The Power of Your Faith

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.

Our Hope is Confirmed During Trials

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.

Three Ways You Can Honor Your Family

Let love be genuine. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12.9a-10.

I think we’d all agree we need closer families, especially in this day and age. What are some things you can do to promote good feelings and more love in your home?

Honor them with your time. Everyone is busy. In some families, kids have just as demanding schedules as their parents. Each member of the family must prioritize and set aside time to be together with each other. If not, everyone can become disconnected and relationships will suffer. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by eating a meal together. Make it happen and ensure it is free of outside interference so you can focus on what matters most: your family.

Honor them by listening. Sometimes, we need to talk things out. You can build trust, love, and affection by simply listening to others. Multitasking during times of communication leads to a breakdown in listening. Give your family members your undivided attention. You’ll be amazed at how your relationships can improve.

Honor them through acts of service. Be attentive to the needs of others. Do your share of work around your home. Gladly and generously help with the chores of others who may be having a busy week. Do all of this, expecting nothing in return. Acts of service are never about keeping score. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends, 1 Corinthians 13.4-8a.

Don’t put these things off. Make them a priority. You’ll be thankful later for what you’re building today.

Thoughts and Prayers

As last Sunday began, details were just beginning to emerge on the horrific mass shooting in downtown’s Oregon District. If the news weren’t bad enough already, as I left for home from worship and turned on the local news I was completely shocked to learn the shooter was from Bellbrook and lived a few streets over from our old house. I remember seeing him when he worked at the Valero station, and he probably made me a few burritos at Chipotle. Our daughter knew him from high school. During his freshman year, our son was in the band with the shooter’s sister. How could this type of evil originate from my hometown? A town that epitomizes the essence of small-town, Midwestern values? Then, a few hours later, the news revealed that his sister was one of the 9 victims. How could a person do that? How could a brother kill his sister? Every day over the past week, I’ve thought about the victims and their families. I’ve thought about the brevity of life. And, I’ve pondered much about the Bellbrook family who lost not one, but both of their children. They’re only at the beginning of the pain and grief of loss … and simultaneously grapple with the greatest of international embarrassment and shame. There are not many larger burdens to carry.

As news leaked early last week people began to post their condolences on social media. Politicians spoke via news media. Many said that their thoughts and prayers were with the victim’s families, the first responders, and the injured. I appreciate people taking the time to say these things. During times like this, people want to do something and sometimes thoughts and prayers are all a person can do. But as people expressed their compassion, many of them were immediately mocked by those on the cultural left … who are quick to blame the Christian God for allowing evil and then slam those on the cultural right for doing nothing, as if prayer is an empty waste of time.

Don’t be intimidated by those who obnoxiously proclaim their anti-God agenda. During times of personal or national tragedy, prayer is an absolute essential. It’s time we stood up and loudly proclaimed without apology that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5.16b. At Kettering, we believe God’s promise. I so appreciated our shepherds leading our family in prayer for the victims and first responders as last week’s service concluded. We trust God. We don’t understand how or why things happen, but God does. Ultimately, we rest in the assurance that He has the power to bring comfort to those who are the victim of the work of Satan, who lives to steal, kill and destroy, John 10.10. God isn’t to be blamed for the evil which lies at Satan’s feet. Times of tragedy also serve as a perfect opportunity to share an invitation about His rock solid assurances of salvation and the promises of peace that only God can provide. Every day we need to be testifying to the power of faith and to the power of prayer.  Your political agenda isn’t what matters. God’s agenda of salvation is what is most important and may we never forget our need to set the example of class, dignity, and respect for life by our care, seasoned words, love, and compassion for others. 

— Matthew Allen

Live as a Citizen of the Kingdom

There is so much to appreciate about our times of worship at Kettering. They are reverent, inspiring, and uplifting. I felt that way Wednesday evening after Jim Grushon prayed, specifically mentioning some of our older members by name and one of our shepherds who had surgery the next day. In his prayer, Jim spoke of the hope ungirding their lives because of their knowledge that this world is not their home. I think as we grow older that realization becomes a little more clear every day. This world is not our home.

