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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tradition


(Matthew 15:2-3 KJV) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders for they wash not their hands when they eat bread? And he answered and said unto them why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 

This scripture is not suggesting that traditions are wrong. Traditions can be very helpful in establishing one’s guidelines and disciplines for life. As a matter of fact some of our worthwhile traditions are reading our Bibles, praying and going to church.

In the case of our text, the washing of hands before eating was a very good tradition because it had to do with personal hygiene. However, when a good tradition such as this is perverted and made greater than God’s commandments, then Jesus will address it the way He did here.

It is fine for man to have traditions as long as they help him fulfill God’s purposes for his life which should in turn deepen his personal happiness. However, in many cases (such as in our text) the traditions that are supposed to help man actually put him in bondage.

When I put the word bondage and tradition in the same sentence I am reminded of one of my favorite movies called “Fiddler on the Roof.” This movie was about a very traditional Jewish family whose daughters grow up and choose the men they want to marry rather than those chosen by the matchmaker.

This of course stretched the father’s deep rooted Jewish tradition to the point of breaking...if he allowed it to go any further. As a result of such stretching he became willing to lose his daughter rather than accept her being married to one outside of their faith.

Even though “Fiddler on the Roof” was only a movie, it did cause me to pay more attention to those who are steeped in ethnic traditions and their struggles to keep them pure.

As a kid growing up in East Texas I did not have to face the ethnic traditions that Tevye (the father of the five daughters in “Fiddler of the Roof”) faced. However, I did face the denominational traditions and struggles that parents went through as their children chose and married outside of their denomination. What I faced was obviously the traditions of man and this is what Jesus was addressing.

The point is…one has to determine which traditions bring life and which bring bondage.

Father,
Help our guidelines for establishing right traditions to be based on the Word of God and not on human reason. Our desire is to be flexible as we grow in You and not be stiff and unchangeable as in the case of Tevye.
Amen

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Restoration


(2Kings 8:5-6 KJV) And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.  

And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now. 

Our text is a classic example of how God restores things that were lost. The woman in our text not only had to face the untimely death of her husband, but she also had to face a severe famine in the land. Her only choice seemed to be that of leaving her home and spending the seven years of famine in the land of the Philistines.

When the famine was over and she returned home she discovered that her home and farm had been confiscated by the king. She not only faced the bad news of losing her home, but her son died as well.

However, Elisha the prophet came along and raised her son from the dead. When the king heard about this miracle he gave the boy’s mother the opportunity to plead her case before him concerning the loss of her home. Upon hearing this story he was so moved with compassion that he ordered her home and land be restored to her. He also ordered that all the rent and profits that had been collected on her property be given back to her from the time she left until she returned.

There are two types of restoration. The first type of restoration is when something is restored that was lost such as in the case of our text. The second type of restoration is when something is renewed. Both types of restoration give cause for rejoicing.

While I was stationed in Pennsylvania in 1952 I developed a great friendship with another young man from Pittsburgh. He invited me home one weekend to meet his parents. Upon arriving in Pittsburg I immediately formed an opinion of the city that would last for the next forty-three years. The city was totally black and dirty as a result of all the coal mines and steel mills. It had to be one of the unhealthiest cities to live in in America.

However, forty-three years later I had the opportunity to go back to Pittsburgh and minister. I must admit I dreaded going back and seeing what I had remembered to be an awful city. To my surprise the city that I remembered being the dirtiest city in America had been completely restored and was now one of the most beautiful cities in America.

I am sure that the Lord once looked at me in the same way that I looked at Pittsburgh. I have no doubt that my life was as black from the dirt below (Satan’s domain) as Pittsburgh was from the coal dust below…the coal mines.

However, under the careful hands of the city government, Pittsburgh was restored to a beauty that would forever wow its visitors and make its residents proud. My life was also restored by the carful hands of my Heavenly Father. I am sure those who knew me when I was “black with sin” are also wowed by the change in my life as I was wowed by the change in Pittsburgh after forty-three years.

