Ask. Seek. Knock.

June 11, 2023

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Passage: Gospel of Matthew 7:7
Service Type:


Ask and you shall receive.

Last week, I asked Reggie to sing today the old Christian rock song “Since I Opened Up the Door.” It is from the soundtrack of the recent movie “Jesus Revolution.” That movie told the story of what is called the Jesus Movement of Southern California, how the guitar-strumming, drug-using, beach-combing hippies of Southern California came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. They were baptized in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the most recent of powerful revival movements of American history. In 1720, Jonathan Edwards preached from his pulpit in the Connecticut River Valley and launched what we call the First Great Awakening. In 1801, 25,000 people responded to a frontier call for a Holy Day at the Cane Ridge Meetinghouse in Kentucky. It precipitated the movement that gave us the Churches of Christ and Christian Church. In 1906, people gathered in a storefront on Azuza Street in Los Angeles and prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That ignited the world-wide Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, the most powerful Christian movement of our day. It was that influence that gave rise to the Jesus Revolution of the late 1960s, when a band called Lovesong performed this piece that Reggie sang today, that forms part of the soundtrack of the movie, “Since I Opened Up the Door.”

I watched the movie, and then Josh Bledsoe and I had a conversation about it during a morning worship service in this very room. It tells the story of a traditional Protestant minister (played by Kelsey Grammer) leading a very traditional congregation. But all around him were the hippies, drawing attention to their values, the music, their way of life. He says in the hearing of his daughter, “I’d like to meet a hippy.” So, she sees just such a person walking along the road, offers him a ride, and takes him home to meet her day. That hippy turns out to be the famous hippy preacher, Lonnie Frisbee. He wins the affection and admiration of the traditional pastor and slowly the conversion of the pastor begins. The movie is, then, the story of the pastor’s “conversion” and the transformation of his congregation and also the change in the life of one teenage boy who goes on to become an influential minister and the author of the book upon which this movie is based. His name is Greg Laurie.

I have listened often to the music of this movie, especially this song, “Since I Opened Up the Door.” I arrived home from Houston late last night, crawled into bed about 10:45, opened up YouTube, and listened to this song.

Not everything about the movie is right, though. That young hippy preacher was gay—before, during, and after his place in the limelight. He died of AIDS in 1992. None of that made it into the movie. It is ironic, because today the church is in the same situation as fifty years ago: how to welcome the outcasts. Then, it was hippies; now it is LGBTQ. The movie could have been a powerful message to the church to open up the door of hospitality. But no, it shut down the gospel word for our time, content instead to celebrate how the gospel won the hearts and minds of other outcasts a generation ago.

But the movie does illustrate the power of walking through the door. It does illustrate the wisdom of asking for what we need and seeking for what we want and walking through the doors that open before us.


I had that experience this week.

I walked through a door that was, for many years, of no interest to me. I was invited to attend and present at the annual meeting of scholars from the Churches of Christ.

I grew up around Church of Christ folk. I remember them as narrow, insistent, and insular. They were, it appeared, a sect; that is, a group with a fear of fellowship with the larger Christian community. They had their identity and their convictions and, in order to remain true and pure, they kept to themselves and defended their ways. We argued about Actus 2:38, where Simon Peter is quoted as saying on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit.” Church of Christ folk demanded baptism for salvation; we Baptists resisted this strongly, seeing our salvation only by grace through faith. While condemning each other to some sort of doctrinal purgatory, we agreed on only one thing: those Catholics out on the edge of town—they, for sure, know nothing about salvation!

Then a few months ago I received an invitation to attend this Church of Christ gathering in Houston. A professor of the philosophy of religion in Missouri read my published paper on, yes, John Prine!  She wrote to ask me to join her and a third scholar from Lipscomb University in Nashville to prepare and lead a seminar on Arts and Spirituality. So, we put together this break-out session, “The Gospel and John Prine.” And I packed my bags for Texas.

I walked through the door, and what I found blessed me from head to toe.


I also grew up in a narrow, suspicious religious culture. It was what we call today Baptist Fundamentalism. We were right, in all our interpretations and behaviors, and others were wrong, dangerously wrong. They were the liberals, leading the Church and Christian people away from the true gospel and into apostasy; we were the true followers of Jesus.

