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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, August 27, 2012

Home Cooking


Proverbs 15:16 (The Message) A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches. 

I suppose every kid has dreams of conquering the world and living what he believes to be "the good life." In his mind he can accomplish this through obtaining power, influence and wealth. This dream is the driving force that keeps him motivated and pressing forward through the challenges of life.

At one point this young man even thinks of himself as being smarter, craftier and wiser than any of the past generations and he intends to prove it. However, after years of repeatedly running into walls of resistance, he finally comes to the conclusion that his original plans may have been a little aggressive and therefore they need altering.

The young man also begins to realize that his undisciplined lifestyle does not match the required disciplined lifestyle that is needed for obtaining such an aggressive goal.

Like most folks, he starts out in life at one extreme, but reaches for the other extreme while trying to find his own place in life. After a while he begins to back away from that extreme and then establishes a "worthwhile predetermined goal" that will match the price that he is willing to pay for his success.

Once he begins to realize that perhaps the past generation was not quite as dumb as he originally thought, he is now ready to learn from their wisdom. The past generation of trailblazers had also started out in life just as aggressively as he had.

Later on in life, after obtaining some of the cherished power, influence and wealth he so longed for in his early life, he now feels like Solomon.
"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV)

The older he gets the more he realizes that living the "simple life" is the life to be cherished. However, what is a simple life to one may not be a simple life to another.

I have been privileged to eat at some of the finest restaurants in the world and I have enjoyed every one of them. However, over the years I have come to the conclusion that the restaurants that I really enjoy eating at are the simple little ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants.

San Antonio has more good places to eat than most cities its size, but the restaurant that my wife Karen and I enjoy going to is a little café called Mr. & Mrs. G’s. This little restaurant is owned and run by a wonderful older black couple who are second to none when it comes to serving good home cooking.

The people who pack this restaurant out every day are usually ordinary hard working folks who need a lot of good food to keep them going. When I first started going to Mr. & Mrs. G’s the parking lot was filled with pickup trucks, but the other day when we were there the parking lot was filled with Mercedes Benz’s, BMWs and other fine automobiles. Apparently the word had gotten out about all this good food.

When being served a plate of food at Mr. & Mrs. G’s one is guaranteed to get a working man’s size serving. The choices from their cafeteria style serving line are southern fried chicken, golden brown pork chops, a piece of catfish as long as your arm, ham hocks, barbecued ribs (that would make a grown man cry), sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cream corn, turnip greens and a serving of banana pudding that is large enough to put you to sleep for a month.

While in the restaurant that day Karen and I were surrounded by ordinary folks who unashamedly bowed their heads in prayer thanking God for their food.

As we drove away from the restaurant that day we had a new appreciation for the simple life. This was a life of unseen riches that was not visible to the natural eye and could not be bought or influenced by all the "power and wealth" in the world.

Father,
Thank You for allowing us to see the riches in the simple things of life. You have shown us a Godly wealth that is beyond the reach of the natural mind and can only be appreciated by spiritual revelation.
Amen

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Being Lost


(Job 23:10-11 NKJ) But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.

A person can learn a lot about themselves from studying the book of Job. I have read this book many times over the years and each time I read it my emotions seem to run the gamut as to what was on Job’s mind when he was being tested. Even though God referred to Job as the most righteous man on earth, Job never insinuated (because of his righteousness) that he was beyond being tested.

Perhaps it was the way that Job was tested that makes one “kinda scratch his head.” I have come to the conclusion that the reason Job was tested so severely was because he lived such a righteous life.

According to our text, Job seemed to be bursting with confidence that he would come through this test as refined gold. I find this interesting in light of the fact that he did not seem to understand why he was being tested in the first place. Such confidence had to be the result of Job having “...kept His way and not turned aside.”

One of the lessons we learn from Job is that even though he did not understand the reason for his test, he did understand that God was “just” and that everything was going to work out alright.

The personal test that I want to share is minuscule compared to Job’s test, but I believe it is one that many folks—particularly older folks—can relate to. A couple of days ago I arose early in order to drive three and a half hours from San Antonio to Houston for several appointments.

