Posts filed under ‘Devotional Thoughts’

Light is a Fascinating Thing – Advent Thoughts

This is a “proem” (part prose, part poem) that I wrote a while back for a friend’s Advent project. It seemed especially fitting after today’s message by Dan Hall and with the theme for our Advent/Christmas services at Valleydale. I posted this also on my personal blog, but wanted to share it with those who might not see it there.

Light is a fascinating thing.

It may be as dominating as the sun,

As demure as the moon,

As penetrating as a flashlight,

Or as subtle as a candle.

Still, whatever its manifestation, it is in a word … present.

 

Its adversary – we are told – is darkness.

If you ask the opposite of light, will the response not be, “dark”?

But darkness is not light’s opposite, its enemy.

It is light’s absence.

It is the place light chooses not to be.

Darkness, no matter how powerful it may seem at any given time,

No matter how deep,

No matter how dense,

No matter how overpowering it claims to be,

It can only boast in light’s absence.

Never in light’s presence.

 

It cannot be light’s nemesis, for it has no power over light.

You cannot “turn on” the dark.

It can only wait until you “turn off” the light.

But rest assured, it waits.

And when the light goes away – even for a moment –

The darkness moves in.

Aggressively.

Opportunistically.

Imperialistically.

With something of an evil grin.

Realizing that light is simply not … present.

 

So it was in times long ago.

God – the Father of Lights – had been turned off to His people,

To all of His creation.

400 years of creatures groping in the darkness.

Simply because they had chosen to reject the light.

 

Stupid, stupid creatures.

Embracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Thinking “presence” was a given, not a gift.

Taking light for granted, not a grant.

And so nearness became absence,

And light was simply NOT – in a word … present.

 

 

Then on an unsuspecting night,

In an inconspicuous place,

For all too common people,

God turned the light on.

Emmanuel was born.

God was present …

With us. Among us. FOR us.

In Him was life and that life was the light of men.

 

The light shined in the darkness,

But the darkness still managed to not comprehend it.

Stupid, stupid creatures.

Emabracing darkness and shunning light.

Hating day and loving night.

Closing their eyes to the light that was once again,

Finally … present.

 

So the light was not put on a lampstand, but under a basket.

Hidden from the world, so that darkness could move in.

Aggressively.

Opportunistically.

Imperialistically.

With something of an evil grin.

Pretending that light was simply not … present.

 

But light could not be covered over by darkness, for it had chosen to be present.

And a light as subtle as a candle

Became as penetrating as a flashlight.

A light as demure as the moon

Became as dominating as the sun itself.

It showed that darkness was not its adversary;

Darkness was only its absence.

And on this one night it established in one moment and forevermore

That it was – in a word….

Present.

With us. Among us. For us.

And once and for all … IN us.

Light is a fascinating thing.

 

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Cor. 4:6

December 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm 2 comments

Every Man Needs to be Courageous

            No matter the failures or hurts of your past, you can decide today to be a man of honor, a father of faith, and a husband of integrity.  That’s the core message of “Courageous,” last weekend’s biggest new movie and the fourth and latest production from Provident Films and Sherwood Pictures, affiliated with Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia (previous films include Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof).

An unlikely band of four sheriff’s deputies and an unemployed Hispanic form an odd alliance of friends who battle similar challenges from very different backgrounds and circumstances: three of the guys are married with kids, one is divorced, and one fathered a daughter to a cheerleader during recently completed college days.

Alex Kendrick starred in, directed, and produced the movie, as he has the other three of Sherwood’s productions.  He plays Adam, a deputy whose family faces a tragic loss (I didn’t know this before the movie, so I don’t want to ruin it for you), one which God uses in his life to challenge his priorities, values, and lifestyle.  In the wake of his own personal deep Bible study on families, particularly fathering, Adam not only makes a fresh commitment to God in the form of a resolution to his family, but asks other men in his life to hold him accountable for upholding his commitments as well.

With more than enough action, thrills, and real-life drama to suit the most over-active testosterone-drenched viewer, yet sufficient sweetness and tenderness to dampen the eyes of the most hardened guy in the theater, this movie is not for wimps – Paula cried all the way through it and I had my share of misty-eyed, lumpy throat moments, some of which extended way beyond my comfort level.

These Dougherty County cops bust up gangs, arrest hardened thieves, save the innocent, witness police abuse, and see the seedier side of life.  Armed with statistics that undeniably connect fatherlessness in the home with a heightened propensity toward crime, the men in the story begin a campaign that is sweeping the nation – a campaign returning fathers to their Biblical role of being responsible for self and family in a Christ-honoring way.

