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Run Well, Finish Strong

Today Pastor Ed Allen preached a sermon on the theme "Run Well, Finish Strong" from Hebrews 12:1-3

In every race, runners aren't judged by what they look like or anything but how well they run and how well they finish.

We've all inherited "the quitter's gene" in some way.  We quit in many ways.  Sometimes it's by lowering our expectations or no longer making the effort.

While there are times when we should change direction, how do we get going when things get tough?

Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us a helpful image, which includes five themes to help us run well and finish strong.

1)  People who run well and finish strong are inspired by others who have done it well.

"surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses"

We've just looked at the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11.  We need people around us and books around us with stories of people who have done it well.  Find mentors in your life.

2)  People who run well and finish strong know that it takes effort.

"let us run with perseverance"

We need to run the race marked out for us.  Don't move to an easier trail.  It will get tough.

James 1:2-5 -- God uses the difficulties to build perseverance and character in us.

Value improvement over comfort.  God is building high performance.  To do so, he uses discomfort.

3)  People who run well and finish strong are mindful that God is deeply involved in their lives.

"the race marked out for us"

In cross country, someone other than the runners marks out the course.

Focus on the course and not on your own discomfort.  It's not about you.  It's for God's purposes.  Our job is not to run someone else's race.

4)  People who run well and finish strong know that finishing our race will require subtraction.

"let us throw off everything that hinders"

It's by running that we know what the encumbrances are.  Start moving!

You may need to do violence to part of your life and habits to eliminate hindrances.

5)  People who run well and finish strong focus on Jesus.

"fixing our eyes on Jesus"

If you want to plow a field in straight lines, you need to focus on a fixed point.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus means relying on his provision and focusing on his example.  He looked to the end and he was tenacious, enduring even the cross.

Keep running, like Jesus did, in single-minded devotion to the Father and to us.

Why Church? Why Give?

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his series on "Why Church?" by looking at another question:  Why Give to the Church?

When Gateway started 20 years ago, Pastor Ed avoided preaching about giving, because he didn't want to feed people's perception that the church is always asking for money.

We're not talking about money because we need it -- God will provide.  And our congregation has historically been vry generous.

We're talking about money because Jesus talked about money.  He said, "Where your treasure is, your heart will be also."  We want to talk about this way of diving in and becoming a part of the community.

We looked at the Scripture passage Acts 2:41-47.  This passage happened after Peter's preaching at Pentecost, when 3000 people became part of the new church.

"Devoted" means to occupy oneself diligently with.  Those new Christians were devoted to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer.

They met together regularly.  

"The apostles' teaching" is now in the Bible for us.  When we come to Christ, we make Jesus and His word the highest authority.

We're a well-educated congregation, and it's normal for us to make our own reason the highest authority.  Coming to Jesus gives authority to Him.

The word "fellowship" can also be translated "community."  This is what the church is!

They met in homes and were devoting themselves to each other.

Devoting ourselves to those same four things -- the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer -- is a path to effective living.

Why did the first Christians give?

First of all, they gave because of their commitment to one another.

The church is a network of relationships.  We're "organized" because it helps us be there for each other.

We give to create an environment to facilitate community.

"Glad and sincere hearts" can be translated as "glad and generous hearts."

We encourage you without apology to give and give generously.

If you're a long-time Gateway member who has been giving, we encourage you "don't grow weary in doing good."  Keep on giving!

If you haven't been giving, step in and give.  (But do seek God first.)  Let's go deeper this year and seek God -- you'll be expanded.

If you're new to Gateway, step in and give.  You're not here by accident, but you're also not here to be a casual observer.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  We'd love your heart to be among us here in this network of believers.

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