Michael Kelley

God Loves a Cheerful Giver…So Should You Wait to Give?

A cheerful giver knows that all we have belongs to God anyway. A cheerful giver recognizes how richly God has blessed us. A cheerful giver is glad for the chance to participate in God’s mission and is happy for the opportunity to store up treasures in heaven.

Some people are excellent gift-givers. They are thoughtful, considerate, and attentive. They always seem to know exactly what a person would like, even if that person doesn’t know themselves. Gifts from people like this aren’t just presents; they are a showcase of how well a person know and cares for another.
What makes a person a great gift-giver? There has to be some natural talent to it, but it also has to be a skill they work at and pay attention to. In the end, though, I suspect one of the things that makes a person a great gift-giver is simply that they want to be one. To put it another way, they are great gift-givers because they enjoy it.
There is a cheerfulness about the way they give—not a grudgingness. No generic, store bought cards for folks like this—no, there is great thought and effort put into gifts, but that thought and effort is not done grudgingly—it’s done with enjoyment. Cheerfully. And knowing that cheerfulness is behind the gift only makes it all the more meaningful to the one receiving it.
And so now we come to a specific command in the New Testament around the topic of giving:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Of course God loves a cheerful giver, and we know why. It’s because a cheerful giver knows that all we have belongs to God anyway. A cheerful giver recognizes how richly God has blessed us. A cheerful giver is glad for the chance to participate in God’s mission and is happy for the opportunity to store up treasures in heaven.
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Even When You Don’t Know the Steps, You Still Know the Way

The “way” is the posture you should take as you take these steps; it’s the attitude and manner of what you do. In the scenario above, the steps involve all kinds of things, but the manner in which you take those steps is much simpler. It’s the way of lowering. The way of service. The way of not lording authority. And so it is with most of the complex issues of our day, and of our lives. We rarely know the next – or even right – steps to take. But we almost always know the way.

Jesus talked about a lot of things, and thank goodness He did. He directly taught us about money, conflict, friendship, service, sacrifice, and a host of other things, all pointing us to our need of Him. Because He talked directly about these things, we can still – 2000 years later – take Him at His Word. That’s because the nature of the things Jesus talked about don’t change.
Yes, we may have cryptocurrency today instead of denarii, but money is still money. And the implications of money are still the implications. Based on the direct words of Jesus, we can know with a pretty good degree of certainty the steps we should take in how we treat money.
At the same time, though, there were lots of things Jesus didn’t talk about. We can’t turn to one of the gospels and find Jesus telling us about artificial intelligence, for example. We don’t find Him speaking directly as to how to vote in a democratic election. Neither do we find Him giving direct instruction about what kind of schools we should choose for our children.
Of course He didn’t. Because even though the words of Jesus are once and for all time, they were recorded for us in a specific day and time. It was a day and time in which things like streaming services and education choices and even career change were not really thought of. So of course Jesus doesn’t address these things.
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So Heavenly Minded That You’re No Earthly Good

Apart from God’s intervention, we would never have known how empty, lost, and dead we were in sin. But now our eyes have been opened. And now we can not only see the goodness of Jesus; looking back, we can see the truly desperate need. We are compelled, then, to be of earthly good in light of that need.

Johnny Cash sang it in the song, “No Earthly Good”:
“You’re shinin’ your light, and shine it you should, / But you’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.”
He wasn’t the first one, of course. This has long been a criticism of Christians, one you’ve probably heard before. It’s a criticism about impact; it’s about relevance. It’s also about being present, and exercising compassion.
And it’s also incredibly ironic.
It’s ironic because of the hundreds of verses in Scripture that direct Christians to be all about earthly good. To care for the widow. To protect the orphan. To leave room for the foreigner. To care for the sick and the one in prison. These are the practical implications of believing the gospel, of being a Christian. And thus the reason why the criticism is ironic.
But just because it’s ironic doesn’t mean it’s not true. There have surely always been Christians who have practiced an easy kind of discipleship, believing that the gospel is exclusively about their eternal destination with no implications for their present situation. And if that’s what you believe, then there really is no reason for you to be of any earthly good.
But if you understand the gospel to not only change where you’re going but who you’re becoming, and if you understand that the finished work of Jesus compels us to continual work among the people of the world, then being heavenly minded ought to have the opposite effect.
That is to say, those who are the most heavenly-minded are the most earthly good. Why might that be? Here are a few reasons to consider. 

