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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, March 31, 2014

Born to Serve

(2 Kings 4:10 KJV) Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us that he shall turn in thither.

Serving others is probably one of the most unnatural things for a person to do. This is particularly true since mankind was born thinking only of himself and what makes him feel good. By that...I do not mean to imply that all mankind is selfish, but that it is the nature of mankind to be selfish.

Even though I have read this scripture many times over the years it is still inspiring to me. The lady in our text not only had the desire to serve, but she was even willing to do so at a great financial cost. As a matter of fact she backed up her desire by remodeling her home and buying new furnishings. She called the new addition to her home a “Prophet’s Chamber.”

Perhaps this is what James meant when he said in James 2:20, “...faith without works is dead.”

Serving others is a good practice, but should be done automatically out of the abundance of the heart with no strings attached. When one feels the need to count their hours in order to be paid for their service...then obviously that does not fit into the same category with the lady in our text. That fits the category of an employee. There is nothing wrong with being paid as an employee, but one should never confuse serving for money with the two levels of servant-hood listed in the explanations below.

The first and most basic level of serving is when one serves another without charge or cost to either party.

The second level of servant-hood is when one serves another and there is a cost to the one doing the service...such as the lady in our text.

I was eating breakfast at a Hampton Inn one morning when an elderly couple caught my attention as they came through the breakfast line. I was so captivated by this couple that I put my fork down and watched them. The elderly man scooted along beside his wife while she put food on his plate before serving herself. When she finished serving both their plates they then scooted side by side to a nearby table and sat down. After being seated at the table this little lady carefully arranged her husband’s plate on the table, as well as putting his orange juice in just the right place for him to pick it up.

That morning as I watched this couple I suddenly realized that I was seeing true servant-hood function in the purest form. This servant-hood was the result of love, rather than out of duty with the expectation of a pay-back.

I wonder if that was not the main point in our text...it could have been.

I learned something that day that had a profound impact on my life. My desire is to serve others in such a way that even strangers will be as inspired by my servant-hood: just as I was while watching the elderly couple in the Hampton Inn that morning.

Father,
Thank You for the life lesson that You put before me that day. Lord, my desire is to learn from such life lessons and to also be a life lesson to others as this elderly couple was to me. They will never know how You spoke to me through them. Help me to live in such a way that even when I can only scoot around (like that couple) I can still inspire others.

Amen

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Why Did I Get Angry?

(Proverbs 16:32 KJV) He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. 

This is an amazing scripture because it does not tell one not to be angry, but to be slow in getting angry. This scripture does not even imply that God is suggesting that one can live an angry free life, but that one should learn to control and discipline their emotions.

When considering all the different kinds of anger one soon realizes that no one is immune to it. For example, the following is a list of the anger traps that are always set for us:

·        Behavioral Anger – describes someone who is aggressive towards whatever triggered their anger, such as another person. The results can even be physical abuse.

·        Passive Anger – usually expressed with sarcasm or mockery.
·        Verbal Anger – used to criticize and insult people and put them down.
·        Constructive Anger – a key factor in driving people to want to join movements and groups. It is the feeling of being fed up with how things are going and the need to make a positive change.
·        Self-inflicted Anger – causing harm to one’s own body by punishing themselves for something they have done wrong. Some examples include starvation, cutting themselves and overeating.
·        Volatile Anger – comes and goes. It can appear out of nowhere and can be expressed verbally or physically.
·        Chronic Anger – someone who is angry all the time for no apparent reason.
·        Judgmental Anger – a person expressing their feelings by making those around them feel worthless.
·        Overwhelmed Anger – when a person relieves stress by shouting when things are too overwhelming for them.
·        Retaliatory Anger – probably one of the most common angers of all. It usually occurs as a direct response to someone else lashing out at you.
·        Paranoid Anger – when someone feels jealousy towards another because they feel what the other person has is rightfully theirs.
·        Deliberate Anger – using anger to gain power over a situation or another person. This is particularly true when the other person does not see eye to eye with them.
Having given all of these explanations of anger I must shamefully confess I got very angry the other day while getting the oil changed in my car. The young man (with his smart mouth) who was serving me exasperated me beyond measure. As a matter of fact I was so upset with him that I ended up feeling completely dirty inside and not even worthy of God’s forgiveness.

