I’m the black sheep…



I had an interesting discussion with a young man last week. For awhile now, I’ve been working part-time at UPS. I have really enjoyed getting to meet and interact with such a diverse group of people. I’ve been chatting for some with a young man named Noah and his friend (his name escapes me right now). We’ve talked about their future plans, working for the “man”, the Lord’s moving in Zambia – and a host of other things.

This past week, the young name whose name I can’t remember, came up to me after his shift and told me that one of the girls at his work area asked him if he was saved. He began to recount for me the conversation that they had. I listened intently, praying that the Lord would give me wisdom in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. As he spoke, he said something that struck a nerve with me, “I’m the black sheep of the family.” Isn’t that an interesting phrase…the black sheep. He was acknowledging his non-conformity to the expectations of his family.  The Holy Spirit was gracious in bringing to mind verses and an example from Scripture that I hope stuck (Lord willing, I’ll see him Wednesday night if you’d like to pray for him).

As I’ve meditated and prayed about our discussion and the gospel seed being sown, this phrase keeps coming back to my mind. Really, in terms of nearness to the kingdom of God, this young man is close.  You see, if he thought of himself as the ‘white sheep’ in the family, the one who always does right and can do no wrong, oh – there would be so much he would need to understand about his own heart.  The Pharisees, the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, would be those who considered themselves ‘white sheep’ – Jesus’ strongest rebukes were reserved for these men.

But with those who see their sin and have godly sorrow over it (Samaritan woman, prodigal son, the wee little man, etc), they are near to the kingdom of God. It is amazing to see the diversity by which God brings His children to Himself. For some, He completely strips away every last refuge in which we hide so that we have no choice but to look to Him. For others, He pinpoints their sin and gently exposes it to them such that they see it and cling to Christ quickly – saving them from a lifetime of heartbreak and soul anguish.

Within that diversity though, is striking similarity – we ALL must see our sin, we ALL must see ourselves as guilty before a holy and a just God and we ALL must place our hope in Jesus Christ and Him alone for our salvation.  You see, we’re all black sheep – everyone of us. “We ALL, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). But blessedly, there is One who is white, even white as snow, and that One is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Do you know that One? If not, I encourage you – start by seeing yourself like my friend – as a black sheep – just like the rest of us. If you don’t think your wool is that dark – Read Exodus 20:1-17 – this is the Law of God that cannot be broken. If you’ve broken just one of those laws, the Bible says you’re guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10).

Once your sin becomes more than you can bear, look to the Lamb of God, that is Jesus Christ – who came and took upon Himself the sins of all of His sheep – that we might appear before God – pure and spotless – on the Day of Judgment.

Is it ‘A Beautiful Life’ now?

I love big families.  To see numerous children interacting with one another and with parents can be quite amusing.  If you were a fly on the wall in the Kelley home, you would see over the course of a 30 minute period jokes being cracked, encouraging words spoken, instruction being given, discipline doled out, the prideful being humbled, a fist fight between Elijah and Ryle, Jacob talking for 28 of those 30 minutes, Christian and Gabe rough housing and wise cracking on anything from the news of the day to a sermon illustration heard, Micah playing with ‘coys’ (cars), Graceann impersonating a meerkat or one of her other beloved animals and April and I trying to figure out a way that we can sneak off to the ‘Q’ (Qdoba).  That is a day in the life of a family with numerous children.

Something my wife and I have enjoyed over the years is watching Jon & Kate Plus 8.  To see this mom and dad with twins AND sextuplets cope with such a large family has, in the past, been a cute show to watch.  A couple of interesting things happened along the way.  First, the show began to focus on the stuff that the family got to do and the places the family got to go rather than garden variety ‘normal’ living – waiting for daddy to come home, diaper changes, preparing meals, and trying to keep a tidy house to name a few.  The show started shooting the family in Hawaii, Disney World, skiing somewhere out west, and a host of other free things the family was given to pimp some product, place or service.

The other change in the show over the years is the relationship between Jon and Kate.  In the early shows, there seemed to be playful banter – Kate was saucy but manageable and Jon had a backbone to stand up when she crossed the line.  The evolution of Kate’s character over the years has been interesting to me.  She has gone from mildly annoying to terribly obnoxious in the past few years proving the proverb “better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (Proverbs 21:9) It is this change that has made the show unwatchable, at least for me. Kate’s disrespect for her husband and her exasperation towards her children are completely unacceptable particularly among those who name Christ. To watch this woman parent leaves me amazed that anyone would buy a book by her much less seek her autograph at a book signing.

