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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Old Watch


(Isaiah 46:9 NASB) Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,

When we try to relive our past life it is usually because we are not happy with our present life. Trying to live in the past is neither profitable nor fulfilling because our present life will not allow it.

I am not suggesting that we should forget our past because the past should be a standard (regardless of its testing), from which our life values are learned. The tests we experience in our past should build the strength we need to overcome any difficulties of the future. On the other hand the blessings of the past are the building blocks of our faith that are needed to live a happy life in our future.

The point is we should neither forget our past, nor try to relive it, but learn from it and move on. Whining or feeling sorry for ourselves (in spite of a difficult past) is a pathetic option and should be rejected.

I have noticed in the last few months how some of the pioneers of the past generation are being overlooked by the younger generation. Some were even ignored, even though they are still a reservoir of wisdom. Just because they are tired and worn out on the outside does not mean they are not rich on the inside.

The other day I was going through a box in my storage closet and I came across an old Timex watch I used to wear while working on my ranch. I was surprised that I still had the old watch because I sold the ranch about thirty years ago.

The band had rotted off and the watch was completely tarnished and the face was all scratched. The watch was so corroded that I figured if I tried to wind it the stem would fall off. However, I did wind the old watch without any problem and it still ran perfectly even though I had not worn it in thirty years. I thought to myself...it is not the way things look on the outside that counts…it is how they work on the inside.

Perhaps that is the way it is with people also. Just because one is old and worn out on the outside does not mean they are not still valuable on the inside.

When our text said that we should “Remember the former things long past...” it was actually talking about the historical things done by God. However, I believe this scripture shows us a principle that would also apply to our past as well and how we should remember it and be thankful for it. 


Father,
Thank You for showing me the value of my old watch…that of keeping time. My old Timex may not have the same beauty and value as a Rolex, but both do the same thing. The pioneers of the past may appear old and tarnished like the Timex and the younger more fiery generation may look like the expensive Rolex, but in Your eyes they have the same purpose and value.
Amen

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Monday, December 24, 2012

He Came To Our Place


(John 1:1-4 KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

There is something about the Christmas season that is so special. Perhaps it has to do with the idea of giving or spending more time with one’s family or the hope of peace on earth.

It depends on your upbringing as to what traditions or customs you will enjoy this special season of the year. In some parts of the country they may celebrate with yule logs and wassail. Their traditions could even be caroling or hanging stockings by the chimney.

Of course all of those things are just add-ons because what we call Christmas today has become little more than just a holiday with a lot of festive decorations and a thousand fat Santa Clauses running around.

Christmas is a time the church historically calls “advent.” The word “advent” means “to come.” When Jesus first came, He came to Bethlehem. When the church celebrates Christmas it is actually celebrating His first coming. This also means that they are looking forward to His second coming as well…and that is huge.

Christmas is not just a time that takes up space. It is much bigger than that…it is eternal. Once when someone was trying to explain eternity they said “that eternity is an infinite season of minutes. This may sound reasonable to the natural mind, but it is wrong. Eternity cannot be measured in time.

It was in Bethlehem where eternity overwhelmed time. It may be a little easier for us to understand eternity by saying things like “eternity goes on and on and on.” In our own hearts we believe that we will be going on and on as well …and that is true.

One day someone will probably say, “Well, Brother John died,” but what really happened will be that my body just fell off and I kept going. When that happens another body will wrap itself around me because the Bible says that we are going to get a new body.

The reason Jesus came to Bethlehem in the first place was to grow up among us and one day go to the cross and pay for our sins so that we can spend eternity with Him.

In other words the gospel in a nut shell is this. He left His place…to come to my place…to take my place…so I could go to His place.

I suppose I am getting old enough now that when I think about going to His place it has a little more appeal to me than when I was young. When I was a young man I said, “Jesus I know You are coming back, but could you just hold off a little while.”

One of the fondest memories I have as a young man was when I lived with a lady who was commonly known as Ma. She had very little of this world’s possessions, but she always seemed to be richer than she really was. After I was grown I would occasionally go back to see Ma and each time I did we would celebrate that day as if it was Christmas. She would make the most special meal for me even though I was not always hungry.

Ma may not have cooked a ham or turkey or any of the traditional things one would think of for a Christmas meal, but it was always special. After our meal, Ma would want to spend an endless amount of time talking about the Lord and His return to take us to His place.

Our greatest desire this Christmas should be that of reflecting on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Father,
Thank you for sending our Lord Jesus, who left His place…to come to my place…to take my place…so I could go to His place.
Amen

Merry Christmas from the Dean family

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Remembering the Past


(Deuteronomy 8:2 KJV)  And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know...

Over the years I have learned to put a much higher value on past experiences than I did in the beginning. God uses our experiences (good or bad) to help make us into the person we were created to be.

However, at times it seems that one either desires to live in the glory days of their past or forget their past ever happened because of unpleasant memories. Such extremes could hinder one from using the past as a learning tool and from moving on and being a whole person in the present.

It is just as wrong for one to actually try to live in their past as it is for one to try to forget their past. Remembering one’s past with a healthy attitude can be a guide to living a successful life.

Even though the children of Israel disliked the thought of wondering around the desert for forty years, it was for their benefit. Everything was free, they did not have any responsibility and they were always in the presence of God…but they still did not like it.

Sometimes one has to be removed from their past in order to clearly see the value of it. Perhaps this is why the Lord said in our text, “...remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness...”

God will always use the things in our past to help build the value system in us that is needed for our future.

