Michael Kelley

The Center of the Scriptures

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn, Poland on February 19, 1473 as the son of a wealthy merchant. He studied law and medicine at the universities of Bologna, Padua, and it was while he was there that his interest in astronomy was stimulated. He lived in the home of a mathematics professor who influenced him to question the astronomy beliefs of the day.
At that time, the predominant theory had been in place for over a thousand years, since the days of Ptolomy. In that theory, the earth was the center of the universe and was motionless with all other heavenly bodies revolving around it. And though all of his observations of the skies were made with the naked eye, Copernicus disagreed. Sometime between 1507 and 1515 he began to first circulate a different theory, this one with the sun at the center and the earth moving around it.
Copernicus did not live to see the reaction to his assertions, but he probably would not have been surprised at them. The reactions were, of course, angry. Though there were many purported reasons for the anger, if we look a little deeper perhaps we would find that at least part of the root of that anger…

The idea that the earth—filled with human beings—was actually not the center of the universe.

Keep that in mind as we turn to another moment, this one actually happening several centuries earlier. This moment was not set in scientific laboratories and the study of the stars, but instead on the dusty road between Jerusalem and Emmaus:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.Luke 24:13-16

These two men, despite claiming to have a good working knowledge of everything that had happened in Jerusalem, were really missing the entire point. But not only were they missing the point of those recent events; they were missing the bigger and more majestic point at hand. This second point is actually the point of everything—
Read More

If God is Sovereign, Every Situation is Both Preparation and Fulfillment

Who can know the mind of the Lord? His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We must be careful, then, not to impose our own sense of logic and timing on our circumstances. Because what we perceive to be a step back is still a step forward – one that, even if it might seem to be “lesser” in some way – God has been preparing us for.

God’s sovereignty is a comforting thing, especially if you find yourself in a life circumstance that doesn’t seem to make sense. This is not a scenario of sin; it’s not a circumstance that came as a result of bad or unwise choices; it’s just a season that you have “fallen into”, in a sense, and you wonder how you got there.
Perhaps it’s a time when you are in a job you don’t enjoy or you don’t feel like makes the most of your abilities. Or maybe it’s a time when you had to move into some kind of temporary housing because the house you were trying to buy fell through. Or maybe it’s a time when you moved to a new place with great hopes and you haven’t been able to make good friends. These are tough times, and in some ways, times like these can feel like a step in the wrong direction. That is, you were at one point in your life, and then things went backward despite your best intentions and attempts to follow the Lord’s will.
These are moments when it’s good to remember that:
A king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand:He directs it wherever he chooses (Prov. 21:1).
{God} changes times and seasons;    he deposes kings and raises up others.He gives wisdom to the wise    and knowledge to the discerning.He reveals deep and hidden things;    he knows what lies in darkness,    and light dwells with him (Dan. 2:21-22).
Even when it seems like you have taken a step backward in life, God is sovereign.
Read More
Related Posts:

Our Greatest Ally in Loving the Sovereignty of God

Time passes, and we look back, and from the benefit of a future vantage point, we can see things we were blind to in the moment. We get a slight glimpse of what possible good could come from something that felt, at the time, so bad. And from that vantage point, we would never look back at the disease or evil or pain we experienced and call that “thing” good in and of itself, but we might, by God’s grace, be able to see that time and time again God took what was evil and painful and trying and brought good from it.

The word “sovereign” can be either an adjective or a noun.
As a noun, a “sovereign” is a a person who has supreme power or authority. As an adjective, the word is used to describe someone with supreme rank, power, or authority. And while we might use either form to describe an earthly ruler, we know that using the word like that has some inherent qualifications.
For example, to use the word in reference to, say, the British monarchy, implies great power and authority. And yet even in such a case we know there is a limited sense to that sovereignty. King Charles, the British sovereign monarch, cannot control how much rain falls on London.
That’s important to understand because when we call God “sovereign” we mean something similar, but different, than when we use that word in another context. And that’s because there are no limitations to God’s sovereignty. Rather, God’s sovereignty is the exercise of His power of His creation.
The weather? The orchestration of world events? The flight patterns of birds? Yes, and more:
“In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water    that he channels toward all who please him” (Prov. 21:1).
It’s true, then to say that God is sovereign over all earthly sovereigns. Job sums up this truth well in Job 42:2:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
That might be a terrifying truth for you. To know that there is a God who is directing all things to His ultimate ends. It might make you feel ridiculously small and feeble and weak… and it really should. But it’s only terrifying when it’s not blended with the truth of who this God is who is sovereign over all things.
Read More
Related Posts:

The Way, Truth, and Life: Jesus is the Answer to All Our Questions

John 13 is full of bombshells.
After having traveled with Him for three years, the disciples likely thought they had a handle on this thing. Though they never quite knew what to expect from Jesus, they knew enough to expect the unexpected. Three years, after all, is a long time to breathe the same air as a person. But then came the trip to Jerusalem.
There was the foot washing and the objection and misunderstanding of Peter. Then it was the uncomfortable truth that there was a traitor in their midst. And then, to top it all off, was the prediction that Peter, of all people, would actually deny any association with Jesus not once, not twice, but three times that very night. The result of all, no doubt was troubled hearts. Hearts of anxiety. Hearts of confusion. Hearts of pain. And it was to those hearts Jesus spoke:

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going (John 14:1-4).

Though these words were meant for comfort, they only seemed to inspire more questions. And Thomas was the one who verbalized them for the room.
Read More

The Main Reason We Fail to Delight in the Lord

The beginning is a commitment to more time in His Word. More time in prayer. More time in reflective silence as you consider His promises. And, of course, the flipside is also true. That along with making those choices you believe will lead to delight, you also start to make choices to cease delighting in other things. 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
For most of us, this is an aspirational verse. Yes, we have had moments of excitement – even elatement – in the Lord, but is our general posture one of delighting in Him? Probably not. We would like it to be, but the reality is at least a little bit different.
It’s not that God is not “delightful” enough. We know that He is, with all His power, creativity, love, grace, mercy, and everything else. He has brought us into His family, adopted us and given us an eternal inheritance in Jesus. He has ordered our steps with providential love and care. Surely there is more than enough for us to delight in.
So why don’t we?
What if the answer to that question – of why we fail to delight in the Lord – is incredibly simple? What if the main reason we fail to delight in the Lord is because we haven’t tried to do so?
Maybe a little illustration to help.
My parents will tell you that until roughly the age of 18, I did not eat a vegetable unless it was slathered with cheese sauce or wrapped in bacon.
Read More
Related Posts:

We Are Still Bad at Taking Up the Towel

While it’s true that talking and planning and strategizing and analyzing has much value, what is also important is for people to just take action. Or at least it’s true when it comes to jobs like foot-washing which offer no notoriety or adulation; jobs that comes with a willing acceptance of dishonor. But jobs that nevertheless need to be done.

It had been quite a week.
A few days earlier, Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey to the adulation of the crowds who welcomed him there. The next day, Jesus performed one of His stranger miracles, cursing a fig tree and then driving out the profiteers from the temple grounds.
He came back to those same grounds and engaged the religious leaders head on, and then predicted His own death and resurrection. The city, meanwhile, was swelling with Passover pilgrims and visitors, and those same religious leaders began to put their assassination plot into motion.
And now, in the midst of this whirlwind of activity, controversy, and anxious nerves about what was to come, Jesus came into the Upper Room. Once there, He did something that astounded His friends, though at this point, it might not should have: He washed their feet:
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:2-5).
This was, of course, not a job befitting Jesus. Or at least it wasn’t in the eyes of His disciples. It was a dirty job; it was a role reserved for the servants of the house. But there He was, the One they had followed, doing that which was so clearly beneath Him.
At least one disciple was indignant about it – Peter objected that Jesus should not be doing such a menial task. There might have been others – nervous looks; coughs; sideways glances – all feeling at least a little uncomfortable at what was unfolding.
Read More
Related Posts:

We Have No Secrets… and What to do With That Terrifying Reality

That is a terrifying reality. Everything – every harbored thought, every nursed sense of entitlement, every quiet resentment or lust or whatever – will not be private forever. They will all eventually be laid bare before the One who already knows them. And as if that thought isn’t frightening enough, we are reminded that these are not innocuous secrets – we are accountable for them, too. So what do we do with that reality?

“Where are you?”
The question rang out across the garden. The first humans, who had enjoyed perfect fellowship with their Creator and lived in perfect harmony with the rest of His creation, had walked and talked in naked transparency with God and with each other. But not any more.
Now they were hiding.
Now they were self-conscious.
Now they were filled with the guilt and shame that came from their lack of faith and rebellion.
And God asked them a question. But He wasn’t asking because He didn’t know the answer; He knew very well where they were, just as He knew very well what they had done. The purpose of the question was not informational; it was confessional. The man and woman needed to own what they had done; they needed to acknowledge it to God. They weren’t telling Him anything He didn’t already know – they were owning up to what He already did.
There are no secrets with God. Confession, for us now as it was then, is not informational in nature. That is, for most of us, a terrifying reality because all of us like to think we have secrets. Secret thoughts. Secret desires. Secret hatred. Secret selfish ambition. And yet all of that secrecy is really a matter of self-delusion – God already knows. In fact, He already knows more about the inmost recesses of our hearts than we do.
And yet we talk ourselves into the notion that we actually do have secrets. Or at least we do temporarily, because in time, even the idea of secrets will be obliterated:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:12-13).
Read More
Related Posts:

3 Reasons Why It’s Actually Good News That Hell is Real

Hell is real. That’s not a popular belief, but the validity of hell’s reality is not dependent on its acceptance. This realm set aside for those who, having not been forgiven of their cosmic rebellion against God and therefore will be eternally separated from Him, is real because the Bible says it is in various places (Matt. 10:28; Matt. 25:41; Jude 1:7; Rev. 21:8).
Hell is real whether or not we want to admit it is. But frightening as it is, the reality of hell is actually good news. Here are three reasons why:
1. Because it means Jesus is trustworthy.
Though the Bible talks about hell lots of times and in lots of contexts, many of them come from Jesus Himself. In fact, perhaps the most vivid description comes one of Jesus’ parables about a man who lived on the lowest rung of the ladder in life and another who lived in luxury. But when both died, their positions were reversed with one existing in eternity in heaven and the other languishing in hell.
If hell were not real, then Jesus was badly mistaken. And if Jesus were badly mistaken about something as important as this, how can He be trusted when He tells us anything else?
That’s the first reason the reality of hell is good news – it’s because it once again reminds us of the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ.
Read More

One Subtle Rebellion Against God

The gospel reminds us that God, who has no limits, does indeed love us. So much, in fact, that Jesus died for us. And that through Jesus, we can be reconciled to God and find our perfect acceptance and validation in Him. This is really the only way that we can live within our limits, isn’t it? Isn’t it when we don’t have the compulsive need to prove our own worth and validate our own existence through our work or our kids or our own achievements? 

The story is familiar, even if a person doesn’t happen to be a Christian.
There was nothing at all, except for God in the beginning. And then in the beginning, God created…
Everything else. Ex nihilo. Everything from nothing at all. God spoke it all into existence, all of creation born from his divine creativity, including human beings. These first human beings, placed in a perfect garden, free from any of the marks of guilt and shame so pervasive in us today, in perfect fellowship with each other and with Him.
Harmony. Peace. Productivity. Simplicity. All was very good.
But then came the snake. The temptation. The great fall, and that perfect creation was turned upside down.
Again, a familiar story. But I wonder if we might for a moment just zoom out a bit, and not focus on the kind of fruit or the specific nature of the temptation or even the immediate and far-reaching effects of that choice. When you zoom out a bit, here are a few bullet points about the situation:

There is a loving Creator who knows what is right and best.
There are created human beings who, though made in the image of that Creator, are far inferior in knowledge, wisdom, and power.
In His love and in His authority, God gave His creation limits.
The rebellion, then, was a refusal to trust in those limits and follow them.

Those four bullet points provide a number of friction points with modern society. There is, of course, the issue of a Creator at all. Despite the clear evidence of design threaded throughout creation, it’s certainly not a given that there is a Creator to begin with. And if there is a Creator, there are plenty who would argue with the character of that Creator. If you begin with a fundamental questioning of the Word of God, which is meant primarily to reveal to us who God is and what He is like, then we are left to imagine the nature and character of this Creator on our own.
Read More
Related Posts:

3 Reasons to be Careful of What You Say Today

Our words are like water. Water is the stuff of life, but water is also incredibly destructive. Just like water, our words are incredibly powerful to either destroy, or to build up, especially to those we claim to love. When we are dealing with something that powerful, we would be very wise to be careful.

There have been two different occasions this week when my wife and I have had to remind each other to watch what we say. In each occasion, we were asking each other for wisdom on how to respond to a particular situation, and we repeated the same phrase in response to one another:
“Don’t say anything you will have to apologize for later.”
I think there’s wisdom in that. And surely that’s a pretty good reason on its own to be careful with your words. It’s because there is no edit button on our conversations. Words are the bell that can’t be unrung. You can try and walk things back, you can try and explain yourself, you can even try to justify the words you said, but in the end, it’s just there. That comment. That remark. That tone. It’s there. Always. And you don’t want to be embarrassed later by what you said in the moment.
But there are other reasons beyond avoiding embarrassment to watch what we say. Deeper reasons. And perhaps even more important ones. Here are three of them:
1. Because our words reflect our hearts.
A friend recently told me that what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket. When we find ourselves spouting off in anger or gossip or slander it’s not because we were just caught up in the moment; it’s because that’s what’s down in our hearts.
Read More
Related Posts:

Scroll to top