What Feels Right

July 14, 202

     I have a friend who I heard tell a little about his life. This friend is now a preacher and a very capable one. That being said he has lived a life which included some bad stuff. When he was younger, he lived in a famously rough city in the US. To supplement his income he began to sell drugs. First it was not a lot, just a little pot to make ends meet. But he soon learned that harder drugs brought a bigger pay day. With that knowledge he moved into selling cocaine and methamphetamine and other things. 

     During this part of his life his description is challenging. He was making lots of money driving a nice car and able to do and have whatever he wanted. His description of this time was “It felt great.” In fact he says he can remember thinking to himself “how could his parents religion (Christianity) be right when his life was so good without it.” 

     This reveals something critical about the heart and mind of man; It is not a reliable guide for life. The wise man warns us of this truth, “There is a way that seems right to a man but it’s end is death.” Jeremiah reveals this same truth when he says, “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” 

     Our own life and desires illustrate this truth very well. What person craves green vegetables or omega three fatty acids? When have you ever thought wow I could really go for some lean protein right now? What we crave is fat and salt and sugar. The things doctors tell us lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and all kinds of health problems.  When it comes to finances is our first thought boy I should put this away for retirement? No usually we think what can I spend this windfall on? 

     And so good common sense tells us that we are not often very good at knowing what’s right even in our physical lives. That being said, one of the most prominent ideas among religious people today is I am looking for what feels good. What they should be doing is looking for what is good. 

     Only God is truly good and only he can tell us what is good in relation to our religious belief and practice. God has done that very thing. Paul describes men groping for God in Acts 17 but goes on to point out there is no need for doing so. He tells Timothy that scripture provides all we need to live a life that is good and pleasing to God.

     My friend now looks back on his time selling drugs (which ended in a prison term) as a terrible time in his life. Not because he feels different but because he knows different. He will even explain that until he knew right he had no guilt about his past actions. 

     Will we continue to pursue what feels right? Or will we take our direction from God as given to us in the New Testament and actually do right.

~ Kevin Cleary

 

Revelation

July 7, 202

     Revelation 1:3 says “blessed be the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and keep what is written in it for the time is near.” Despite this promised blessing the last book of the Bible is often the one most neglected. There are a number of reasons for this but mostly the perception about Revelation is that it is difficult to understand and apply to the Christian life today.

     I contend that this reputation is undeserved. Revelation is simply a different kind of language than we are used to reading. Further, there are some things in the book that can be difficult to attach a specific meaning to. Even without an exhaustive understanding of every verse, the message of the book is definitely something that can be grasped. 

     There are a couple of simple principles that come out of the book which will help to make it easier to read and benefit from. 

  1. Revelation is written in language that is symbolic, in fact the word translated “made it known” or “signified” in verse 1 actually means revealed by symbols. So, when reading the book try to imagine the picture John is describing and picture it in your mind. This will go a long way in helping you grasp what is happening in the book.
  2. The book is written to suffering Christians, the context which launches the main story of the book is found in Chapter 6 verse 9 where the martyrs ask how long? Much of the rest of the book is an answer to their question.
  3. The answer that God gives is also a helpful truth to keep in mind while reading the book and his answer is God and his people are victorious over the forces of evil.

     There is more that could be said but even these simple principals will go a long way in helping make sense out of the Revelation.

     Of course, like any book beyond all of these is simply to read, read it through in large chunks or even the whole book in one sitting. Read it often; read the book over and over until you are totally familiar with the content. Read it slowly and prayerfully taking time to think about what you find. 

     So now that you have finished reading this little note, go get your Bible turn to the last book and read it, you will be blessed by the effort.

~ Kevin Cleary

 

How To Get What You Want Out Of The Bible

June 30, 202

     Lots of people have read the bible, most are sincere looking for eternal truths to guide them in life and death. The Bible does contain these truths however when we find them they are not always what we were hoping for. Truth is often very uncomfortable and making serious changes is hard work. Because of this many people having taken a look put the Bible back on the shelf and don’t let it get into their hearts where it can have its full effects. In order to make the bible more appealing I would offer the following suggestions.

  1. Read small portions of the bible while paying little attention to what comes before and or after the verse or few verses you have read. This lack of context will allow for a wide variety of interpretations one of which will probably not be too convicting.
  2. Understand that the bible is an old book and while it contains wisdom (those are the parts that make you feel nice) some it of is quite outdated and probably not applicable to you and your life. 
  3. Feel free to combine bible verses from any book with verses from any other book if they sound at all similar or even if they don’t. This way you can devise elaborate theologies about things you have imagined. 
  4. When you read about bad characters in the bible understand that they are most like your neighbours, co-workers, family members, and people you may have heard about on the news. 
  5. When you read about good noble characters in the bible understand that they are most like you and the people you like and agree with.
  6. If you don’t immediately understand something in the bible, you can see what someone else things about it by reading a commentary there are lots of commentaries this is so you can find the interpretation that you like.
  7. Don’t read a whole book in a sitting that’s too overwhelming, besides who reads letters or emails in one sitting? 
  8. When you come across things that sound like direct commands you need to realize that God doesn’t have those expectations of you rather these are more like good suggestions probably for someone else.
  9. Sometimes in your reading you will find history, sometimes you will find poetry, sometimes you will find reasoned discussions, sometimes you will find visions or symbols. You don’t really need to worry about all that just approach it all the same.
  10. Finally, if you get to a point where you think there might be some reflection of you in the text don’t look to hard. It’s better to go away with your self-image intact than to feel like you might not measure up.

