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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, September 29, 2014

Give it Away

(Luke 3:11 Message)  "If you have two coats, give one away," he said. "Do the same with your food."

When one has a wrong perception of God it is easy for them to have a wrong perception of His interest in their problems. After all, when God spoke, worlds came into existence. So why would He be concerned with something as insignificant as our problems?

It would seem more reasonable for Him to spend His time creating worlds or giving directions to governments than to be burdened with our ‘piddly’ issues.

Even though many people think of God this way, it is wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth than to think that God is not interested in every detail of our lives. Our text proves the point that the Lord cares.

In our text we see where Jesus is teaching a basic lesson on sharing. Even though His example is simple, the principle in it is very deep because it gets into the whole realm of sowing and reaping.

God set the multiplication principle in motion from the very beginning of time. The lesson is twofold…keep a portion of what God gives in order to meet one’s own immediate needs and give away another portion in order to meet someone else’s need. As a result, that which is given away becomes seed that multiplies and produces a return of 30-60-100 fold. In other words, that which is given away is actually sowing into one’s future.

It is that simple law of sowing and reaping upon which the farmer bases his whole future. The farmer does not eat his seed corn. The farmer plants his seed corn for the purpose of multiplying and producing a healthy return.

Not having enough in life is really not the problem. The problem is that one is prone to eat all their seed corn (or not abide by the principle in our text) and therefore there is nothing left to multiply. The end result is that one is usually in some kind of need.

I have heard people say over the years, “Well, I must have holes in my pockets.” That is exactly right if you are a stingy person and not a giver.

What I am about to share is not meant to be a play on words, but simply an observation. Even though the dictionary does not see a distinction between the words generous and giver…I do.

It seems to me that one can be generous to a degree and not really have a givers heart. A good example…there are many who are what I call project givers…both in the church and in business. They give for scholarships, hospitals, political campaigns and so on because all of these things are tax deductible. However, many of these same people find it hard to come up with a good reason to give to individuals.

All of us should be thankful for such generosity because everyone is ultimately the beneficiary. However, this generosity is not the thing in question…the motivation behind this generosity is what is in question.

Many times a giving person is prone to give all they have, like the poor widow in Mark 12:43, “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.”

Even though I have always considered myself to be generous, I think I had to learn to be a true giver. My wife and three daughters are the best examples of giving that I know and I have learned much from them. The most important thing I have learned about a true giving heart is that it is not motivated by the reasoning of man, but by the character and nature of God.

My wife and daughters have certainly exhibited God’s character and nature in that regard so I am blessed to live in the inspiration of our text through them. "If you have two coats, give one away," he said. "Do the same with your food."

Without going into detail of all the things I have given away over the years I can honestly say the blessing I have received back has been much greater. However, I am not sure I have given anything with the thought of a return blessing, but God blesses back because it is in His nature to bless us. The principle of sowing and reaping works every time for those who have a giving heart.

Father,
Thank You for teaching us the beautiful lesson of giving and the principle of multiplication. I also thank You Lord for all my girls who are a constant reminder of the true heart of God…one that did not even hold back His only begotten Son.

Amen

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Self-Condemnation

(Job 9:20-22 ASV) Though I be righteous, mine own mouth shall condemn me…

Self-condemnation has got to be one of the saddest things there is. It can range from very mild cases to very severe cases. Over the years I have ministered to many folks who simply did not like themselves nor could see any good reason why others should like them. They were pleased when others did like them even though there always seemed to be the lingering question…why? These folks do not typically consider themselves to be very smart or desirable. As a matter of fact, they usually find their pleasure in building up others while diminishing themselves.

Such thinking usually starts at an early age particularly when one is told, “You will never amount to anything.” or, “You are no good”.

Some kids even lose their confidence because of being bullied in school by other kids or belittled by a teacher. As a result of this kind of treatment rejection often sets in and low self-esteem is established. Many grow out of such rejection and become stronger as a result of it, while others become more fragile and unable to deal with the conflicts of life unless they win.

I have noticed over the years that a fragile person will often fly off the handle and abuse (either mentally or physically) their own children. This often happens because a fragile person seems to have a built-in need to fight back because of their own wounds.

When they were little they could not fight back, but now that they are older and bigger they are able to defend themselves. The problem is…when a person is big on the outside, but controlled by an emotional inner child then the result is often emotional recklessness.

The result of self-condemnation usually manifests in one of two ways. That person can either be quick on the trigger or they simply become numb to pain.

I have never told this story before and I only tell it now in hopes that it might help someone else. My own mother lived under self-condemnation all her life because as a child she was so abused by her stepmother. In her case the abuse did not result in being quick on the trigger, but by becoming numb to pain.

Mother was born in 1913 to a very loving mother and father. However, her mother died when she was about three or four years old. My grandfather remarried in order to have someone to take care of my mother and her little brother. The woman my grandfather married was a very mean woman who did not like children and therefore continually abused my mother.

The swing of going from a very loving mother to an abusive stepmother in just a short time set the stage for mother’s lifelong “low self-esteem.”

