Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For the past twelve weeks, we as a church have been walking through "The Story".  "The Story" is a chronological telling of the narrative of scripture.  It has been a great study so far and has inspired many to read the Bible for the first time.  This past week, in looking at the Regret of King David's life, the following statement has rolled over and over in my mind.  "It does no good to die for love if you won't live for love."   King David after hearing the news of Absalom's death, couldn't be consoled and cried out, "my son, Absalom, I would that I had died for you"...  2 Samuel 18:33

David is overcome with grief for the death of his son. Te problem is while Absalom was alive David wouldn't bring himself to restore their relationship.  The story is complicated.  David's oldest son Amnon rapes his sister Tamar and David does nothing about it.  Absalom vindicates Tamar's honor and flees for fear of his life.  David has to be talked into letting Absalom return home.  Here is the kicker.  David wouldn't look him in the eye and talk things out and bring restoration.  David wouldn't call him son.  At least not until his death.  Then David wishes he had died for Absalom.

But what if David had just lived for Absalom?  What if David had acknowledged his failings and worked to restore the relationship?  What if? What if?  We will never truly know.  What I do know is that I meet with families all the time that talk about loving each other and being willing to die for such and such, but at that moment their not willing to live for them.  Decisions today that bring health and healing into relationships are more important than end of life statements that suggest you may die for someone.  Live for them now.  Live in Truth.  Live in Faithfulness.  Live in Compassion.  Live in Righteousness.  Live in love!  You won't have to say you'll die for them.  They will know!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

In a few hours one of the most exciting things will happen since my family moved to California.  At 6pm, over fifteen churches will come together to make much of Jesus.  There won't be a rock star speaker or a signed recording artist.  There will be a gathering of Spirit filled, Spirit led believers joining to lift up and seek the name, renown, power and healing of Jesus.  For a couple of months God has been bringing Pastors together to seek the good of this community.  Tonight is a next step in believers shining God's light and love in the Foothills. 

I have prayed for this since coming to Northern California.  God began stirring this in me back in June.  Here we go...  One Night, One Church, One Jesus....  So Ready to Ignite the Foothills!!!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks I have had a lot of time to think about God's kindness towards me.  I have had more than a few close calls where my life could have ended.  I have no cliche answer for why I have been spared and allowed to keep going.   One part of this most recent accident has had great impact on me. 

As I was being attended to and rushed to the hospital, Jennifer was receiving a call from CHP (California Highway Patrol).  I realize she received mostly good news, but the reality of that call is that once the officer identified himself she immediately anticipated hearing I was dead.  The officer informed her I was alive and on the way to the hospital, but in those moments our minds go to worse case scenario. 

I grieve the grief and fear that came over my wife in those moments.  I now know that the call scared her greatly.  Once she realized I was alive and where to find me, she then had to go into management mode. In some ways her grieving was put on hold as she had to think through what needed to be done. Fortunately we had a great friend come watch the kids and set up others to help and another friend brought her to the Hospital where I was taken. 

It just further cements the great value of having friends who will be there when you need them.  Not just people who will drive by but those who will be reliably there.  Ultimately God is the one who is always reliably there, but faithful friends are just amazing gifts.  In those first chaotic moments, those friends who came to watch our kids and take Jennifer to the hospital spoke to our kids about what was happening, prayed over them and reassured them.

So not only was God gracious to spare me, He also took great care to provide faithful friends to cover my family and their fear and sorrow.  God has been reminding me in amazing ways that I am not alone.  I am surrounded by faithful followers who are there.  My beautiful wife and family are surrounded by faithful followers.  It is too easy to forget that.  Hopefully it won't take a near death experience for me to be reminded of God's ever present help in the form of His body the church! 

I am so humbled and amazed at the amazing lengths God has gone to show us His love for us.  Our calling is to respond in gratitude to His work in our life.  We have many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us.  In doing so, we might just be the reminder someone desperately needs that they are not alone!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I took a ten week sabbatical from writing.  I needed to focus on some pressing matters as well as not make public things happening in our life.  Not bad things, just things that couldn't be publicized at the time.

