Pastor Steve Rains' Blog
I have a confession to make. I broke the law last night. I don’t know why I did it. I guess it was carelessness on my part. Really, I think the speed limit should be raised to accommodate those of us that, shall we say, are partial to the need for speed! Anyway, I was caught, the red and blue flicked on, and so did my turn signal. There was an eerie silence in the car. I knew all eyes were on me. My wife and two boys were wondering how dad was going to respond. Was I going to try to weasel my way out of the situation? You know…make up some lame excuse as to why I was speeding.
For a long time now, I have figured that if the lights are flashing behind me, for me, it would be because I messed up. So as I tell my boys all the time, “If you mess up, fess up!” There is nothing like coming clean with your guilt. I was convinced that I was going to receive a ticket, and it wasn’t going to be a little one either. It would have filled a couple potholes in the county.
The officer returned to my vehicle. She gave me my license back, and then proceeded to hand me a yellow ticket. My mouth went dry, and tears started to well up. Not really, but I heard that works??? The words that were spoken still encourage me this morning. I received a warning. I deserved a ticket. I should be down paying a fine today, but instead I was “forgiven.”
Two lessons were reinforced to me from my road-side experience. First, when you fail or fall short, come clean. Life is easier to live if you aren’t trying to live by excuses. Second, when you receive grace instead of what you deserve, it should change who you are! Over and over you see these principles played out in the pages of Scripture, and may they be played out in our lives as well.
There is excitement and a restlessness within me as we (Topeka First) approach the six week quest of The Hole In Our Gospel. Why? Because the question is going to be asked, "What does God expect of us?" That is a pretty weighty isn't it? I would guess most of us, when we hear that question, hope we can check the "Been a long time ago" or "Never did that" box, because we default to moral issues when we hear "What does God expect of us?" Or perhaps we think about Bible reading, prayer times, and going to church. But the question goes way beyond that. It goes to our interaction with humanity. Richard Stearns, in his book The Hole in our Gospel, says, "...being a Christian, or follower of Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world (pg.2 )."
What also excites me about entering into this quest is that we have recently been living, through our involvement with Haiti relief, some of what we will be discussing. There are a lot of questions that surface when you start thinking about what happened in Haiti, and it calls the follower of Christ to a relationship with the world that many of us are unfamiliar with and perhaps even uncomfortable with. It is easier to change the channel than to be engaged isn't it?
I want to personally invite you to take this journey with us. Starting next Wednesday, February 10 @ 7 pm the quest begins. Each week there will be a message pertaining to Stearns' book, as well as Testimonies from special guests. Throughout the week, there are Life Groups meeting that will discuss each week's theme. Sign-up for a Life Group by going to www.topekafirst.com/dolifetogether.com, or come Sunday and take-in the Life Group Kick-off that is happening in the foyer and sign-up at the "Hole In Our Gospel" table.
Hard to believe the year is wrapping up. It has been a good year, challenging in many ways, but good. I am dreaming about this coming year. I am asking myself the questions, “How can I love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength?” And, “How can I love my neighbor as myself in a bigger and better way?” I came across a list of ten questions by John Maxwell that will be good trail marks to use as I walk through the year. I thought I would share them with you.
1. Am I investing in myself? - This is a personal growth question.
2. Am I genuinely interested in others? - This is a motive question.
3. Am I doing what I love and loving what I do? - This is a passion question.
4. Am I investing my time with the right people? - This is a relationship question.
5. Am I staying in my strength zone? - This is an effectiveness question.
6. Am I taking others to a higher level? - This is a mission question.
7. Am I taking care of today? - This is a success question.
8. Am I taking time to think? - This is a strategic leadership question.
9. Am I developing other leaders? - This is a legacy question.
10. Am I pleasing God? - This is a faith question.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Christ-filled new year!
Here are seven things that have been rolling around in my head lately:
· I am excited about the church—both its promise and potential. For those that are disturbed by the church, stop and reflect on all the good the church has done through the centuries. My bet is you have reaped some of the benefits of it even today!
· To stay disciplined in the faith requires daily focusing. In the words of Philippians 3:12, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
· Is there really anything that materialism has to offer that can truly satisfy?
· I am thankful for my hope not being in a certain political party, but in the One who has proven to be my provider over and over again.
· Laugh more at yourself, and stop taking yourself so seriously. In the words of a dear lady in Mt. Vernon, MO, “Go ahead and be smiley!”
· Don’t major on the minors, but let’s focus on things that actually impact eternity.
