Michael Kelley

3 Characteristics of Childlike Faith

Picture the scene with me. It’s another busy day in the life of Jesus. His reputation has spread; He scarcely has a moment to Himself anymore. Everywhere He and His disciples turn, there are people. Sick people. Needy people. Accusing people. Skeptical people. And, on this particular day, there are also a bunch of kids.
It seemed parents in the crowd had started pushing and shoving their way forward with their kiddos in tow. They were coming because it was customary in those days for a great teacher of the law to lay their hands on children and pray for them in order to bless them. That’s just what these parents were doing.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t want any part of it. In fact, the disciples “rebuked” these tiger parents and their disruptive kiddos (Matt. 19:13). That’s a strong word – rightly so. There was nothing polite about what the disciples did; it’s not as if they pulled mom and dad aside and quietly whispered, “Jesus is actually teaching right now, but we’re going to have a meet and greet later and you are more than welcome to come then.” This word is so strong, in fact, that in another form it can be translated, “punished.”
Jesus, though, was even more incensed than they were at this intrusion: “When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me’” (Matt. 19:14).
Now, Jesus got frustrated with His disciples a lot. He was disappointed in their level of understanding several times. But this is the only time in the Bible where He is “indignant” with them. There was something about this whole scene, chaotic as it undoubtedly was, that made the Son of God really, really angry.
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3 Prayers to Pray before Going to Sleep Tonight

What’s the last thing you think about before going to sleep? Do you number sheep? Do you count in reverse starting at 100? Do you think about your schedule for the morning? Or do you drift off with your phone in your hands?
Probably you have some kind of routine. And at the risk of disrupting that routine, I wonder if you might take that chance as your eyes are starting to close to do something else. Take those last few moments to pray. But pray about what?
Though the substance of your prayers might be anything, let me suggest that those moments before you sleep are a wonderful chance to pray through some specific promises from God’s Word. So tonight, why not remind yourself of something other than the number of sheep in the pen and your 8 am meeting agenda?
Here are three truths to form your prayers as you fall asleep tonight:
1. Thank you, Lord, that you do not sleep.
In a way, every single night we are reminded of our own weakness because we actually have to go to sleep. Whilst some find that Sleep Statistics can help them learn more about their patterns, for others it isn’t so easy. It’s the way we were made. God hard-wired our physical bodies to not only desire but to need, rest. That in and of itself is a lasting testimony of our own frailty. But when you consider just how vulnerable we are when we are asleep, you get a double sense of our own weakness.
Now that might send you spiraling into a paralysis of anxiety. Or, you can take the opportunity to thank the Lord that even though you are drifting off to sleep, He never does. He is awake. Wide awake. Just as He has been and will be for all eternity.
What better comfort is there in the midst of our own weakness than confessing that though we are weak, He is strong. Though we are dependent, He is self-sustaining. Though we might slumber, God is ever alert:

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.Where will my help come from?My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;your Protector will not slumber.Indeed, the Protector of Israeldoes not slumber or sleep (Ps. 121:1-4).

Why “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” is the Best Advice During Difficulty

Christian, you may or may not be feeling rightly today. Regardless, make sure you are “looking” rightly. No matter what you’re feeling, turn your eyes upon Jesus. And find that those things of earth which might be making you feel this way or that will slowly but surely grow strangely dim.

Helen Howarth Lemmel wrote the lyrics to “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” in 1922. She loved music her entire life and even studies vocal music in Germany for a time. But by the time she was 55, she had become blind, been abandoned by her wealthy husband, and suffered various other tribulations. And that’s when she came across a little tract that deeply impressed her. The pamphlet read:
“So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
And Helen Lemmel responded with a song:
O soul are you weary and troubledNo light in the darkness you seeThere’s light for a look at the SaviorAnd life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon JesusLook full in his wonderful faceAnd the things of earth will grow strangely dimIn the light of his glory and grace
It’s a wonderful song, but it’s even better counsel. It is, in fact, very counsel we could receive during times of difficulty. During those days – during dark days – we will find that our feelings are spiraling out of control. And it’s during days like that which we must remember that even when we can’t make ourselves feel better, we can always control where our focus is. We can’t control how we feel but we can always control where we’re looking. And where we’re looking is actually more important than what we are feeling. Here’s why:
We cannot trust our feelings to tell us the truth:
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,and incurable—who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9). 
This is indeed an uncomfortable truth. It’s a decidedly different truth than the version of truth we find anywhere else in the world. While movies, Hollywood, and self-help gurus will tell us to follow our own hearts, the Bible says we should follow Jesus.
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Beware Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