One of the fondest memories I have while growing up in the piney woods of East Texas was the sound of singing coming from some of those old wooden churches. Even though I would never want to go back and repeat those days, I never want to forget those wonderful days either.

For some reason the Sunday night services were the services I remembered most. I can still hear the sounds echoing from those little white wooden churches that seemed to be spotted up and down those old country dirt roads.

The attendees would usually be a few farmers, their families and perhaps those who worked in the local saw mills or other such places.

I can still hear them sing the old hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross.” This hymn in particular seemed to be one of their favorite hymns.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
                  Refrain:
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Father,
Even though each of our past lives were different…I thank You for trusting us with them. Thank You Lord for taking all of our experiences and using them to mold us into the person You want us to be. I particularly thank You Lord for memories of things that touched my heart then and now like “The Old Rugged Cross.”
Amen


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Monday, December 10, 2012

Facing Your Fears


(2 Corinthians 7:5 KJV) For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. 

There are many ways to study scripture. One way is to study the scripture historically and then apply its principles. Another way of studying the scripture is to put yourself into the scriptural scene for the purpose of understanding the emotions in it.

Over the years I have learned to use both of these methods in order for the “Word of the Lord” to be more real to me. It depends on the actual scripture as to which one of these methods I use.

Our text happens to be one of those scriptures that I put myself into so that I can feel what these men felt. As I did this, I seemed to actually experience the paralyzing fear they must have felt at that time.

Everyone has had to face some type of fear in life. These fears may have been as simple as facing the bully on the playground, or being intimidated by someone or something.

I have personally had to face many fears over the years as a result of my earlier life of timidity and insecurity. However, I learned that when I could actually face a fear I could usually get the victory over it. The fears that I felt I could not face (for whatever reason) seemed to grow bigger and kept me running away faster from them.

In many cases, facing fear is almost like facing death. I have come to the conclusion that in order for one to get the victory over certain fears one has to put everything on the line and say, “If I die, I die, but I will not be driven any further by this fear.” In most cases we find our fears to be much smaller enemies than we first thought.

When I was a boy growing up in East Texas it seemed that every creek and river had a swimming hole. During the summer these swimming holes were constantly filled with little naked boys running, jumping and swinging off of ropes and trees into the water.

There was one particular swimming hole that seemed to attract me more than all the rest. This swimming hole had a train track running over it and the trestle provided a great place for the brave kids to dive from. However, my fear would always keep me from going up on the trestle and diving into the water, because it looked too high.

I remember always leaving the swimming hole feeling defeated because I did not dive from the trestle. One day while swimming I stood in the water looking up at that trestle for a long time and finally said to myself, “I may die, but I cannot live this way…so I am going to dive off the trestle.” With my faith at its highest I walked out of the water and crawled up the bank to the train track determined to face my fear. I stood there on the trestle as naked as a jaybird staring at the water trying to build up my confidence and...finally I jumped.

I left the swimming hole with the satisfaction of knowing that even though I may not have victory over everything in life…I did defeat the spirit of fear at the swimming hole that day.

Father,
Help us to face the paralyzing fears of life with the determination that we refuse to be controlled by fear any longer. It is You and You alone Lord who gives us the spiritual determination to face such fears and be victorious over them. Father, I have learned that the bigger blessings of life are just beyond the fear we need to defeat.
Amen

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Heroes of the Past


(Psalms 31:12 KJV) I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. 

I suppose there is a time in everyone’s life (particularly when they get older) when they feel like the “broken vessel” in our text. They no longer feel they are a vital part of most conversations. Their ideas are no longer considered to be cherished nuggets of wisdom from the Lord as they once were. They are no longer running on the fast track, but feel as though they are sitting motionless on the sidelines. They may still be breathing, thinking and remembering, but their glory days have passed and they are the only ones who still remember them. The question is, “How did they pass so quickly?”

I had an experience today that seemed to fit perfectly into the above thoughts. I was on my way to Tucson, Arizona and I sat next to a lady who worked for American Airlines. After we talked for a while about things in general I got around to asking her if she went to church. She responded by saying, “I do not go to church I go to synagogue…I am a Jew.” I then asked her if she was faithful to her synagogue and she said “No.” We spent the next few minutes discussing her flimsy excuses for which I smiled and challenged her to be faithful to her synagogue and then we changed the subject.

We spent the rest of our time together talking about her ninety-one year old father who was visiting her from New York. Her father was serving in the Navy during WWII on the ship USS Missouri when Japan signed their surrender. He actually witnessed this historical moment on September 2, 1945 when the Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government. He stood close enough to the signing to witness how Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu’s hand was shaking because of his nervousness when signing the surrender.

She then told me another interesting story that I found very sad. When her father was in San Antonio, Texas visiting her on Veteran’s Day, she called the proper officials to set up an opportunity for him to be a part of the WWII Veteran’s Day recognition. She was told that San Antonio was filled with heroes and there was no room for another one.

I must admit that things like this make me wonder at what point one outgrows the need to be honored for their heroic or faithful deeds. This was an obvious case of dishonoring, but what about the less obvious cases. There are cases such as a mother and father spending a lifetime working hard and going without so their children would not have to go without. I wonder how many older mothers and fathers feel rejected, useless and like a “broken vessels.”

Is it possible to dishonor the ‘generals’ of the past by ignoring them because they have become weak and not quite as alert as they once were? Perhaps we should think about that because old age is in front of all of us.

Father,
Help us to be honoring to the trailblazers and heroes of the past. Help us to seek out those who feel they have become useless broken vessels and sit at their feet, honor them, and learn from their stories. Thank you Lord for the heroes of the past and help us to honor them in the same way we hope to be honored.
Amen

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