The biggest and most awesome of events over that time was the adoption of our beautiful baby girl!!  Hattie Belle Kelley came into the world June 19th and has absolutely owned me ever since.  To be truthful she owns all of us.  The boys are as in love with her as Jennifer and I are.  We have been greatly blessed with her presence in our family. 

Two weeks ago, life came to a screeching halt.  While riding into work on my motorcycle, I had an Chevy come over on me and create a life altering situation.  By the grace of God I am alive.  My body is broken up but it will mend.  I received incredible care from the moment of the accident; a nurse was in the car behind me when the wreck occurred. I was wonderfully taken care of by the Trauma staff at Sutter Roseville Medical Center and have been nursed back to health by my amazing wife and kids.  My church family has provided food, support, encouragement, prayers, presence, and more during this time.  It has been absolutely incredible to receive the care from our village.  From the adoption to the accident, Gold Country Church has literally met every need.

So let me use this first day back writing to just say thank you!  Thank you for allowing us to experience the love of Christ through his people.  Thank you for continuing to live out the love we planted this church on.  Thank you for once again proving the church, when it is working is a compassion incubator.  Thank you for the way my family has received what Jesus intended.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

People are people.  People long to be loved, valued, and encouraged.  People can be viewed in a variety of ways.  Usually by the way we view and treat others we have that returned.  In our lives, the Kelley family has been blessed with amazing people from literally across the globe.  We are humbled, amazed, and honored that so many have poured love and value into us. 

Tonight was a terrific example of that love.  What I have seen our leaders do for others in the past two years, we were the recipients of tonight.  They gathered in our living room, shared food and conversation and then gently laid hands and prayed over us.  There were kind words of affirmation, petitions to our Father, and blessings spoken over us. 

So many don't know that kind of church community.  So many long for that very thing.  We have been blessed by it for many years of ministry.  We have and are giving our lives to helping others experience it!  Tonight was a reminder of why that truly is the biblical, life giving, loving and Spirit filled model of leadership.  People loving people with a love that originates in God and transforms others!  We are grateful to be among that kind of people!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

good guy athletes!

This  is a reprint of something Max Lucado wrote concerning the San Antonio Spurs and more precisely, the Admiral, David Robinson.  I love guys like this!  Incredible athlete but even more an incredible husband, father and child of God!

Photo: SAExpressNews 2003
The San Antonio Spurs make people yawn. I’ve read the reports: when the basketball team plays, most of the nation tunes out. Our city goes whacko, but, to the dismay of television networks, sports fans slide into summer hibernation. They are the winningest pro franchise in the country over the last 15 years, but, for the lack of hype, you’d think they were cellar dwellers of a bowling league.
I think I know why. The Spurs have fostered the rarest of qualities in pro sports: humility.  Humility climbed off the plane a couple of decades ago in the form of David  Robinson. Bigger markets offered more lights and hype, but David was content with playtime and victories. I’ve called David a friend for most of those years. I’ve seen the rings he won, the honors he’s received, but I’ve never seen a chest bump or a court side strut.  I’ve seen David pray often and preach occasionally, but I’ve never seen him swing an elbow or get a coach fired.  I’ve heard him brag about his wife, kids and Savior, but I’ve never heard him bemoan his salary or city.
David paved the way for Tim Duncan who quietly goes about the task of winning championships (four and counting) and scoring baskets. Then there are the covey of former Spurs who seem determined to love every kid and visit every school in San Antonio: Sean Elliot, Bruce Bowen, George Gervin. Classy.
I’m not going to overdo this. I’m a pastor, not a sportswriter. But this much needs to be said. Every so often someone does it right. This team did, and does. It’s good to know that humility is alive and well on the basketball court. Even if the rest of the country snoozes.
Max Lucado
© 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

My feeble attempt--- Mothers Day

Well, it is almost here.  Mothers Day!  For many, like me, it is a day to celebrate the amazing mother who gave birth to me.  A mother who sacrificed, served, loved, cooked, cleaned, drove, washed, folded, pressed, forgave, endured, stood by, stood with, stood out, cared, cried, and oh so much more!  Not only have I been blessed with a great mother, but also a mother in law.  A woman who has been mother to hundreds of foster kids as well as her own. 