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2 Reasons to Remember that You are Called

The call of God is not only that we would be saved from destruction; it’s that we would be holy. Maybe the most clear comes in 1 Thessalonians 4:7: “For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.” This is what God has called us to – it’s not a life of ease and moral mediocrity, but of being set apart and pure. Christianity is about grace, but in that grace is a moral obligation and responsibility. God has called us to a life that is very different from the world around us.

Why are you a Christian?
You might answer that question in any number of ways. You might, if you have an intellectual bent to you, say that you are a Christian because you have examined the evidence for Christianity and found it to be so intellectually compelling that you had no choice but to believe. Or you might say you are a Christian because someone you respected shared the gospel with you, and you observed in that person’s life the kind of joy and hope you were lacking, and so you believed. Or you might say you are a Christian because your family is all Christians and you were raised in the admonition of the Lord from the day you were born. All of those things may be true, and all of them are appropriate answers to the question, even if they vary from one another. But another answer you could give to that question, regardless of how the details worked themselves out, is this:
You are a Christian because God called you. The Bible tells us this again and again:

Romans 1:6: you who are also called by Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:9: God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Galatians 1:6: I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel

The list of references goes on and on. God called you out of darkness into light. He called you from death to life. He called you from blindness to sight.
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“In Christ Alone, My Hope is Found”: Why Jesus is the Only One Worthy of Our Hope

“In Christ alone, my hope is found…” So begins the hymn In Christ Alone which is by far one of the most sung songs of the faith in the last two decades. The hymn walks the singer through the story of the gospel and serves as a reminder that, because of His death and resurrection, the believer can have a sure and certain hope in Christ. And we should hope in Christ – as the song says, Christ is, ultimately, our only hope.
And yet we continue to place our hope elsewhere.
Sometimes, for example, we tend to place our hope in leaders. We come upon an election cycle and we tell ourselves that if so and so were elected, then things would be different. We would see policy change, betterment of society, and an affirmation of moral values. While some of those things may be true, ultimately, no political leader is worthy of our hope.
Or we might place our hope in a change of circumstances. We tell ourselves that if we just made a little more money, or just had a little more freedom, or just didn’t have to report to our current boss, then things would be so much better in life. And while there might be an element of truth in that, ultimately, we cannot place our hope in a chance of circumstance either.
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3 Things You Might Find at the Root of Your Anger

If we look deeper – beyond the circumstances – we might also find the true reason we get angry is because we feel like our rights have been violated. We should be treated better. We deserve more. Our anger stems from a deep held sense of entitlement that, when crossed, make us really, really mad. In other words, our anger is a reflection of our commitment to ourselves. And here, again, is an opportunity for us to grow, because every moment of anger precipitated by our own self-lordship is an opportunity to reaffirm what it means to follow Jesus.

We have an ugly, old shed in our backyard. I don’t know how long it’s been there; certainly longer than we have. The shed came with the house, and with the house it remains. Over the years it has accumulated its share of junk, which of course, was added to the junk that was already in there. But I don’t open it up very often.
Because it’s scary. There. I said it.
Every time I crack open those doors, I have the sense that something is in there waiting for me. A snake. A gopher. Or, as was the case yesterday, a fresh nest of wasps. I could hear them as soon as I opened the door. They were presumably just hanging out in their own little realm behind those doors, but then the light and the fresh air came in and they immediately sprang into action. And they were mad.
Anger is like that, I think – not anger in wasps, but anger in human beings. Some circumstance fires up our temper and we find ourselves getting angrier and angrier, and often, our level of anger reaches a disproportionate level. We might even think to ourselves in the moment, I really should not be as mad as I am about this, but most of the time it’s too late. The fuse has been lit.
That circumstance – whatever it was – was like opening the doors of that old, broken down shed in the backyard. The light and the air and the noise come in, and the anger fires up. Thing is, though, I didn’t let the wasps in the shed by opening the door – the nest was already there. They just needed something to set them off.
Likewise, if we find ourselves getting angry, chances are the anger was already in our hearts. The circumstance was just the thing that got us going.
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3 Things Proverbs Teaches Us About the Nature of Wisdom

What is wisdom?
It’s a word most of us are familiar with, and yet might have trouble defining. It’s also a word we encounter more than a few places in Scripture, but probably most notably in the Book of Proverbs. That’s kind of what the whole book is about:
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;for understanding words of insight… (Prov. 1:1-2).
But what it is? I’ve always found J.I. Packer to be helpful in this respect, not only in understanding what wisdom is, but what wisdom is not:
According to Packer, wisdom is not “a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next.”
Rather, wisdom is like driving.
“What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things and the soundness of your judgment as to what scope a situation gives you… you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation that presents itself. The effect of divine wisdom is to enable you and me to do just that in the actual situations of everyday life.”
Wisdom is about reality. It’s about real-life decision-making in real-life situations. And that is, indeed, a powerful thing.