The production quality of this movie is far beyond the quality of the previous ever-improving films Sherwood has made.  The viewer quickly loses sight of the fact that the entire cast, crew, wardrobe, make-up, and production personnel are all amateur, church-going believers out on a mission to change the world through the power of Jesus Christ.  There are a lot of good, wholesome, and clean movies you could watch with your family this year, but only one is likely to actually bring your family closer to each other and to God.

Christ-followers often complain of the void of morality and character in the entertainment world.  The only way to change that is to support worthy products like this one. Don’t let Courageous slip through your fingers!  It is currently showing at all area theaters.  For more info, click http://www.courageousthemovie.com/themovie.

Calvin Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

October 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

A Test of Faith, A Sigh of Relief

After Jesus uttered those famous words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Scripture says “he placed his hands on them,” as a show of affection and affirmation (Mt. 19:14-15; Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17).

Many of us grew up singing, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Indeed He does.

He also has harsh words for those who mislead a child spiritually (Mt. 18:4; Mk. 9:33-37; Lk. 9:46-48). Jesus said we are to come to him with the innocence and naiveté of  little children.

I do not entirely understand faith, or prayer, or God’s will – why God does this or that, why he honors great faith and then seemingly doesn’t require any faith at all.  It’s a mystery of the Christian life, as we discussed last Sunday.   But today, God answered a five-year prayer for our family.

For the past five years, our daughter Alissa and her husband (then fiancé), Joey, have been embroiled in the stressful woes of a previous marriage and children split between two parents.  These two home environments have had, and continue to exhibit significant differences in the spiritual guidance, moral instruction, and overall welfare provided to these two children.

As you might expect, these differences have led to difficulties, some of which have affected some of you.  While many of you might have been unaware of these anxiety-producing tensions, others of you have prayed faithfully and consistently for God to intervene and change the surroundings of two boys, bringing them into a more stable and consistent home environment.

Today, a significant decision was announced by a Jefferson County judge.  Joey and Alissa Thornell have been awarded sole custody of nine-year-old Brycen and six-year-old Aaron.  You may have seen these munchkins around Valleydale. Since late February, they have been staying with Joey and Alissa and have been actively participating at Valleydale.

Alissa and Joey join Paula and me in expressing our heartfelt thanks to you for your patience and support during the last five years of this ordeal.  Your words of encouragement and acts of kindness can never be repaid any more than you faithful prayers can be.  Truly we are grateful from the core of our beings.  While tensions will continue, the daily stress of uncertainty has been settled for a while.

The irony of God’s leadership in the timing of my preaching continues to amaze and amuse me.  As I finalize preparations for this Sunday’s message on the myth that Christian homes always produce God-fearing and Christ-honoring children, I’m filled with the hope that the Thornell home will be God’s provision for two young and shapeable hearts.  While He does not guarantee the spiritual maturity of any of our kids, may He honor Alissa and Joey’s efforts to be the best Christian parents they can be.

 

From a grateful pastor and wife,

 

Calvin and Paula Kelly

June 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment

Bad Company, Good Company

Part of last week’s L3 Journal reading was 1 Corinthians 5.  In thinking about last Sunday’s challenge to our high school graduates, I was reflecting especially vv. 9-13:  “But now, I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a swindler, with such a man, do not even eat…God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man among you.’ ”

In this passage, Paul refers to an earlier letter to the Corinthian church that we do not have.  Here, Paul refers to his previous admonition to be careful of keeping company with ungodly people, but he clarifies that he intended “ungodly believers,” not unsaved people. He says we have to associate with worldly people for a very practical reason: it would be impossible to do that without removing ourselves completely from the world.  There is also a spiritual reason: associating  with immoral people in the world is the only way we can have a positive witness with them for Christ.   His admonition in verse 13 is a quote from Deuteronomy 13:5.

He then goes on to list six examples of the kinds of behavior that disqualify our close friendships with unspiritual Christians.  His command here is in line with his warning in 1 Corinthians 15:33:  “Bad company corrupts good character.”

You and I need to be discerning in our relationships.  The clear implication of both Paul’s words in Galatians 6:1 (to “restore [a fallen brother] gently, but watch yourself, or you will also be tempted”) and Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 is that we will and must challenge fellow believers regarding sinful behavior but not become close friends with them.  As I explained Sunday, it is much easier to pull someone DOWN than to pull someone UP. The key here is balance.