My journey in life and in Christ has been a winding, wonderful road out of these dark, narrow ravines into the wide-open spaces of Christian confession. Time and again, I have walked through the doors of Christian hospitality: making friends, reading books, attending meetings, joining worship, opening up my heart and mind to God’s people wherever I found them. It has been a rich and rewarding experience.

Ask for more understanding and you will receive it. Seek new friends and new communities and new ideas and you will find them. Knock on every door, every church, every gate of the gospel and you will enter, time and again, into a rich experience of grace, of love, and of friendship.

So, it was in Houston, at the fabulous Lanier Theological Library.

The crowd numbered 350, mostly from the universities of the Churches of Christ: such as Pepperdine in California, Abilene Christian in Texas, Oklahoma Christian in Oklahoma, Lipscomb in Tennessee. Add to these a strong network of Church of Christ scholars teaching at other public and private institutions. They came together for conversation on Scripture, tradition, and culture, on history, sociology, and art, on economics, civil rights, and gospel work. They came together to listen to one another and to listen to the very best of those outside their tradition. Like Willie J. Jennings, of Yale University, who just returned from delivering the most prestigious lectures in religion, the Bampton Lectures at Oxford University. Like N. T. Wright, of Oxford University, who carries a DPhil from Oxford and has published at least 80 books.

They listened to me, a liberal Baptist, as I spoke about the stream of gospel in the lyrics of the late, great, unchurched resident of Nashville, Tennessee, John Prine.

We all walked through the doors, and God answered our prayers.


Not everything we seek is found. Not everything we ask for is given. Not every door is open to us. People ask for healing and remain sick. Others seek opportunity and prosperity and never find it. Sometimes doors remain closed to us, often for mysterious reasons. Life often fails to bring the love, happiness, and prosperity we desire. This we must acknowledge and confess. Life is not magic. It is not a circus. It is not a game that can be manipulated to become everything that we want.

But this much is true: there runs through the Holy Word a consistent, persistent demand. “Seek the Lord with your whole heart,” Moses tells the people of ancient Israel. “You will seek me and find me when you seek with your whole heart,” Jeremiah tells the Hebrew people in exile hundreds of years later. No wonder Jesus picks up this theme in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “Seek and you will find. Ask and you will receive. Knock and it will open.”

I give this testimony today. My knocking on the doors of Christian people has brought me into a wonderful place of friendship and partnership in the gospel. Today, just this morning, I have received messages from four people, from the four corners of the American Christian Community.

First, David Fleer responded to my email, and I read it first thing this morning. I first met Dr. Fleer when he was teaching preaching at Lipscomb, and I was launching and leading the Academy of Preachers. He spoke to me at the conference in Houston because he is the director of the entire program. “I read your Meetinghouse newsletter each week,” he wrote. “Let’s get together and collaborate on something.”

Then, I opened up my Facebook account, and there was a message from my Roman Catholic friend who leads the Center for Family Life at Benedictine College in Kansas, Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum: “I read your Facebook article about your experience in Houston. How can I participate next year in Nashville?”

Walking to the car this morning, I opened up my mailbox and pulled out this card from Dr. Larry Hart, long-time professor of theology at Oral Roberts University. That is the epicenter of education for the Pentecostal community in the United States and indeed for much of the world. His wife died two months ago, and I sent him a card of condolence. I stayed in their home many years ago when I was visiting that University. He wrote, “Thanks much, dear brother. The grief is brutal at times. We were in our 50th year of marriage. But many have reached out and God’s comfort is faithful. Keep going for the King and his kingdom. All God’s best to you and yours. Larry.”

And on my way to church today I received a text from our dear former pastor, Julie Merritt Lee, back home in Houston. I had written her, “Dear Julie, I will follow in your radiance” (referring to her preaching last week and mine today); and she responded: “It was a joy to be there last Sunday. So sorry I missed you.”

Here, just today, these words of Christian friendship and partnership in the gospel have come to me from Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Church of Christ, and Progressive Baptist people. We all have walked through the door.

Today, you knock, you ask, and you seek and rejoice in what you find!

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