Bringing Jesus' Open-Door Policy to our Neighborhoods

This month we have been looking at Jesus through the lens of a door. He is our door, our gateway, to the Father. It’s an inviting image - Jesus holding the door open, welcoming us inside with eagerness. This open-door policy that Jesus has is intimate. He is never too busy, unavailable, or uninterested. He doesn’t have dress code requirements or office hours for us. He desires to be with us.

 

That picture of Jesus, holding the door open, is the image that our communities need. After a year of isolation, anxiety, grief, and constant adjustments to daily life, our friends and neighbors are craving an open door. As Household Wells, we bring to them the invitation that Jesus offers. When we hold an “Open-Door Policy” in our homes, we give a glimpse of Jesus eagerly waiting with His open door.

 

Spring is here, and now is the perfect time to make a plan, as a Household Well, as to how you can offer that gift of availability and relationship to your neighborhood. 

 

But what does that look like? Perhaps it means increasing your presence in your neighborhood through walks and sitting outside more. Perhaps it means noticing a neighbor doing yard work and offering to help. Or maybe it means finding a way to invite your neighbors into service with you. Whatever it is, the outcome is a stronger presence, and therefore sense of availability to those who live near you.

 

Here are a few ideas to spark your creativity and brainstorming:

  • Friday Night Fire Pits: Move the firepit to the driveway, add extra chairs, and invite some neighbors to join you. If you pick a certain night to do this each week, your neighbors will notice the rhythm and perhaps be curious to join you.

  • Invite your neighbors to join you to clean up a local park.

  • Deliver May Day baskets to some homes on your block.

  • Organize a neighborhood food drive (email me if you want some tips on this!).

  • Do you have a lot of people walking/biking in your neighborhood? Leave out a cooler of water and invitation for others to help themselves.

  • Remote working? Take your computer to your front porch/driveway. Be sure to say “Hi!” as neighbors pass by.

  • Use sidewalk chalk to write messages of encouragement on sidewalks.

  • When your kids go to the park, go with them and try to meet some other parents.

  • Go outside. Read outside, work outside, walk, drink a cup of coffee, just make a plan to be outside of your home as often as you can. You’ll begin to notice more in your neighborhood, you’ll be available to meet new people, and your community will begin to recognize you.

  • Pray as you walk your neighborhood. Ask God to give you insight into how you can be his hands and feet in your community. Pray for opportunities to build relationships.

 

What ideas are exciting to you? How is God nudging you to create an open-door policy for your home? Share your ideas with us in your Penzu journal, on our Facebook page, or by emailing me at epowers@livelifetogether.com.

 
 

JESUS AND THE OPEN DOOR POLICY

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pasture.” - John 10:9

 

It’s been over a year now of us being in this time of global pandemic. 

 

Churches are still facing the challenge of not being able to meet in-person 100%. Our church services nowadays are defined by restrictions, precautions, and pre-registrations. Because of the pandemic, many church doors, if not all, were forced to close and limit the people who can come in. Gone were the days when anybody and everybody who wishes to go to church can come in anytime  and just linger as long as they like, and we all badly miss those days of doing church freely.

 

The pandemic has locked us out where we were once allowed to enter freely. The enemy afflicts us with the message that we don’t have a place anymore, that we don’t belong. Yet while we all long for that day when we can have that open door policy again -- where there’s no need to wear masks, no need for social distancing, and no need to limit the church attendance, today, Jesus wants to remind and encourage us that He is our GATE, an open door for any who wishes to come and go freely and anyone who comes in finds abundant life in Jesus. 

 

An Open Door to Green Pastures

In Psalm 23, we find David writing about God as our Good Shepherd who leads us into quiet waters and green pastures. We are being likened to sheep who are always in need of a Shepherd to guide and lead us lest we become stray and wander away. And in this Psalm, David describes how God takes care of us and all the benefits of being led by Him. 

 

It’s amazing how Scripture always confirms Scripture, for here we see in the Old Testament that David portrayed God as a good shepherd and incredibly, John did the same in the New Testament in John 10.  He’s still the same Good Shepherd who takes His sheep to green pastures.

 

John writes in John 10:9 that Jesus is a gate and an open door that leads to green pastures where there is no lack, no drought, and where there is rest. Jesus never closes His doors on us. The door of His gate is always open for anyone who wants to come in. And truth be told,  every one of us is invited to come in. Everyone is welcome to enter in without restrictions and without conditions. We just have to come in through Jesus because Jesus is the ONLY way in. ( John 14:6)

 

What does this mean? If we want to experience the green pastures and the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10, then we need Jesus -- we need to accept Him in our lives and come to the Father through Him. In other words, there is NO OTHER WAY to experience God’s Kingdom, Heaven, and the abundant life that we all long for without Jesus. He is the gate and the door. And the best part? Since Jesus has not returned yet, His door will always remain open to everyone who’s lost and in need of a Shepherd. 