My first appointment was at a familiar address that I had driven to many times over the years and therefore I knew it well. However, this particular morning, upon arriving in Houston I decided to take a new route to my meeting place. I was confident I would not have any problem finding the place. Besides that, I have always had an exceptionally keen since of direction as well as a feel for where I was.

Little did I know that I was about to have an experience that day that would forever shatter my prideful self-confidence of direction. As I turned off the beltway on to a familiar street that was only blocks from my destination, I suddenly lost all sense of direction and ended up missing my meeting.

I immediately began analyzing my problem because this did not make any sense to me at all. It was so ridiculous that I even thought, “Do I have dementia or some other physical problem that I am not aware of?” I finally came to the conclusion that the problem I was having that day was not physical, but it was God dealing with my pride as He had done with Job.

A side lesson I learned that day was having compassion for older folks who become disoriented and confused and really do lose their way. I cannot imagine how they must feel (as a result of their confusion) to be suddenly in a world that is totally un-familiar to them. I felt I had a taste of that world for a little while that day.

Perhaps Job’s test was not the result of him not being righteous, but because God was working something deeper into Job’s life. I now believe that God was also trying to work out something deeper in my life as well. Since that day in Houston I have learned to rely on God for even the smallest of things in my life. Perhaps that is why Paul said, “...I die daily” (1Corinthians15:31 KJV).

Father,
Thank You for reminding me that the closer I walk with You…the closer I need to walk with You. Self-reliance is a wonderful thing, but God reliance is better.
Amen

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Conformed


(Romans 8:29 KJV) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Out of all the scriptures in the Bible that could boggle one’s mind, this scripture has to be at the top of the list. There are so many deep theological aspects to this scripture that it is difficult for most folks to fully understand the depth of each one. For example, when it says...God foreknew us; He predestinated us, and His will is that we be conformed into the image of Christ...it takes a lot of Godly understanding for one’s mind to absorb all of that.

What does it mean to be conformed into the image of Christ? It means that one’s mind, will, and emotions must be reshaped. We are born into the natural, but we must be reborn into the spiritual. Being reborn (or born again) starts the process of reshaping one’s thought patterns, desires and hopes from selfish things that are un-holy into holy things that please God.

Just as God desires us to be conformed (or reshaped) into His image, Satan desires us to be conformed (or reshaped) into his image. God predestined us to be conformed into His image by His Word, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Satan attempts to reshape us into his image through lies, deception and even abuse.

Over the years I have noticed how strong ‘self-willed controlling people’ reshape the mind, will, and emotions of others through intimidation. They seem to have the ability to render others helpless while conforming them to their own will.

Growing up in East Texas on the farm, we grew all kinds of vegetables, fruits, watermelon and cantaloupe, but we never thought of them being any other shape than what they were intended to be. However, it seems that for convenience sake there are those today who are trying to grow square watermelons instead of round ones. The thinking behind this square watermelon idea is that it would make them easier to transport.


However, the extra labor it takes in growing these box shaped melons adds significantly to their cost and therefore it is not a practical idea for the time being.

Satan’s idea for conforming us into his image is pretty much like the growers’ idea of the square watermelons. He wants to take that which is natural (such as a round watermelon), and ‘deform’ it into something unnatural, because to him it seems to be more practical.

God on the other hand, takes that which is natural and conforms it into that which is spiritual…like Jesus. Satan deforms… God conforms. Satan wants things to be seemingly practical for the now. God wants things to be spiritual for the now and for eternity. It is God who foreknew us. He is the one who also predestined us “to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

The idea is that we yield ourselves to God the Father for ‘conforming’ and not to Satan for ‘deforming’.

