Open Door 5

The other night one of the news channels aired video clips from the Rodney King beating, and the riots and civil unrest that followed.  It was a troubling time in our nation’s history.  The one thing that most people probably remember is the statement Rodney King made in an attempt to stem the violence.  He is famous for the plea, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Such a question might come up time and time again in any person’s life.  If there is more than one person in a single place there is likely to be some disagreement, some conflict that might arise.  But we as believers would like that everyone could just get along.

In the gospel of John we have a command from Jesus.  What is the command?  How are we to love one another?  What does such love show?

As children of God and believers in Jesus Christ not only should we desire that everyone gets along, we are commanded by Jesus himself that we should love one another.  And that is not a light command, not a simple request for affection.

Jesus tells us that we should love one another in the same way as he loves us.  Such a love is a powerful love.  The love of Christ is a sacrificial love, a giving love.  The love of Christ is an all-encompassing love.

Jesus was able to love all people.  He loves each of us even though we are sinful and not deserving of love.  He loved his enemies.  He loved the outcasts, the neglected, the unwanted, the unacceptable.

If we are to love others with the same love of Christ then we must learn to love all people regardless of our differences.  We must learn to overlook the failings of others – we don’t need to tolerate and accept wrong behavior, we just can’t allow it to be that barrier that prevents us from caring for others.  We must learn to accept those who are different than we are.

This means that we must open the doors of our places of worship to those who have no idea how to relate to God.  We must be willing to befriend those who society has cast aside, or who have removed themselves from mainstream society because they don’t feel worthy.

And more than opening the doors of our churches, we must open our hearts to truly and genuinely care for the new believer and the lost.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you learn to love the unloved?

Open Door 4

We were recently invited to a church member’s home for a dinner, their Easter celebration a week after Easter.  What a wonderful feeling it was to be asked to be part of this big meal, this gathering of so many people.  And what made it even better was that we were told not to bring anything.  We did not need to contribute to the selection of food.  We were just to be welcome guests at the banquet.

This was a great gift to us.  We did not have the opportunity to visit our own family on the holiday so we became part of a different family.  God offers a similar invitation in His revelation to John of Patmos.  What is God doing?  What does He offer?

In this passage we have a gift from God.  He offers the spring of life to whoever is thirsty.  That is, whoever desires to have a relationship with God, whoever desires to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord is welcome to drink from the abundant grace of God.  God welcomes all into His kingdom of love and mercy.

In addition to this the Almighty offers an inheritance of being part of the family of God.  Whoever overcomes, whoever is able to hold onto faith through the challenges and temptations of life will be made heirs of God’s kingdom.  They will no longer be separated from God but will become one of His blessed children.

What strikes me most, however, is that this passage begins with a declaration from the Lord.  “I am making everything new!”

What is it that God is making new?  He is making each one of us new.  We shed the old ways of living.  We shed our old fears.  We shed our despair, and in its place we become blessed children of God, saved by Christ and welcomed into the eternal kingdom.

But I believe God is also making the whole situation of humanity new.  No longer are there a select few who are chosen by God.  His grace and mercy are extended to all people, all who are willing and who desire to connect with the Lord and accept Christ.

And in that we have a lesson for ourselves.  We need to make all things new.  We need to have a new way of looking at other people.  Instead of seeing some as unworthy to worship with us we must see that all are welcome in God’s house.  Instead of seeing some as people we want to avoid we must see them as friends we have not yet met.

Not only are we all made new through Christ, but our attitudes must be made new too.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can help you get past your old attitudes?

Open Door 3

As part of our weekly worship service we sing the “Doxology.”  By strict definition a doxology is a song of praise, but this particular song is linked with the presentation of our gifts and offerings.  The words of the Doxology urge the praise of God and include the words, “praise Him all creatures here below.”

I don’t think we always examine the words we are singing each work.  The song encourages all of us, the people of the church, to praise God.  But the song also says that all creatures, all living things on earth should offer praise to God.

It may seem odd to us to imagine animals giving praise to God.  We may have trouble thinking about a bird’s chirp as a song of praise.  We may not be able to see the mooing of a cow as praise.

Psalm 148 is an offering of praise to God.  Who or what are the creatures that should praise God?  According to verse 13, why should all things praise God?

The buzz of a bee, the clatter of damaging hail, the wind that strips the shingles from our rooftops may not seem like praise to us.  These things may seem like negative things.  And we still may have problems seeing the barking of a dog as praise, especially when it keeps us awake at night.

