God’s Doorway!

(Part 4 of my current series “The I Am Sayings Of Jesus”

Here we are in week 4 of looking at the Boldest Statements Jesus ever made—those places and moments where He categorically identified Himself as Yahweh—The Great I Am.

When I am working on a message, I usually look at several different translations, and usually find one that fits the bill for what God is leading me to share.  Our text is John 10:1-10.  My favorite is to read from the NLT.  As I was looking at the different translations, I found that the NLT and more recent translations uses the word “gate” and the KJV and the New King James Version uses the word “door”.  There’s something about the image of a door that pushes me deeper into today’s passage.  Let’s look at it together and I will be reading it from the NKJV:

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the Doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when He brings out his Own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.  7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am The Door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9I Am The Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

There are all kinds of doors.  There are hollow core doors, solid core doors, wood doors, metal doors, folding doors, pocket doors, sliding doors garage doors, cellar doors, screen doors, storm doors, front doors and back doors. Doors can be inviting entrances to relationship and fellowship.  Doors that are inviting lead us into joys and experiences we otherwise will not have.  These doors can open up a whole new world for us.  These are the kind of doors we want to see.  But there’s another side to the image of doors.

Doors can also be intimidating.  They can deliver the message to keep out and stay away.  They become barriers that keep us out and away from potential hope, and even a future.  Some doors may even seem scary because we are unsure about what lies behind them.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that doors can be entrances to a much deeper and better life, or they can keep us locked out—locked out from the life that God truly wants every person to live and experience.  Such is the case in today’s passage.  Just before this Jesus had healed a blind man on the Sabbath.

How dare Jesus do something actually good on the Sabbath Day.  Who in the world would ever do something good on a day like the Sabbath?  It’s supposed to be a solemn day, a quiet day.  There’s a time and a place for everything, and a way to get things done because that’s the way they’ve always been done.  Then this Jesus comes along and does something that has never been done that way before. 

Well, all this makes for is chaos and confusion.  We can’t have someone claiming to be the Messiah making mud packs for the blind and then telling them to wash it off so they can see.  Things like this are not supposed to happen that way.  He could have healed him on one of the other six days.  If that man couldn’t get healed then, well, he just didn’t need healing to begin with. And the Pharisees go on the attack against Jesus, again.  They question—His Ways, His Methods, His Teachings, And His Authority.  Jesus isn’t playing nice with the Pharisees and they don’t like it one little bit.  Sabbath days were designed by God to remind us of that all-important connection with God.

Among the Jews there was one day every week that was Sabbath—a way to remind them of their need for God.  Then they had Seven Feasts that were also called Sabbath days—to remember God’s faithful presence and His everlasting promises.  God designed the Sabbath to be a time for the people to remember their connection to Him.  Sabbath was to be the open door into the presence of God.

But what was designed as a door to enter God’s presence became a barrier.  The Pharisees had devised 39 different categories of activities that were prohibited on any Sabbath.  Any activity which changed the appearance or nature of anything or anyone was prohibited.  If it required 2 or more items to make—prohibited!

And just look at what Jesus had done.  He had made a mud pack—prohibited!  Told the man to wash it off—prohibited!  Then Jesus changed the nature of that man by giving him his sight—that really was prohibitedAll these rules and regulations were standing between God and the people He loved.  So Jesus didn’t care about their rules and regulations.  This Man Needed To Know That God Knew Him, Cared About Him, And Loved Him Enough To Change His Nature—even on a Sabbath.

So Jesus boldly proclaims:  Yahweh!  I Am The Door!  Their laws were a door that became the barrier to God’s presence.  Jesus wanted to open that Door into God’s presence.  And He did, and He still does today—He’s not the barrier to God, but the entrance into God’s presence.  Let’s look at a few ways that Jesus is the Door To God:

1.  He’s The Door To Forgiveness

People get some crazy ideas about forgiveness.  Some think that before they dare ask God for forgiveness, they need to clean their act up more.  It’s like they feel that their life is such a mess right now, that there is no way God could forgive them.  So they work on trying to be better and do better.  I mean, no one wants to go out to eat at a fancy restaurant wearing dirty work clothes.  You want to look your best.  We think that God is like that 5 star restaurant where He won’t let us in unless we have on a coat and tie. 

Some people think that they are simply too sick for God to accept them.  So they need to find another way to get feeling better.  Let me ask you a question.  When do you go see a doctor?  When you’re sick or do you wait until you feel better?  If you wait until you’re feeling better you won’t go.