As a result of my shameful experience and feeling unworthy to even ask the Lord for forgiveness...He used my experience to explain a lingering question I have had for over fifty years.

As a young minister I went to the hospital one day to pray for some folks and met an old man who was dying. I asked if I could pray for him and he said “No” because he had lived a bad life and was not worthy of forgiveness. He said he deserved to die and go to hell for all of his sins.

I left the hospital broken hearted that day with a question that would linger for all of these years and would not be answered until I was able to feel what the old man in the hospital felt. As a result, I am sure I will have much more compassion for those who feel such unworthiness.

Father,
It was not Your will that I got angry the other day because I truly did not “rule my spirit” as a righteous man should. However, You were gracious and kind to not only forgive me of my sin of anger, but to use that experience to answer my lingering question regarding the old man in the hospital.

Amen

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Fairway Maturity

(1 Samuel 2:26 KJV) And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.

The thing that makes this scripture so exciting is that it clearly shows the correlation between spiritual growth and favor. That would also indicate that favor is a byproduct of spiritual growth because all Godly favor comes from Him.
I suppose there are times in everyone’s life when they feel they have less favor than at other times. When that happens one should check the progress of their spiritual growth and see if their relationship with the Lord has changed in any way.
I once heard a concert pianist say, “If I do not practice for one day I can tell the difference in my performance...if I do not practice for a week my piano coach can tell the difference...if I do not practice for a month the world can tell the difference.”
Our relationship with the Lord is pretty much the same way. When one walks close to the Lord they seem to be more favor-conscious than when they do not walk close to the Lord.
Jesus spent much of His teaching time using natural things (such as trees, fish and rocks etc.) as examples to make spiritual points. These types of teaching methods have always been very effective; therefore I would like to use the same method in making my point on spiritual growth.
I have a pastor friend who spent many years on tour as a professional golfer. Some time ago he shared something with me concerning golf fairways. It still remains active in my mind. What he shared with me is a natural example of one’s spiritual maturity.

I have always been aware that there was a difference in each person’s spiritual maturity; therefore our expectation of that person should reflect that difference. However, the more I think about it the more I realize I do not fully understand where each person’s spiritual maturity actually starts and ends.

My friend explained that the fairways on a municipal golf course could be about one hundred yards wide. The fairways on a golf course hosting the PGA Tour are about forty yards wide. The fairways on the golf course hosting the U.S. Open are about twenty-five yards wide. That means the penalty for hitting a ball in the rough in a U.S. Open tournament is much more severe than hitting a ball in the rough on a municipal golf course.

A new Christian (or an immature Christian) is like a municipal golf course. There is a lot of room for growing and making mistakes.

The more mature Christian is like the PGA tour golf fairways. This person is more accountable for their actions because there is less room for mistakes.

The fully mature Christian is like the US Open golf fairways. Their accountability to God is the highest because of their level of intimacy with Him which is born out of a lifetime of learning through trials and tests.

The fact is…God gives favor to all of His children, but not all of His children are as favor-conscious as the more mature group.

The point that I want to make is that favor and spiritual maturity are twins and should develop together.

Father,
I am so happy that You desire for all of Your children to walk in Your wonderful favor. Help us Lord to mature each day so that we come to realize that all good things come from You. Help us to be patient with others that are less mature so those who are more mature will be patient with us.

Amen

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Imagination

(Jeremiah 31:13 ASV) Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together; for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 


I rarely go to movies, but the other day my wife talked me into going with her to see the movie “Saving Mr. Banks.” This was a story of Walt Disney getting the movie rights to produce “Mary Poppins.”

Mr. Disney (who preferred to be called Walt) took a real life tragic story and turned it around and produced the very charming movie “Mary Poppins.” That movie has blessed and entertained young and old alike around the world for the last fifty years.

