The key to your spiritual growth is as simple as a choice. (Pixabay/qimono)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its second, of three estimates, for second quarter Real (adjusted for inflation) Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Real GDP is the total value of goods and services produced annually within the economy, and its increase is an often-used metric for economic growth. Second quarter GDP increased at an annual rate of 3.0 percent, compared to 2.6 percent for the first estimate and a forecast of 2.8 percent. Second quarter GDP growth was 2 1/2 times first quarter growth of 1.2 percent. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), nonresidential fixed investment, exports, federal government spending and private inventory investment were positives. Residential fixed investment, state and local government spending and imports were negatives.

Real PCE is watched closely since consumer spending comprises nearly 70 percent of GDP. For the second quarter, consumer expenditures grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent (compared to 2.8 percent for the first estimate and a forecast of 3.0 percent). For the first quarter, consumers only increased spending 1.9 percent, so second-quarter consumption growth was nearly a 75 percent increase.

Inflation, for the second quarter, increased at an annual rate of 1 percent, which was the same as the previous estimate and forecasts. Inflation in the first quarter was 1.2 percent per year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), August employment growth was disappointing. The monthly change in non-farm payrolls was 156,000, compared to 189,000 (revised downward 20,000) in July and nearly 25,000 below forecasts. The monthly change in private payrolls at 165,000 was 37,000 lower than July and 15,000 lower than pre-report expectations. In contrast, the monthly increase in manufacturing employment was a strong 36,000 (three to four times expectations). BLS also revised its July manufacturing employment estimate up by 10,000.

In other employment metrics, the monthly increase in average hourly earnings fell from 0.3 percent in July to 0.1 percent in August and the length of the average workweek fell from 34.5 hours to 34.4. The participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9 percent. The headline unemployment rate increased from 4.3 percent in July to 4.4 percent in August. The stock markets discounted much of the employment report as August is unusually subject to later revisions as automobile manufacturers retool, students quit summer jobs, etc.

In the kingdom, believers are expected to continually grow in our relationship with the Lord, in our knowledge of His Word and in our consecration. Just as the seed planted in good soil, we are expected to mature and bear fruit (Matt. 13:23). We are told to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord. Spiritual growth is necessary for believers to fulfill their purpose and experience the abundant life for which He came.

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen" (2 Pet. 3:18).

"The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

The Lord used the symbolism of marriage to teach about the love He has for us and the relationship we should have with Him. In a marriage, the ceremony, with its celebrations, is only the beginning. Young couples soon discover that true marriage begins after the honeymoon. In a good marriage, the couple will communicate, sacrifice for each other, learn each other's likes and dislikes, experience joy at the other's happiness and sadness at the other's pains and grow closer as they work toward common objectives. In good marriages, husband and wife grow in their trust, respect and love for each other.

In our spiritual life, the groom is perfect. He has sacrificed all for us. His lovingkindness is everlasting. He is filled with mercy and grace. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He prepares a place for us to dwell eternally with Him. He understands us perfectly, loves us with our imperfections, is always willing to communicate with us and gives us exactly what we need at the perfect time.

The quality of our spiritual life depends upon us, the symbolic bride. Our relationship began with the free gift of salvation; but, it is only a beginning. The ecstasy of our salvation experience can continue and grow if we are willing to move from infant to maturity; to grow spiritually. As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, in our knowledge of His Word, and in our obedience, we will experience love, joy, peace and significance which we could not have dreamed.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).

"As newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow" (1 Pet. 2:2).

Let us decide today that we are going to grow closer to the Lord. We will pray. He will listen. We will study and apply the Word. He will honor His Word. We will repent of all sins. He will forgive. We will strive to walk in love at all times. He will smile and give us the grace to be loving. We will give. He will multiply. We will seek the power of the Holy Spirit. He will empower us. We will have faith. He will move mountains. We will obey. He will say, "Well done (see Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17).

"But we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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