by John Armstrong
Let me say right up front, this will be a confrontational Pastor’s Pondering. I hope to confront your idols, even as I confront some of my own. What is idolatry? It is putting anything before our worship or service to God. So, I’m writing a short article on idolatry. That will be enough for some of you to quit reading this and look for something that is a bit more comfortable. I hope that you can recognize, that too is in some ways idolatry. When I’m confronted with something that makes me uncomfortable, I avoid it. When it’s something that is going to infringe upon my comforts and I’d rather avoid it than do what I know the Lord would have me do, is that not in and of itself idolatrous? Comfort has been a huge idol in my life and it is one that needs to be confronted daily and torn down. What comfort have I sought at the expense of the abundant life that is found in Christ? I want to challenge you with a couple of comforts that you may not think are idols. Let’s start with change or doing things differently. I’m comfortable with things that I know. I’ve put things in my life that I know and understand. Therefore, I keep surprises to a minimum and can muddle on in regular routine. I like doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. I’m comfortable with that. Where do you see that reflected in Scripture? Where do you see an encouragement or command to do what you always do without seeking to grow and mature in the Lord. Growing and maturing in the Lord are going to force you to do some things differently. It is unavoidable. You are going to have to get out of your comfort zone to grow and become more fruitful. Think of the pruning metaphor we find in John 15. The Holy Spirit is going to prune us to make us more fruitful and that is going to be anything but comfortable. But recognize that is God working in your life which may not be comfortable, but it is comforting to know the Almighty has set His love upon you and is working in you for His glory. One other comfort I would like to challenge is vital to the life of our church. The leadership of the church has been reading a little book entitled, Becoming A Welcoming Church, by Thom Rainer. If you would like to read it, you should be able to find a copy on the book table. If not, come ask me. Anyway, one of the big things that makes a church welcoming, is people that reach out to the stranger and invite them in to become a part of what is going on. Yes, I realize what I’m saying; we have to talk to people we don’t know. Some of you are beginning to break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of such an outrageous act of kindness and discomfort. It is a kindness, to welcome the stranger and to seek to make them feel at home. Put yourself in their place. You have been the new person before. You know the discomfort of not knowing anyone and wondering if any of these strangers might reach out with a friendly word and seek to make you apart of things. It is a kindness, it is an act of selfless love to welcome the stranger. It is a discomfort, it is inconvenient, it takes putting someone else’s needs before my own. It is a little dying to self. Are you willing to forego your comfort to welcome the stranger? I’ll close with this quote from my old friend Ed Hartman, “When it feels like death, you know it's the gospel.” Father, make us gospel people.