A Greater Appreciation for the Word of God

A true Christian runs to hear the word of God.

Of his own will he brought us froth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures, James 1.18. As God’s children each of us have experienced the tremendous power of the word of God in it’s conviction and saving power. Think back to the time when pure gospel preaching moved you to action. You were hungry. You couldn’t get enough teaching. Classes were exciting and worship was exhilarating. 

Wednesday evening after Bible class, Jim Grushon Sr. and I were talking. He mentioned the feeling he had the morning after his baptism. As he walked into work later that day and ran into the guy who shared the gospel with him, he asked, “How long does this feeling last?” 

His friend replied, “As long as you remain close to the Word.”

I like that. Every member at Kettering should understand the power of the word in producing salvation. Now, the imperative is for each of us to let it continue to do it’s powerful work. James 1.19a tells us how we do that. We need to be quick to hear. 

The idea is that we grasp every opportunity to increase our hearing of God’s word. True Christians run to hear the word of God. They long to read it. They want to learn it. How is your hunger? Do you long to grow? How is your appetite for the word?

This is the mark of the believer. If you observe a person who has no desire to be under the teaching of God, chances are that you’ll see a person who does not demonstrate what it means to be a true Christian.

As a member at Kettering, you have tremendous opportunities to dive into the word. Besides Sunday, you can participate in a Bible class at least three other days of the week. Devotionals and group studies are on the schedule. There will be a men’s retreat next weekend and the ladies hold monthly studies. These events are designed to challenge you and wet your appetite for deeper personal study. Can you say along with the Psalmist: Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart, Psalm 119.111.

Do Good to Everyone

Doing good is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22) and is the natural result of allowing God to shape our heart. In Galatians 6.8 Paul said that we will reap eternal life when we allow acts of service to characterize who we are. 

What are some good things you can do? For those inside and outside of the church? Here are ten simple suggestions (in no particular order):

  1. Romans 12.10 – help your familythe ones you need to serve the most are often the ones closest to you.
  2. 1 Peter 4.10-11 – volunteer to serve in your spiritual family – what spiritual gifts do you possess that you can use in service to others?
  3. Matthew 25.36 – donate items to the needy – you probably have clothes and other possessions you don’t need that someone else could use.
  4. 1 Thessalonians 5.11 – send someone an encouraging note – use the church directory to identify someone you think could use an uplifting message of support and hope.
  5. Acts 20.35 – deliver a meal – someone may be going through a difficult time and really appreciate this act of kindness.
  6. Hebrews 13.16 – watch someone’s kids – give a young mother a break.
  7. Philippians 2.3 – help others shine – build them up and applaud their efforts.
  8. James 1.19 – listen – make a world of difference in someone’s life by allowing them to just talk and express how they feel.
  9. Proverbs 11.24-25 – pay it forward – your act of kindness might just come at the right moment for someone else.
  10. Galatians 6.9 – every day of your life is an opportunity to do good – sometimes the best acts of kindness are spontaneous and do not have to make a powerful difference in someone else’s life.

We can all demonstrate the love of Christ. How are you doing? Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor, Romans 12.10.

The Loneliest Generation

Three weeks ago National Public Radio reported on a survey about loneliness which was conducted by one of America’s leading health insurance companies. Over 20,000 adults were contacted. Nearly 50% of respondents reported that “they feel alone” or “left out always or sometimes.” 54% said they “always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.” 56% said they “sometimes or always felt like the people around them are not necessarily with them.” 40% felt like “they lack companionship,” and that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they are “isolated from others.” The survey suggests that most Americans are considered lonely. 

Along with this comes additional data suggesting that the younger a person is, the more he/she is considered to be lonely. Generation Z, born between the mid-1990’s and the early 2000’s, ranks the highest, followed by millennials and baby boomers. The Greatest Generation, people age 72 and above, were the least likely to be lonely. (Statistics for Generation X, born between the mid-1960’s and early 80’s, were not mentioned.) The study, by San Diego State University, “suggests that more screen time and social media may have caused a rise in depression and suicide among American adolescents. Those who spend less time looking at screens and more time having face-to-face social interactions are less likely to be depressive or suicidal.

