Devotions

Author Archives: Justin Dean

Lesson Seventeen • Devotion #3: Losing at Christianity

Growing up, if you spent any length of time around my family you would learn one thing fairly quickly, we are unyieldingly competitive. You could not measure the amount of blood, sweat, and mostly tears, my family shed in the name of winning in our home. It was not until I went to college that I realized that the competitive drive I had affected more than just games. I remember at the end of my first semester in college feeling so frustrated and defeated because I was not the best. It was not just when I was on the ultimate frisbee team or in playing basketball with the guys on my dorm floor, but also in my relationship with Christ. 

I remember sitting and having conversations with people in the student dining room or in my room and trying to assert my dominance as a Christian, trying to prove why I was a big fish in the pond of Christ-followers. I remember feeling so crushed when I realized how little I knew. Eventually, my frustration got the best of me, and because I was so busy comparing my own spiritual life to the lives of those around me I gave up trying to deepen my walk with Christ. Eventually, one of my professors really convicted me and I learned of this passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 11:21b-28, “But whatever anyone else dares to boast of – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” 

Paul saw the Church in Corinth was playing the comparison game, and he wanted to show them why it was unimportant. He takes a second and essentially says “It is foolishness to play this game, but if you want to play I will win every time.” He wanted to show them how little value a competitive spiritual life has to offer. Someone else is always going to have the “greater” testimony, and so you will always be left feeling cheated and defeated. To feel that way about your walk with Christ is foolishness. It is so easy in our culture to hear stories and see others, and it lends itself to comparison, both outwardly and inwardly. Often times, rather than being caught up in the pride of being the best, we become depressed and paralyzed at the thought of being less than. That is not what Christ has for us. 

How does Paul follow this up? In verse 30, he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” He is saying, I endure all these things in the name of Christ, but what I really boast in is my weakness. Though you see all this strength as I am enduring hardships that make me such a “great Christian,” honestly, I am just a loser, and at my loss and weakness, you all see Christ’s strength win the day. We cannot let ourselves be consumed by competition to prove our “spiritual strength” but rather we should accept our weakness that we may be strengthened by Christ. We want to be the losers so that His win can be made evident and put on display. Sometimes it is better to lose.

Relapse • Devotion #5: Apathy

Growing up in my house there were a number of words added to the curse word list we were not allowed to say. We were not allowed to say “shut up,” “fart,” or things which may be on the edge of inappropriate but most of my friends growing up would not have considered that bad. I remember getting made fun of for it a lot, but there was always one word I was never allowed to say that would not lead to teasing, but would instead just lead to confusion. Growing up I was banned from saying the word “whatever.” To my mom, saying “whatever” communicated you did not care and to her, that was never okay. If I answered with whatever, be it to “what do you want for dinner” or to an apology, it was never okay for me to communicate that I did not care. To not care meant indifference and apathy, and my mom wanted me to understand that we as a family were not going to be indifferent to anything. My mom always warned me about the dangers of not caring and becoming “lukewarm.” 

Constantly I am reminded about God’s rebuke to the church of Laodicea. We see what He says in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

I am sure of one thing, the last thing I want is to be spit out of the mouth of God. Yet I know, for my wife and I, apathy, specifically in me, has been one of the single leading causes for strife between us. I may not say the word “whatever” but my actions can just as easily communicate that is how I feel. Be it Bible reading as a family, to doing the dishes, apathy can really drive a wedge between the members of your family. The trouble is diagnosing apathy, because of it being an action that is done and seen by others, it is much easier to mask and excuse. We tell ourselves, “I just had a hard day of work, I will hear about my spouse’s day tomorrow” or “My kids have wiped me out, and honestly I would love to just eat in front of the TV rather than pray together and talk over a meal.” Apathy can easily creep its way in and then become the norm.

We have to fight our apathy, seeking to be fervent followers of Christ. Romans 12:11 has always shifted me into gear when apathy begins to creep into my life, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

We are called to be a fervent people. That means being fervent for our families, fervent in serving God, fervent in loving those around us, and fervent for our relationship with the Lord. When we let apathy creep in it is only a matter of time until something breaks in our lives. However, when we make ourselves care, and push through even when it is difficult, we combat that apathy. 

Impact • Devotion #3: When Things Break

Being sick is one of the most miserable things. Whether it is a little head cold or significant illness, you end up feeling like garbage and helpless because there is not anything you can do to change it. Recently, my family has experienced a lot of sicknesses. Between my wife, my mom, my sister, and even my dog, someone always seems to be experiencing a major issue. Illness has a way of affecting those around us as well. It leaves us broken and hurting for those whom we love that are sick.  

Recently, Psalm 147:3-4 has been an encouragement to my family and me, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

It seems like a simple concept, but so often in the face of turmoil, we seem to forget it. Sickness has a way of throwing a wrench in our families’ ordinary. One diagnosis can turn our family normal from band concerts and date nights to hospital waiting rooms and doctor visits. This verse reminds us of a couple of things. First, God can heal the sickness with which we are dealing. Second, God can comfort those of us that are defeated because those that we love are dealing with sickness. God is big enough to deal with the physical and emotional hurts that we are experiencing. He is in control of everything, even naming the stars, and we have to remember that when we worry about what He has in store.

Every time I wrestle with the stress of sickness in my family, it just reminds me of our need for Christ. In Matthew 9:12-13, it says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

We were all once sick with sin, and we need Jesus every single day to help nurse us to health. We may not all be dealing with someone in our family that is incredibly sick, but we are all dealing with the effects of sin in our lives. Whether we are watching a loved one wrestle with sickness or dealing with the occasional cold, we all need to remember the healing power of the Gospel. God is in control of it all, and we need Him to bind our wounds, heal our broken hearts, and save us from sin.

Grow• Devotion #6: Imitation

As a Student Director, oftentimes I do not get a chance to meet the parents of a student until after I have already spent time with their child. One thing that is always interesting to me is seeing how similar many students are to their parents. I see similar mannerisms, vocabulary, morals, and even humor on some level. Every time I see this in a student, I get really nervous for when the day comes for me to be a parent. It reminds me of 2 Thessalonians 3:7 and 9, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you… It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”

We naturally imitate those we are in close proximity to, especially those we admire. So, if we want to see ourselves grow, we need to surround ourselves with people we can imitate to grow. You might be saying, “Well Justin, I cannot pick who I am in close proximity with. I cannot change my family, co-workers, or roommates. So how am I supposed to shift who I am imitating?” You may not be able to change those things, but that does not mean you cannot be more proactive about placing godly people in your life. You have to seek out places where you can imitate those people who you know have a solid foundation in Christ. This is something that you have to actively do, and cannot be something left to the backburner. 

Ephesians 4:22-24 adds, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”You have to actively put off and put on a renewed spirit and new self. It takes active steps to grow, and the first step in ensuring strong and stable growth is making sure that those you imitate have a strong relationship with the Lord. That might mean you need to join a Growth Community and regularly meet with the leader of that group. It could mean serving in a ministry at the church and observing the head of that ministry and how they follow God. It could mean finding an experienced, wise Christian to mentor you and meet with you regularly. Do not become passive about who you allow yourself to imitate. Imitate those that will push you to truly grow in your relationship with Christ.

Reheating

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.



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