Let’s pray that God will help us to have the proper balance between rubbing shoulders with believers who need to be gently confronted on one hand, and becoming too closely aligned with them to the point they are negative influences on us on the other. Our balance with lost people is similar:  God’s goal for us is to NOT write off unbelievers as “hopeless,” but to see them through the eyes of Christ, befriend them, value them, and develop relationships with them that are pleasing to God in order to show genuine concern for them and to build bridges to them for Christ.  May God help us to do just that!

Calvin Kelly

May 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm Leave a comment

Praying for Your Kids

As part of my message on “How to Raise the Perfect Child” Sunday, I shared about Jason Meredith’s mother’s prayer for her kids found three months after her death in 1999.  Mrs. Meredith had attended a conference on praying parents in 1986 and had prayed daily for her three children from a tattered piece of paper folded neatly in her Bible. Here are those “Twelve Ways to Pray for Your Children:”

  1. To know Christ as Savior and Lord early in life (Psalm 63:1 and 2 Timothy 3:15)
  2. To have a hatred for sin (Psalm 97:10)
  3. To be caught whenever they are guilty of sin (Psalm 119:71)
  4. To be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives – emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, relational  (John 17:15 and Romans 12:21)
  5. To have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships (Daniel 6:3 and Romans 14:17-19)
  6. To respect those in authority over them (Romans 13:1)
  7. To desire the right kind of friends and to be protected from the wrong kind of friends (Proverbs 1:10-11)
  8. To be kept from marrying wrongly and to marry according to God’s will (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
  9. To, along with their spouse, be kept morally pure before and during marriage (2 Corinthians 7:1)
  10. To totally submit to God in all areas of their lives and to actively resist Satan in all circumstances  (James 4:7-8 and 1 Peter 5:8-9)
  11. To be single-hearted and willing to be “sold out” to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)
  12. To be be surrounded by a “hedge of protection” so that they will not find wrong places and that wrong people cannot find them (Hosea 2:6)

 

I pray that these suggestions be the foundation for a vibrant prayer pattern for your children of any age.

Calvin Kelly

May 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm Leave a comment

A Tribute to a Friend

My life-long friend, Richard Harvey, died April 27,2011, of complications associated with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  This blog post, with minor edits, is a tribute I paid to him at his memorial service on April 29:

There are few people in my life with whom I go as deep and for as long as I do with Richard Harvey.  I remember when I first met Richard at First Baptist Church in Yazoo City, Mississippi, where his family had moved from Vicksburg.  We were in the same grade in elementary school and he and I quickly became fast friends.  Richard was my closest friend through high school and on into college, and was a groomsman in my wedding.

As kids, we spent the night at each other’s houses, ate with each other’s families, and tried the patience of our mothers and teenage sisters.  When Richard talked “chicken Calvin” into holding a cardboard fluorescent light box over the barrel of his pellet gun while he shot it, I truly thought he had shot my finger off when the pellet grazed it.  He laughed hysterically when I burst toward his house from the field in back, shouting, “Mrs. Harvey!  Mrs. Harvey!”  I never got a straight answer to the question as to whether or not he intended to scare me like that, though it was obvious Richard wasn’t very concerned about my injury.

As freshmen roommates, it was Richard who taught me how to keep my shirt from pulling up out of the back of my pants.  The secret? Tuck your T-shirt into your underwear and then pull your outer shirt over the underwear and then tuck into your pants! It was a trick he said his father had taught him. My first fashion lesson at Mississippi State, courtesy of Richard Harvey.

As residents of Hightower Dorm, we had most of our first-year classes together.  Since my parents would not let me have a car at school my first year, Richard would drive us both across campus to our freshman philosophy class at the Animal Husbandry Building in his red Buick Skylark.  One day when we drove up to class, our Doonesbury-like hippie professor noticed Richard’s tag on the front of his car, which said, “Jesus is the Answer.”  As we walked into the large auditorium before class began, the teacher sarcastically asked Richard, “If Jesus is the answer, what’s the question?”  “Life,” Richard said with a smile and a bounce in his step. Even after 40 years, my memory of Richard’s unashamed proclamation of his faith strikes me as the summation of his life. Through numerous ups and downs of life, relationships, and career, Richard maintained that faith in Christ until he crossed over into the other side of eternity.

