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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, August 31, 2015

Nothing is Ever Lost

(Luke 21:18 MSG)  Even so, every detail of your body and soul--even the hairs of your head!--is in my care; nothing of you will be lost.

When I was growing up in the 40s and 50s it seemed that every department store had a lost and found department. I often wondered how so many people could lose so many things…but apparently they did because that department seemed to always be busy. The lost and found department was created to serve people because they seemed to have a propensity for losing or misplacing things.

However, according to our text, losing things is not a trait that comes from the Lord. He never loses or forgets anything except for our forgiven sins.

Our text also makes the point that God is a God of details even to the point of  numbering the hairs on our heads. Perhaps that point was meant to be a lesson for us so we would give more attention to the details in our life as well.

I was actually reminded of the subject of details a few days ago when I was invited to spend a couple of days at Key Allegro which is a resort island on the Gulf Coast. All of the homes there are beautiful and spacious with canals running in back of each one for parking one’s boat.

My wife and I usually like to go to the coast each year for a little rest and relaxation. Because we have both family and friends who own second homes there, the invitation is always open for us to go.

When we do go to the coast, my wife and I both love to stand out on the balcony and feed the seagulls…they are an amazing bird. However, there are times when you go out and look for them and they are nowhere to be found.  As a matter of fact the sky appears to be completely void of seagulls until you throw a piece of bread in the air and all of a sudden one appears from nowhere and catches the piece of bread before it hits the ground. A squawk from that one seagull signals all of the other seagulls and before you know it the sky is full of them.

As a result of that I am always reminded how God is a God of order, and that He even created the seagulls to exhibit His order. In other words the seagulls never lose the bread and neither does God lose us.

Over the years I have counseled many folks that feel alone and think that God is nowhere to be found. The fact is, He is much closer than one thinks. As for me, when I throw bread into the air to attract seagulls I cannot help but think that the lesson for us is to send up a simple cry for help when in need to attract the Lord. We are much more important than seagulls.

(Jeremiah 33:3 KJV)  Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

While resting and relaxing at the coast I also enjoy the food, the breeze, the smells, the sunsets and the ocean noises. However, the thing I enjoy the most is the reminder that God is a God of details even through His creation of simple little seagulls. You might even say that seagulls are a lesson on wings.

Father,
Thank You for creating the whole world to be a living breathing lesson for us to live in. Thank You Lord that You have given us eyes to see and ears to hear. I especially thank You Lord that You really do care about the smallest of details in our lives; the pain, the loneliness, the needs, the love…and oh yes, the hairs on our heads.

Amen

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Ugly Side of Christianity

Matthew 10:16-17 KJV)  Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;

There is nothing more inspiring than reading about the miracles that Jesus performed and learning from His wonderful teachings. The result always brings hope and joy as well as a desire to do as He did.

In verse 16 of our text the disciples were sent out for the purpose of preaching the gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons and saving the lost.

However, that assignment could not be accomplished without a measure of risk. Jesus warned them that they would be challenged by what He described as wolves, which are the natural enemy of the Word. In other words, they could expect some measure of persecution from the rulers of darkness because light always offends darkness.

The next thing that makes this assignment difficult is what Jesus said was going to happen in verse 17. He told the disciples they would also be persecuted in the synagogues by their leaders. As a matter of fact the most severe persecution a believer can experience is from the religious. That means that not only would the disciples be challenged by the world, but they would also be challenged by the religious. Preaching the gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons and saving the lost, antagonizes the unbeliever regardless if they are in the world or the church.

My future nephew shared a story with  me the other day that not only provoked the title of this Meditation but even made me feel guilty as a Christian. After hearing his story I became aware that no matter how much we may be dedicated to the things of God, we are still capable of making heartless and unwise decisions.

After seventy-six years of his parents being happily married, his mother passed away. His parents had faithfully attended their church for many years and in fact his father had been a respected elder in that church. His father was not only a respected leader in the church, but he was also a successful businessman who was very generous in his giving for all of those years. As a matter of fact, because of his generous giving he probably gave enough to have actually built the church.

When my future nephew’s mother passed away he and his brother made a simple request to the other leaders of the church. They asked to be allowed to bring a piano in the church and have a couple of old hymns played and his mother’s favorite song sung. The reason such a request was made was because his mother loved piano music.

The request was denied by the elders because they did not believe in having instruments in the church. It did not matter that his aging father had been a faithful leader as well as a generous contributor for all of those years…a rule is a rule.

After hearing this story I became more aware that even though Christianity itself  is beautiful…sometimes Christians are not. Many times the same Christian that is normally beautiful and warm is also capable of being ugly and uncaring. Why? Because spiritual maturity and growth is a journey that each of us must take.

It is possible in our desire to be right that we actually break the hearts of others by our cold religious attitude and ways without being aware of it.

Father,
Heal the broken hearts of those who have been wounded by those of us who have acted religiously rather than out of a Christian heart. Mature us quickly so others can see You in us rather than some religious rules.