Waiting on the Lord is not passive. When we are waiting on the Lord, there is plenty to keep us busy. We have an entire book riddled with the will of God to be busy about. Just because we are waiting on the Lord for one thing does not mean that we have pushed pause on everything else he has told us to do. No, we keep going in what we know until God brings about what we don’t know.

There is a regular trap I fall into as a homeowner. Something will break, wear out, or become damaged and I will take a look and then nod my head in resolution. Under my breath, I’ll say something like, “I’ll take care of this myself.” It hardly ever works out the way I intend.
I have lumpy drywall repair jobs, badly swinging screen doors, and half-done leaf raking jobs as witnesses to what I am and am not capable of on my own. It’s actually not that big of a deal; I learn a little something with each attempt, and my family indulges these ventures into the unknown with good-natured humor. Mostly. So my disposition toward trying this stuff is likely not to change in the future.
When it comes to your home, or your car, or your whatever, it’s fine to take matters into your own hands. You roll the dice on your own ability and accept the coming result. But then there are other times when it’s very much not fine to do that. Saul, the first king of Israel, is a case study in this respect.
Despite having all the promise in the world – he looked like a king, sounded like a king, commanded like a king – the reign of Saul was marked with impatience. Time after time, when he should have exercised restraint he instead charged forward. When he should have exercised faith, he took matters into his own hands. And in 1 Samuel 13, the Lord had enough:
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Sam. 13:13-14).
So what had he done?
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4 Truths to Help Battle the Desire for Revenge

According to Paul, we should not take matters into our own hands. It’s not that there’s not justice to be served; there very well might be. But it’s not for you or I to administer it because we aren’t capable of doing so in a true and good and noble way. This belongs to the Lord. When we execute our own sense of vengeance, whether big or small, we are expressing our lack of faith that God can and will do it on His own. We are communicating instead that our way is better. But God is just. Justice will be served, and it will be served in a far better and more appropriate way that we could ever deliver it.

Jesus isn’t interested in the minimum. When we have enemies, we might reasonably just try and stay away from them, but Jesus won’t settle for that. He calls us to love them. When we are wondering how many people we reasonably have to love and care for, Jesus won’t settle for that. He calls us to recognize every person in our pathway as a neighbor. When we are wondering just how many of the commands in Scripture reasonably apply to us, Jesus won’t settle for that. He calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
No, Jesus isn’t interested in the minimum of anything. In so many ways, Jesus calls us to the unexpected. Unexpected love, unexpected sacrifice, unexpected loyalty. So it is when we come to the subject of revenge. Here’s how He put it:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matt. 5:38-42).
We might reasonably assume that we can give a little payback here and there to those who have wronged us, but here again Jesus pushes us well beyond the minimum. According to Him, not only should we not pay others back for what they’ve done, but we should so forego our need for revenge that we move into generosity. And boy, that’s a hard thing, because we feel that desire down deep in our souls.
We have been treated unfairly, maligned unjustly, and pushed down unkindly, and someone ought to pay for it. How do we deal with that deep down desire for revenge? We fight it with truth – specifically, with truth about who God is. Here are four such truths to snuff out that flickering flame of vengeance in our hearts:
1. God is active.
Saul had been wreaking havoc on the early church. There was a literal trail of bodies in his wake, and he was just getting wound up. But that all changed with a dramatic encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road and the great enemy of the church became her most ardent advocate.
I’m reminded of how, in those first days after his conversion, the early Christians did not know whether to trust him or not. Who could blame them?
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Spiritual Renewal Means Constantly Coming to the End of Your Rope

As a discipline, as we look deeper – past the surface level feeling and into the deepest part of our need. That’s when we find true renewal. That’s when we will turn to the true bread. To the true light. To the true way. to the true vine. When you start to feel any of those things, don’t just take a nap. Look deeper. Don’t be afraid to come to the end of your rope because when you do, you’ll find the true source of renewal waiting there.

