Making Disciples

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Churchless Christianity

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Mark Yule
Pastor of Discipleship

Old time preacher/author Vance Navner said, “What the world needs is neither a Christless churchianity nor a churchless Christianity, but Christ, the Head living afresh in His body, the Church.”

I couldn’t agree more as it seems that there is a tendency to be pulled in either extreme.  The truth of this quote pulls us back to a rightful center.  Woe to the church where Jesus isn’t the object of focus.  Not programs or personalities; not buildings or budgets - but Christ, first and foremost.

We can also be in danger of swinging off center by adapting to a “churchless Christianity.”  We live in a world which can pull a follower of Christ off kilter by self-centered drives and independent desires for autonomy.  True, our faith is personal, but that should not be synonymous with isolation from His body, the church.  Christ must be head for He rules and makes the rules for how we can fit and function within the church.  He desires unity and harmony not isolation.

Christ and the church are inseparable and undefeatable (“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:18)  Personally and corporately Christ must be the Head, and we must be connected to the body.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  Ephesians 2:19-22

As disciples and disciple makers let’s stay firmly connected to our Cornerstone and make sure we are joined together in His Church.  

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may You live afresh in my life.  May I stay connected to You as my Head and my Lord.  Help me to stay firmly joined to the church in community, harmony and unity.  Christ afresh, for Your glory.

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Running the Race to Win the Prize

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Craig Osten
Highlands Elder

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. – 1 Corinthians 9:24

I have always found it interesting that in three different passages in the New Testament, the analogy of “running the race” is mentioned. Like all things in God’s word, the repeated references are not an accident, but instead are an emphasis of a basic truth.

Besides 1 Corinthians 9:24, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul tells Timothy as he languishes in prison awaiting his death: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Finally, in Hebrews 12:1-2, the author writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This September, I will celebrate my 40th spiritual birthday. As I reflect on those 40 years, the analogy of a race – especially as I get closer and closer to the finish line – makes increasing sense.

The type of race I am thinking that Paul and the author of Hebrews were likely referring to are the long-distance races held in ancient Greece. These races originated about 490 B.C., when a soldier named Pheidippides ran 25 miles from the town of Marathon to Athens. His story became the basis for the modern-day marathon races.

I have never run a physical marathon, and with an arthritic left knee never will, but I have friends who have. They have told me that to run and finish a marathon takes great endurance and perseverance. It requires pushing though pain and not giving up when you have the temptation to do so. If you are going to make it the whole way, you must keep your eyes solely focused on the goal of crossing the finish line and receiving their prize.

But once you make it to the end, you have a feeling of exhaustion and exhilaration when you finish. Your body relaxes and you drop to your knees in thankfulness of reaching the finish line.

What an incredible analogy to our Christian lives! Is it any wonder why Paul and the author of Hebrews chose to use the example of a race to teach a vital and applicable lesson?

For me, there have been times since I became a Christian where I have experienced great pain and could have given up. But I chose to keep running. There have been times when I have become distracted, taken my eyes off the finish line, and veered off course, only to be corrected by the Holy Spirit. Once corrected, I chose to keep running.

There have been times when the finish line has seemed so distant that I have asked myself, “Do I truly have what it takes to finish the race?” And in those times of self-doubt and temptation, the Lord has reminded me that I do have what it takes – faith – and I keep running.

For a marathon runner to win a race, it takes great mental and physical discipline. For us as Christians, it takes a different sort of discipline: spiritual discipline. But the reward for exercising such discipline is great and goes far beyond what the earthly runner receives. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.”

For us as Christians, we run the race not for our glory, but so we can obtain the prize of being in the presence of God for eternity. That is why I (and we) must always be in training through practicing the spiritual discipline of focusing on Jesus, exercising self-control, being in God’s Word and in prayer seeking His guidance, and encouraging our fellow “runners,” so we can keep the faith, cross the finish line, and win the race.

I would challenge all of us to never stop training and to keep on running even when it is not easy. Through practicing spiritual discipline and encouraging our fellow believers to do so as well, we can successfully keep the faith and finish the race to receive an imperishable prize.

Prayer: Father, help me to keep my eyes focused on you – to have the discipline to run the race for your glory, and not mine, and to finish well. Help me to also encourage others who are in the race with me so that we may build each other up and bear each other’s burdens along the way, so we can finish the race and receive the prize of life eternal with you. Amen.

Posted by Craig Osten with

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