Perhaps, like at no time in recent memory in the USA, there is a great opportunity for God’s church. What does salvation through Jesus provide? Not only pardon from sin and eternal hope, but true companionship and genuine relationships with real people coping with real problems just like us. When we share Jesus we want people to know they are going to get to connect with some of the finest people on earth who want to share their life with others. Not perfect people mind you, but those who are eager to do life together along with other believers.

When we have a scare with our health, we’re not alone. When one chapter of life ends and another begins, there are those along beside who have been there and done that. If we lose our job, suffer through financial difficulty, struggle with our kids, or cope with growing older, there is someone in our spiritual family who can help. God has placed the church in your life for a purpose. He designed it to be a place of refuge, comfort, and hope. Paul said, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patience with everyone, 1 Thessalonians 5.11, 14. You don’t have to go through life alone. When you have God’s family in your life, loneliness won’t be a problem. How strong is your connection to the church? 

For more, see https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/01/606588504/americans-are-a-lonely-lot-and-young-people-bear-the-heaviest-burden 

When You Face Temptation

Recently, I preached a series of lessons from Ephesians 6.10-17. This is where Paul is wrapping up the letter to the Ephesians. He began by writing about the marvelous salvation we have been given. God lavished His grace on us (1.8). God made us alive together with Christ (2.5). Our new life is a product of God’s work, not our own (2.8-10). All of this is according to His incredible plan which has been revealed to us through His apostles (3.9-10). He has endowed us with great power (3.20).

Since all these things are true, we have been called to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (4.1). We are expected to live inside our new identity (5.8-10) and to be filled with the Spirit (5.18-21). We need to know our spiritual walk will not be easy. In fact, we should expect resistance from:

  • Our flesh, Galatians 5.17.
  • The world, John 15.18-19.
  • Satan, Ephesians 6.11-12.

So what do we do? How can we win on a day-to-day basis? How can we stand firm as Paul directs in Ephesians 6.13? Here are five helpful suggestions I recently ran across in my sermon prep:

  1. Remember that Satan has already been defeated. Through His work on the cross, Jesus has dealt a mortal blow to Satan. Jesus came to destroy Satan’s work, 1 John 3.8.
  2. Remember that the power that defeated Satan is dwelling in you. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world, 1 John 4.4b. Look again at what Paul writes in Ephesians 3.20. Are you accessing this power?
  3. Realize that you can successfully resist Satan. 1 Peter 5.8 begins with two admonition: Be sober-minded and be watchful. The adversary is real. His intention is real. Therefore, when he comes, resist him, firm in your faith (5.9). You can resist by not giving him an opportunity (Ephesians 4.27). What does that passage imply? If Satan has gained opportunity over you, it is because you failed to resist. So, don’t be outwitted by Satan and don’t be ignorant of his designs, 2 Corinthians 2.11.
  4. Flee the temptation. Flee youthful temptations and pursue righteousness…calling on the Lord with a pure heart, 2 Timothy 2.22.
  5. Bring every thought into captivity, 2 Corinthians 10.5. We need to allow our mind to be controlled by the will of God. It has been said that there are no shortcuts to effective, victorious Christian living. If you’re going to win, you must have a mind that has been given over to the word of God so that your thinking and feelings are controlled by spiritual truth.

You can win against temptation. What is your battle plan going forward?

When Words Aren’t Necessary

We’re doing a study on Christian fellowship this quarter. Today, I spent time in Romans 12.15-16 and mainly focused on the second part of 12.15: Weep with those who weep.