So much has happened in one short year. Last year, the show’s ‘song’ was “It’s A Beautiful Life” – a catchy, upbeat tune that I even downloaded off of itunes. Now, with allegations of adultery on both sides and drunkenness – they’re just “Everyday People”. My wife told me that they now make $70,000 per episode for 20 episodes per season – that’s $1,400,000 – just for the show. Wow. I’ve been trying to pitch a show to TLC but I can’t think of anything that rhymes with seven…perhaps we could change our last name to Blyleven – Rick and April Blyleven plus seven? 🙂

It’s no longer a beautiful life. It seems as though money and fame has changed everything. You’ve got a contentious wife hell-bent on pimping her children so that she can continue this current lifestyle (whatever that is). But you also have Jon – who has for all practical purposes given the reigns of his family over to his wife. You see in all of this, the one that should be held responsible is Jon. Jon is the God appointed head of his family and he has abandoned his responsibility to lead. With his absence at the helm, you have a family that has completely lost its equilibrium. The priority now among both parents is not to save their marriage but to make sure that the kids are happy – after all, sad children do not make for an interesting tv show. This was the parting comment on the show last night – “the priority is the children”.

Really? The children? You see, we don’t stand before our God and make a covenant that we will be with our children for richer, for poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health – we make that covenant with our spouse. The best thing that Jon and Kate can do for their children is to love EACH OTHER and make their relationship the priority in the home…but that doesn’t help ratings much, does it?

So – two things I’ll take away – first Proverbs 30:8,9 “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.” Second, I will thank God for His goodness in giving me my dear, sweet wife who labors in virtual anonymity, pressing on day-by-day for me and our children that she might one day hear NOT “Can I have your autograph?” from adoring ‘fans’ but these words from her Lord Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

An appointment you must keep…

Today was supposed to be last day.  February 17, 2009 – does the date mean anything to you?  It is the date in which the analog signal on TV stations across the U.S. was to switch to digital.  The date has been talked about for well over a year and the “crawl” at the bottom of network television has been constant since mid-August announcing to everyone watching “THE DIGITAL CONVERSION IS COMING, THE DIGITAL CONVERSION IS COMING!”  It was not a surprise.  The government didn’t decide at the beginning February 2009 to make this switch.  We all knew it was going to happen.  But – how did the American people react?  Did those without cable take care of business and get their digital converter box?  Of course not.  There are still millions of people (I didn’t think that there were millions of people without cable) who have not taken the necessary steps to secure the needed device to receive the digital signal.

It is interesting.  We’ve known the date for months.  Months.  Yet, the procrastination among our society has forced the government to come up with a new date – June 2009.  How nice.  There is a date though, that cannot be pushed back.  It is an appointment that we all must keep.  Hebrews 9:27 says, “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement.”  Are you ready for THAT date?  I don’t know when that date is and neither do you – but God does.  And that date, that appointed date – that date has been settled since before you were born (Psalm 139:16).  Are you ready to die – because after that IS the judgement.  In terms of eternity, whether or not you have a digital converter box for your TV means nothing.  But of most importance is that your heart has been converted by the saving power of Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know Him – you do not want to appear before Him in judgement.  

Consider with me Hebrews 9:28 as well…”And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Christ was offered to bear our sins.  See your sins.  Look to Christ – eagerly wait for His second appearing – and you will be saved.

…you have found favor with God. – Luke 1:30

It has become a family tradition to attend the 11 p.m. Christmas service at Southeast Christian Church.  As the words of Luke 1 were scrolling on the jumbotron screen, the words of verse 30 struck me, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”  Found favor.  Mary, a teenage girl – found favor WITH God.

Sadly, this young lady who is called “highly favored” and told that “the Lord is with you” is avoided by most Protestants, not wanting to appear to enter into the great sin of the Roman Catholic Church.  (For a peak at Roman Catholic doctrine related to Mary click here) That aside, she was highly favored, the Lord was with her and she found favor with God.

What an honor! To have in your womb and nurse at your side the One through whom all things were made (John 1:3) – to be given the responsibility of raising God made manifest in the flesh is a remarkable privilege. This reminds us of God’s condescension in becoming one of us. He didn’t come here and live and die and come back to life over the course of three days. He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and was tempted in all points just as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15) – and all this over more than three decades of living among us.

