Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Doors Are In

Here are some notes for tomorrow morning's sermon at Crossroads. Come and join us for worship at 10:15--Bible study and Sunday school at 9.

Doors were installed out at the Crossroads building this week -- glass panels and doors in what had been just a big opening between the multi-purpose "fellowship" area and the space more or less dedicated to worship.  We'll be glad to have doors that can be shut.  Especially for sound reasons.  It can get noisy in an open building when 100 people are milling around.

Walls and doors--doors that can be closed... These are good things.  Even so, there is a big part of me that doesn't like them.  I prefer wide open spaces and open doors.  I like freedom.  I like to go where I want when I want.  I don't like to be stopped.  Boundaries are very annoying.

What a blessing, then, that God is in charge and not me.  Science and scripture agree about the need for boundaries and divisions.  In the beginning God did dividing work, separating the light from the darkness, the day from the night, the land from the seas, animals from plants, human beings set apart and given a conscious boundary--you can eat from every tree except this one.  It was a boundary, a division, a border given for our good.  A line that we crossed in the first generation, letting sin and demonic deception take control.

My own old sinful self doesn't like boundaries.  That's a sign that the powers of darkness are still on the loose.  The world suffers every minute because we won't stay on our side of the line.  Give us a command, God, and we'll break it and cross over, just like that.  It's who we are.  So God set a boundary for our existence.  Because of our sin, we will die.  Not just physically but spiritually too.  Because of sin, we are cut off from the source of life.  We are cut off from God.

There are then, in the world today, in a spiritual sense--there are two kinds of boundaries, two kinds of divisions, two kinds of walls.  There are the original good boundaries that God has sent us, such as in the commandments... You shall love the Lord your God.  You shall not make anything to be equal with God.  You shall honor his name.  Remember the Sabbath Day.  Honor your father and your mother.  You shall not murder.  You shall not have sex outside of marriage.  You shall not steal.  You shall not gossip.  You shall not want what belongs to someone else.  Those are good boundaries and they will continue until the end of time.

But then there is that other boundary, the one God set up as a retaining wall, a levy, something that was not a part of the original plan.  We human beings were created to live in close friendship and fellowship with God, but because we became traitors, because we changed sides, because we love to sin so much--doing everything except what God really wants us to do--because sin came like a flood into the world because of you and me--because of that God was forced to set up a temporary dike.  That's the dividing wall between us and God.  The one made necessary because of our sinful ways.  And that's the one God means to do away with here.

God wants you to know, for sure, that He does not want to be separated from you anymore.  God wants to come into your life and into mine, no matter how dirty or sin-filled or shame-filled we may be.  In fact, and this is the amazing part, because of Jesus and his remarkable work, the sin and pain of your life can be utterly transformed.

I want to show you a video testimony today--it's one that I put on my blog back in February.  Kelly, the young woman in the video, she's not exactly like the Samaritan woman in John 4, but, honestly, there are a lot of similarities.  (You can read Kelly's testimony here.) Both, I'm sure, felt that God would never want them.  Both, I'm sure, thought that, not only were they on the sinful side of the commandment wall, having done so much except what God wanted them to do... the woman in John 4 had been married at least four times... not only were they on the sinful side of that wall, with you and me... I'm sure they felt the temporary wall between them and God was permanent and fixed and forever.  NOTE - Aug. 30, 2011 - THE VIDEO testimony is no longer available, though a written one is at

But God walked in.  In John 4, God came in the person of Jesus Christ to this woman who was hiding--hiding by putting a wall of time between herself and the others who had come to get water at the well when it made sense.  This woman came at the hottest time of the day when she knew no one else would be there.  She put a few hours between herself and those she was sure would just look and talk.  Or look away.  But Jesus came there anyway, and her close encounter with the Savior changed her life.

There are good reasons for walls.  There are good reasons for doors that close.  Boundaries are important.  But what Jesus wants you to know right now is that he has come to be with you even when he has every reason to stay away.  Even when you are such a mess   Even when you are as you are right now.