In Philippians 1.27 Paul wrote, …let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. In in the original language, the words manner of life mean “to live as a citizen.” The emphasis here of course, is not as a citizen of earth, but as a citizen of heaven – the kingdom of God. I believe Paul intentionally chose this word because it carried great meaning in the Greco-Roman world.

Romans were very political. To be a Roman citizen was the highest honor. Philippi was a Roman colony, of which it was very proud. The city had a Roman mindset, attitude, and lifestyle. It had a refined culture. It’s citizens spoke Latin and dressed in Roman ways. People wore Roman names. They were very deeply into being Roman citizens. Also, living in that culture meant that a person did not live for oneself. It was about the good of the state and living in partnership with society. Individual citizens developed their talents, abilities, and skills for the sake of everyone. 

When Paul says live as a citizen, it was something that would have resonated with the Philippians. He certainly wrote it in the context of Christianity. Will you live like a citizen in God’s kingdom?

  • Will you love for the good of others, placing yourself in second place?
  • Will you live with a sense of pride in Who you are identified with? Never forget you wear the name of Christ.
  • Will you live in a manner consistent with the values of the place you call home?

That Paul was thinking of heaven when he told the Philippians to live as a citizen, is clear when we read, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself, 3.20-21.

You have been called to live in a partnership with other Christians. To live as a citizen inside a spiritual kingdom. To be governed by God’s laws, which consist of righteousness, faith, love, service, and worship. 

Does this describe you?

So Much to be Thankful For

Last week was definitely not a normal week in Dayton, Ohio. For most of us, Monday probably began like most Memorial Days do. It was a day off. We took time to remember those who have fallen in defending freedom. We celebrated with family and friends and may have enjoyed the afternoon at home or on the lake. But, for some of us, how Monday ended was very eventful to say the least. And because of that, life may not be the same ever again.

The series of tornadoes that came through Montgomery and Greene counties affected at least seven of our families at Kettering. The amount and degree of damage varied, but thankfully, no one was injured. 

It has been so refreshing to see everyone rally behind those who were in the path, providing generators, food, water, ice, laundry and/or lodging, and cleaning up limbs and debris. So many of you actually responded, that it is impossible to list every person here. No one had to beg for help. Everyone just rolled up their sleeves and went to work. This is what Christians do. It’s what makes our Kettering family family.

If anything, driving around town this week and seeing the destruction should serve as a very visible reminder of the temporary condition of our world. What we have today may be gone tomorrow. This not only includes our possessions, but our life! You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes, James 4.14. Such events should serve as a reminder of how small and helpless we are. We are not in control … God is. We are dependent on Him for everything in life. Dramatic things like these should also remind us never to take anything for granted. Life is too short and fragile to hold grudges and stay away from those who we should love the most. Kiss your spouse and hug your kids. Let your family know how much you love them. Invest in their lives. There is no time in the future that is guaranteed.

Hard times are what bring us together. Days of difficulty are where we have the greatest opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others (Matthew 25.35-36; Romans 12.14-15). Thank you for your encouragement to those who are tired and hurting. True discipleship and loving service are genuine marks of this congregation. It is a blessing we should praise God for with the spirit of continual thankfulness.

Parenting: From This Side of Life

Parenting: From This Side of Life

I know many young parents may just pass off what I’m about to say, —  because my wife and I did — but, enjoy your kids while they’re home because it will all go by very fast. Maybe we dismissed that because it sounded like something our parents would say. But, here we are … in our mid 40’s with one gone and one ready to go. And, looking back — it did fly by, …the teen years especially. You may not be able to believe this now, but sometime over the next decade or two, you’ll be making remarks about how fast it went … just like we are now. (We do sound more like our parents as we age… )

There was no way, in 1996, that we could imagine our life experience and situation in 2019. And, while we had a plan and knew a lot more then than we do now, the joys, fun, smiles, laughs, challenges, disappointments, setbacks, and growth leading to the life we have today were impossible to see. Some of the things we said our kids would never do, they did. Some of the things we said we would never do, we did. But it all did work out. And, of the things that aren’t quite worked out yet, we trust that they will. We didn’t do things perfectly, and neither will you. There were many things we did do right, and so will you. So, what are some words of encouragement for those coming on behind, with kids still at home?