The story does not point us to the one who gave birth to Christ and nursed Him at her side. It points us to the One who left the glories of heaven and became one of us.  Mary, as excellent a young lady as she was, STILL needed the righteousness of her Son when she died – just like the rest of us.  IF Mary had some extra-special righteousness, our Lord had an excellent opportunity to address it.  Remember what happened in Luke 11:27, “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” What was His reply? You’re right! What a great mother I had – why I learned everything from her! No He says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God AND obey it.”  The one who is blessed is not the one who bore Christ, it is the one who hears God’s word and obeys it.

My friend, in the coming year may we be those who hear and obey the word of God. By the grace of God, in doing so, the Lord will be with us and we will find favor with Him.

Looking to become a new and better you?

Here is an excellent post on the most important resolution of all. May the Lord Jesus richly bless you in the coming year.

The mystery of God’s providence

I love children.  The Lord has been exceedingly gracious to my wife and I in opening her womb seven times, and in each of those instances, having the great joy of seeing the child delivered with relatively few complications.  By God’s grace, the question has not been, “Will we be able to get pregnant?”, but “What would be a good month to have the baby?”.  Why God has opened April’s womb and not others, I don’t know.  No one does.  God works all things according to what we want.  No.  God works all things according to the fervency of our prayer.  No.  God works all things according to how hard we work to gain his favor.  NO!  God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11).  In its context, Paul is speaking of salvation but he doesn’t write that God works salvation according to the counsel of His will – although that is true.  He writes that He works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will.  If God has not opened the womb, it is because He has not seen fit to do so.

As easy as it has been for us to get pregnant, the Lord has been pleased to complicate our attempts to adopt.  April and I have what we would call “adoption infertility.”  We have been considering adoption in one form or another since 1996 – our flesh was willing but financially it would have been irresponsible.  It was only after the death of April’s grandmother that we were able to move forward from a financial standpoint.  She graciously left us a sum of money that would pay for a little over half of the cost.  Finally with cash in hand, we began to move forward.  We settled on the country of Guatemala, seeking to adopt a baby girl that would complete our family and give Graceann the sister that we have always wanted her to have.  We completed our paperwork and were placed on the waiting list in November 2007.  Two weeks later, the country shut down all international adoptions.  Through a course of frustrating events – seeking to change countries, change agencies, the economy and the eventual acquisition of my employer – we have had to put our desire on hold – once again.

As difficult as that has been, it in no way compares to what our dear friends have had to go through.  They did all the paperwork gathering (includes having a home study completed, state background checks, FBI background checks, getting physicals for the entire family among other things), finding people to care for their five children and all that entails, traveling to eastern Europe – only to get there – spend three weeks in country and have God close the door at that point.  Their desire was to put into practice what James calls pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27).

While the process that April and I have gone through would be some like losing a pregnancy in its first few weeks, what they have gone through is like carrying the baby to full-term and delivering him still-born.  To be in the country, to hold the little one that you can adopt, to have the officials harden their hearts and not give you any viable options is beyond explanation.  THIS is the mystery of God’s providence.  If He can turn the hearts of kings wherever He wishes (Prov 21:1), surely He can move the heart of an adoption official.  But He doesn’t and He didn’t.  Why, I don’t know.  Pursuing an adoption is a good thing.  Wanting to see a little one who has no hope and no future brought from an impossible situation to a place where they will be loved and nurtured and brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord is a good thing.

I don’t know why God closes the womb and I don’t know why God closes the door.  Here is what I do know.  God works all things according to the counsel of His will.  And His will is perfect.  If He has closed the womb and closed the door it is because He has been pleased to do so.  The Lord opens and the Lord closes.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes…Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Psalm 145:17-19
The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.

What is a mega-family?

img_78762A mega family, loosely defined, is family that has one more child in it than you have.  If you have three children, oftentimes the thought is “I can’t imagine having four!”  April and I starting using this phrase when hotels would no longer put our single family in one room.  This started happening when we had our fourth child, Graceann.  Since our precious daughter was born, we have had three more sons – yes, making a grand total seven children.  This blog has been created to express thoughts and ideas by my wife and I on such things as raising a mega-family, adoption, finances, theology, and other stuff.