I am also privileged to a front row seat to the unbelievable mother my wife is.  She continues to amaze me with the way she manages, loves, serves, cleans, ministers to, teaches, and on and on the list goes.  If that weren't enough, I get to see those same qualities in my daughter as she too is a fantastic mother to the greatest grand baby alive!   Mothers Day for many of us is a day we don't necessarily need to be reminded of the great gift we were given. 

You know whats coming... But.  But for many others this is one of the most painful days.  For many they didn't experience the kind of mother I did.  Maybe their mother died when they were young, maybe their mother didn't shower them with love and attention.  Maybe their mother was fighting so many demons they didn't have anything for anyone else.  I just know for those, this is a painful day. 

Some have allowed others, like my wife, to be the mother to their birth children.  Life circumstances, being overwhelmed, or other reasons have led some brave mothers to make the amazing life giving choice of adoption.  I say amazing because those mothers have allowed another to pour love and care knowing it is the right and best thing.  It isn't an easy thing, but it is brave!

And then there are those who want to be on the list.  The Mother's list.  They have begged and pleaded to have the joy of holding a little life or adopting a child needing the love they have.  Those empty arms are aching on a day like today.  I don't write this to cause them hurt or pain.  I write for us all to acknowledge their pain and be more aware of those who haven't had that desire fulfilled.   I'm not sure where the following originated, but I'm including it here because it says so much that needs to be said.  It prays a prayer that needs to prayed. 
To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.
So Mother's Day is coming!  I hope it comes for those who are waiting! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I have been greatly encouraged and blessed this week as I have connected with friends and listened to challenging lectures.  It has been great seeing how God is working in so many ways across the globe.  I made a new friend this morning from Madagascar.  Who knew that people lived in Madagascar.  I always thought it was a animated movie with more than a little Chris Rock. 

Hearing about his life and culture and perception of Malibu was fascinating.  I love to meet new people like that.  Just go sit with them while they are trying to eat breakfast and start asking questions.  I'm sure he was greatly confused, but highly entertained.  It was hilarious that he asked me where I was from...  He said I had some sort of accent.  I don't know what all that was about.  Even the guy from Madagascar had to get in a dig about my accent.  Roll Tide!

Anyway, I have been intrigued by the study of the book of Revelation.  Dr. Greg Stevenson has challenged my thinking and given me a great desire to preach through the book later this year.  So many great thoughts and discussions.  I'm ready to be home with my family, but my cup is overflowing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I received a text yesterday from a friend who was in Boston to run the Boston Marathon.  I along with several other friends received a call to prayer for his body as he prepared to run the next day.  He was experiencing pain and wanted to be able to finish.  I, along with others, prayed for God to take away his pain, protect his body, and allow him to run with the joy of the Lord covering him. I prayed that he and his wife would have a great time in my favorite city and that they would be safe.  

That is a usual part of my life.  I receive prayer requests throughout the day, pretty much every day.  I have prayed over situations like that countless times, probably too many times not focused enough.  Then today happened... again!  How many tragedies have to happen for us to take the plea for prayer and make it more intent and focused each day?  Like me, far too many pastors and leaders give fainting effort to pray over requests that don't really seem all that important to us.  I confess to my guilt on far too many occasions. 

Then today happened.  I texted and called my friend.  When I heard his voice I was greatly relieved.  I was even more relieved when he shared his wife was across the street from the finish line blast.  I thought back to my prayers for him.  I thought of the others that had and were praying for him.  I praised God that my two friends were well. 

We never know when our prayers for something so "simple" turn out to be so profound.  We never know how God will answer what we place before him as a simple request.  We never know when our loved ones need the covering of our prayers.  I, along with others  were praying for my friend to be pain free and be protected from his body fighting against itself.  Little did any of us realize God would answer those prayers in a far different way. 