Commit your marriage and family to God’s way. You will need to be just as determined as Joshua who said, as for me and my family, we will worship the Lord, Joshua 24.15. Your kids need to see you fully committed to the Lord and have zero doubt that everything in your family will be measured by His standard — not the world’s. Any pressure to conform will be resisted and unapologized for because God’s way is what is right.

Remember the way you live is the way you communicate. You can constantly expound on your faith and trust in God, but what your kids will emulate is what they actually see. It has been said, the eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear: fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear. Desirable outcomes in our children will be largely produced by our determination to live out our values in the small moments of life. Let your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no,” James 5.12b.

Be intentional with your time. As the years go by, it is easy to get caught up in your career, tending to aging parents, hobbies, or recreation. It is also easy to take for granted that the time will always be there. The years where they are young and constantly cling to you will disappear as the teen years approach. You’ll be much farther down on their priority list (except when they need money) and you’ll be wishing for more time with them. So, be intentional to make time to talk about God, read Scripture, and learn the pleasure of living for the Lord, especially when they’re young. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up, Deuteronomy 6.6-7.

Be humble. No matter where you are in parenting, you do not know it all. And, the current techniques and pop psychology found in magazines, websites, the universities, and television will never replace the eternal, time-tested principles of God’s word. Don’t neglect the wisdom and experience of those Christians who are farther down the road than you. Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old, Job 12.12. You may not agree with every parenting style, but the principle remains the same … there are others who have been there and done that. And many of them are eager to help you avoid the pitfalls they experienced. Not everyone in previous generations got it wrong and they bring a wealth of information, grace, and love to the table — and are very desirous to come up along side you for any problem you experience.

Don’t ignore reality. Those who have been through decades of parenting will tell you this is not the same world it was when they began. Times have changed and the social / moral fabric of our nation is declining with increasing rapidity. This is not pessimism — it’s reality — and you need to be vigilant in protecting your children. You may tire of hearing about the need to monitor their social media, their YouTube, SnapChat, text messages, online friends, and real friends, but you must go out of your way to do so. Today’s teens are comfortable with leading a double life with an increasing brazenness. Know your kids. Know their friends. Know where they are. They will think you are over-the-top, but it doesn’t matter. One of your primary jobs is to protect and shield them. Do not shirk this responsibility. In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly,. Stay away from people like that. 2 Timothy 3.1-5 (NLT). This passage is more than adequate in describing the times we live. 

The Psalmist said, Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him, Psalm 127.3. This is so true. I remember when we found out Becky was expecting Emilea. I remember thinking how much our life was going to change … and boy did it ever. …And as we reflect back, it’s been so good. We are so blessed with two children who love others so much and are both committed to serving others. If we had to do it over again, we most definitely would. Tell them every day you love them and how important they are to you and everyone else in the family. Never, ever, ever, take any day for granted, because every day is a blessing from God.

Opening Our Homes and Hearts for Others

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

 — 1 Peter 4.8-9 

What comes to your mind when you hear the word hospitality? For many of us, the first picture we see is having someone in our home for dinner — extended family, close friends, etc. While that is not inaccurate, it is important to know that the hospitality mentioned by the apostolic writers involves much more. 

In the original language, hospitality comes from a word that literally means “to love strangers.” This takes the concept to a much higher level; one where we go beyond the circle of our closest friends and associates extending our kindness to those we do not know. In the gospel accounts, Jesus captured the true spirit of the word when he recited the parable of the great banquet:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

 — Luke 14:12–14

As you think about how to apply Jesus’ teaching and combine that with what Peter wrote, focus on the Christians right here among you. Think about members of our spiritual family outside of your normal circle of closest friends or family. Who is someone that you don’t know well? Is there a person or family new to the congregation that you could welcome? Is there someone grieving the loss of a loved one, suffering a physical challenge, or entering a new chapter in life that you could encourage? Who are some of our young people that you could get to know better? What better place to do this than in the comfort and warmth of your home

Please note how Peter’s command in 1 Peter 4.9 is directly connected to the previous verse, which talks about loving one another earnestly. Hospitality is not just about an action, it’s also about an attitude. It expresses sacrificial love and an open heart that stretches and strains to go out of its way for others. 

