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Open Doors and Opportunity

In a new year I often feel like I have a new beginning point and opportunities. New resolutions, renewed plans to try again or start over, and the desire to set new goals for the coming year come to mind after Christmas and in the first weeks of the new year. Sometimes I make resolutions for the new year, and sometimes I don’t. This year I am having a “take 2” shot at one of the major resolutions from last year. I “sort of” like making resolutions but often bite off more than I can chew. Like a child in front of a restaurant buffet or at a church pot luck dinner, my ideas – like my eyes are often bigger than I can possibly handle. Committing to a better diet, exercising regularly, beginning new projects, exploring interests and learning new skills all call to me. I like challenging goals. I like the satisfaction I get when I have completed a difficult task well. It gives me feelings of confidence, accomplishment, optimism, and fulfillment when a goal is achieved. It just makes me feel good!

Today opportunities abound for many worthy causes and goals. Just Google it, and you’ll see. As a child of the 70s, I grew up with the “Superwoman myth.” It said that as a woman, I could do it all, be it all, and have it all. Both experience (I tried it.) and wisdom have taught me that I can’t do it all, be it all, and have it all. So how do I choose what priorities to address, goals to set and plans to make? I credit my husband for pointing out and sharing a passage in II Corinthians 2:12-13 for helping me address this question. I read this passage again this week and want to share it now.

Paul had travelled to Troas to preach the gospel to the people there. The Scripture says that he had an open door from the Lord, but Paul had no “peace of mind” or confidence in his ability to carry on the work in Troas. Paul said that because his brother Titus was not there with him, he said goodbye to the people of Troas and went on to Macedonia. It seems that Paul gave a pass to Troas in his missionary journey to share and spread the gospel. What did that mean for Paul then? What does it mean today?

Here’s what I think. Sometimes we have great opportunities open to us for doing God’s will and good in our world, but something is just not quite right. A specific ingredient is missing, or the timing is not quite right in the moment. In Paul’s case, the Lord gave him an open door of opportunity in Troas, but Paul didn’t walk through it. In Paul’s example, I see that I don’t have to go through every door of opportunity either — even if the Lord opens the door. I believe that if God really wants me to go in a particular direction or through a particular “door,” He has just as much power today as He did when He dealt with Jonah to send me through any “door” He wants me to enter. I can say that I have had some “Jonah-like” experiences during my life, minus the fish, of course. Second, I think it is important to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Not now.” Sometimes, like Paul, I don’t have a “peace of mind” about a project or goal. Third, I need to remember that some plans and goals are better achieved with the help of a trusted colleague or friend. Some goals are just not meant to be completed alone and may need to be deferred until help arrives. The church Jesus established is an excellent example of this principle. The body of Christ works best when it works together to support, nourish, and spur its members to love and good works. God made us to need each other. If not, why did God make Eve for Adam? If not, why did God tell Adam and Eve to be one as husband and wife and have children? If not, why did Christ establish his church for his followers?

I hope that as we encounter various opportunities in this new year, that we will remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 where He says to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and all the things we need will be provided to us. In addition let’s look at the very next words of Paul in II Corinthians two after he reveals that he left Troas to go on to Macedonia to preach the gospel. In II Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Paul knew — and I think we can see, that wherever he went and whatever “door” he entered, as he put and served God first, God made him effective in His service. In the same way, we, too, can be effective and successful with our goals and plans as we go through whatever “doors of opportunity” we may enter.

May God guide and bless you in all ways!

Robin House

Additional study verses Colossians 3:2, Psalm 119:112, Hebrews 12:2, Matthew 6:25-34, Proverbs 16:3, II Timothy 1:7

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Happy New Year, 2017!

2017 feels like “Ready or not — here I come!” After watching the ball drop at Times Square in New York City on television and then the Dallas celebration at midnight in my time zone, I went to bed New Year’s Eve with hope for a good 2017.

New Year’s day began on Sunday this year. So far I have a perfect record for being early and not late or just on time for church services. We will see what next week brings. As I listened to the sermon about reflecting and evaluating 2016 and planning for 2017, many thoughts went through my mind. I could identify with the minister’s resolution to complain less and appreciate more. I learned that what separates the highly successful from others is writing down your goals. To prepare for 2017, the minister asked us five questions. They were: 1. Where am I? 2. What do I want? 3. Where is my focus? 4. What’s my reward – or what do I hope to accomplish? and 5. Am I praying? These are great questions and something to ponder. But it was the sermon I heard before the sermon that reminded me of another very important lesson.

As I entered the church building, I greeted and asked an older “sister” how she was doing. Her response was, “Better. I am just taking things one day at a time.” As her words sunk in, I thought that her answer and approach was exactly right. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to be anxious about anything because the Lord God loves, values, and will take care of us day by day. In verse 34 of Matthew 6, Jesus specifically says not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. For me, 2016 had many days with trouble and struggles. As much as I like to plan, some things just didn’t go “right.” The devil seemed determined to derail and distract me from my plans and goals. Sometimes I think I spend too much time looking too far down the road for what might or could happen. Though I believe I am planning and preparing for all eventualities by looking ahead, I see that worrying about the future can prevent me from being prepared in the moment —for the moment that is here and now.

Have you ever felt like the day began without you? Many times in 2016, it seemed like an emergency or crisis would occur before I could even get up and get dressed. It reminded me of a morning many years ago when I woke up to the constant barking of my three dogs. As I looked out the kitchen window, I had to get my binoculars to clearly see what was happening. A raccoon had lured one of my dogs into our pond and was on top of his head biting him and pushing him under to drown him. I’m sure I was a sight to see running out the front door in my pajamas and house shoes carrying a 20 gauge shotgun. There seemed to be no time to dress before that day began, but that’s another story for another time. The point is that the Bible has something to say about being prepared and about how Christians should prepare for each day.

In Ephesians 6:10 and following, Paul commands the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armor of God. He says that it helps us stand against the schemes of the devil. A roaring lion, the devil oppresses to steal, kill and destroy. Perhaps you too experienced his roar and disrupting presence. Maybe some of his flaming arrows hit their marks to singe and wound you too. For the Christian, there is a ready defense against the devil. In Ephesians 6:13 Paul repeats himself by saying again, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Some days last year it seemed that all I could say at the end of the day was that I was still standing. There will always be days like that, but we can know that the armor of God is available to protect us and help us stand. Just like the soldier without his armor, we are vulnerable to the devil without the spiritual armor God freely provides to us. The shield of faith is the Christian’s specific defense weapon against the devil. In Ephesians 6:16 Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Paul doesn’t say we’ll be able to put out some of the flaming darts, but all of them. What a comfort to know that God provides for our protection if we will simply get dressed for the part we are to play in his plan. So in this new year of 2017, I hope you will purpose with me to pray for God’s will and make plans to accomplish the goals God gives us, and before we begin our days, let’s make sure we get fully dressed with the whole armor of God while taking life – just one day at a time.

Robin House