But the psalmist realizes that all things – kings and rulers, young and old, animals and even the oceans – should offer praise to God.  Not only should all things offer praise, but I believe this psalm also recognizes that all things do offer praise.  The fact that the earth is so diverse, with so many different animals, each beautiful in its own way is a form of praise.  The incredible magnitude of God’s creation – the mountains, the oceans, the winds and rain – are all testimonies to the greatness of God.

But we must also see that all people are a form of praise to God.  The diverse and wonderful people that exist on earth have all been created by God and are loved by God.  We must open the door of our faith and the door of our heart to welcome all these people, those we do not know yet, into the glorious love of God.

God should be exalted over all the earth because His splendor is above all things.  We must open our eyes to see the beauty of all that exists and welcome all people as part of our praise to God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Who can you see differently through the eyes of faith?

Open Door 2

When I was a child I went with my grandparents now and then as they stayed at a house they rented at Grand Lake St. Mary near the town of Celina.  My grandmother would talk about going into town but she was so vague about it, making it sound like a place that was very far away and hard to reach.  As an adult I went back to the place and found the house where my grandparents had stayed.  It was then that I discovered that this mysterious town from my childhood was just about a quarter mile from where we were.

Criticized for his involvement with a Gentile, Peter has explained the vision that God gave him about being more welcoming to those who were not Jewish.  What did Peter learn from the men who had been sent from Cornelius?  What happened when Peter was with Cornelius and his family?  What realization did Peter have?

As a child my experience and thinking was limited.  Unable to actually see the town of Celina I imagined it to be this far distant place that I could never visit.  As an adult I was able to go where I wanted and that was when I learned how close the town was.

Peter had the same limited thinking.  His vision of faith was that God loved only the Jews and Jesus had come only for them.  But God opened his eyes.  God gave maturity to his faith.  In his experience with Cornelius and his family Peter was able to see that God was at work in people Peter did not know.

Even as a Gentile, as an outsider, Cornelius was a believer.  He did what he could to honor God and he was generous in his giving.  God spoke to Cornelius and had him find Peter so his faith might be strengthened.

As Peter preached to this family he saw the Holy Spirit at work.  God blessed this family and in that moment Peter was reminded that Jesus had spoken of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Peter was seeing this come to fruition.  He realized that God works in all sorts of people and we are not to have limited vision in our beliefs.

We also can begin to think that our small circle of friends and fellow believers – even the mega-church of thousands – are the only ones who really know that relationship with God.  We must learn that we should be open to the work of God.  The Lord is moving in the lives of all sorts of people and we must be open to welcoming them into the kingdom of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What must you do to expand your thinking in faith?

Open Door 1

At our previous church there was a room at the back of the Sanctuary called the parlor, an attractive space with nice sofas, armchairs, bookshelves and a fireplace.  Unfortunately, most of the time the room was not used and the curtains were kept closed making the room dark and uninviting.  I asked why the curtains had to be closed so often.  The answer was that many in the church did not want the carpets to be faded by the sun.  It was more important to them that the room be kept in good condition than to be used as a place of welcome.

The attitude of preserving a church intact, preventing any changes that might alter the way it is, is nothing new.  In Acts 10 there is a story of Roman centurion named Cornelius who is led by God to seek out Peter.  Peter responds and visits Cornelius and his family.

What was the response of the believers (Acts 11:2-3)?  What vision does Peter relate?  What was Peter’s first reaction to the vision (verse 8)?  What does God say?

Being a Roman centurion meant that Cornelius was a foreigner to Judea.  Cornelius was a soldier, a member of the oppressing force in Israel, a man from Italy.  He was not Jewish.  But God recognized the faith this man had and urged him to find the disciple Peter so that his faith might move forward.

At the same time Peter was given a vision from God.  A sheet holding all manner of animals was lowered from heaven and Peter was told to kill them and eat them.  This was a violation of the food laws of his faith and Peter resisted.  But God told Peter that he should not call anything “unclean” when God has made it clean.

The vision was God’s way of removing the food restriction that had been in place for thousands of years.  God was declaring that all that He had made was now religiously clean, suitable for consumption if a person chose to do so.

But it also meant that all people were now welcome in the house of God.  Belief in the Lord, salvation, a relationship with God was now no longer reserved only for the select few.  God was opening the door to all people.

We can be like so many of the early believers.  We can take the attitude that we want to keep our place of worship clean and pure, not just physically but also with the people.  So many do not like new people coming to “their church” and changing things.  But we need to remember the words of God.  To God all people are welcome, all people are made clean – that is, they are worthy to enter into His presence.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you open the doors to your church?