Father,
Help us to be satisfied with our natural shape while allowing You to conform our spiritual shape into the image of Christ. You taught us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made in Your image” and that is good enough for us.
Amen




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Monday, August 6, 2012

Re-Enjoying


(Isaiah 65:22 KJV) They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

Over the years I have often wondered how the Lord was going to sort out the injustice (or at least what appeared to be injustice) of one person claiming what another person built. There was probably a time in my own life when I thought the real test for such an experience was meant for the builder and not the invader. That being the case then, in order for the builder to pass the test he must first smile and keep a good attitude about losing.

I am not sure where I got such an idea, but it is absolutely ridiculous. God never wants His children to lose…He wants them to win and keep on winning. He also wants us to fill our memory banks with victories and re-enjoy them as we go on through life. The fact is we only lose those things we turn loose of.

Our text is very clear on how the Lord feels about us living in the winner’s circle.  However, in order for us to live in the winner’s circle we must first live in agreement with God’s plans for our lives.

Even though our text does not say this, it does imply that we are to enjoy and keep on enjoying (or re-enjoy) every facet of our lives regardless of what it is.

If that is the case, then we must believe that our memories are treasures to be re-enjoyed throughout our lives, rather than deleting them if they were not pleasant. Our past experiences and memories have played a great part in building the person we are today.

However, the treasures of the past can be stolen or camouflaged by our circumstances. I realize that we are not supposed to live in the past, but we are not supposed to ignore it either. Our past plays a tremendous role in our present and our future regardless of what we may have experienced. By ignoring our past and not learning from it or not re-enjoying it means (as our text notes), We build our house and another inhabits it.

Each of us will face this “house issue” (or the past) in different ways. For example, I had never attended my high school class reunion until a couple of years ago when I decided to attend. It had been fifty or sixty years since I had seen some of those folks, and I apparently thought they would look pretty much the same way...other than a little gray hair and perhaps a few extra pounds.

I drove several hours from San Antonio to my little East Texas home town, excited to relive a moment of my past. However, it was not long before my unrealistic bubble burst and reality set in. As I turned off the main road onto the little dead-end street going down to my old school where the reunion was to be held, I immediately began feeling sad. Many of the little white wood framed houses that I had remembered were now in disarray or had been torn down.

My beautiful old school building (that was built back in the 30s) was now helplessly standing there with a fallen-in-roof and broken windows. Even though the school district still owned the property, it had been abandoned many years ago when the school built new facilities on the other side of town.

As I parked my car and looked around my old school property, everything was in disarray except for the cafeteria building. For whatever reason, the electricity was still on there, so that is where we held our reunion.

I was sure when I walked in the cafeteria that I would immediately recognize everyone, but that was not the case. I had remembered all the girls being cute; with hair in pony tails, wearing penny loafers, petticoats, and colored scarves around their necks. I also remembered the guys wearing penny loafers with their jeans rolled up (one roll to show off their socks), the sleeves of their shirts rolled up one roll to show off any muscles (they may have had), and their hair loaded with “Brylcreem” or “Southern Rose” hair oil. My favorite being “Southern Rose.”

However, what I saw when I walked through the door of the cafeteria was a room full of old people. If the men had any hair at all it was thin and gray. Their muscled bodies that once brought admiration from the girls (at least in their minds it did), were now worn and soft and needing rest.

The beautiful girls that I had remembered with pony tails, petticoats, and penny loafers were now grandmothers. Their school girl figures were gone and now their bodies revealed the results of years of child bearing, hard work and age. Their once beautiful faces were also marked with the wear and tear of living life. The wrinkles on the faces were the result of raising children and staying up at night when they were sick, keeping their home in order and sometimes even performing miracles with the family finances to stretch them to make them sufficient for the need.

However, the longer I visited some of my old friends on that unique day, the more I was able to see past the wrinkles and pain that come with life and into the eyes of the person I once knew. At that point I was then able to re-enjoy a part of my life I had allowed “another (years and circumstances) to inhabit.”

The point of this writing is, that it is the will of God that we reclaim everything we have built and lost in life and start re-enjoying them again. Never stop dreaming.

Father,
Thank You for encouraging us that we only lose the things that we turn loose of.  We are so excited about what You are giving to us today and how You are restoring back to us that which we lost from our past.
Amen

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