Many of us intend to follow through on this, but life often gets in the way and things get pushed back. Resist the urge to make any excuses. (Some don’t think their home is good enough / large enough, etc.) May what you’ve read here encourage you to be intentional and make an opportunity happen. You’ll be glad you did.

God’s Warm & Inviting Family

True love has its origin in God. John said, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love, 1 John 4:7-8. God is the very essence of love, and when we demonstrate our love we reveal to others that we belong to Him. Hatred, envy, wrath, and malice all have their origin in something other than God. God has never commanded such, and does not approve of such. If a person does not love, then a person does not have an acquaintance with God.

It is amazing, when we think of it, that God loves us. In us, He sees beings that He can love and that can love Him in return. John explains why God loves us: By this the love of God was manifested in us, that god has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 4:9-10. Praise God for the great love with which He has loved us!

We have been created in the very image of God, Genesis 1:26-27. It is in our nature to love. One of the greatest needs in humans is the need to love and to be loved in return. John says, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, 1 John 4:11. We need to look for ways to share our love with others. It might be a kind word spoken, a deed done, a telephone call, or a visit to the hospital or nursing home. There are so many ways we communicate our love for our brothers and sisters. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us, 1 John 4:12. When we demonstrate our love, the product of God’s love becomes complete. Loving one another enables god to accomplish His love in us. 

Look today for ways that you can demonstrate your love for those around you. Have someone in your home, send the sick a card, say a prayer for those who are spiritually struggling. Each of us can help make being part of God’s family warm and inviting!

Our Upcoming Trip to Colombia

Greg Morrison, Collin Schofield, Jason Scofield, and I are looking forward to our trip to Colombia that begins next Sunday. This visit has been in the works for well over a year — maybe two years. Presently, Kettering Church of Christ assists in the support of nine men and their families who live across Colombia. We have had relationships with most of them for six years, while others we are just getting to know. Our preachers cover a wide range of ages and experience – some in the early years of service, while others have been laboring for a couple of decades or more. Two of them are fluent in English and assist us in translation while we are there. They are all very dedicated to their work.

Beginning in 2011, our shepherds determined that this congregation would become more involved in overseas evangelism. While Kettering sent funds around the world in the years prior to this, we wanted this part of our work to become more than the more typical practice of “receive-a-report-and-get-a-check.” We wanted to know our men, their families, and their work personally. We wanted to experience what they experience … to know it, feel it, and to understand it. We also determined to focus our efforts on one country, easing our travel, lodging, and expense commitments. As we have moved forward over the last eight years, several of you have joined us in assisting our work abroad. A few of you have gone with us to help in the work, including Jason/Sadonna Schofield, Greg Morrison, Collin Schofield, and Emilea Allen. Besides money contributed out of the treasury, literally tens of thousands of dollars have been given individually, countless items of clothing, worship supplies, computers, projectors, and other teaching aids have been donated. Our involvement in Colombia is so concentrated, that our shepherds have even tasked a deacon (Jason Schofield) to have his entire area of focus on the work there. From what we know, there is no other congregation in the United States more involved in the work in Colombia than Kettering. Again, you are to be commended for this.

This year’s trip will mainly focus on two important needs. First, we’ll be visiting local works in Lorica, Villavicencio, Acacias, Cali, Villamaria, and Manizales. Second, we’ll be holding a 4-day conference in Cali with all nine of our men in order to teach and encourage them in their preaching efforts. Jason and I have been working hard to get ready for this part of the work. Over the coming week, we’ll reveal more specifics about what our visit will look like. 

You can help. We need your prayers every single day. In fact, we’re very dependent on them. And, finally, prayers for our families while we are away are also appreciated. There is always a special burden placed on Sadonna, Becky, and Doneitta when we travel. And thanks for your encouragement as we assist in taking the gospel to South America.