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Opening the Future

Read this message transcript by Sr. Pastor Harold Bullock from the "My Story" message series

Harold Bullock: Every now and then we come to a point where, sort of like Stephen and Hannah. Life has come to a place, and you look from here and you see new things opening up. Life opens up. We occasionally hit those places, we wonder if it's going to shut down. There are those points where you're on the verge, and thing are opening up. That's really good.

Yeah, that happens ... oh, you feel like it's happening at high school graduation. Then after graduation, you wonder what happened. Whenever you get married, Deborah and I got married longer ago, and I remember the morning, I was dead tired. I'd gotten about three hours sleep the night before. I was leading music in the church in Los Angeles, and lead the worship services that morning, I was tired.

We ran out and grabbed a bite real quick, and then ran back for the wedding. We only had an hour to get everything done, because another church was coming in to use the building. I was standing up front, waiting on Deborah to come down the aisle, I was so tired. I saw her descend the steps in the back of the church, and come down the aisle. I looked at her, and one tear of trickled out of the corner of this eye. It was all I had the energy for. But I was excited, because life was opening up. We're beginning a brand new and wonderful relationship, and who knew the adventures that would lie ahead. But life was opening up. It's good love, when you stand in those moments.

The good news about Jesus Christ actually opens up things for people, it opens up new life. Whenever you discover what Jesus Christ has done, who He is and what He's done, and you step forward into that, new life opens up. The Bible says it this way. "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death." Baptism reflects Jesus' death and resurrection. He died on a cross to pay the price for our rebellion against God, and then they put Him in a grave, the tomb.

On the third day He came alive, out of it. He didn't resuscitate. He came alive. And wow, we reenact that whenever we're baptized, we yield our life to him, that's whenever things actually change. But in baptism we're buried with Him into death, and then raised from the dead like He was. So we too may live a new life. It's a new life that opens up.

Another verse. 1 Peter 1:23, "For you have been born again," a new baby, they're really precious. They're very vulnerable, but all the possibility that lies before them. It's just amazing. You, my friend, whether you're 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80, you can be born again, or you were born again. It's a brand new life that's opening up, and it's on the verge of all kinds of good things.

I want you to watch a video. This is about a man. He's a very sharp guy, and came from a good family background, but something happened when he met Jesus Christ. I'd like you to watch the video. It'll take a moment, but I think you'll find it very interesting.

The good news opens up brand new life for people. This is not something psychological that you work up in yourself, sometimes people think that. But this is something that comes from the outside. If it's happened to you, you understand this. Sometimes after you walk with the Lord for a while, you forget about it. But the difference between before and after is new life.

He's a sharp guy. He was sharp before he committed his life to Christ. He had a good family background, and was trying to be a decent human like a lot of people. But Jesus Christ coming in, it's completely different. The good news opens up a brand new life, and more than that, it opens up good. It opens up good for, actually several people.

"He died for all, that all those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them, and was raised again." Whenever you yield your life to Christ, you start trying to live for him. Now, you can get in a mess again. You can start getting into the frame of mind where everything is all about you again, but God's not calling you to that; God's calling you to live for him. As you do, life keeps on opening up.

You live your life for the one who died for you. When that happens then, here's the description of how life goes forward. "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers." As we have opportunity during the day, during the week, opportunities come up, do good to people. Why? Well, if we're living for Him, and He's the one who went about doing good. That's what was on His heart.

Good opens up for people, good opens up for those who accept Christ. You give it a little sense of the flavor from this man's story, but good also opens up for people touched by them. We tend to see in a moment, when we think about sharing the gospel with someone, we tend to see the crisis. He looked beyond the crisis and see what can be.

Good opens up for everyone who's touched by this person. Let me give you an example. Kara Baldwin is a member of our congregation, she and her kids are members here. She had an interesting thing that happened, as she was in college and then later went back to visit the same family. Listen to her story. I think you'll like this.

Kara Baldwin: I attended college out of state, about eight hours away, long way from home. Really didn't know anybody, and my church had an Adopt a Student program, so I filled out the application and one morning in church this man came down from the choir to pray, and as he prayed I said, "Oh Lord, I want to be a part of that house." And then backed up a little bit and said, "Please God, would you let me be a part of that home?"

And a couple of weeks later the woman who was matching up families and students came and said, "I'd like to introduce you to your host family," and led me over to this couple. It was the guy that had prayed, and his name was John, his wife's name is Edith, and they invited me into their home. I pretty much felt like I went from acquaintance to daughter status pretty quickly. They themselves had not been believers for very long.