She married my father when she was only fifteen years old and started having babies. When I was three years old my father died and when my mother remarried it was to a drunken-wife-beating man. As a result she walked around with bruises and black eyes much of my young life.

I never heard my mother raise her voice or use a bad word or even do anything wrong. My little five foot two inch mother was trained well by her stepmother to take whatever life dished out and gracefully move on as she did her whole life.

Mother was a woman of faith and gracious enough to not seek sympathy by talking about her past. Her vision was looking forward not backward.

I was driving in Colorado on my way to minister when the Lord spoke to me and said, “Your mother just died.” I immediately turned to my wife who was sitting next to me and said, “The Lord just told me that mother has died.” Sure enough she was found dead in her chair all alone.

Even though mother walked with God she stilled believed the lie her stepmother told her, “You are nothing.”

The purpose of this Meditation is to encourage those under the curse of self-condemnation to start rejecting it by making better confessions and stop looking back at the past. The Bible says, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God”…believe it.

Father,
Help us not to damage our own children by angrily[WDH1]  saying things that will damage their spirit for life as my mother’s stepmother did to her. Lord You are well able to heal and restore every weak and little one.
Amen




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Monday, September 15, 2014

Renewed Strength

(Isaiah 40:31 KJV) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

For decades mankind has tried everything imaginable to preserve their youth. They have tried creams, tonics, mud packs, mineral baths and face lifts, but so far nothing has worked.

The fact is: sooner or later everyone’s fluffy cheeks will start sagging, their biceps will start swinging from the bottom and they will begin to notice extra skin growing on their neck. But just because these things happen it does not mean that their better days are over or they are becoming a second class citizen.

It seems that growing older (particularly here in the States) has almost become a shameful experience. As a result, millions of dollars are spent each year trying to stop the aging process so one can continue to fit into a society that they helped create…but now are too old for.

I am both amazed and blessed when I go to other countries and see how they respect their older folks. They not only respect them for their age, but they also believe they are much wiser because of their age and experience.

However, our text is not really talking about our outer beauty, it is talking about our inner strength. Because man is naturally prideful he is more prone to think of renewing his looks rather than renewing his exhausted strength…or a strength that has been used up.

According to our text the Lord is a lot more interested in our inner strength than He is in our outer looks. The only way one’s inner strength can be renewed is by “Waiting upon the Lord.”

The word “wait” in the Hebrew means to “wait upon the Lord with expectancy and trust, putting our hope and confidence in Him.”

When our text says to “renew”… the Hebrew word means “to change, to alter and revive” In other words it means to “flourish again.”

I was reading the newspaper the other morning and noticed in the obituary section that many of the deceased had two pictures posted. At first I wondered why that was necessary, but then I realized after studying their pictures that most of their older pictures did not resemble their younger pictures. Perhaps that is the reason for two pictures, so their old friends who had not seen them for years would recognized them.

A good example of that is the feeling one gets when they go back to a class reunion after twenty or thirty years. One seems to experience both joy and disappointment…joy in seeing their old friends again, but disappointment because they do not look like your old friends.

This happened to me a short time ago when I went to a funeral and saw a friend that I had not seen in over fifty years. He walked up to me and said, “Are you John Dean?” and I said “Yes” so he told me who he was. This man happened to be one of my very best friends in high school, but I did not recognize him.

He was not only a tall blond curly headed basketball star, but he was also a jovial and fun person to be with. In addition to all of that, he was quite a hit with the girls and all the teachers loved him.

However, the day we met at the funeral he was not only bald headed, but the onetime “life of the party guy” seemed to have lost his joy forever. After I responded “Yes” to his question, “Are you John Dean?”…he felt it necessary to say to me, “Well, I have gained a lot of weight.”

His weight and baldness did not bother me because we all change on the outside. The thing that bothered me was that life had changed him on the inside. My friend needed “renewed strength.”

I must admit as I read the obituary that morning and studied both the younger and older pictures of the deceased I had several questions. I wondered things like…Did they grow old gracefully and were they respected by their kids, their friends and relatives? Was their life more difficult than it should have been?

The biggest question I had was, “How often did they ‘wait upon the Lord to renew their strength?’”

Father,
My prayer is that one day when people read my obituary they will be able to see in my face that I was a man who “waited upon the Lord” and walked in renewed strength.
Amen

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Guilt Free

(James 2:10 NKJV) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Far too many Christians walk around today under condemnation because they have either taken this scripture out of context or they have had wrong teaching. As a result, when they do something wrong they feel as though they have broken all the laws of God and that He has turned His back on them.

This type of guilt is often followed up by the statement, “Well, since I am guilty anyway I may as well do everything else wrong.” Many times this radical decision is made after they make one bad “judgment call,” but then it is compounded by adding it to a wrong understanding of this scripture.