While watching the movie, “Saving Mr. Banks,” I learned something interesting about Mr. Disney. His idea of healing the painful truth in this real life story was by turning on one’s make-believe world…which could lead to a happy ending rather than a sad one.

Those principles may have been an acceptable method for movie goers and theme park characters, but it only camouflaged the real issue and left the wounded unhealed. Was Mr. Disney suggesting that camouflage be the answer to dealing with one’s painful past? I do not think that was his intention at all. He was simply dealing with this life tragedy the best way he could by putting a make-believe happy ending to it. This was probably his way of making life a little easier for the one who actually liveds the story.

Since I am a word person I enjoy studying the deeper meaning of words. I particularly enjoy studying small groups of words called “one-liners.” There was a one-liner in the movie that caught my attention,… “We restore order with imagination.”

This is exactly what Mr. Disney did in making the move Mary Poppins...he turned on one’s imagination. This particular one-liner is true if one is living in a make-believe world, but certainly not in the real world. In the real world, joy and healing come by way of a relationship with Jesus Christ and not through one’s own imagination.

There is a promise in the last part of our text that brings great comfort to me. The promise is, “For I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.”

An active imagination, no amount of camouflaging nor pretending it did not happen is required. What is required is the faith to believe that our Heavenly Father’s desire is to “Turn our mourning into joy.”

Father,
I do thank You for the efforts of men like Mr. Disney who tried to bring a happy ending to a tragic story...even though he did not know there was a better way.  Father, help those of us who have a personal relationship with You to be more sensitive in bringing the good news of healing to the hurting and weary.

Amen

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Monday, March 3, 2014

When the Glory Fades

(Job 17:11 KJV) My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart. 

Job may have been a little premature when making that statement, but there comes a time in every one’s life when it becomes truth. There is a time when one’s glory days do pass and their purposes change.

Over the years I have tried to discover a pattern as to when one may reach their peak performance and influence. As a result I came to the conclusion that one’s performance and influence only flow together for a time and then they divide. One’s performance comes to an end much quicker than their influence. As a matter of fact, one’s influence should continue to increase long after their performance has peaked and waned.

I have also noticed that performance is a direct result to one’s thinking. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or if you think you cannot ‒ you are right.” The mind is so powerful that one’s reality is often the result of one’s thoughts.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In other words…he is not the man that his mouth says he is, but the one that his mind thinks he is.

There are a number of things that can influence a person’s thought life that will affect their performance. Age and fatigue are certainly a couple of those things.

When one begins to think negatively about themselves, then for all practical purposes a decline in their performance will follow.

I was watching the NBA finals last year between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat when I heard the great announcer Charles Barkley make an interesting statement.  Barkley had always been a tremendous fan of Manu Ginóbili who is one of the stars of the San Antonio Spurs. Over the years each time Barkley saw the Spurs play he would always shout out Ginóbili, Ginóbili.” However, during the NBA finals Ginóbili played so poorly that Barkley could not shout out his name anymore. He was only able to say it just above a whisper, “Ginóbili, Ginóbili.”

What happened...what was the difference? Perhaps Barkley thought that Ginóbili’s great basketball career was coming to an end. Perhaps he thought that age had taken its toll on Ginóbili and his glory days had passed.

I am glad that Mr. Barkley missed this one and that he can once again start shouting Ginóbili’s name because Ginóbili has been playing wonderfully this year.

The lesson we learn in this story is that Ginóbili did not allow negative thinking to control his mind…which would have affected his game. As a result of not yielding to negative thinking, I believe Ginóbili will fulfill his destiny as an NBA player and will finish his career strong.

Is it possible that we, like Job, are guilty of prematurely speaking our untrue epitaph as a result of negative thinking? If that is the case, then how would that affect us reaching our peak performance or influence?

Father,
Help us not to be influenced by negative surroundings or the negative word of others or even what looks to be our own inabilities. Lord, You said in Your Word, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Lord we believe, but “help our unbelief.”

Amen

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