And that’s what happens when we try to fix ourselves.  If we actually do manage to look better on the outside by being nicer to others and developing some good habits, then we start feeling like, “Well, I’m not so bad now.  I don’t need for God to forgive me anymore.”  That kind of thinking is wrong on so many levels. 

God’s Doesn’t Turn Anyone Away Because They Are Dirty Or Sick.  If anything, He welcomes them because He’s been waiting for them.  Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for nice people.  He died for sick and broken people like me!  You bring it all, all the junk and the sin and the dirt and the filth, and lay it all out before Him.  And do you know what?  God will not turn away from that disgusting sight.  Do you want to know why He won’t turn away from your pile of sins?  Because He has already seen it—seen it when they were put on Jesus as He hung on that Cross.  God won’t turn away from YOU, because He turned away from Jesus as He paid that awful price for us.

2.  He’s The Door To Peace

When life gets unsettled, well more than unsettledIt’s Hard To Relax When We Can’t See Our Way Through.  When the pressures and demands of everyday life tries to stress us out; when we see our plans unraveling at the seams; or when we can’t even get our plans together and we are more than ready to panic—but we are in full panic mode, we need that deep abiding peace

We need more than for someone to say to us, “Oh, it will eventually be OK.  You can’t control everything, so just relax.”  It’s hard to feel like everything is hunky dory when things just aren’t working out like we planned. 

There have been times when my life has felt like I’ve been in the spin cycle of a washing machine that’s been turbo-charged and running on jet fuel.  Doing the ordinary things, then extra stuff needed my attention.  I remember February 2012. I had been pulled into the Disaster Recovery efforts after the 2011 tornadoes had ravaged our district. I wanted to honor God with this work. I had received a call from a group in Arkansas that wanted to frame and “get in the dry” 2 homes for 2 families of my choice. All I had to do was to get the foundations ready–they would do the rest. Oh, and they were to arrive in the middle of March. It seemed that after I got started on that project, everything was going wrong. Things were not falling into place on either home. Then my Mother was admitted to the hospital. I was stressed out, and I got mad at God and told Him, “Look, I’m trying to do this to honor You. Why is everything going wrong?” 

Me and God had a serious talk, actually, several of them.  But I finally heard God say to me, “I am still in control.  And Randy, I am going to honor the desire of your heart for me.”  Not everything is fixed instantly.  And when I want to panic, I remember, I remember God’s promise to me.  God keeps His promises. 

He doesn’t always work things out in our time schedule, but He does work things out.  Jesus Is The Doorway To Peace Because He Stays With Us Through Thick And Thin.  In good times and bad times—He will never abandon us.  I confess I haven’t always remembered this, but when I do remember it, the peace always comes back to me.  Do I ever get a bit stressed even now?  Oh yes, but I’m not worried any more.  God is going to take care of me and because of His love expressed in Jesus, and He is going to take care of you.  That’s our peace.  Peace is not the absence of any conflict or problems—but it is the unending presence of Jesus.

3.  He’s The Door To Liberty

Jesus gives us two kinds of liberty.  First, He Gives Us Liberty From The Power Of Temptation And Sin.  Jesus took on the worst that Satan could throw at Him every time and every time Jesus was the Victor. 

This same Jesus wants to live in us with every bit as much power as He did when He walked this earth in our flesh.  If we fight temptation on our own, then we lose.  But the Jesus who faced Satan in the wilderness, the Jesus who faced Satan through His enemies, and even at times through His closest friends lives in us. 

The Jesus who faced Satan in Gethsemane, the Jesus who faced Satan on the Cross, the Jesus who faced Satan in the tomb—and who won every one of those battles, resides in the heart of every believer who trusts Jesus and only Jesus.

Then His Liberty Also Gives Us The Strength, Courage And Wisdom To Live A Life That Brings Him Honor And Us Immeasurable Joy.  He sets us free to live out our relationship in ways that makes changes in the world, makes changes in people’s lives.  He gives us the liberty to become who we are created to be. We don’t have to be bound by people’s labels or our own fear of failure.  We can dare to do great things for God because Jesus—who gave sight to that blind man—will take up residency in our hearts with every bit as much power as it took to open that man’s eyes!