 

Don’t Wait for the Gate to Close

The affliction of being locked in leads to us trying to go our own way, to do self-preservation, to clutching what we have been holding on to, which then leads to anxiety, worry, stinginess, which in turn leads to loss -- even death of the soul.  The good news is that God wants everyone to come to repent and be saved. He does not want anyone to perish. (2 Peter 3:9) And we know that it is only through Jesus that we can receive salvation and eternal life (John 3:16). No one else and nothing else. 

 

However,  though God has been so patient and gracious with us, waiting for every soul to come to Him, there will eventually come a time when the door will be closed, and only those who are ready and those who accepted the invitation to come in will be saved.  Jesus will never force us to come inside the gate. Yes, He will lead us and guide us, but He will never force us. We have this freedom to choose whether to come in or not.  We have this free will to listen to our Good Shepherd’s voice and stay close to Him or we could choose to go on our own ways and leave His side. 

 

Jesus is coming back again, and soon the gate and the door will be closed. The question is: Where will you be? 


 
 

When Jesus Unlocks a Door

On the morning of the first Easter, Mary Magdalene and some of the disciples found the tomb empty, receiving the news from the angel that Jesus has already risen. But, some of them were still skeptical of His promised resurrection and so that Easter evening, the disciples locked themselves behind a door -- afraid, worried, and confused as to what would happen next. They were afraid that the Jewish leaders who killed Jesus would also find them. They were confused as to where Jesus’ body was. They had so many questions that none of them could answer.

 

In the story in John 20, here we find Jesus suddenly appearing to His disciples behind closed doors after He was resurrected. But He didn’t just appear, He also gave them four important things that gave them hope to open their locked doors and to once more go out to the world to preach the Good News of salvation.

 

When Jesus Unlocks a Door, He Brings a Blessing and a Revelation. 

That Sunday evening, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! ” - John 20: 19-20

 

Peace be with you.” These were the very first words Jesus spoke to the disciples when He appeared to them that first Easter evening as they were locked behind a closed door. PEACE was the very thing that Jesus gave them after His resurrection -- peace of the forgiveness of sins, the peace that assured them He lives. It’s that blessing of peace that assured the disciples that everything Jesus said is true and validated. And even now, because of this peace, we know that everything Jesus says about Himself today is true. He is our peacemaker. He is the Prince of peace.  He is the great redeemer who not only suffered and died, but rose again to sanctify the graves of every human who has died and who will die. And as Jesus rose out of the grave, He brings to each person, to our households, the satisfaction of our souls. And guess what? Even when you don’t feel it? He gives PEACE nonetheless. These are not empty words. He backs it up because HE LIVES.

 

The next thing Jesus gave His disciples that night was a revelation. When He showed them His wounds on His hands and side, it gave them an “AHA!” moment. Seeing the physical wounds of Jesus was an eyeopener to them that Jesus really rose from the dead. They had proof of His tangible presence! What a revelation that must have been for the disciples. Without seeing Jesus’ wounds, they might have thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Jesus was physically alive and took the time to reveal to them the marks of their redemption, the payment for their sins.

 

When He Unlocks a Door, He Assigns a Mission and Supplies the Power.

“As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you. Again He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” -

 John 20:21-23

 

After giving them the blessing of peace and the revelation of His resurrection, Jesus then gave the disciples a mission and then He breathed on them and empowered them. Specifically, Jesus was telling the disciples to keep pointing people to Him. And this is what He is telling us today too. Our mission is to help others know Jesus and help them to acknowledge that what Jesus did on the cross was enough payment for their sins. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.” (John 20:23) We get to go and connect people to a life in Jesus. Isn’t this an amazing mission? Undeserved yet freely given. 

 

Jesus didn’t give them a mission without empowering them. He breathed on them the Holy Spirit which gave them power to do God’s will here on earth -- preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, healing the sick, setting people free, performing signs and wonders, and delivering people from sin. This is also the same power that has been given to us and to anyone who received Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus opened the door for us to experience His Kingdom and His power through His death and resurrection.

 

So if you find yourself in a place where you feel locked down and locked in, be encouraged knowing that when Jesus shows up behind locked doors, He meets us where we’re at. Jesus is the only one who can unlock the doors that are keeping us in and when Jesus unlocks a door, He gives us peace, revelation, mission, and His power. As we receive these, new life is experienced. 

 
 

Walk as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:8 says,  “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have the light from the Lord. So live as people of light!”  (NLT)

 

What does it look like to, “live as people of light”?   Another version says, “walk as children of light.”  (ESV) How do we do that?   

 

If we go back to the first verse of Ephesians 5, I think we get a hint.  