In a sense, our lives are a constant rhythm of depletion and renewal. This rhythm happens over and over again, several times a day.
We deplete our reserves of calories and so we feel hungry. We are renewed when we eat. And then we do it again.
We deplete our reserves of energy and so we feel tired. We are renewed when we sleep. And then we do it again.
We deplete our reserves of hydration and so we feel thirsty. We are renewed when we drink. And then we do it again.
These rhythms are so natural to us, so often repeated, that we don’t even think about them any more. We simply respond when we sense the depletion and then experience the renewal. When it comes to our souls, though, the process is less natural. It takes more conscious thought and intentional choice. And the reason why it does is because of our propensity to try and deal with the depletion we are experiencing using lesser means of renewal.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are in that daily rhythm. You have been working all morning, busy with meetings, agenda items, and to-do lists. You have been concentrating hard, and that concentration is interrupted by an embarrassingly loud grumble from your belly. You clearly have depleted your reserves and are in need of renewal. But instead of eating a sandwich, you lay down in the floor and try to take a nap.
Weird to think about, but in a similar way this is what we do all the time in a spiritual sense.
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God’s Commands are Filtered Through God’s Love

Today, and every day, we will come up against the hard commands of Jesus. And the temptation will be for us to regard Him as ungenerous. As uncaring. As persnickety. Anything but loving. But here is where we come back not to what we think in the moment, but what we know to be true. We know it to be true that Jesus loves us. Every command is evidence of that love.

God tells us to stop, and God tells us to start. The Bible is full of prohibitions, and the Bible is full of exhortations. Regardless, the “do’s” and the “do not’s” are filtered through God’s love.
We know that right? We think we do. We think we know the reason God tells us to do certain things in service to Him and others is not because He needs us to serve Him, but because He loves us. He knows that the best way to live is to live in this fashion, and He loves us enough to tell us so.
Similarly, we think we know that the reason God tells us not to do some things is not because He is a cosmic killjoy; it’s because He is a Father who wants the best for us. He doesn’t want us to waste our lives or settle for less than the best, so He tells us to flee from this and turn away from that.
We think we know that, but when it comes to actually living out these commands, we begin to question. We question it especially when God tells us to stop doing something we really enjoy doing. It’s in those moments we start to wonder if God really loves us, because if He does, then why would He want to take something away from us?
In other words, we tend to think of prohibitions as exceptions to love.
But all of God’s commands are filtered through His love. Even the painful ones.
Case in point is the rich, young ruler.

One Simple Question a Friend can Always Ask

But in asking, “How would you like me to pray?” we are actually pressing in. We are inviting more disclosure. More knowledge. More intimacy. We are choosing to step closer rather than step away, and this is what a true friend does. A true friend presses in. And when we press in as friends, we might actually be surprised at the answer to that question.

Friendship is work.
The older I get, the more convinced I become that it’s true. That’s because when you’re younger, you have natural and regular points of personal connection with the same group of people. You see them every day at school, you play beside them on the court or field, you sit next to them at lunch. These are friends, sure, but they are friends by association. Or, if you’re a little more cynical, they are friends of convenience.
But as you get older, you become more established. You acquire more and more responsibilities. The schedule gets busier. And as a result, friendships are affected. You no longer have as many of these natural and regular connections, and as a result, you have to work at friendships. Every relationship has a cost, and you have to subconsciously weigh the value of that relationship against the cost in time, resources, and energy it will take to maintain and grow it.
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If God Doesn’t Get Tired, Why did He Rest?