1 John 5:15... and since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.   What are you asking for?  Who are you asking for?  You never know when a today will happen...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'm dizzy from trying to keep up with all the banter back and forth about what the Scriptures say and don't say, how we are supposed to view passages and the ones that don't mean what they used to... I'm weary with fancy writing and pundits playing to the crowds of how their ideology is obviously way of the culture. 
I'm weary hearing who is for and who is against all the latest and greatest.  I know that there are really impassioned pleas and discussions taking place.  I'm all for dialogue.  But I'm just weary with the arguing and jockeying for position and power.  The body of Christ looks too much like the confused and weary culture it is supposed to be light to. 
I need to remind myself that my place in this is to sell out to Jesus and live his truth and mercy.  I can't love the people more than I love the will of God.  The will, mercy, heart, mind, grace, and passion of God has to be my motivation for loving others.  If I love people more than I love God, then my life is going to devolve into a circular movement of frustration and disappointment.  I will end up feeling lost in a sea of chaos. 
By focusing and getting back to loving the will of God it is possible to rightly and compassionately love others.  God has to be focus. God has to be prominent.  I die to self and take up his cross and daily follow.  As I follow, I love.  As I love I am obedient.  In being obedient I serve.  In serving I worship.  As I worship I follow.  And as I follow Him, I love others.... Look, I'm not dizzy anymore!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Absolutely crazy, insane four week run.  It is now, March, well almost April and the insanity is just heating up.  I have been on the campground, both in Alabama and Northern California, with over three hundred believers who were seeking God's healing and restoration in their lives.  I witnessed chains of guilt, shame, addiction, apathy, hurt, abuse, and more break off the hearts and minds of men and women.  I am witnessing marriages being restored, as well as marriages end.  I am seeing young men who have finished their Teen Challenge program pursue ministry as well as those who have chosen to go back to their former life.  So much joy and sadness in the lives of those all around us.  The truth is, however, that healing and new life is there for all.  Some choose to go back towards the pain of unhealthy behavior and others choose to live in freedom.  Choose wisely....

In the past two weeks, we have hosted two hundred people for a Seder (Passover) Meal led by my friend Mike Maher.  Incredible!  So many of our GCC friends served so graciously as we provided an atmosphere of worship and learning.  Tres Dias was, well, .... INCREDIBLE!  Now back to the normal craziness of five boys, a church, friends, life, ministry, and.....

In the course of all that, we were blessed with a visit by our daughter and grand baby.  So much joy having them with us and yet so much sadness watching them go back.  Life... Ah life.  What craziness has been part of your journey this past month?  Make sure in all the craziness you don't forget to live.  To choose life and freedom.  To enjoy those around you. To see the work of God in you and through you.  To live thankfully for all He has done, is doing, and will do. 

Have I mentioned next week is Easter?!!!......

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I love re-connecting with friends that I haven't seen in years.  I love the fact that we picked up with conversation as though we have not been apart.  Those kind of friendships where you can share honestly to the point without awkwardness are the best.  What a great blessing to be blessed with good friends.  Oh I am a rich man because of my friends!

Don't take for granted those relationships.  Far too many don't have those kind of friends that they trust and value.  We are in a disconnected world that is starving for authentic relationships.  I am continuing to be reminded that it is paramount to our purpose as a Church to focus on connecting others in real relationships. 

How are your relationships?  Are you investing in and being invested in by others?  Are you seriously intent on seeing others enjoy committed, deep friendships?  Remember Jesus in his own words... "love your neighbor as yourself"!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In a return to my home state, I have enjoyed an amazing experience.  Working with the men of BTD #28 was absolutely amazing!  To witness leaders move more fully into who they have been called and gifted to be is always humbling.  The love and grace of God are remarkable, life transforming gifts.  I am always renewed by the way His love moves others to serve and share. 

Being here has allowed me to be with my daughter and grand baby as well as visiting my parents.  A great visit with my family.  Hearing the stories of painful church experiences here hurts my heart, but renews my resolve to continue working towards a life giving church built on the word of God that loves on people. 

I am listening to and studying the trends that continue occurring all around us in regards to loving people without feeding the frenzy of it doesn't matter how we live.  So many want to offer "love" to those away from Christ, but not help them find Christ.  If Jesus truly is the way, our love originates in Him and has to be revealing of Him.  Such a fine line to walk in regards to the culture, but so critically important. 

I am continuing to pray my favorite prayer.... "Lord, I have heard of your fame:  I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.  Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."  Habakkuk 3:2....  