Because of this condemning belief I have seen many dedicated Christians fall away from the very thing they believe and commit sins they would otherwise deplore. Even when they do come back to the Lord their testimony has to do with what a sinful wretch they were, but after much prayer and repentance God finally took them back. The problem is, in spite of this wonderful reunion with the Lord many still walk around “guilt ridden,” believing that it is only a matter of time until they break another law and they are out again.

The fact is there is nothing wrong with our text or any of the laws in the Old Testament. The purpose of those laws are to show man that he is incapable of living a righteous life and that he needs a savior. That need was fulfilled when Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb and took our sin and guilt on Himself and nailed them to the cross once and for all.

I suppose everyone has been taught that sin is wrong, but how many were taught the difference between the guilt of the Old Testament and the conviction of the New Testament.

The fact is…man seems to feel better when he is condemned for his sin rather than being loved in spite of it. As far as he is concerned it is incomprehensible that such a love could even exist that would cover his wrong doing. Because of that love, the conviction he feels is only a “love nudge” from the Holy Spirit telling him that if he will repent he will be forgiven.

Jesus did not come to condemn the world…it is Satan who is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). The Lord will never call one a failure because in John 12:47 He said, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s desire to show mercy to us. "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him" (Isaiah 30:18 NASB).

The other day while I was at Sam’s picking up a few cases of water I noticed several different food stations passing out samples of food. As I went around tasting the different foods I noticed a lady at the end of the line passing out potato chips. She called me over and said, “Try these potato chips because they are the best chips in the world.” She then proceeded to tell me all the things that these chips did not have that would be bad for me to eat. She said, “In other words these potato chips are totally “guilt free.”

I smiled and walked away as I attempted to chew my cardboard tasting potato chip. I eventually spit the potato chip out because it tasted so bad, but her comment of it being “guilt free” continued to resonate in my mind.

Because we live in such a “sin-cursed-guilt-ridden” world I am sure that this lady’s claim brought a measure of relief to some…even if it was on a subliminal level. Perhaps they felt there was at least one thing they could do in life without feeling guilty. This lady’s famous potato chips were the answer.

I have a better answer and that is the realization that Jesus fulfilled the law that wants to kill us by guilt. He replaced that law of certain death with the loving Holy Spirit who convicts us when we do wrong and helps to get us back on track.

Father,
Thank You for such love that You sent Your only begotten Son to meet all the requirements needed for our salvation and to save us from certain death. Help us to show this same love and patience with others who cross our “law line.”

Amen

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Defining Moments

(Psalms 116:8 Message) Soul, you've been rescued from death; Eye, you've been rescued from tears; And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."

I would normally be quoting from the New King James version or one of the other great translations of the Bible. However, today I am taking our text from the Message because I like the way it reads, even though it is not a translation. I suppose the reason I like it is because it reads the way I speak.

I have always experienced a deep level of peace and comfort while reading our text because it reminds me that all the promises in it are “past tense.” In other words, we have already been delivered from “death, tears and stumbling” even before they occur. However, for us to enjoy the benefits of this freedom we need to confess that we have already been “rescued” as our text has demonstrated.

If one has not digested the truth of these promises in their “spirit man,” then their “natural man” will not allow them to live in the victory of them. As a result, there is no actual separation between one’s painful past and their present joy. That means the outworking of such an arrangement is that one goes through life defeated and scared one moment and joyous and seemingly full of faith the next moment. The problem is…when they face life’s tests this type of joy and faith usually proves to be superficial because they continue to live with sub-par confidence.

In cases like this their identity is usually in their difficult past rather than in their present freedom. Their usual tendency is to relive their past, being defensive when crossed and yielding to a quick temper and a destructive tongue.

Many wonderful Christians suffer from this dichotomy even though they may have experienced several “defining moments” of deliverance by the Lord. In many cases they actually feel more worthy of the pain of the past than they do of the freedom for the present in spite of those “defining moments” of deliverance.

I have come to the conclusion that each of us has experienced many “defining moments” simply because the Lord loves us. These “defining moments” of the Lord not only deal with one’s troubled past, but they often deal with delivering one’s physical body as well.

I was talking to my wife the other day about “defining moments” and she shared a story with me that I had never heard before.

When she and her sister were young girls they decided to go water skiing. They were both being pulled behind the same ski boat and apparently doing well until my wife got scared and turned loose of her rope. As a result, the ski rope wrapped around her sister’s leg causing her to lose her balance and fall into the water. The driver of the boat was not immediately aware of it therefore my wife’s sister was pulled under water for a short distance.

That was a “defining moment” in the lives of both my wife and her sister. Her sister could have drowned, which meant that my wife would have had to live the rest of her life with the guilt of turning loose of the ski rope. However, God in His mercy saved both girls.

The point of this Meditation is to make us aware that we are never alone even though sometimes we may feel like it. We would also do well living a life of thankfulness for all those wonderful “defining moments” of deliverance, rather than refueling our painful past by continuing to talk about it.

Father,
Teach us how to confess our text, “Soul, you've been rescued from death; Eye, you've been rescued from tears; and you, Foot, you were kept from stumbling.”

Amen

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