3 Bible Verses That Teach Us 3 Things about Grace

We are saved by His grace, and we are being transformed into the image of Jesus by His grace. There is, of course, much more to God’s grace, but at a minimum, these things are reason enough for praise.

The Greek word for grace is charis. It means favor. Acceptance. Giving. Grace is free in the sense that something done or given in grace is done so truly without expecting to receive anything in return. That means the origin of grace isn’t the object receiving it; the origin is entirely found in the giver’s goodness, love, and care. And this is our experience in Christ.
We didn’t earn this. We don’t deserve this. Nothing in our sinful and rebellious selves warrants this. Grace finds its root in the generosity of God who gives freely to us.
J.I. Packer wrote, “God is good to all in some ways but good to some in all ways.”
We’re the “some.” Every other religion in the world boils down to a sort of cosmic barter system. People bring their good stuff to their god, whether it’s good actions, good money, or good sacrifices, and in exchange their god gives them some of His good stuff. Christianity stands apart from this system as a grace-based belief system that is built squarely on the extravagant goodness of God. Nothing in us is motivational, and nothing we can do can pay Him back. The only part we have in grace is the receiving of it.
If you wondered about the importance of “grace” in biblical theology, it’s pretty revelatory to see the word appearing 116 times in the New Testament. But in particular, here are three verses that help us see the truth about grace:
1. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2).
“Grace and peace.” That two-word salutation is how Paul began his letter to the Ephesian church. But not only that letter – much of the correspondence that’s recorded in the New Testament begins the same way. Much in the same way that we might write “Dear…” or “To Whom It May Concern,” “grace and peace” is Paul’s greeting to his audience. Why is that? Were they just convenient and poetic words, a way to say “Hey there!” with a little more class? Or is there something more?
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4 Words that Link Every Generation Together

Every generation has had to reckon with those words and the subtle but terrible charge they bring against the Word–and therefore the character–of God. Those four words are much more than an innocent question; they strike at the core of our faith. This simple phrase, for all time since the garden, is an expression of whether God can be trusted. Is His Word true? And is His Word to us a loving Word?  

Every couple of years I need a refresher on language.
Most of the time this happens through our children. They will say something, some word or phrase, and I will not understand. I’ll ask for a clarification, a definition, and maybe even for another example in context… and I still won’t get it. Most of the time I still need the help of Urban Dictionary to know what I’m supposed to be talking about. But even then I’m not really allowed to use these phrases.
The kids cringe with I do, and I get that.
I did the same thing.
And I assume my parents did the same thing when their vernacular was discovered and tried to be put in use by the previous generation. And so it goes, one generation after another, being linguistically left behind. And yet through each and every generation of human history, there is a link. The link is not a particular language, but instead four words translated into a multitude of dialects. It’s these four words that bind all the generations of humanity together:
“Has God indeed said…”
Way back at the beginning – in the very first generation – everything was good. Very good, in fact. All creation existed in perfect harmony, and at the center piece of everything was the crown jewel of creation. The man and the woman lived in perfect fellowship with God, walking without guilt, shame, or any other hindrance with Him. And into this harmony slithered the cunning serpent armed with what must have seemed like a very innocent question and just a few short sentences that followed it:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. 
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Christian Friendship, and 3 Reasons Why 2 are Better than 1

Ecclesiastes 4:1 states a very simple truth: “Two are better than one…”
It’s not a new truth; in fact, it’s one of the first things we hear from the Lord in the Bible:
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).
As human beings, we were not meant to live in isolation; we are meant for each other. That “each other” includes all kinds of relationships – marriages, church groups, and just basic friendships included. In all these cases, two are better than one.
While that seems obvious, it’s a truth that needs to be re-embraced today. After all, we live in a culture that has never been more connected and yet never more isolated. We might have hundreds or thousands of virtual connections without any of those connections ever moving into a genuine, deep relationship. Now, more than ever, we need to deeply believe and live out this reality of relationship.
Here, then, are three reasons why two are better than one:
1. Because we have different gifts.
Ecclesiastes 4 continues like this:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor…
This is, of course true in most any general sense – two people working at the same time are most often going to produce more and better things than just one. But in the church, this truth takes on another meaning.
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