They were living in Florida before they came to where I was going to college. Had met this couple that befriended them and were starting up a church, and John began going to these meetings that they were having at their house. Even though he and Edith both grown up in a pretty formal church setting, they had never really heard the gospel.

So this man, John, began to share the gospel with the gospel with them. Over the course of time, through a series of events, they came to know the Lord, trusted him. John came to know the Lord first, and his wife Edith followed just a couple of weeks later.

Fast forward several years, my husband's job led us to this area, and we begin attending Hope. I went to the wedding of their youngest son, and when I was standing in the kitchen visiting with Edith, there was a picture on their refrigerator and it was a couple that I knew here at Hope. Their names were John and Diane Wooster. And I said, "How do you know that couple?" And she said, "That's the man that led John to the Lord. That's the couple that we've befriended in Florida, when we were living there."

I'm sure they had told me their names, but it just didn't register as a college student. So I felt like I had kind of come full circle, with a couple here from Hope, leading this couple to the lord, whom I came to know in college and just had a tremendous impact on my life. Then coming here to Hope and meeting that couple, and seeing the work that they were doing, planting churches and discipling people.

I just had this sense of being part of a much bigger story, of being in the flow of blessing from John and Diane's work, leading John and Edith to the Lord. And the blessing they had been to my life, just coming to know them through the years, has been a tremendous blessing.

Harold Bullock: We've used the image of the tapestry that God's waving whenever people come to Christ. On the other side of that moment, lies their contact with all kinds of people. God opens up good through them. There was fun in this situation, John and Diane Wooster were part of Hope in the early days. 1979, 1980. They planted a number of churches. And then were again a part of Hope in the mid '90s. They had finished planting a church in Russia, and were back in the states. They were with us for a while and then went onto the West Coast again to do more planting.

This couple came to Christ in Florida, Kara met them in another state, and they did good by her. So much so that she continued to be a part of their life. And then discovered, "Wow, the people I know are the ones who've touched them." And they touched her. As you open the door for people with the Gospel, all kinds of good lies on the other side for that person, and then for all the ones they'll touch.

Actually there's more. Some of you know Paul Harvey, you older ones. Years ago when we started Hope, we were going to have our first worship service in an apartment clubhouse on the west side of town, and we'd been planning for this. We got there and the radio was going, "Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra." Too loud to have any kind of worship service there. We had reserved the area, and so we, "How do we get this turned off?" We finally were able to dig up a manager, and discovered that the key to the radio closet had been lost six weeks before.

Now, Paul Harvey was on. He had very characteristic voice, actually, he's a good guy. He's a radio broadcaster for ABC, and did news and comments during the week. He was on the air for 56 years old, about 24 million people a week in his audience. A good guy, Christian, and he had a characteristic statement that he used for one of his radio segments. Now I'd like you to hear it because it applies here. This is quick.

Paul Harvey: Now, the rest of the story.

Harold Bullock: Those of you who are your older may remember that voice, and that pause, "Now, the rest of the story." There is a rest of the story here, not only does this open up good for the person and the people they touch, it can open up good for your own life in ways you never dreamed before. Let me take you to another story. We're having video Sunday, by the way.

This is a conversation between Teresa Boyts who's a part of the congregation here. She became a Christ follower in 1978. She and her husband Randy, who already was, became part of the congregation, have continued through the years and helped build a congregation here. Teresa came to Christ because Diane Worcester, of the couple we already mentioned and then Janet Hawkins met her at one of the parks, at one of the pools. So take a look at this story.

Diane Worcester: So what do you remember about that date, Teresa? We were wondering.

Teresa Boyts: Well, I was just here-

Harold Bullock: This is Teresa.

Teresa Boyts:  ... Randy had started working full-time, so I was just out here by myself, swimming. You guys approached me and came up to me, and sat down and just got to talking and asking questions about me.

Diane Worcester: Did you think it was weird?

Teresa Boyts: No, I didn't. I don't remember-

Harold Bullock: That's Diane Wooster.

Teresa Boyts: ... and it was comfortable, I remember being uncomfortable. You were asking questions about Me, and about Randy. Where we came from, and what we were doing as just friends would do. Was it weird for you? Was it hard for you?

Janet Hawkins: It was really weird for me. I was a pretty new Christian, and I had never-

Harold Bullock: That's Janet.

Janet Hawkins: ... done evangelism, and I was going through evangelism training. Diane and I both were in this class, but Diane was much more experienced, and so Diane and I were paired together. It was June, it was hot, we both loved water, let's go to the pool. The class said find something that we enjoyed doing, and use it as a way to meet people. Our friend Mindy called it "tan"-gelism.

