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Comfort Zone

Scripture readings in Luke and John say….
Luke 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.”  

John 13:34,35. “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The day that I walked into Allred maximum security men’s prison in Wichita Falls, Texas, I learned about the kind of love we are commanded to have.  

Until that day, I had sought to live my life in my own “comfort zone”.  For most of my life I had been very successful at that.  I grew up in the country with people having more or less money, but essentially the same.  For 27 years, we were a military family mostly living on various military posts with people just like us, with very similar backgrounds and sharing the same socio-economic status.  When Jerry retired, I sought to find a similar setting to remain in my “comfort zone” and was successful to a certain extent. 

When we moved to Alvarado, God began to pull me from my “comfort zone”.  Then 15 years ago when we walked into that prison, God brought me to a totally new place.  I didn’t want to be there.  I was fearful, apprehensive, and downright scared.  I was convinced that I would become a hostage before the day was over.   

When the 42 inmates who were participating in the 3-day ministry event entered the gym with the biggest smiles you can ever imagine, singing “They will know we are Christians by our love”, I came apart.  I do not have words to describe the overwhelming feeling of God’s call on my life.  I cried from that moment until we reached home in Alvarado several hours later.  My life has never been the same.  God gave me His love for those inmates which is indescribable.  That day He gave me a love for all those persons including inmates who may not be easy to love.  That day I got it for the first time “They will know we are Christians by our love!”  They will know by the love we show – not the love we feel.  They will not know we are Christians because they see us go to church on Sunday.  They will know when we put God’s Word into action.  Love is an action word, not a feeling.   That day I got it!!!

Fast forward several years when God brought us to CBC.  This is a place where it would be very easy to just bask in the love of our Christian brothers and sisters.  But as the scripture say, “What credit is that to you?”  We love coming here on Sundays, Wednesdays or any of the various events, knowing we will be received well, loved and will be taught well.  In a word, it is very comfortable.  But early on in our ministry at CBC, we were “Donned”.  Some of you, many of you, know what that means.  A few of us have even talked about having t-shirts made saying “I HAVE BEEN DONNED”.  To those uninitiated, that means “We met Don Hunt” and he invited us to join him in some outreach ministry.  With my whole heart, I believe God directs him to people who will be responsive to whatever task is at hand.  

Since that time, we have been involved in various ministries at CBC.  Because of the love God has placed in my heart, I am now drawn from my “comfort zone” on a regular basis.  After the prison experience, everything else is manageable.  We are blessed beyond measure.  We have now come to expect God to show up in a big way.  The first years of God’s Thanksgiving, we (iServe Core Team) would get people to sign up to come for dinner, then we would stress over having enough food and volunteers.  Time and time again, God provided just what we needed.  The first year at the Conference Center, the crowd was overwhelming and we were certain we would run out of bags.  We did – as the last guest came through the line.  

Another example:  In August this year, iServe provided lunch for all CISD teachers, about 500 or 600 (I forgot).  We used our best judgment on the amount of food we needed.  On the day of the event as teachers continued to pour in from every door and the food supply was running low, we began to tell each other, “It’s loaves and fishes time.  Pray”.  Would you be surprised to know, everyone was provided lunch – with very little food to spare?  If you have shared similar experiences, you know how you are blessed when you trust God for the outcome and He provides once again.   We know what God can do, we know He is able, but every time we do an event, we are blown away all over again. Blown away but no longer surprised.  

So to answer the question “What is God doing in my life right now?”, He is continually showing me new opportunities of service.  Today is a prime example.  I have not spoken to a group of this size in quite some time.  I really considered asking Pastor Dave to read my testimony.  But then God wouldn’t let me rest on that.  I needed to tell each of you how God is blessing my life as he continues to draw me to new experiences and to share with you that if you have always lived in your “comfort zone” for fear of failure, rejection or any other excuse, you are missing God’s greatest blessings.  Now this is a plug for iServe.   You can join us.  iServe is not just our little group of made up of the Core Team, but it includes the entire church.   CBC is iServe.   Henry Blackaby wrote a study years ago called “Experiencing God” which encourages each of us to “see where God is working and join Him”.   God is working in iServe and in the many other ministries of this church.   I guarantee you will apprehensive, fearful and uncomfortable but you will have your socks blessed off as you step out in God’s love.  And you, too, will be thankful that God has placed His love in your heart and has given you a wonderful place of service like CBC.

I Cor 16:14 “Do everything in love.” 

Nina Mangrum

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