 

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love…” (NLT)     And in the ESV it says, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

 

Seems like living as people of the light, walking as children of light boils down to LOVE.  Showing love to all people like Jesus showed love to all people.  The kind of love that does not judge, the kind of love that welcomes all, the kind of love that invites conversation and listens to understand.  The kind of love that offers hope and healing and brings life.  The kind of love that speaks life giving words not words of condemnation.  The kind of love that offers a safe space to belong and question and doubt.  

 

John speaks a lot about loving one another in 1 John - in chapter 3 verse 18 he says, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

 

Pastor Jeff wrote a Spiel article that was in the March 7th bulletin about how we need to access the light before we can shine it.  (if you missed it you can find it on our website www.livelifetogether/bulletin )  It is not enough to just access the light, we also need to let it shine so others can see it and benefit from it.  

 

Jesus talks about this idea of shining like a city on a hill.  (Read about it Matthew 5:13-16) And we sing about it in the children’s song, “This little gospel light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.. All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine, hide it under a bushel, NO, I’m gonna let it shine,  don’t let Satan poof it out, I’m gonna let it shine!”  (are you singing it?)  Jesus tells us the why behind shining brightly for the world, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”   

 

Any light that we shine, any good that we do, any love that we share, comes from Jesus with the purpose of people giving praise and glory to God our Father.  It isn’t about us at all. It is about living in a way that shines and shows love to others so they get a glimpse of the love of God. There is another hint about how to do this in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  

 

I am sure you can think of many ways to show kindness to those around you.  Offer to babysit someone’s children so mom and dad can have a break, pick up groceries for a neighbor, take someones child to school for them, drop off a meal, send a written note of encouragement, compliment someone on a job well done, thank a teacher, go on a walk with a friend and listen, really listen to how they are doing, offer to pray for someone in the moment, drop off flowers just because…. What would you add to the list?  How will you shine today?

 
 

An Interview with Patrick and Michelle Tsai

Recently one of our families at the Church, Patrick and Michelle Tsai had the idea to offer a small group study called, Vertical Marriage. As a household WELL, that Welcomes in Jesus, Engages with Neighbors, Listens to Others and Loves to Try after going through the 5 weeks study once they asked if they could open it up and offer it again.   I asked them a few questions about leading the study and why they wanted to do this. Enjoy reading their answers.

  

What made you want to host a study about marriage? 

It's so easy to focus on our kids, jobs, house projects, hobbies and really easy to not spend any time focusing on our marriage.  We wanted to spend devoted time with God focusing on our marriage.  Some friends mailed us this study a while ago so we decided to try it.  It looked fun, meaningful and did not require a ton of time.  We considered doing the study on our own, but thought it would be a great blessing to invite others to join us (and it definitely was)!

 

How many people participated in the first round and then the second round?

 In the first study, 4 other couples joined us. In our current study, 11 other couples have joined us. 

 

What has been your biggest take away from Vertical Marriage? 

This is a tough question because there are a lot of take aways.  I'd say two of the biggest for us were:

We need to have a relationship with God in order to show up in a healthy way in our marriage.  Our marriage and how we treat our spouse speaks volumes to those watching us -  how are we representing Christ?  

 

What is something that you have learned from leading this study? 

There are many times in the study where Dave (the husband) explains what is going on in the husband's head/heart and where Anne (the wife) explains what is going on in the wife's head/heart.  When the video would get done and we'd come back to discuss what Dave and Anne had just shared, the wives would ask the husbands in the group if what they said was really true for all of them (and vice versa).  And it was!  It was encouraging to know that other men/women are experiencing the same things we are.  These topics were able to help us learn a lot about what the other spouse is thinking so we can show up like they need us to show up.

 

  If you could give an engaged couple advice about marriage what would you say? 

Michelle:  Be humble and willing to forgive.  Speak life to each other.  And you can't truly do either of those well unless you understand how God continuously forgives you and how much He cherishes you AND your spouse.

 

  Patrick:  We need to exercise our marriage muscles on a constant basis.

  Daily = practice patience and love your spouse as Christ loved the church

  Weekly = grow deeper together with some special reserved date time alone

  Yearly = recalibrate and educate by seeking out a marriage conference or class to refocus your        priceless relationship with God and your spouse. 

 

What questions do you wish I would have asked?  (Or what would you like those who are reading this to know?)  

How do we learn more about Vertical Marriage?  You can go to https://www.familylife.com/verticalmarriagestudy/sample/ to watch a trailer for the study and go through the first session to see what it's like.  It's fun and quick but still very impactful and meaningful.  No matter where your marriage is at, this study will bless your marriage!

 

THANK YOU Patrick and Michelle for being willing to try something and for welcoming in Jesus to the conversation.  Thanks for sharing your experience with us here. May God continue to bless your marriage as you continue to represent Jesus to the world.