Richard and I had a lot in common.  We both came from large families: I was the youngest of four children, and until the births of his younger brothers, Thomas and John, Richard was too.  Our mothers were both active in church circles, our fathers successful businessmen. In fact, Richard and I often even liked the same girls in high school. The difference was that Richard always got the girl, though he had a certain penchant for robbing the cradle. I’m talking about pretty girls, the kind that made me wonder what he had that I didn’t.  After all, I was taller than he was, and … I was, well, taller than he was.  The truth is, Richard was a natural charmer, and I was an introverted wallflower. I can see him today, walking with his characteristic bounce, mischievous smile, and almost white-blond hair.

That hair had some unique challenges.  One Sunday night at church after Richard had gone swimming earlier that afternoon at the local country club, his hair was a lime-like green color from the over-chlorinated water of the pool.   Did it bother Richard?  Not on your life.

He and I sang in the same youth choir, poked at Mr. Prather and Mrs. Henley together, roomed together on the same mission trips, and occasionally smoked the same Swisher Sweet cigars with our friends, Bobby and Chuck.  Though we didn’t start at the same time, he and I overlapped as students at the same seminary, served churches in the same city of Montgomery, Alabama, shared each other’s deepest secrets, and often talked of serving on the staff of the same church.

Though careers, family, time, and distance separated us in recent years, Richard did a better job of keeping up with me than I did with him.  He and Jeanne drove down to Birmingham for our daughter’s wedding a few years ago. When we exchanged emails, it was always at his initiative.  I loved reading of his successful career and his big dreams.

He was a survivor and seemed to always bounce back from adversity. He fought the same demons we all do, but with a greater feistiness and with more victories than most of us.  He will always have my respect, admiration, and loyalty as his friend.  Today, as he rests in the arms of his Savior, Richard embodies the promise from Isaiah 40:  “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Richard, like all of us frail humans, may have stumbled, but today he soars!

Calvin Kelly

May 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

What Valleydale Has a Right to Expect of Me

Last Sunday, January 30, I shared the annual “State of the Church” address as a part of the series, Signs of Life. I wanted to share some highlights of the message for those who may not have been present or in case you wanted to review key elements.

After sharing the facts that Valleydale is 1) essential and not optional, and 2) a people, not a place, I mentioned that 3) the church is about others, not about me. There are at least seven things that God expects of every church member.  Since Christ died for the church and the church is His Body, it is hugely important for us to view the church with the same high regard that Jesus did.

Far too often, we take our relationship to the church casually, even cavalierly.

As a Member of Valleydale, I am to be…

  • Physically Present (Acts 14:27) — You get out of church what you put in and you can’t put anything in to it if you’re not there!
  • Relationally Connected (Ps. 100:3c)  — To be happy, fulfilled, and growing in a faith family, you need to go beyond  just showing up in a worship gathering.
  • Spiritually Growing (Heb. 6:1)  — God never intended for you to remain a spiritual baby, demanding your way and failing to apply spiritual truth.
  • Financially Faithful (2 Cor. 8:7)  — Giving your tithe is not only commanded and needed for ministry to flourish, it is a real key to your spiritual growth and development, as well as one of the best ways to say “thank you” to God!  Of the 1646 family units related to Valleydale, 573 gave nothing in 2010 (that’s 35%).
  • Selflessly Serving (Mark 10:45) — You are never more like Jesus than when you serve!
  • Evangelistically Aware (John 4:35) — Jesus wants us to open our eyes and see the people around us who need Him

  • Intentionally Supportive (Phil. 2:2 ) — Talk up your church when you have the opportunity, and be proud of what God is doing through her!

2010 Highlights:

  • Baptisms were up 35% and new members were up 50% over 2009!
  • Life Connection and worship attendance were both up over 2009!
  • Budget giving has been stable for three years, up 6% in 2010!
  • 83% of the total pledged has been given to re:IMAGINE (that’s ove34 $5.8 million)
  • Our December giving was up 60% over 2009.

2011 Goals:

  • Close the “back door” through greater community and volunteerism
  • Increase the number of baptisms by 20%
  • Begin a “Marketplace Ministry” evangelism
  • Increase “life commitment cards” returned to 550 at WorldReach Celebration
  • Increase the number of people on mission trips by 5%
  • Heighten participation in spiritual disciplines (journaling, fasting)
  • Give $100,000 more the budget and  $25,000 more to missions

Calvin Kelly

 

 

 

February 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

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