4.  And That Makes Him The Doorway To Real Life

Life Is What God Wants Us To Experience.  All the laws, rules and traditions of the Pharisees took the life right out of the people.  Jesus is The Door—the ONLY Door that takes us from the deadness and emptiness that comes from living with the wrong purpose. 

He is The Door to the life you have been created for.  This life is more than you can see, think or imagine.  It’s the life where God gets all, I mean ALL the glory.  It’s The Life Where He Shines In Us And Through Us.

Are you loaded down with guilt?  Is chaos and fear running a marathon in your mind and heart?  Do you feel imprisoned by demands and unrealistic expectations?  Does your heart ache for a real life? 

And Here’s the one thing you need to remember:  Life Is Lived In And Through Jesus, Or It’s Not Lived At All! Because of God’s great love for you, The Door has been opened.  Come to Jesus.

Next Steps

  1. Is There Some Guilt You Have Been Carrying, That’s Been Weighing You Down?Your next Step is to step towards  Jesus.  We are not made to carry guilt.  The Door is always open for those who need forgiveness.
  2.   Are You Overwhelmed?  Your next step is to give all your fears, worries and anxieties over to Him.  He is The Door to inner peace.
  3. Does Your Ordinary Days Feel Like A Prison Sentence? Your next step is to reclaim the Joy of Living.  He’s The Door to Liberty—that fills your life with Great Joy.  God wants you to live with an uninhibited, open Joy in your life.
  4.  Does Your Life Feel At Best Ordinary Or At Worst A Drag? Your next step is to begin living our His purpose for your life.  One of two of the things that keeps people from their purpose is fear—fear of the unknown—or fear of failure.  God walks with you in your God-Given Purpose and opens The Door that gives you the freedom to truly live—to live life the way He designed it.
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The Koinonia Life

Well, yesterday we looked the the foundation provide by Jesus that the very first believers embraced. But what good is a foundation unless something is built upon it. Right now I remembering from a previous appointment in a certain community, there was something I saw almost every day. It was a foundation for a house. What I noticed was that it was overgrown with weeds even saplings were growing up. Someone had started to build a house but got only as far as the foundation.

I don’t know the story or the reason why–but this morning I see a spiritual truth in that image. A foundation becomes worthless unless something–something worthwhile–is built upon it. In looking at the book of Acts–Acts Of The Holy Spirit In Surrendered People–those surrendered people took that foundation and began building. What they built is a far cry from most “churches” today.

Renewal and Revival are the exclusive works of God through the Holy Spirit. And it comes when we build upon that Foundation that is provided for us. You know I love to throw that phrase Kingdom of God around a lot. And there’s a life that goes along with the Kingdom. I call it The Kingdom Life. But what I’ve discovered in this journey is that it is more accurately The Koinonia Life. Koinonia is that Greek word which means “a shared, or join participation”. Look at Acts 2:43-47

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.


Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)

Here is what that first life together looked like; and take a moment to compare it with the life you see at your church:

1] There was an awe and reverence for God.  There was something about what was happening that it was clear to nearly all that this was a work of God—the implication is that even those who rejected Peter’s invitation could not deny that God was present.

2] There were signs and wonders.  The wonders is what caught their attention.  That’s what the Greek word means—to catch the attention of others.  The signs, well here’s the Greek definition of that word:  that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and known.  They were known by the power that was being revealed in them.  This is what produced the miracles.

3] They met together. Human connection is important. They actually enjoyed seeing each other. The Benediction wasn’t the sign that church was over. It signaled that it was time to get together.

4] They shared everything. It was their shared concern for each other that they gladly helped each other.

5] They were mission focused. They were willing to give up whatever they owned when someone was in need.  Others were more important than self.

6] Worship was central. Notice they did it daily.  Worship was important for them.  It wasn’t an act they had to do—it was the life they lived.

7] They Met in homes for Communion. They didn’t have church buildings, so homes became the key meeting place.  Today in congregations that are growing, one of the key reasons is small groups.  This is going back to the very beginning of Koinonia.  We have only a limited supply of time, so they invested in key relationships of people who shared their passion for Jesus. Just a side note here. How did they serve Communion with a seminary-trained,-church-ordained clergy to administer it? Have we made Holy Communion so “special” that it’s not sacred unless a pastor administers it? If so, we have robbed this Moment of it’s sacredness and power.