Following through on this can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. I don’t know of anyone who is ever excited to run out and cry with someone as they roll through a situation that’s full of grief, betrayal, or extreme pain and sorrow. But, I do know from personal experience what it means for the person who is going through difficulty.

Last week, I was called to help out with a family in our community whose son drowned in the Little Miami River. When I arrived, the mother, two sisters, and a brother were gathered around their car in the parking lot. The emergency trucks and their flashing lights could be seen across the field next to the river bank. The young man’s youngest sister was unconsolable. Everyone else was just staring at the emergency personnel who were going back and forth. They were in stunned disbelief. Also gathered were three teens who jumped in the river to try to save the victim. They almost drowned in the swift muddy water trying to pull him out. One in particular, still barefoot with sand all over his legs and feet, kept holding out his hands as he replayed the events in his mind. What do you say in such a situation? Nothing. You just give a hug where you can and let them know you care.

I am reminded of the story of Job, whose deep and grave trouble came upon him suddenly and with no expectation. Not only did he lose all his material possessions and offspring (Job 1), he lost his health (Job 2.1-10). Upon hearing this, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to comfort him. We read:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

(Job 2:11–13, ESV)

What is said here is very moving. Just read the words slowly and let them sink in:

  • Job’s condition was so bad, they did not recognize him.
  • His suffering was very great.
  • When they saw him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads…
  • They sat with Job on the ground, …and no one spoke a word to him.

Sometimes, all you can do is be there. The grief is so overwhelming, astonishing, and stupefying, that no words are adequate. In these situations, there is a reverential awe with which we approach the sufferer and a tender caution with which we address them. It is almost as if any words spoken would be out of place.

The only thing that matters, is your presence.

Last Saturday, I had another opportunity to visit with the family who lost their son. When I walked in, the mom said, “I don’t remember your name, but I do remember your face.” And you know, I realized at that moment she wouldn’t have remembered any words I would have said the previous Tuesday night. But she did know that I was there. And, as we talked on Saturday, you could tell it meant quite a lot.

Never forget that your presence in such situations speaks to them in a language which they cannot but understand and feel. And that, is far more powerful than any carefully crafted words of persuasion could ever be.

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV).

 

God: The God of Deliverance

In Exodus 3.13-14 we are introduced to God’s personal name. Moses is in a discussion with God at the burning bush, who has just commissioned him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, 3.10. Moses begins immediately to question his abilities. I believe this would be the natural reaction out of most humble people. Think about yourself and how you would respond. Moses’ first question is probably very similar to what mine would be: basically, “who am I to do this?” God’s reply in 3.12 is not something just to be passed over quickly because in it we learn about one of the great characteristics of God: I will be with you,… God is the ever-present one who is with His people. This is part of His identity. It’s who He is.

Next, Moses asks how he should answer if the people asked who sent him: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God answers: I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”  I AM is the personal name of God. It is commonly expressed with the consonants YHWH in the Hebrew language and is meant to describe the eternality, self-existence, and changelessness that belong to God alone. 

In Exodus 3.17, we learn a little more about God. The verse begins with a promise: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land …flowing with milk and honey. God is the ever-saving one who lives to redeem His people. Tying this back to 3.7-9, this is the exact message the people of Israel needed to hear from their God: i.e., He has heard their cries and will rescue them.

In Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt and along with Aaron explained to the people all that God had told them. Verse 31 marks a very crucial point in the Exodus story: And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Then comes chapter 5. After moments of faith adversity always comes. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand he let the Hebrews leave Egypt. They are summarily dismissed and directed to get back to your burdens, 5.4. To this, Pharaoh made their burdens harder by withholding straw for brick making (5.10); not lessening their work quotas even though the people had to scatter to find straw (5.12-14); and issuing beatings/violence if tasks were not completed on time (5.16). The foreman met with Moses and Aaron and blamed them for the impossible workload that had been placed on the people. To this, Moses cries out to God: O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all, 5.22-23.

