COMFORT ZONE

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Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  –Psalm 23:4

Every time I pick a nice smooth path for my life, God seems to jerk me out of my comfort zone.

I tend to gravitate towards Christianity that is…comfortable.

That, however, is not the example Christ set for us.

Christ was uninterested in the easy road.  Instead, he made a bee-line for injustice, for people who were hurting, for the forgotten ones.

Do I have to do the same thing?

Because…well, here’s my “outside my comfort zone” list (make your own):

  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I talk to strangers–especially when it comes to talking about my faith.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I’m surrounded by people whose values may or may not match my own.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when serving somebody isn’t enough — an actual relationship is called for.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when God prods me to dare beyond the status quo.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I face the possibility of rejection.
  • I’m outside my comfort zone when I’m in the valley of the shadow of death.

The valley of the shadow of death?  Yeah.  I think of that as our mission field.  That’s where so many hurt and lost people are living.

We’re called to connect with them, scary as it may be.

But here’s some Good News: Psalm 23 says “thy rod and thy staff they COMFORT me.”

You get it?  God establishes a comfort zone even in the most uncomfortable place imaginable.

That means when we serve people, when we invite people to know about Christ, when we challenge the forces of darkness, God is there, comforting us.

Hear these words from Isaiah:

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  –Isaiah 40:1,3-5

One day, “every valley shall be raised up”.

Until then, that’s where the work of the faithful must be done.

Yes, it will likely be outside your comfort zone.

But not God’s.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Paying Back Your Instructors

teachers

How many of your teacher’s names can you remember?

I am positively TERRIBLE with names, but I can still remember many of my teachers.

Mrs. Head, my 6th grade teacher who gave me extra attention.

Mrs. Gerling, my 8th grade English teacher who sent me to the principal’s office. (I deserved it)

Mr. Waccholz, my 10th grade biology teacher, who talked way too much about spiders for my comfort.

My education adds up to 13 years of teachers, plus college and seminary.  That must be close to 50 people who helped to teach me and guide me along the way.

Well, the scripture above talks about instructors.  It makes it sound like I owe them something.

It says I’m supposed to “share all good things” with my instructors!

Actually, on a second reading I realize we’re talking about instructors in the Word–so maybe I’m indebted not only to my school teachers, but also my Sunday School teachers!

(How many Sunday School teachers can you name?)

And not just Sunday School teachers, but also Pastors, I suppose.  Pastors did a lot to instruct me in the Word.

And parents and grandparents.  They taught me how to read and how to pray.

And there were certainly others along the way.  Yikes!

Are you telling me I’m supposed to share all the good things that have happened to me with all of these people?

Yep.

Here’s what you do:  Get out your checkbook.

Whatever your bank account is right now, split it into about 60 amounts.

Can you imagine what your 11th grade physics teacher’s response would be if she opened up an envelope and there was a check inside and a note from you that said, “Thanks for instructing me”?

Actually, that would be kind of cool, but I’m not sure that’s what the passage has in mind.

I think it means celebrating that you have learned with the people who have taught you.

That you have learned.  That a connection was made.  Information retained.  Wisdom acquired.

That efforts to teach you were at least partially successful.  That the learning has been passed on, from one generation to the next.

You may not remember all your teacher’s names (I only remember about half), and you may live far from where you went to school.  Maybe enough time has passed that your teachers are long since departed.

How do we pay them back?

I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we try to share our thanks?

Let’s simply thank our teachers for teaching, and keep them in our prayers.

Not just our teachers, but all teachers.

That may not seem like much, but the simple acknowledgment that teaching is making a difference may be all most teachers ever need shared with them.

Now if you want to write them a check, that’s entirely your call.

Have a great week,

Mitch

Teacher Subway Sign

Light, Beer

There’s a convenience store in my town. Here’s what the sign out front says this week:

“WE SELL
BEER ON
SUNDAY
NOON TO 8PM
1 JOHN 1:5″

One sentence, no breaks.  Just a beer advertisement and a scripture reference.

The family that owns that convenience store is clearly Christian.  There’s even a cross on their logo.  And this is not the first time they’ve posted a scripture verse on their sign.

This is just the funniest.

Do you notice that they wait until noon to start selling beer?  I wonder if that’s to catch everyone on their way home from church? I suppose that’s better than folks picking up a six pack on their way to church that morning!

Seriously, though…

These folks have a sign with five lines, and they reserve one of those lines for sharing scripture.  That’s double tithing of their space!

And the single-verse scriptures they’ve picked are good.  I like this one especially.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  –1 John 1:5

I wonder what it would mean to someone who got curious about that “1 John 1:5” line, and typed it into Google?

“God is light; in him there is no darkness”.  That’s a statement of God’s immense power and goodness.  It would definitely leave me wondering: Who is this God?

And, think about this:  While there are many out there who can drink beer responsibly, there are others for whom alcohol has become a source of great darkness.

What a strange twist, then, to have this verse of hope at the end of a advertisement for Sunday beer sales?

It seems to me that this family is undermining their own ad–with something, Someone, who brings more joy into the world than anything else.  Even beer.

Well, the store’s sign has gotten a few chuckles in my town.  Who knows, maybe it brings in the Sunday afternoon crowd as intended.

For me, I’ll keep watching for signs to come,

and raise a glass to people who put Good News into the world…

Even when it isn’t a Convenience.

Have a great week,

Mitch