, and what He closes, no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7) That is reason enough not to belabor over a closed door. Paul the apostle and his team learned this when they sought to go into Asia, but the Holy Spirit closed that door to them. Obeying, they continued their journey westward and just days later God gave Paul a vision where he was beckoned to Greece. It was there he discovered through the miraculous literal opening of a prison door, the opportunity to plant the Philippian church. (Acts 16:6-34)

From Paul’s own personal experience there and elsewhere, he therefore urges us to “make the most of every opportunity.”(Ephesians 5:16) The very nature of opportunity is that it is a gift from God that presents us with an open door through which, if we perceive it and take courage, we can pass into a new place of God’s provision.

The Greek word forming the core of the word opportunity is “poros” meaning “an opening.” From it our English word “port” is derived. A port serves as the entryway into a seacoast city or place of commerce. In times past, before dredged harbors and sophisticated ships and navigational systems the timing for entry into ports was often limited by favorable tides and winds. Only under limited conditions or opportunities was it possible to enter into a port and do business. That of course also applied to enemies who sought to invade a city by sea. It was required of the seafarer that they recognize and understand the opPORTune time to enter the harbor and therewith claim their prize.

In my experience there are two major challenges of faith in “making the most of every opportunity,” both of which have already been alluded to above. First, it is easy to get so hung up on focusing with frustration or regret at closed doors, that we fail to move on looking for open ones. We can sink into self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves while perhaps even blaming someone – ourselves, others or God. We become so fixated on having the doors of our choosing open our way that we lose sight of the fact that God knows better and just might have a better plan.

Secondly, having given up trying to batter a closed door down and decided to move on, we can become impatient in looking for an open door and waiting for God’s opportune time in opening it. We also can be thrown off by preconceived ideas and preferences which we carry as to the type of open door we are looking for and fail to recognize God’s door in the process.

Overcoming both of these debilitating tendencies, getting stuck at closed doors or failing to take advantage of open doors, takes faith.

Pray it Before you Okay it!

“The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the LORD about it.” Joshua 9:14 (God’s Word Translation)

Have you ever regretted not asking God’s guidance for an important decision that ended up going bad? Truth be told, most of us have had to face the stark reality that a bad decision might have been avoided if we had only taken time to first pray about it.

Those who have made prayerless decisions can totally identify with the glaring oversight Joshua and the Israelites committed in not inquiring of the Lord before they made a commitment of peace and protection for the Gibeonites. The story of the Gibeonite deception early in Israel’s campaign to conquer Canaan is a benchmark warning about the danger in making important decisions without first asking the Lord about it. (Joshua 9)

I learned a similar lesson early in my ministry as a youth pastor. I had this great idea to do a youth event with my group of about 50 students. An assistant and I planned a kite flying contest for an upcoming Saturday. We put quite a bit of work into designing various awards and into promoting the event. We advertised prizes for the highest flying kite, the biggest and smallest kites, and the grand prize was going to be for the best designed kite utilizing scripture.

Making sense of prophetic timing

The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. 2 Peter 3:9 (God’s Word Translation)
The timing and means of prophetic pronouncements are often cloaked in mystery. And here is why. Prophecy lifts us into the realm of the Spirit which transcends time and space as we know it. Time for God is different than time for us. “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Past, present and future for us is simply “now” for God.

There are two things that are often stumbling blocks when it comes to processing personal prophecies and promises from the Lord. They have to do with the timing of their fulfillment and the means by which they ultimately come to pass. Because we are working from a limited understanding, our script of when and how God intends to do something often leaves us scratching our heads. Invariably God’s timing and way of doing something do not match ours. (Isaiah 55:9)

Testing a message from God

How does a person who really wants be directed by the Holy Spirit test whether or not it is God’s voice they are hearing? God speaks in myriads of ways. He speaks primarily through the Bible, but also through inner impressions (thoughts and visions), dreams, circumstances and through other people. The problem is that the voice of the devil and self also use those same means to deceive us.

Consider the fact that the Devil used scripture to try to deceive Jesus. In fact Paul in writing to the Galatians warned that even messages from angels needed to be tested for deception. (Galatians 1:8)

And our own hearts can deceive us. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (17:9) In other words, it is easy for us to deceive ourselves and to be deceived when we are not crucifying the flesh or keeping strong selfish desires in check.

The simplest approach to determining whether the guidance we are seeking is from God or not is based on an old principle from celestial navigation. You might call it the three point alignment principle. A sailor desiring to determine his location needed three fixed points such as stars, planets or the sun and moon. GPS guidance works on the same principle requiring three satellites to determine latitude and longitude and a fourth to obtain altitude.

So how do we test messages purporting to be from God?

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