Father,
I thank You that there are no hopeless cases. You have a way of cleaning us up to be a testimony of Your grace and love. Help us also Lord to be a restorer of those who have wounded us and in our sight are as black as Pittsburgh once was in my sight.
Amen

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peace Maker/Peace Keeper


(Geneses 20:2-3 KJV) And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife. 

There is an obvious difference between being a “peace maker” and a “peace keeper.” Abraham clearly showed his “peace keeper” side when he was willing to give his wife, Sarah, to Abimelech without even a discussion. As a matter of fact he even deceived Abimelech into believing it was alright by telling him that Sarah was his sister (which was a partial truth), rather than his wife. As a result of Abraham’s desire to keep peace at all cost, Abimelech took Sarah as his wife.

God would have no part in Abraham’s “fear based” scheme in order to keep the peace, so He came to Abimelech in a dream and told him that if he touched Sarah he was a dead man. God gave Abimlech that warning because He was in covenant with Abraham and Sarah. One of the laws of a “blood covenant” is that each covenant partner protects the other.

A “peace maker” on the other hand is one who settles conflicts based on truth and fairness without showing partiality to either side.

A “peace keeper” (as we saw in Abraham’s case) is one who will try to keep the peace even if it means being deceptive.

Perhaps a better way of describing the “peace keeper” and the “peace maker” is to compare them to the fairways on a golf course. I recently returned from a ministry trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico where the pastor of the church is a retired professional golfer. One day, in the course of our conversation, he made a point on another subject by using the different fairways on golf courses as his example. I also want to use the same example to make my point regarding the difference between a “peace maker” and a “peace keeper.”

“The fairways on some municipal golf courses could be as wide as 100 yards. The fairways on the PGA Tour golf courses are about 40 yards wide. The fairways of the U.S. Open golf course are about 25 yards wide. This of course means that the penalty for hitting one’s golf  ball in the rough on the U.S. open is severe.”

The “peace keeper” is much like playing golf on a municipal golf course with 100 yard wide fairways...I am okay, you are okay, and everybody is okay. The “peace maker” on the other hand is like playing golf on a U.S. Open golf course that has a 25 yard wide fairway.

The narrow width of a fairway is the determining factor for the true professional golfer. The same thing is true with a “peace maker.” His parameters are also narrow and that is why he is able to settle conflicts based on truth and fairness without showing partiality to either side.

The “peace keeper” may mean well, but their spiritual fairways are so wide that truth and fairness is seldom found in their “peace keeping” efforts. After all Jesus did NOT say, "Blessed are the peace keepers for they shall be called the sons of God."

Father,
Help us to be as “truth driven” as the narrow fairways on the U.S. Open golf course in order to establish an everlasting peace through truth. Lord we do not want to be as “broad minded” as the wide fairways where no truth is established at all...in order to make a temporary peace such as was the case with Abraham.
Amen



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Monday, October 8, 2012

Missed Blessing


(James 4:2 KJV) …yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 

It is embarrassing to be caught red-handed not practicing the faith that you preach…particularly when you are considered to be a “faith preacher.” The “faith preacher” statement is not meant to be patronizing, it is only meant for identification. Every “born again believer” walks in some degree of faith.

However there are those, like myself, who encourage folks to live a supernatural life believing God for the extraordinary, such as healing, finances and other provisions. These ministers are commonly referred to as “faith preachers” even though every preacher should believe the Lord for these things.

Over the years I have quoted our text many times while encouraging others that God really is our healer and provider. There is nothing more exciting than seeing one actually witness a miracle or healing for themselves. This is particularly true when they realize the reason they did not have their blessing is because they did not ask. When one does not ask it is usually because they do not believe that God cares enough to even answer them.

However, when one does believe and continues to experience the blessings of the Lord and then forgets to ask when there is a need, then something is wrong.