But it's not just YOU he wants to know that... it's all those other Kellys and all those other "Samaritan women" out there in the big world.  And it's usually through people like you and me that Jesus uses to reach out today.  Jesus came in to be with us, and now we go out to be with others.

Let me share with you how it is that Kelly came to know Jesus... a part of her story...
The night of Oct 30, 2007, NH Booking (the booking agency i worked for) had a show. Some band called For Today was playing, it was a Tuesday night, and no one was going to be there.

We got there and set up everything by 3:30. I was outside when they (For Today) arrived and the band was all talking about how hungry they were. I mentioned how it was “free taco day” at Taco Bell and they immediately seemed interested. The next thing I know we’re all introduced and I have Mikey, the guitarist, and Kyle, their merch guy, in my truck and we’re headed down the road to Taco Bell.

“Do you have a personal relationship with God?” Mikey asks me.

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess so,” I stumble and change the topic pretty quickly to how crazy Taco Bell looks with about a zillion cars parked everywhere and a drive thru line going into the road. We get in the drive thru line but I know there’s time to kill. Our conversations jump from New Hampshire, to the “scene”, to the weather and jobs. You know, just small talk. We get our free tacos and then went across the street for some Wendy’s because Kyle knew some of the other guys wanted Wendy’s.

We get back to the club and the guys thank me about a hundred times, and I just told them it wasn’t a problem, after all Taco Bell is like 2 minutes away. They go to set up their gear and I go and take my seat at the front of the building and set up my cash box. Kids start coming in a few at a time but I could tell it was going to be a bad night for a show, after all it was a Tuesday.

The grand total ended up being about 25 kids. Which meant we needed to go to the bank and take out some money to cover the band and hall expenses, but you win some and you lose some. We aren’t the type to screw a band over. We got all this settled right before the last band was set to go on. It was a popular local band I had seen a hundred times so I went outside to clear my head.

Faking a smile a whole night gets kind of tiring, so I took a walk around the building and ended up at my truck. I opened the back and sat inside, my eyes started to well up with tears. It was about 26 degrees Fahrenheit and I was freezing but it didn’t matter, I didn’t want to be around people.

“Hey Kelly!”

I look up and see Mikey standing at the back of my truck. I try to dodge eye contact, and sniffle back tears.

Don’t cry, don’t cry, I said to myself in my head.

“How are you doing?” he asks.

“Oh, fine, uh, could be better, but you know… I’ll deal,” I sputter out.

“Are you sure about that?” he asks.

“Yeah, after all, I’m not good at talking anyway,” I say out loud and inside I’m thinking about how much longer I can hold this in.

“Well, I’ve been told I’m a really good listener,” he tells me as he sits on the edge of my truck.
Great I guess I’m not getting out of this one easily, I think to myself. “Well, I, I’m just not doing so well mentally right now,” is all I can get out before the tear ducts open and I have rivers flowing down my face. Mikey just sits there, eager to help but he still isn’t sure what’s wrong.

“We can talk about it,” he urges.

“Well, recently I’ve felt like my life is falling apart at the seams. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but at the same time, I don’t see a purpose in my life anymore. I don’t know where I’m going or where I’m going to be in a couple months. That uncertainty is killing me. I know I’m only eighteen but I’ve dealt with so much crap already, and nothing good is happening. I’m starting to feel like its not worth it anymore.” All this comes pouring out, fast paced and jumbled.

“Well Kelly, you know how I asked you if you had a relationship with God earlier?” he asks.

“Yeah…” my voice is shaking through tears.

“Well, what kind of relationship do you have with Him?”

“I guess not a very good one… like I went to church when i was little. I was raised Catholic and completed all the necessary tasks of Catholicism, like Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, but all of it felt forced. In turn, I’ve come to not really get along with Catholicism, but I do believe in God… it’s just sometimes, I wonder what I did to deserve all this.”

“Deserve all what?” he asks.

