There is something simple and beautiful about a seed going down into the earth and undergoing all the processes that it does in order to take root, pierce the soil it is buried in and extend skyward up toward the heavens. It’s amazing to see all the different types of leaves, flowers and fruit that these different seeds can eventually yield. It starts small. They always start small, but they can blossom into something amazing. In these simple yet beautiful things we can see the glory of God. So it is with the faith of a Christian. A fresh faith can, season after season, become stronger and stronger until it reaches full bloom in maturity and yield great fruit for the kingdom of God.
The Bible is rife with agricultural metaphors. Think of the idea of conversion. Jesus uses the analogy of a kernel of wheat in one of His many parables to illustrate the idea of someone dying to sin and being alive to God in John 12.24. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” Considering a recent baptism here at Kettering we should be rejoicing and encouraged, being reminded of this truth whether we see ourselves as a fledgling sprig or a well-rooted plant.
No matter our position it is our responsibility to bear fruit for God. Galatians 2.22-23 tells us what that fruit looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” A mature Christian will bear this fruit, and it will all come naturally from his or her dedication to Christ.
Even still, we all need to work together. Sometimes we will see a young sprig in need of a drink. Sometimes we will find a plant that has grown away from the sun. Let’s all strive together to stir one another to good works no matter how long we have been in the faith, no matter how great or small our knowledge or talents are, and no matter the differences in opinion we may have. Let’s all encourage one another, provide a listening ear, or whatever the need may be to help us all reach higher to the goal of “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
(2 Peter 3.18)
- Cain Atkinson
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall, Proverbs 16.18. It can be a problem for every person. How can we keep it in check?
- Develop a spirit of humility: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others, Philippians 2.4. Romans 12.16c says, never be wise in your own sight.
- Listen to the wise counsel of others: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future, Proverbs 19.20. Solomon also said, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice, Proverbs 12.15.
- Share your blessings with those in need: How has God blessed you? Never forget you are a steward of what God has given you. Everything you possess is on loan from God. Jesus taught a parable about a rich man whose sole purpose in life was the acquisition of more “things” with no regard for anyone else. It cost him his soul, Luke 12.13-21. One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want, Proverbs 11.24.
If you’ve been living the type of life that speaks more to your dedication to selfish interests than concern for others, resolve to make a change. When you ask God to help you control your pride, you will be amazed at the difference in your marriage, the relationship with your children, and with everyone you meet.
Every day, you can become more like Jesus. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit, Galatians 5.24-25.
— Matthew Allen
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household,
— Hebrews 11.7
For just a moment, place yourself in Noah’s shoes. What an incredible challenge! Noah had no prior experience in ark building. It had never rained before. What would everyone else think while he labored to build an ark? Despite the challenges, Noah launched forth. Faith will find a way. God may be calling you to your own building project with which you have no prior experience. Or, He may be calling you to begin again something you’ve attempted many times before, but met with failure. Your failures and your past do not define you. Will you respond to God’s call? He is always working to teach you to depend on Him. And, as you learn to lean on Him, you will be amazed at His delivering and sustaining power, Ephesians 6.10. You can become more and more like Jesus. God will help you do what you once thought impossible.
What are some areas you need to stretch yourself? Is it:
- Overcoming a weakness of the flesh? Bringing your body under discipline? See 1 Corinthians 9.27.
- Finding victory in the battles with your tongue? See James 3.1-12.
- Seeing more of the good in those you love? Your spiritual family? See Ephesians 4.29-32.
- Freeing yourself from distractions - so you can know God more intimately? See Psalm 46.10a.
Faith will empower you to offer yourself as a complete sacrifice. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks, Hebrews 11.4. For Cain, life was all about Cain. For Abel, life was all about God. Selfishness and pride led Cain to destruction. Selfless devotion and trust in God led Abel to become a powerful example for us today, long after his death. When your faith is growing, you see the evidence of God’s work and constant companionship. His protection and promises will serve as motivation to follow Him wherever He leads.
Where is your heart? Have you sacrificed yourself so that you can know Him more? Embrace the power of faith and prepare to be amazed at what God can do with your life.
— Matthew Allen
If you are going through a trial and being continually pounded by doubt, always remember that God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5.9. It is by this knowledge that we can encourage one another. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing, 5.11.
I think Paul expounds on this in Romans 8. Shortly after the writing of this epistle, the Roman Christians would endure intense persecution. What is written in 8.31-39 would serve as a tremendous source of encouragement for Christians of all time. During trials of any sort, remember that:
- If God is for us, who can be against us?, 8.31.
- God has declared us righteous, 8.32-33.
- Jesus is interceding for us, 8.34-35. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
- We will be more than conquerors, 8.37.
Trials have a way of strengthening our hope. When we have the right attitude, they can make our hope brighter, because through them we can see the steady and secure hand of God.
While passing through the sea of life, our boat may be rocked by trial, temptation, and sin. But, no matter what happens, we know God loves us and will protect us. He never leaves our side! Even if we lose everything in this life, we still have our hope! No one in this life can take that away. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8.38-39. Even during the Old Testament time, those who had fully given themselves to God lived with a confident hope.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
— Psalm 27.1-6.
— Matthew Allen
Over the past seven weeks, the Kettering family has endured the loss of two beloved sisters, Vera Grushon and Barbara Kelso. Although both were aging fast, their deaths were sudden, leaving us with shock and sadness. Their vacant seats stand out to us today as we miss their warm and refreshing presence. So many of you have responded to their families with love, care, and kindness. Truly we have experienced what Paul wrote about in Romans 12.15 and 1 Corinthians 12.26: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. It is such a blessing to be part of this close-knit and loving spiritual family. We are truly doing life together as we anticipate the life to come.
As we move forward, there will be plenty of opportunities to serve Jim and Dick. In 1 Timothy 5.3 Paul speaks about the need of honoring those who have lost their spouse. This means the rest of us demonstrate respect, care, and grace in meeting their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. I know many of you are reaching out to them — as well as all of the rest of our widowers and widows. Thank you for the good work you are doing. Keep on remembering the admonition in Galatians 6.9-10: Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
On Friday as we reflected on Barbara’s life, there were so many sweet and touching stories of her dedication to her husband, children, and friends. We touched on her faithfulness — 65 years a Christian; 68 years of marriage. What a legacy! If she were with us, she would try to downplay her accomplishments, but it is important we remember and follow her example. Barbara, like those who have gone on before, has now joined the great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on, rooting for our success as we run toward the completion of our race. She has now realized the promises that you and I presently take comfort in: The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels, Revelation 3.5. Praise God for His deliverance from death and gift of eternal life. May we do all we can to lay hold upon it … just as Barb did.
— Matthew Allen