This was the case with me recently. I had a need that did not even require the supernatural and yet I continued to walk in that need. It is embarrassing for me to say this, but all the while I was walking in need I continued to tell others, “You have not because you ask not.”

My computer is the greatest tool I have other than my Bible. One day the screen on my computer began to get dark lines across the top and some lines down the middle of the screen. Since I had not mistreated my computer I was not sure why the lines appeared. One thing I am sure of...I probably complained more than I confessed our text.

While ministering in Colorado last week my pastor friend told me, “You may still have a warrantee on that computer.” He immediately took my computer and within minutes found out that my computer was still under an extended warrantee. He then called the computer company and had a service man with a new screen waiting for me when I got home.

What seemed to be an aggravating need at the time turned out to be a lack of faith and understanding on my part by not even asking for what was already mine. The warrantee was there, but my revelation of it was not.

The same thing is true with Jesus. He paid the price and therefore the warrantee is in place for us to live an abundant life. However, we must remember that “We have not because we ask not.”

I wonder how many blessings I have personally missed over the years by not practicing the faith that I preach to others. In the case of my computer there is no doubt that I was living below the “blessing line” that had already been provided for me.

Father,
Help us to live in the provision that was paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Our desire is to be an example to others by walking in the richness of the word that we so boldly preach to others.
Amen

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Monday, October 1, 2012

The Spirit of Popeye



(Gen 16:6 KJV) But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her face. 

I have read our text many times over the years and each time I read it I seem to come to the same conclusion. My conclusion is that even though Sarai had the right to treat her maid Hagar the way she did, I believe she was completely out of line by doing so.

There is a big difference between expecting the best of someone under your authority and abusing them. Sarai abused Hagar to the point that she would rather run away and face the dangers of the world than the abuse of Sarai.

No one has the right to abuse another regardless of the circumstances. I have seen wives so abused by their husbands that they became almost slave-like. Some may have wanted to run away like Hagar, but their minds were locked up by their abuser as if they were in jail. Therefore they stayed and died a little on the inside with each time they experienced abuse.

I have also seen children abused physically and mentally by one or both parents...to the point that some were marked for life. The body may be capable of healing itself from the physical scars of abuse, but only the Lord can heal the mental scars of abuse. Unless one is mentally healed by the Lord they are not only fragile themselves, but they are prime candidates to become mental abusers of their own children. This abuse is usually done in moments of rage, but then camouflaged under the disguise of “strong godly discipline,” when in fact it is mental abuse.

Employees may be abused by their employer through intimidation, and many leave their jobs because they cannot stand the pressure.

I have even seen pastors control some members of their congregation to the point that those members believe if they leave the church they will be out of God’s will and maybe even go to hell. This is not just abuse, it is also a form of spiritual witchcraft.

There are many things that can drive a person away and abuse is certainly one of those things.

My own mother suffered extreme abuse when she remarried after my father died in 1938. I was three years old when dad died. At that time the whole country was still reeling from the great depression as well as facing World War II. The man that mom married was an extreme abuser and alcoholic and beat mom regularly when he came home drunk.

When I was twelve years old I decided to do as Hagar did and run away from home. Today I shudder to think about a twelve year old boy being on his own, but at the time I figured anything was better than what I was experiencing at home, so I left. I kept running until I met someone a couple of hundred miles away who wanted me to stay with them.

There is a famous cartoon character named Popeye that I have always liked. One of his favorite sayings when he was fed up with something was, “That’s all I can stands I can’t stands no more.” He would then grab a can of spinach and squeeze it hard until the top of the can popped open and he would gulp down the spinach and his muscles would start popping out. When that happened the enemy was defeated and all injustice was made right.

I, like Popeye, also said to myself, “That’s all I can stands I can’t stands no more,” and left. However, the only one who can really make injustice right is the Lord, so we need to always call on Him so He can help in abusive situations.

Father,
Help us all to be defenders of the abused and healers of the wounded. Dear Lord you set the example for us, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isa 61:1 KJV) Let it be so Lord.
Amen

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