Diane Worcester: I remember us sitting in the car and praying, and asking God to lead us to someone, and really praying with confidence. Then we'd go in and try to strike up numerous conversations, both in the water and around the pool.

Teresa Boyts: Just with different people around the pool?

Janet Hawkins: Yeah.

Diane Worcester: First lady swam away.

Janet Hawkins: I think we were here a couple of hours. It was quite a long time, and I was hot and tired. We decided let's leave. I remember thinking something like, "Well God just didn't answer that prayer today."

Diane Worcester: He didn't want to-

Janet Hawkins: He didn't want to give up. He wasn't done. So, on our way out, this young lady is laying buy herself, playing by herself, and Diane stopped to talk. I think I was like, "Oh, it's time to go. I'm not sure about that." But you began the conversation and I remember big eyes, because I've never done evangelism before.

Janet Hawkins: Then what I remember is, we invited you and Randy to go with me and my husband to Burger's Lake. Hope was having a service, and a fun at Burger's Lake day.

Teresa Boyts: So when we came it was a very appealing, and everybody was very friendly and interested in us, and asking a lot about us. It was easy, y'all made it easy.

Diane Worcester: Then what happened, do you remember after that?

Teresa Boyts: You guys just kept inviting us back, and we ended up meeting at the Lions club. You kept just inviting us back. Just getting to know each other, I think that that was the big thing. For me, seeing your life, seeing that worked out, and just enjoy the friendships. I'd gone to church all my life, but I realized I really hadn't made a personal commitment to Christ.

Teresa Boyts: So, just with you sharing your walk with God, I made a commitment at that point.

Janet Hawkins: But God has really blessed me and John, through our friendship with you and Randy. It's such a blessing.

Teresa Boyts: You guys have been such a blessing in our lives.

Diane Worcester: I think it's stories like this that really encourage us to see that, God has people all around us that are open to Him. That we don't know, but if we'll take that first step, He can do exciting things, with a whole direction of somebody's life can change.

Harold Bullock: Janet mentioned how God blessed them through the friendship. They've been friends, of course, these 40 years. Families done vacations together and stuff. God opens up doors you never dreamed off. Randy, Teresa's husband, after Teresa came to Christ, got to know the Hawkins and the Worcesters. A friendship with a Hawkins kept on developing.

The Lord led John to North Carolina to create a college ministry called Leadership Edge at Duke University, that dealt with the top level business students, and Randy will talk about that. Randy became an early board member, and helped in the development of that ministry, that has spread now to Harvard, Stanford and other places; impacting high level students who are going to make a lot of impact. But it opens up after Teresa comes to Christ. The rest of the story. Now listen to Randy, he's reflecting on this, Theresa's husband.

Randy Boyts: Teresa and I had been married about a year, when she had came home from a day at the [inaudible 00:18:50] Park swimming pool, said she had met a couple of women, Janet Hawkins and Diane Wooster. And that she had accepted an invitation to a picnic, and to church on behalf of both of us. I was initially wondering why she would think that was a good idea, why she would involve me in that.

I found out later that John Hawkins, Janet's husband, was also thinking the same thing. Why is this a good idea, and what did you get us into? Um, but that was really the start of a relationship with John and Janet, that's now 40 years. It was really the point, at Teresa, it was where she became a Christian through John and Janet, and the small group here at Hope that they got us involved with. For me it was where, as an adult, I figured out, what does it mean to be a Christ follower?

John, I think, first of all was just a friend, and he was available. But he also took the initiative with me to offer some Bible study, on what it meant to be a Christian husband, which I desperately needed at the time. And Teresa was grateful for also.

Over the years as we were in groups together, even when we weren't in groups together, continued to reach out, take an interest in me personally. Continued to be very open, and share what was going on in his life. And in a lot of ways, helped set a pattern for me and model for me. Here's what a real relationship between two men could look like.

After John and Janet had been here at Hope for a while, John was staff as a college minister. Through a set of circumstances, felt like God was leading them to create a different kind of a college ministry, first at TCU, but then very quickly moving that out to Duke. Leadership Edge really started as a different way to approach a secular campus, particularly some key campuses that were producing leaders here in the US, by providing a really valued service.

In this case, leadership training, leadership development in many contexts. But then using that as a platform then to engage with students, that really were interested in seeing how does character based, godly leadership, biblically based leadership really look? And how do I incorporate that not just into my job, but with my family, with my community, my church?

It launched initially at Duke, and is now at a number of campuses around the country, including a locally here at SMU, out of Stanford, some activities at Harvard. So I got involved initially, being the CPA on the initial board of directors for Leadership Edge, and, was a part of the original discussions as he was talking about how it was formed, what was going to do.