And now, much as He did on the seventh day then, after He created life in us in Christ, He stands back in Sabbath. Not because He’s tired, but because He’s finished. When Jesus hung on the cross, His pronouncement was one that has great meaning for the followers of Jesus and the children of God. It is indeed finished. We don’t need to strive any more. We don’t need to improve on what God has done. The work He has done in us is His work, and it is very good. The call for us now is to Sabbath along with God, reflecting on and enjoying His finished work in creation. Creating us in Jesus.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s how it all begins. And when I say “all” I mean all. This is the source of all things. It was an event that is absolutely unrepeatable. Unreproducable. Unobservable – because God was the only one there. Out of nothing, God made “everything.”
God created not out of boredom, because eternity was getting a little stale. Not out of loneliness, for God is completely and totally sufficient in and of Himself. God created out of love. It’s not unlike the reason why we have children. Some people have kids because they’re lonely or because they feel like there is a void in their lives. But often times, when kids come into the picture, it doesn’t necessarily fix that hole; it might put a band aid on it for a while, but it will come back. The best reason a husband and a wife have children is out of an overflow of love for one another. They love each other, and they want that love to spill over into others as well. So they have kids.
Before anything was created, there was an inexhaustible amount of love among the members of the Trinity. And that love spilled out into the creation of all that we see and know. So in the beginning God created. He created the molecules and the cellular division. He created the ecosystems that work in tandem with each other through His common grace. He knit together the vast number of individual species in all their glorious variety. He set the orbits of the planets in such a way that the tides on earth don’t rise more than they should. He planned night and day to be an appropriate amount of time to support different life systems in different areas. God not only created, but He created in such a way that all of His creation fits together in a harmonious way.
But let’s not stop there either. For in as much as God created the physical universe, He also created things that are invisible to us and yet are integral for the way we live. Take time, for instance. God thought that up, too, in the same way He thought up the Venus fly-trap or the brown trout. This too sprang from His creativity.
And so the process of creation went for six days. The heavenly bodies. The creatures and plantlife of the seas and the air. Then humanity, stamped and made uniquely with the imprint of the image of God. And then, quite suddenly it seems, creation is over. The end and conclusion comes at the end of day 6, as recorded as chapter 1 closes and moves into chapter 2, beginning in verse 31:
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. But the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
That’s how the account of creation ends. And at first glance, it doesn’t seem to end with a bang, but with a whimper.
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Getting Old is not Bad News for the Christian

Because of God’s mercies that are new every morning, and because we are His children, we are growing in our inner selves younger – growing to look more and more like the true children of God even while our outer selves are growing older. Such is the grand and glorious paradox of Christian aging. What does that mean for us? It means that as Christians, we do not have to chase the ever-elusive promise of youth. We do not have to fix our eyes on the vanity of the physical. It means that we can still steward our bodies, but we can not have our entire self-worth and value rest on them. 

I recently went to a yearly checkup, and the doc (who looked to be about 16, in my estimation) was explaining to me the results of my blood work, blood pressure, weight, and the rest of it, led her explanation with these words: “When you reach a certain age…”
I knew what she was saying. Blood work aside, I’ve got an ache in my left leg, and I don’t know exactly how it got there. But it’s there, and even when I’m typing these words, it’s kind of throbbing down my side. Stuff like this happens to me from time to time; it’s not a big deal, but it does happen, and it reminds me that I am indeed aging. We all are. The law of entropy which tells us that natural processes only run in one direction – that is in a degrading direction – is applicable to our physical bodies. We are deteriorating creatures.
And yet for the Christian, there is a glorious paradox that comes in aging – one that causes a great measure of joy when you could feel an increasingly measure of sorrow that you cannot do the things that you were once able to do. Here is how Paul would frame this paradox:
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
There’s no pulling punches here, but rather an embracing of two simultaneous realities for the Christian.
The first reality is that of aging. That our outer person, our physical bodies, are on the downhill.
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