Chapter 6 opens with God’s reassurances to Moses and to the Hebrew people. First God directs His attention to Moses. He tells him that the time will come when Pharaoh will drive the people out with a strong hand, 6.1. Now notice 6.2-5. See the covenant language. Here He uses His personal name again: I AM the Lord. Then he points to his relationship with the patriarchs and the promises he made. He has seen the groaning of His people and has remembered His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.13-16. Notice how God was personally moved and involved with the problem: I have heard and I have remembered are statements that indicate God is going into action and enforce the covenant made long before. What the patriarchs trusted would one day happen was now underway, and God encouraged Moses here to believe that fact.

Now, notice 6.6-8. These are the words that God wants Moses to use to reassure the people. God uses His personal name again: I am the Lord. He promises freedom  and deliverance. He will demonstrate His great power through the plagues, 6.6. He promises to make them His own possession: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,” 6.7a. He is encouraging them to move in trust that He will fulfill the promises He’s making. This is all in fulfillment to the assurances He had previously given to the Patriarchs (Genesis 15.13-20; 35.12; 48.4). And when the Hebrews went to Canaan they would own it, not just live in it: I will give it to you for a possession, 6.8b. The verse concludes with the same statement that began in 6.2: I am the Lord. It’s covenant language. In the ancient Near East it was customary for the giver of a covenant to always identify himself. When God says, I am the Lord, it is as if He is saying, I am Yahweh, your covenant God. But wait, there’s more.

Now, let’s go back to God’s statement in 6.3. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” God says previously that He didn’t reveal himself as the I AM to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only as “God Almighty.” By revealing Himself as the El Shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they saw Him as “the mighty one,” “the all-powerful one,” and “the One who is eternal.” But now in Exodus, God is going to reveal Himself as the deliverer of His people. When God says I am the Lord in 6.2, 8, He is identifying Himself relationally. He was connected to His people, knowing them personally. Thus the people could say, “He is not just any god, He is my God.”

This is different than what the Patriarchs had previously seen. God is not only the ever-eternal one. He is not only the ever-present one. He is also the one who lives to draw near His people for the purpose of redeeming them. God is the god of deliverance! He is the one who establishes a relationship with His people. This is what makes Him special and unique from every human contrived deity. Our God, the God, lives to love and serve those who choose Him. It’s such a wondrous thing!

Now, reread Exodus 3.7-9 and make the application to your life. Think of God as your deliverer: He sees your affliction. He knows all about your taskmaster. He knows all about your sufferings. He hears the cries of those caught in sin. He knows how Satan oppresses. It is His intention to deliver you out of the hand of Satan and bring you into a place that is good and that flows with His eternal blessings.

Cali | 22 May 2017


Good morning. Well, as of this morning, I can successfully say that the work and objectives for my 2017 trip to Colombia have been successfully accomplished.

On this year’s trip, I was able to visit with all six men we support. I was up close and personally involved in their work, interacting with many or all of the churches they preach for, and got to spend time in their home. It was a great experience of hospitality, encouragement, and partnership. Relationships were definitely strengthened, and everyone of our guys passes along greetings to you, the Kettering family, for your prayers and financial support. For some of them, the majority of their monthly income comes from us. They’re all doing a great work, making many sacrifices, and some of them are taking great risks to preach where they do.

The other objective of my trip was to be here yesterday in Cali to support this local church as they ordain shepherds to serve over them. It was just an incredible day. 15-20 preachers came in from around the country to witness the events. It was standing room only in the meeting place. Both Carlos Julio and Orlando are humble men, whose efforts as spiritual leaders were already evident. If anything, yesterday’s actions confirm what they were already doing – being servant leaders. Thanks to Wes Grushon who posted the YouTube link to the service last night. Most of it is in Spanish, but there are parts in there where Jason & I spoke. (Jason addressed the congregation in Spanish for about 2 minutes. It was great. And, I admire his courage. I’m not quite that brave yet.) The link is here:

After services yesterday, we all came back over to Orlando’s home where we 40-50 of us ate together. We played games. We celebrated. It was just a wonderful time. Many great memories were made.