I was able to support John and Janet, in that role over the 25 years that Leadership Edge has been around. We've now moved the accounting onto someone else who's contracting that, they're in North Carolina, they're living in Carolina now. And the last several years, have stepped into the role of Chairman of the Board.

God weaving those things together, in a way that it moves His kingdom forward, that supports a friend, that gives you a sense that we are doing what God's called us to do. And that's crossed all of life, to be able to do that with a friend that you share so much history with, is special too.

Harold Bullock:  In the moment, as you're thinking about sharing the gospel with someone, or in Janet's case, ready to go, go home. You have no idea what lies on the other side of this. Not only are other people touched, but sometimes it comes back into your own life. And like Randy, later on helping John, whose wife helped lead Theresa Christ. Helping John develop this campus ministry on the East Coast, that's now spread across the US. That kind of help comes out of that awkward moment, years ago.

God intends good for you and me, and He opens up good through people coming to know Christ. You and I have a unique privilege. Now, we've been given the keys, and I like to just wrap up with you quickly about this. Jesus said this, "I'll give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Binding and loosing is an expression that means blocking or unlocking, or closing or opening. We've been given keys. We are the kingdom custodians. The people of God are the Kingdom of Custodians. Custodians have a key to things. The old Jewish concept in the Old Testament, and in the Jewish community for years, was that the Kingdom of God started on earth with Abraham who's our spiritual forbearer, as he began to follow God.

Later, it was entrusted to Israel because they were given the law. And if you wanted to follow God, you wanted to submit to God, the king, you did so through His law, and they had the law. By the time Jesus came, things had shifted. Though Israel still had the law, the leaders among the people were not really submitting to God. Jesus accused them, he said that were refusing to enter the kingdom themselves. They said that they had locked up the kingdom.

They'd taken away the keys up knowledge, and they wouldn't go in themselves. And they wouldn't really give the insight, that other people could go in. Everything was just in the system now. So, He gives the kingdom keys to Peter and His disciples. The keys are the insights that are needed. Peter had just at the moment, has declared, "You're the son of the living God," and Jesus said, I'm giving you guys the keys to the kingdom. You're now the custodians, and you have the insight.You have the knowledge that opens the door to heaven itself."

So we have the keys, and spiritual insight that Peter had about Christ. The spiritual insight the others had. We have. We admit people to the Kingdom of God, or we don't. But we have the power. Christ built His church on Peter, and those who share the insight about Him. He committed the same revelation that Peter had to us, and as custodians we can pull out the key ring, open that door for people. We open the door to the future.

The disciples actually had already done this. He had sent them on a preaching tour to different areas of Israel, and he told them, "Whenever you go into a town, if people receive you, then peace will rest on that house. If they reject you, God's judgment will rest." They'd already been admitting people to the kingdom.

You and I, we're the instruments, God's instruments to the kingdom, we help people and we do things, but we're also the custodians. We think the key that opens new life for people. The good for those who will be touched by them, good for them, and then who knows? Good for us, in ways we never imagined.

So by sharing the good news of Christ with others, we open the door and we invite people into the kingdom. The way Jesus says it in the Living Bible, the living translation, "I'll give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever doors you lock on earth will be locked in heaven. Whatever doors you open on earth shall be open in heaven."

You my friend, if you're a Christ follower, you have the key. If you're not yet a Christ follower, the door is open for you. Go through it, new life lies on the other side. We use the keys to open the door and invite people. And as people stepped through the door, the future opens up. You get a picture of it in the New Testament.

There's little guy named Zacchaeus, he's a short fellow, but rich. He's the tax collector. He had legal authority behind him to cheat on their taxes, and break off some for himself. He wanted to see Christ, he actually decided he was going to follow Christ. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector. He had others working for him ,and was wealthy.

He finally decides he's going to follow Christ. Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look Lord, here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I'll pay back four times the amount." And Jesus says, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man chooses the son of Abraham, he's entered the kingdom."

How do you know it? He's going to start handling life, like the master himself does. Wow. For a man who is increasing in wealth, and life is shutting down, life opens up. You hold the keys, my friend. Unlock the doors. I'd like to lead us in prayer.

Father, thank you for your kindness and loving us. Thank you for dying on the cross, Lord Jesus, and paying the price for our rebellion. And thank you Father, for all the ways you've loved us, and cared for us, and helped us and put up with us, and thank you for all the good things that lie in front. We asked you to use us, show us how. Use us to unlock the doors. And Father, may others find the life and the good that comes through Christ Jesus. Amen.