8] They shared meals and everything with great joy. The key word is JOY. To many church pew sitters look like they are chewing on a green lemon rind in one corner of their mouth and a green persimmon in the other. Hold a mirror up to your face and ask yourself, “Would someone really want to follow Jesus based on that image?”

9] They had generous hearts. What could show the heart of God more than Generosity? No one had to earn their way into their hearts. Their hearts were open to love and embrace others.

10] Their lifestyle was characterized by praise. They weren’t complaining about their community—they were doing what the apostles did when the Holy Spirit Indwelled them—telling others of the wonderful things of God!  Here’s an application—those outside the church, outside the Koinonia, see us more for what we are against that what we are for.

And the result of building this kind of life?

1] They were respected.  Is the church respected today in the U.S.?  Not so much.  Respect is earned, and maybe we need to get back to the Koinonia Life.

2] Others became followers of Jesus, daily this happened.  And make sure you pay attention to the cause of the new followers.  Who added?  The Lord!  We work the fields, HE takes care of the harvest.

If life within a local congregation does not mirror this kind of life, then it has lost its heart, its passion, and its purpose. Remember to Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

A Fantasy Life

fantasy.jpg

Fantasy is a word that has been hanging around my mental space.  I can’t shake that word so I guess it’s the Spirit prompting me to get back to writing.  What provoked that word in my gray space is all the hype I’m seeing and hearing about Fantasy Football.  I mean, networks, websites, podcasts, even magazines all about this cultural obsession with this thing called Fantasy Football.  They form leagues, have drafts, and each week they see how “their” players performed, and in some magical way, determine if their teams won or lost that week.

Me?  I’m an active college football fan and I am so excited that College Football begins this week.  (Roll Tide!)  Real teams gather on the gridiron.  Real players who have been practicing and honing their skills go face to face.  Real coaches who have been instructing players and working out the game plan put it on the line to see if they are prepared for this clash on the turf.  And I admit, I don’t understand this obsession of this alleged sport of football based on something that is not real.

But it has nudged me into thinking of other types of fantasies; fantasies that some people try to get through this thing called life.  Think of it from this definition of that word “fantasy“:

supposition based on no solid foundation

And I look at my culture and I realize that so many are trying to live, cope or simply survive on a supposition that has no solid foundation.  And I weep!   Many have a Fantasy Family.  Instead of providing moral guidance, parents choose to be friends.  Kids affections are bought.  And to maintain this facade, it’s ad infinitum debt all to maintain this supposition without a foundation that they are a family.

There’s Fantasy Church, where people define the church rather than to be defined BY the Body of Christ.  Regular gathering for study, worship and fellowship once meant every week.  Now we are being told that regular means once every 3-6 weeks.  Worship is defined by entertainment value.  Preaching is formed by the latest cultural values.  Those who attend expect to be the consumers of what the church produces.  Fantasy!  A supposition that has no solid foundation.

There’s Fantasy Purpose in life.  People give in to and pursue what the culture says is our true purpose.  People live for money, status, sexual identity, politics, football and the list goes on ad nauseam.  Purpose is rooted either in selfishness or in identities given to them by the culture.

And the list of other “fantasies” goes on.  And “life” has become a fantasy.  And for many, it’s become more of a nightmare fantasy, and for others?  Life seems just an empty pipe dream.  So they turn to the fantasy world to escape the vain and empty things.  So what is the alternative to the Fantasy Life?

God, the Creator of Life, never designed this life to be a dread, a drudge and a dead-end.  In Luke 12:22-32 (NLT) Jesus gives us the Truth about life:

22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

The key to unlocking Life is first to come to the realization that, in Jesus’ own words, For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.  Some of you may be thinking, “Well, duh!  Tell me something I don’t know!”  There is a second step that comes out of Verse 32–“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”  It’s living in the Gift of Kingdom Living.  

God designed and created life to be lived in deep, caring and loving relationships.  As family, friends, neighbors, community, and even with strangers.  And these relationships take on meaning and give us purpose when we live them the way HE lives in Relationship with us.  It’s through Self-Giving.  It’s about caring more about others than self.  It is about helping, encouraging and inspiring others.  This Life is no fantasy and it’s not just another pipe dream.  It’s life as God designed it.  So walk with Him.  Listen to Him.  Talk to Him.  Lose your self, your sense of self-importance.  Lose your fears, your sense of worthlessness.

Make God happy–accept Life as He designed it to be–lived faithfully in relationship with Him, with others, and with yourself.  And don’t forget….

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!