Amen

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Monday, August 17, 2015

True Discipleship

(Matthew 5:1-2 KJV)  And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them…

The reason Jesus put such a high priority on personal discipleship was because it is the most effective way of teaching. For this reason He spent His entire ministry establishing discipleship principles for each of us to follow.

Thousands may have been blessed by Jesus’ teachings, but it was His disciples who actually changed the world. In preparing His disciples for such a world changing challenge Jesus took them through an intense three year training program of “show and tell.” He showed them what to do, He watched them do it and then he left them doing it. The result of such training is still in effect today.

Even though large crowds followed Jesus from place to place in order to sit under His ministry, He still found time to get away and accomplish His first love which was personal discipleship. Jesus had the ability to keep a perfect balance between crowd preaching and personal discipleship.

Often when one thinks of discipleship the picture that comes to mind is a dry theological classroom with an emotionless instructor. That may be true in some cases, but it was certainly not true with Jesus…nor should it be true with us.

I had an experience the other day that seemed to take the theological stiffness out of true discipleship and brought it back to just plan old practical “show and tell” training.

Recently while spending a few days ministering in Owosso, Michigan I was invited to participate in a church outing that was being held by a lake. The setting for this outing was absolutely beautiful. On one side of this lake was a small beach and a dock. On the other side was a gazebo that was surrounded by beautiful shade trees and lawn chairs. The far side of the lake was framed with a field of sunflowers.

As I sat in a comfortable lawn chair under a shade tree on one side of the lake, I was captivated by what was happening on the other side of the lake. The pastor of this church was teaching several little girls (who looked to be about 10 years old) how to fish. He started out by putting bait on their little rod and reels and showing them how to cast.

They were catching small fish as fast as they put their hooks in the water. The pastor would go from one little girl to the other taking the fish off their hooks and baiting them again. I was intrigued by the patience of the pastor and how he was totally focused on teaching these little girls how to fish. He was never distracted by the other activity that was taking place on my side of the lake.

As I sat there watching, I realized that I was seeing discipleship in the purest form. What was being established in the hearts of these little girls was far more important  than just catching fish. They were seeing love and patience in a way that could set a pattern for them to follow when they disciple others one day. I am also quite sure that this pastor will forever be a pattern from which all pastors will be measured by in their future.

I wonder…have we misunderstood what true discipleship is and made it more religious than practical? I wonder. Catching fish may have satisfied the souls of those little girls, but establishing such spiritual principles will forever enrich their lives.

Father,
Help us to put the same priority on discipleship that Jesus did. Lord, help us not to be caught up in the glitz of the mass and miss changing the few. We want to be faithful in discipleship as Jesus was.

Amen

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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Widow’s Mite

(Mark 12:42KJV)  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

This is one of the most thought provoking stories in the Bible. If one should ever wonder what total dedication to the Lord looks like…all they have to do is read the story of the little widow who gave her all.

The setting for this story is like many others today…when a visiting preacher finishes his sermon a special offering is usually taken up for him.

The same thing was true with Jesus. When He finished His teaching…an offering for His ministry was also being taken up for Him. The thing that made His case different was that He actually saw what the people were giving. Like in most offerings, there were those who gave a lot and those who gave a little. However, the offering that caught Jesus’ attention the most was the offering of a poor little widow who gave all of the money she had to live on which was “two mites.”

Jesus was so moved by her offering that He called His disciples to come and see and learn the true meaning of giving.

It was not the amount of the gift that caught Jesus’ attention, but the percentage of the gift. The others gave a larger amount, but it was a much smaller percent of what they had. The poor widow gave a smaller amount, but it was 100%  of what she had and that is why Jesus said she gave the most. In other words, some of a lot is less than all of a little.

It is also interesting that Jesus did not call the public’s attention to the widow’s giving...only His disciples…the leaders. Is it possible that Jesus is showing us that the lesson on giving must start with the leaders first?
Perhaps this story is not as much about money as it is about making Jesus Lord of one’s life.

Over the years I have written a lot of stories where I included a very precious woman in my life that everyone lovingly referred to as “Ma.” Even though Ma has been dead for many years, she had an everlasting impact on my life that started when I was a young man.

Ma never had much of this worlds goods, but like the widow in our text she gave all she had. She lived in the East Texas woods in a small frame house that she commonly referred to as her shack. The floors were uneven, the house leaned a bit and the screen door only had half a screen. Ma had no teeth and she often walked around bare footed.

Although her "shack" was located on a little sandy bumpy lane that was full of pot holes, she seemed to have a steady stream of people driving there for prayer and comfort.

Ma taught me more about giving, faith and true ministry than all the other training that I have had put together. She taught me how to love without cost, to give all and hold nothing back, to pray without ceasing, to look at life through the eyes of faith and to know that “all things work together for those who love the Lord.”

As a matter of fact, most all the ministry I have done over the last fifty-five years is after the pattern taught by Ma. Perhaps one of the points that Jesus was trying to make was that all of us need a Ma in our lives. I just wonder!

Father,
Thank You for teaching me invaluable lessons through such incredible women as the poor widow woman and Ma. Others may have taught my brain, but these women taught my heart.

Amen

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