Oh no, here it comes, I say to myself as I try to mentally prepare for what is about to spill out. I proceeded to tell him the short version of my lifestory. The abuse at the hands of my father. The depression of my mother. The weight of taking care of my younger siblings. The self injury. The eating disorders. The alcohol. The drugs. The suicide attempts…

“Oh man, I’m sorry. I guess I was the opposite of you though. I was the bad kid…” he tells me.

“Yeah, well, I’m still not good at feeling like I mean anything. He just made me feel like I was always doing something wrong. I always needed to by punished. So as a way to punish myself I started self injuring. It started out small, but got worse and worse. The cuts covered my arms and legs. It got easier to block out the pain he made me feel when I could control this pain. I started in eighth grade. It continued until, well, I’m currently two days shy of 2 months clean (September 1 had been my last cut). Two months use to be my breaking point, but before this I went eight months. That was a challenge. I felt so close to breaking all the time. Then I finally did and had to go back to square one. But really the only thing that kept me from cutting something was drinking. This past summer has been a drunken mess.” I took a moment to breathe and recollect myself.

What am I doing talking to a complete stranger about my biggest secrets? I must really be going out of my mind.

“Yeah, well, everything is falling apart again. And I’m trying so hard to hold on but I really don’t know where my life is going, or even if I have a purpose”

“Kelly, I use to feel the same way. I use to drink and get drunk all the time. I’d wake up in jail, or all beaten up. I’d always get in fights when I was drunk but I’d never remember. I was raised in a Christian family. I went to church every Sunday, but it all seemed so distant to me. Until I met this guy. He lived so passionately for Jesus. He made me want to get back in touch with him. I read the whole bible through before I opened my heart to Jesus again. Living for Him has changed my life completely. I don’t feel pointless anymore.” he said.

“Well, I’m only eighteen, I feel like I have so much to figure out still,” I said.

“I’m only eighteen too!” he exclaims “Kelly, would you be interested in opening your heart to Jesus and giving your life to Him?”

I sat there for a moment in silence, tears streaming down my cheeks, and I looked into his eyes. His glowing hazel eyes shining into my life. All of a sudden I was overcome with the urge to live like him, I wanted that glow in my eyes, I wanted that passion for life.

“I do,” I said, “I really do.”

“Well you can!” I could tell he was getting excited.

He said a prayer and I repeated after him. I gave my life over to Jesus Christ. From the moment we said “Amen” I felt God stirring things up inside me already.

“I love you Kelly,” he said. Those words brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t heard them in so long and never had I heard them with such meaning; however, I couldn’t bring myself to say it back.

“Hey, do you have a bible?” he asked

“Um, no, I don’t. I never have.” I said.

“Well come over to the van, I’ll get you one!” he said excitedly. Walking over to the van I felt like I was about to be handed a million dollars. Holding that bible in my hands felt like holding a new born baby. It was a chance at a fresh start.

“I love you sister” he said and hugged me.

“I love you too” I said. I’ve never meant it more.

The left a bit later, after Mikey introduced me to the rest of the “family” as a new sister in Christ. I felt so unreal. So new. God intervened and answered my ultimated. Mikey would later tell me he felt the call of God beckoning him out into the cold that night.

I started to look at life a different way. More optimistic. More Positive. This didnt mean (everything) got better...

(I’ll probably post more or something at some point… this is just that one day, 3 YEARS AGO TODAY, that changed my life forever. If it wasn’t for God’s intervention, I know I’d be dead.)
Kelly posted that on her blog a few months ago... three years after Jesus came into her life through that young metalcore band member... Now Kelly is reaching out to others...  You can support her in the next phase of her life--she's going with a Youth Encounter Team to Africa...  The Samaritan Woman in John 4 reached out to others too... and many in her home town came to know the Lord -- see John 4:28-30,39-42.

So, I'm wondering... Are your doors in?  Are they open?  Open to the Lord?  And open so you can go out to the world?  Let's follow Kelly, and the Samaritan woman, let's follow them through the door Jesus opened, and share good news with the world.

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