I hope that you will use the guide to aid in your Bible study. One last warning whatever you do don’t read James 1:22-25

~ Kevin Cleary

 

Crazy Times

June 2, 202

     We are living in a world that’s kind of a mess. Political leaders are corrupt and ineffectual, society has lost its moral compass. It is harder to make a living than it has been in recent history. We could add many other things to this list. In addition, false religion is more popular than God’s truth and the small number who care seems to be shrinking. With all this in mind, I am reminded of a short thought from Dennis Curd from a few years ago.

     “Recently I heard a government official describe the economy of today as one we’ve never seen in as bad a condition as it is. In environmental matters the cry is constantly, “the sky is falling,” or some equivalent. The older generation sees the youth of today as the worst ever. The young often see the older ones as more out of touch than ever. In the church, alarms are often sounded that if we don’t watch, we’re going to see the church cease to exist. No wonder people are unhappy and worried.
     There’s good reason to be worried. Lots of things aren’t what they ought to be, and they might get worse. Who knows? Nobody likes to live in such a state. While ignoring the conditions of the times is like hiding ones head in the sand, thinking it’s all over is also unrealistic. A lot of people have lived before us in all sorts of circumstances. Don’t you think they sometimes thought things would never be better? Every generation is near-sighted, only seeing what’s right in front of them. They fail to see what has been and what happened then.
     Some perspective is in order. God holds the world tightly and as long as He does it will stay together (cf. Col. 1:17). God has promised that as long as the world stands, ”seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22) . So much for global warming or global freezing worries. A bit of God’s perspective takes away a lot of unnecessary worry.
     God rules in the Kingdoms of man as well (Dan. 4:32). He may even allow a bad ruler to thrive (Psalm 9:17), or a wicked nation to be victorious (cf. Isa 19:5 ff). But God’s plan for the work He is doing will always work toward His good (Rom. 8:28). If you think the morals of today are worse than ever, read the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), or read of ancient Rome. Makes 2009 (or 2024) look pretty tame. Family values are greatly lacking, but are not so different than times past. Remember Judah (Gen. 3-8) and David. Most of us wouldn’t want to go back to those “good ole days”. As for the church condition, are we naïve enough to forget about Corinth, Sardis and Laodicea?
     In all these cases God didn’t quit working. Even with the flood when God only saved a few He still kept going with His plan of redemption. He promised that that kind of destruction will only happen one more time, at the final day of judgment. We can never fail to be serious about our troubles and meet them head-on, dealing with them aggressively. But we must never lose sight of the real power in the world. God and His word provide us with the proper perspective in which to see all things.”

     With all this in mind I would make two suggestions. First be diligent, the days are dark and light is more needed than ever. Second, be confident knowing that God is in control, his word is still the truth and whatever affliction we may face in this world it is not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits.

~ Kevin Cleary

 

The Power Of Many Hands

May 26, 202

     Things are sometime done differently in different parts of the world. While in China I watched a construction crew building a bridge. I saw all of the “I” beams on the ground waiting to be lifted into place. I assumed that shortly a crane would arrive on the site to lift the beams into place. While I watched a number of workers put together some bamboo scaffolding under the bridge. I was quite impressed that the light wood structure would hold the beams which were about three feet and a half high and about 230 pounds per foot. The eighty foot span would mean a beam weighing 18,400 pounds. I was very surprised when instead of a crane, what seemed to be about two hundred construction workers lined up on either side of the first beam and lifted it about three feet onto the first level of scaffolding. 

     Could there be a clearer portrayal of the power of team work? Who would think that 18,000 pounds could be handled by sheer man power? There are some things from this process that are worth noticing. First, there is no way the beam could be moved with one or even a few people, it took many hands. Second, the men all had to lift simultaneously. If only some lifted at one time they would never move the beam and could be in danger of tipping or dropping it. And third, there needed to be a clearly laid out plan before the efforts could begin.

     There are many times in life when we face daunting problems which, when we consider them, look to us like one person trying to lift an 18,000 pound steel beam. Thankfully God did not call us to serve him individually but in the context of a community, a called out people (church). When dealing with things we can’t lift, we need to be humble enough to look to our brethren. When we see a brother in need let’s remember Paul admonishes us to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” Gal 6:2. 

     God has called us to work Eph 2:10, there are beams to be moved, and together we can achieve what one alone cannot. Let’s work together to achieve the plans God has for this church and this community.

~ Kevin Cleary