Author Archives: Justin Dean


Leftovers | Devotion #3: Reheating
Justin Dean | Student Director

One of the riskiest things you can do is eat something straight out of the microwave. When you are heating something back up in the microwave, you have to make sure you cook it for the perfect amount of time. If you do not, it could end up being too cold to eat, or it could end up burning the fire out of your mouth. It is like playing Russian roulette with your mouth. You have to be careful and make sure that you know what you are reheating and the best way to go about the reheating of that leftover. In our families, there are a lot of things that get reheated. We get hurt in many different ways, and as we grow as a family, inevitably old pain is going to be resurfaced. As we walk through the process of rehashing and reheating those issues as they are brought up, it is important that we do it in the right way and at the right time. As we look to the Bible for guidance, we see Proverbs 15:17-18 (NIV), “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”

As we walk through the issues that come up from past hurt, it is important that we remember two incredibly important things, patience and love. Those two are not natural instincts. Whether we are the person who is hurt or the person who caused the hurt, our natural reaction is to pit ourselves against each other. We tend to bear our teeth and claws to either attack or defend as we deem necessary. However, this Proverb helps us to see that in the end, the most important piece of dealing with our families past issues is patience and love for each other as we walk through the difficulties of forgiveness. It is important we remember the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV), “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

We have to have this mindset in the midst of dealing with old pain. If we cannot act in a way that is compassionate and seeking forgiveness and love, we will only cause new pain out of our old scars. In the end, our goal is a restoration to each other and to Christ, and it is incredibly important that we remember that as we are in the middle of dealing with all the feelings that have arisen around those past hurts. As we seek to be restored, peace, patience, and forgiveness need to be the tools we use to navigate our family’s past issues.

Praying Together

Doing the Dishes | Devotion #1: Praying Together
Justin Dean | Student Director 

One of my favorite memories growing up are some of the times spent at the dinner table. There were so many laughs, jokes, and my mom’s amazing food. However, honestly one of the things that drew my family the closest was not my mom’s spaghetti; it was our prayer time together. My mom came up with an amazing idea for our family to pray through the church directory. We would pick a family each night and pray for them by name. There is something about prayer that aligns our focus as people when we do it together. It is one of the major reasons Paul puts a huge emphasis on prayer together in his letters to the church. We see that in Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

As your family goes about their day, they all experience different things throughout the course of that day. As you come back together and seek to unify yourself, prayer refocuses your mind and sets a direction for your family. It ties you together and unifies your desires to grow as a family in a certain direction. Whether it is praying for other families, praying for the current tragedies in our world, or praying for the struggles individuals in your family are going through, prayer strengthens the relationships within your family by growing your relationship to the Creator. That is why we see in Romans 15:5-6, Paul says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That is the ultimate goal for your family, right? You desire to live in harmony together so that in the end, your family glorifies God in unity with one voice. Prayer together is a big step that your family can take to begin cultivating unity and focusing on glorifying God. It takes regular practice to implement it into the lives of our families, but the fruit that it will yield is well worth the intentionality it requires. Seek that intentionality through prayer, and the rest will follow. 

Fervent Stewards

Back to Reach | Devotion #6: Fervent Stewards
Justin Dean | Student Director 

When it came to church, serving was what my family did. Truthfully, it sometimes felt like all we did. I can not tell you how many chairs I have had to stack throughout my time in church. Growing up, I never truly understood the point of serving. When I was a child, I blamed my parents for staying around church talking for too long. In middle school, I thought it was because we were just trying to be nice people. When I high school, I realized it was just my dad using us as free labor. As I began to spend more time coming into my own and taking a look at what biblical serving looked like, I realized it was more about my heart while serving than anything else.

Take a look with me at 1 Peter 4:8-10, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

It took me a while to truly grasp the reason for and importance of service to people. I did not get it, and that shaped the way I served. I served with no purpose, no drive, and without fervency or understanding. I want to take a second to break down this passage of Scripture. There is a great picture in this verse of why and how we should serve.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly…” What does this actually mean? People often talk about love, but no one ever clearly defines it. It is left as this amorphous, impractical, abstract ideal that we do not know how to implement into our lives. Now I am not going to spend time trying to define it (I will leave that to someone with the Pastor title), but I do want to look at how we can use it practically. I think the key to that is the word earnestly, or a word I think fits the Greek a little better, fervently. It is the idea of enthusiastically and passionately loving others. When we show people love, by serving them, giving them compliments, or by being kind, are we doing so with enthusiasm and passion? Do we dread doing it, or are we sitting on the edge of our seats excited to show them love and care the way our God has shown it to us? 

“…use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” As humans, we have natural giftings. Some are wise teachers; others are fiercely compassionate. The way we serve can look drastically different yet, in the end, achieves the same goal – to help point people to the grace of God. As God’s people, we are stewards of a multitude of different things, but above all, we are stewards of God’s grace in our lives. As such, we need to serve with that in mind. We are showing that grace to those we are serving and our service needs to be with that same fervent love that God graciously showed us. 

Ultimately, we serve at the River to see people come to know the grace we know as followers of Christ. Everything we do, in word or deed, should reflect that goal as stewards of Christ. We serve, together, unified, with our giftings to point people to the grace of God, that they may seek Christ as their Savior. I encourage you if you are not currently serving, to join us in serving our Lord.

Testimony: Justin Dean

Testimony: Justin Dean
Student Director

Growing up, the church was always part of my life. When I was two years old, my father became a youth pastor and after that my life consisted of being in church three to four times a week. I knew a lot about who God was and what He did, but I never started my own relationship with Him. When I was five, I prayed the prayer everyone tells you to pray, but I did not truly understand what I was doing. I still continued to live the same way and not much changed for me. I did not have a personal relationship with God; I had one through other people.

It was not until I was on a mission trip to Detroit when I was in middle school that I really began to figure out what salvation was supposed to look like. I realized that who I was as a person and what a follower of Jesus looks like were very different people. I began to see that sin, anything that was against God was regular in my life and that I was a slave to it. I realized that sin had broken my relationship with God and that I could not do anything to fix it. I needed a savior, a perfect sacrifice, to take the punishment for my sin. I realized truly that that is who Jesus was. He was God and man who came to die for my sin so that I could be saved. I began to understand that His resurrection meant freedom from sin and death. I recognized that He was Lord and that I was a sinner who needed Him.

I started my own personal relationship with Jesus on that mission trip, and my life was forever changed. I was free from the sins that I had wrestled with for a long time, and I began to cultivate my relationship with God. I started to love to read His Word and began to understand what it truly meant for me and my life. Life with God started then and will last into eternity with Him.

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