Join me! Will you?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

So many good things happening but also a great many difficult things.  Walking with people through troubled marriages, addictions, pursuing faith, bitterness, and other difficulties, it doesn't allow a lot of time for writing, much less sharing what I'm learning as I experience life along side others.  There are days when it is truly overwhelming.  As those days press in, I find peace in being reminded that God is at work and I am just walking the journey He has for me.  It is a humbling reminder that as we love others,  He shines brightly and faithfully. 

I mentioned good things happening.  I'm studying and preaching a series with my good friend Pastor Cary Duckett of the Church on Cypress.  We are encouraging each other and have invited our faith families to pray over each church.  What a great way to inspire unity and be more aware of the Kingdom work of our friends from "down the hill".

In March, we are hosting a Seder Meal.  My friend Mike Maher will be coming from Alabama to lead our Passover feast and give instruction on the beauty of such a meal.  It will be a great time of worship, learning, welcoming, sharing, remembering, and serving. 

Not to jump ahead to much, but May will be incredible.  Margaret Feinberg, an incredible communicator, writer, disciple and woman of God will be speaking on Sunday May 5th.  She is in town participating in a conference Thursday and Friday and has graciously agreed to come share with GCC!  Among other things she has written, my two favorites are WONDERSTRUCK and SCOUTING THE DIVINE! 

So for now, we fix our eyes on Jesus!  He authored and perfected the faith we profess and pursue.  He endured the evil of mankind and overcame the cross and the grave.  He is sitting next to the Father, speaking on our behalf.  Whew....  I believe I can keep on going!

Monday, January 14, 2013

making disciples

I went to a Pastor's breakfast this morning with several hundred others to hear Francis Chan.  The host church is of the largest in the area.  I will start by saying I'm not opposed to large.  I have been there and was blessed in so many ways.  The opportunity to hear Chan address this type of crowd had my interest.  The morning was good and the host church was gracious.

As has become his style, he quickly confessed the problem with popularity and the impact it has on a person.  As he shared, the heart of his message zeroed in on discipleship.  That topic is often alluded to, but not so often lived.  It was a direct, honest, to the point message that gave me hope.  Here's why.

Too often the pursuit is in how big can we make it.  How much can we do, spend, get away with as well as how cool and cutting edge can we market it as has become the norm in church world marketing.  Chan's message was don't try and build the mega, just be faithful in making disciples.  Disciples make disciples is the true key.  We have to talk it, model it, invest in it, re-invest, ....  I think you get the point.

Too many want to go to the best show in town and leave inspired to come back the next week rather than challenged to go make disciples.  It isn't about our education, it is about our pursuit of the divine healer who came as a baby and left as a risen King.  It is about modeling his life.  It is about the next conversation with the next person.  It is about continuing to invest the lives of people.  It is about living out the truth of God's word as we walk this life with others.  It is about discipleship.

I did get a chuckle this morning as he was wrapping up his talk.  As I said, we were in an amazing facility with all the modern trimmings, and he point blank said "this won't last".  This isn't it. This can't be sustained.  He wasn't poor mouthing, but just speaking about the reality that the financial, physical, emotional pressure to maintain the big is wearing people out.  "Simplify"!  If he said it once he said it a bunch.  "Go and make disciples"... Jesus words, our command, pretty simple!  Let's do it!

Monday, January 7, 2013

weird the new normal

Getting ready for the third week in our new series, "weird the new normal".  Yesterday was a difficult day.  This past week was a difficult week of preparing to speak.  Preparing to speak involves so much more than reading bible, books, articles, etc....  It involves asking yourself tough questions about your own life.  It involves difficult introspection.  It involves confession of failure, repentance and accountability to move to a better place and it involves the willingness to be vulnerable with the people you are sharing life with.

As we discussed getting in to a healthy rhythm in our lives yesterday, I could see in Jennifer's eyes that look of love.  She knows it is my struggle to work too fast, too long, too....  But she loves me...  She has a kind and firm way of calling me back to a healthy rhythm.  She doesn't manipulate or demand, but rather out of her own love for God and desire for things to be in rhythm and healthy her way draws me back. 

Rhythm is key to being in balance.  It is not always easy to choose balance, but it is essential.  Let's keep moving our lives toward the rhythm of God's drum beat in our lives.  Walking in step with His Spirit and leading is always the right pace, the right direction, the right way.  What beat are you walking to?