Today I fly back to Cali, where I will spend time with Daniel Vela’s family. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on the big plane headed home. Becky is flying in from Tampa and we will be on the same flight with each other to Dayton. Looking forward to seeing you all at church tomorrow night

Cali Update 20 May 2017

Good morning from Cali!
It is a warm morning here. I have enjoyed getting to be in the home of Orlando Quintera. We arrived here Thursday evening after a 5 + hour drive down from Manizales. Both Jaime & I were not feeling well Thursday, and Natalia’s friend Laura was not well either. So, we got a late start on our journey. But, I’m pleased to say that we’re all feeling better now.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day visiting with Royce & Hope Chandler who have arrived here with one of their grandsons and a family friend from Arkansas. It was good to get caught up with the Chandlers and share common experiences with Terrence, who lives in one of the suburbs west of Little Rock.

Preachers from around the country are beginning to descend on Cali for tomorrows church service. Oscar Arias, Mauricio Zapata, David & Henry Jerez, and others arrived yesterday. Today, Wilson Valbuena, Rafael Amaya, Andres Lopez, and others arrive. Also, Jason will be here around 7 tonight. Very excited to see him.

We met at 7 last night for a church service. The place was full of people. There are many new coverts since I was here last. The radio program they have is really reaching the lost. Yesterday, Royce joined Carlos Julio on the program. I was invited to speak last night, so I took the opportunity to speak on Galatians 5 and what it means to walk by the Spirit.

I just can’t describe the happiness everyone has that we are here. When we sat down for a late dinner Thursday evening, I told Orlando that I was very happy to be here. I told him that I have been looking forward to this for a long time, to which he responded, “I am happier than you are that you are here.” Over and over again they have all voiced their appreciation for us. Everyone and I mean everyone is going out of their way to make us feel comfortable and well fed.

And, it’s hard to describe the joy everyone has that this church is installing elders. Just about where ever we’ve been (Villavicencio, Lorica, Ibague, & Manizales) it has been announced and prayed about that the Cali church is establishing elders. So, tomorrow will be a big day.

Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement. I’ve been able to speak with several of you. I appreciate you guys very much. After tomorrow, the trip is basically over. I fly from Cali to Bogota Monday afternoon and will be staying with the family of Daniel Vela. On Tuesday morning I hop on the big Delta jet that will bring me home in time for church on Tuesday night. Looking forward to being with you again.

Matt

Manizales 18 May 2017

Manizales Update
Good morning!
This is my last day writing from here as we will be leaving late this morning for the last part of this trip – Cali. It has been a great few days here. I have been able to get some rest – from a very busy first two weeks and am excited and energized to spend the next few days with the brethren in Cali.

On Tuesday, Jaime had a few errands to run, so I took at 2.5 mile walk along the top of the mountain above Jaime’s house. When I started, the clouds had rolled in over the mountain and you could barely see. By the time I got back, everything had cleared. There were some magnificent views to behold. Tuesday afternoon, we all went to a giant waterfall and thermal springs just E of Santa Rosa – about 45 minutes from here. It was a great experience to see.

Yesterday, Jaime took me to his brother’s coffee farm (Juan Valdez). It was a such a great experience. We drove about 45 minutes SW of here to a little village on the side of a mountain. The manager of the coffee farm met us in a jeep and took us for a 30 min ride up to the farm. We got stuck going up and the guy had to work to get the jeep through the giant slick spot. Once we got up to the top, we were fed a fabulous lunch of fresh chicken, soup, and other things. Then it was time to go out into the fields of coffee and pick some beans. I got an up close and personal experience of how they pick the beans by hand, drop them in a bucket, and carry them back to where they are processed. There is a lot of things that happen from the actual coffee plant to the roasted beans that you use every morning to make your coffee.

