The Internet is a wonderful tool. We have grown accustomed to using it for work and play. We can do our research on-line. We can purchase almost anything we use around the office or home on-line. If we are unfamiliar with some idea, news item, or person, we can just “Google” it on-line and become better informed. A growing number of people have jumped on the bandwagon of social media to stay in touch with long lost friends, and even develop new friendships with like-minded people. We like to be connected via the Internet.

One thing that making these connections—business or casual, old or new—requires is our connection. One might say that our connections rely on our connection. If our connection to the information super-highway is slow or (worse) broken, then we miss some of the connections that we want to make with our friends.

The same is true for good discipleship. In order to grow we have to be connected. Certainly, if we want to grow spiritually we must have constant connection with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. But this is only half of the necessary connection for growth. To be truly connected to God, we must also establish and keep connection with God’s people. This is usually done best through small groups in the local church. Get connected today, and stay connected for the future.

  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – (1 Corinthians 12:26)

Often when we think of the title “disciple” our minds go directly to the Twelve Chosen to be called Apostles. Truth be told we hardly ever think of ourselves as disciples. We like the label Christian, even with the modern baggage that has been attached to the word, because it identifies us as part of the group who believes in Jesus. For that matter, some people are more comfortable with the label “believer” because it focuses on the belief and not the following.

Then there are those of our number who have latched onto the label “Christ-follower” to emphasize the difference between what we believe and what believers in other faiths believe. I’m still partial to the name Christian because – regardless of the stigma (or maybe because of it) that has latched onto that name – it still means “one who is like Christ” or “Little Christ.”

In any case, we are still called by the One we follow to be and make disciples. So what does that look like? To begin with, a disciple is a person who initially comes to Christ for life. And he continues to come—daily, weekly, constantly—to Christ for his existence. Won’t you come to Jesus today?

  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

What is the purpose of the church? That’s an appropriate question in any age, but especially for us today. Many people have an ingrained opinion about why we have church. Some people think that the church is a place for people to gather with their own kind and shut out others. It may be a place where we can stack up rules so neatly that they build a wall that no one can get over, under, or around.

I think perhaps, as we consider what the purpose of the church is, it might be better to find out how the Scripture directs the church. If we are to be the people described in the Bible we would be the Bride of Christ (presented to Him for eternity as one loved); the Pearl of Great price (a thing of beauty to be cherished and honored), and the Body of Christ (working together under the direction of the head who is Christ Jesus our Lord).

When we follow His direction we work together, we worship together, we welcome together, we worry together, and we witness together. We do this because we are directed by Christ, following His lead and direction, and obeying His command. We find our purpose and the plan for church in Christ’s Great Commission for the church.

 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Evie Tornquist Karlsson recorded a song some years ago that goes in part like this:

Many years have come and gone

Since He walked upon our ground

They say lives don’t last so long

So why’s His story hanging around . . .

Anybody here want-a live forever, say I do,

Anybody here want-a walk on golden streets, say I do,

Anybody here sick and tired of living like you do,

Anybody here want-a live forever, say I do.

It seems to be the wish of a host of people—immortality. The key to this dream of eternal existence boils down to one thing—what will we do with Jesus?

History records the words and deeds of a number of people, but they don’t live beyond their words or deeds unless they have believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same for us today. We can do every earthly thing in our power to leave a legacy, but if we desire to live forever, we must say, “I do” to the saving power of Jesus’ blood shed on the Cross some 2000 years ago. So, does anybody here want to live forever?

 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

From time to time I like to watch certain types of racing. It may stem from my days on the Jr. High track team when I was a kid. I was always fascinated with the relay races (although I never was part of that race—the coach assigned me to hurdles). They practiced more than just the average runner who did the road work and wind sprints. To these daily exercises they practiced diligently at passing the baton at full speed. This was important because a dropped baton meant a lost race, a late or early pass meant disqualification. And so they practiced the hand-off with intensity.

I’ve also enjoyed some of the bicycle relays when they’ve been telecast in my viewing area. These cyclists ride with precision keeping in sync with one another almost to the position of the pedal. As the lead grows weary, he drops back to bring up the rear and be carried along in the wake of his team-mates. Everybody is doing their part to keep the machine of the team in motion.

We can take a lesson from the relay athletes in understanding the work of the church. Occasionally we spell one another, working in sync as a team. At other times we pass the baton smoothly and safely to the next one. Are we preparing to pass/receive the baton of service as time marches on?

 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

In the 1980s Guy Dowd, a public school teacher and part-time pastor, was chosen to be “Teacher of the Year.” He earned a trip to the Whitehouse to meet then president Ronald Reagan, and he enjoyed many speaking engagements as a result of the honor. In his public addresses he talked about how encouraging it was to meet the president and be honored with an award.

For Dowd, though, life wasn’t always encouraging. He was awkward and overweight growing up. Because of this he was the recipient of many jokes and derisions. One phys ed coach made a point to belittle him in front of his entire class. How does a child like this find his way through the education system and into the oval office for a meet and greet with the president? The answer is in the form of another phys ed teacher. This coach would build up and encourage his students. Dowd recalls another failed effort to do any chin-ups as required by the curriculum. But instead of berating the young student, coach said, “Good effort, Guy. Good effort.”

It’s nice to be encouraged along the way, and some of the best encouragement comes from God Himself as he looks down on his children and says, “Good effort.”

 “Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15a)

I like a good, sturdy umbrella, don’t you? Umbrellas have a specific job to do, and if they are built well they do that job nicely. They keep the rain from crashing down on me, and I don’t have to stay inside all the time.

I have discovered, though, that if you are going to purchase an umbrella, it is worth your while to fork over a little bit extra and purchase a well-made one rather than try to save a buck on the cheap ones. You know the ones: they “conveniently” fold up into a tiny size that fits neatly in the pocket or purse. What I found out about these collapsible models is that they are easily left behind and lost, whereas we never leave behind an expensive model that is big enough to use as a club if necessary. Most of the cheap umbrellas I have owned didn’t provide very good protection from the elements anyway—one big gust of wind and they flip inside-out  and let all the rain in. I prefer the Mary Poppins variety of umbrella that could carry me off in a strong windstorm.

God is a sturdy umbrella. He is portable enough to stay with us everywhere we go, and strong enough to protect us from all the elements of any storm.

 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)