· Love God, Love People, Love God more, and Love People more – got it?
Let’s dare to take some risks like the Pilgrim’s did in 1620. I bet we too will have many things to be thankful for.
I like to go to places that are full of people and just sit and watch. It can be quite entertaining. As I watch, I wonder what their story is. Where they are trying to go, and what makes them smile. Let's be honest we humans are interesting to say the least. When I watch, I pay attention to how people carry themselves. There are those who walk confidently. Others who seem to enjoy everything along their journey even if it is from the parking lot to the store. They are the meanderers. But, what about those who strut so hard it looks painful? I mean it doesn't look natural at all, but they have it going on if you know what I mean. I am sure I looked tha way when me and my buddies walked through Foothills Fashion Mall back in the day!
Proverbs 28:18 (MSG) gives us some simple council concerning our walk. It says, " Walk straight—live well and be saved; a devious life is a doomed life."
There is great freedom when we walk with integrity and character. You don't have to look over your shoulder, try to cover your tracks, or tell those close to you how you were stupid. The outcome of walking straight, is you get to you travel light!
In the words of U2 "Walk On."
Throughout the book of Psalms one reads the word "Selah." It is a word we do not use in our western culture. Although, I had a dog named Selah once. The word means to pause or to rest. It is actually used in reference to music. It is important that each of us take time each week to "Selah." Why? Because in resting, we look back over the events of the last week so we can see God's activity in our lives and also see any inconsistencies that may be surfacing in our lives.
Here are some “Selah” moments I am celebrating:
- Denver Broncos are 5-0 (Just kidding).
- Seeing all the church (I mean all - young and old) working together last Wednesday to get ready for the remodel project.
- The Life and Joy of the Spirit in the service Sunday.
- Testimonies of at least three individuals who made decisions to follow Christ.
- I am grateful for this church family and the privilege of serving them. Thanks for the fellowship time and gift Sunday night.
- The leadership team that I am a part of. These guys are incredible.
- Life Groups that are growing together.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
All of us are stepping somewhere, aren't we. Hopefully, it is onto a firm foundation! In the world of sports one often hears the statement, "Step up to the challenge." Meaning better yourself, rise above your average, or simply don't quit. To constantly develop yourself takes diligence. It is hardwork, especially in a world that is constantly changing.
I like what 1 Timothy 3:1 says about stepping up. In context it is dealing with those in leadership positions within the church, but it applies to everyone. It says, "To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition." The word aspire is a latin word meaning to literally breathe upon. Wow, the very essence of life is in the breathe. May our leadership breathe life into others as we go about our day.
Here are a few leadership principles I try to live by as I aspire to lead:
- Don't say anything about someone you wouldn't say to them.
- There are things I want to know and things I need to know.
- Alway have integrity over convenience.
- Success in life flows out of communion with God.
- It is tough to keep a full cup steady.
As you face your week, remember to step up to the challenge whatever it may be, because people are watching you lead!
The other night, my boy and I caught a little bit of a 007-type of movie with cool gadgets, incredible suspense and high action. The mission of the agents is to go unnoticed, accomplish their responsibilities and return safely. I must say the suspense was good and pretty exciting to watch! It made me want to get some of their gadgets that is for sure.
In John 5, there is some 007-action going on by Jesus. Maybe we should call it 777-action. Anyway, a guy who has been lame for 38 years and unable to get into a pool, which tradition says will bring his healing, finds himself in a conversation with Jesus. The guy doesn’t know who he was talking to, but Jesus takes an interest in him even though the guy isn't able to offer a whole lot to society.
I love the story. Jesus asks him if he wants to get well. He responds with, "Yes, but I don't have anyone to help me get in the water." Then, Jesus heals the guy. I am guessing the once crippled man probably danced a pretty mean jig!
Here is what I like about the story: "Jesus the Healer" suddenly becomes "Jesus the Vanisher." Don't take that to be too mystical, because it isn't meant that way. Scripture just says Jesus slipped away into the crowd (John 5:13). He does this incredible act, and He moves on. He doesn't seek attention. He doesn't look for a platform. He just silently slips away.
I am challenged by Jesus’ example in John 5, especially because of some reading I have been doing recently. Today, you and I will cross the path of somebody that because of their circumstances or because of lids society has placed on them seems "helpless" or "paralyzed" in the midst of life. I want to encourage us to gracefully engage that person like Jesus did, and offer them some hope and value. Then simply slip silently away like Christ did. Don't look for a platform or a pat on the back. Let love live.
"Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words." (St. Francis of Assisi)