After we got back to Manizales, it was time to head to Niera, which is about 12 miles N of here. This is where Mauricio Zapata has been preaching for 15 years. The little congregation there has moved to a different location since I was there last. They have a much nicer and larger place to meet. Before the service last night, I was able to visit with Mauricio and his wife and family. They are great people doing a fine work.

I’m just impressed with all the work that has gone on here in this area. Jaime told me yesterday that it is his dream that every little town in the Caldas Department have it’s own local church. And, they’re working on it. When we were high up on the coffee farm yesterday, Jaime pointed to a village you could see in the distance. He mentioned that they have contacts in that town and are working to establish a church there. Over the last 30 years, the Manizales church has helped build works all over a 30-40 mile radius. Most of these congregations are growing. It’s great to see it for yourself and know that Kettering has played a significant role behind the scenes helping it happen. We can all take great satisfaction in this and give God the glory.

Today we’ll be embarking on a 5 hour drive down to Cali. Jason arrives in Bogota tomorrow evening & flies to Cali on Saturday. I will be very happy to see him. And, I’ll be very excited to see all of you when I get home next week.

Thanks again for all of your prayers and words of encouragement. Love you all.

Manizales 15 May 2017

Good morning from the most beautiful city in Colombia! It’s been a busy three days since I’ve been here. Friday was a travel day. Both flights were delayed, the one into Manizales was almost two hours late due to weather.

We got in town long enough to unpack our suitcases, change, and head for a service in Santa Rosa, Risaralda, about an hour south of here. This congregation is growing, and they are reaching out into another city, just south of there, in hopes of starting a new congregation there. I was able to preach for the congregation & afterwards Jaime & I enjoyed a dinner of chorizo & rice at the home of Carlos Henao & family.

On Saturday afternoon we went to Chinchina, which is about 30 minutes from here. I was able to meet with Felipe Torres, whose fathers preaches in this town. Felipe is helping Jaime with printing books, tracts, and workbooks. The equipment they are using is pretty old and is too little for the capacity and type of printing they do. But, I appreciate their efforts, because they want to lessen their dependence on having Americans buy books & songbooks and ship them here. The church in Chinchina had a service Saturday pm. I was able to preach for them.

Sunday was a great day. It was Mother’s Day & I was able to talk to Becky & mom before church. We worshipped at Manizales yesterday. I have met many of the church members there on previous visits. I preached and Jaime translated. After church, Jaime & I had lunch with his brothers & sisters downstairs. Last night I spent time with the church at the Villamaria congregation. This is where Oscar Arias preaches, who visited Kettering in early March. If Jaime could be likened to Paul, Oscar is his Timothy.

Before church Sunday evening, Jaime drove me to the area where landslides affected a large housing area in Manizales. This is where Henry and Elena (the family individuals at Kettering recently helped) live. While their home has not been directly impacted by mud and rock, the mountain is just a few hundred yards away. Hundreds of home in this neighborhood have been condemned and will have to be destroyed, because they are in imminent danger. Police have the area blocked off, and stand guard 24 hours a day. Henry & Elena still owe a mortgage on their home and have no insurance. The city is offering them a home in a poor section of town and will provide a temporary rent subsidy of $90 each month. They have to pay the remainder and still pay for their mortgage on a home they can no longer live in.

Henry led the service for the Lords supper last night. It was my pleasure to meet him before and after the service. He passed along greetings to each one of you & thanked me again for everyone’s help. With their needs so great, I am thinking of using the money individuals gave me for this trip to help them additionally. I should see one or both of them later today. They are the only Christians to have been directly affected by these landslides.

It rains here everyday. All over town there are places where the mountains have washed down on the road. New slides are happening every day smashing cars and motorcycles. Many roads are down to one way traffic as crews have the inside lane closed off cleaning up debris.

So, that is the latest from here. Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement.

Matt