Should Christians Meditate? Is Meditation Biblical? #177
Hello friends and happy Monday to you! I hope it was a great Lord’s day yesterday. Our church had its first in-person gathering in 14 weeks, and it was both wonderful and strange. Only our leadership team and their families came, so that we could practice for a fuller reopening next week, so only around 30-35 people. Everybody wore masks and families sat together, but in pods of chairs spread around the sanctuary. The chairs were covered with washable vinyl covers, everybody wore masks, worship was pre-recorded and we didn’t sing out loud, and I preached with a transparent face shield which caused multiple friends back home in Alabama (who caught the livestream) to text me during the message poking fun in good natured way. All of that was Twilight Zone level weird. Being together with the Body of Christ, however, for the first time in 14 weeks was really quite nourishing to my soul and a wonderful experience that I’ve missed greatly. I long for the days when things can move past this virus. Not back to normal, but ahead to something better and more potent. The Body of Christ being the Body of Christ. The message today was on Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia – one of only two churches in Revelation that Jesus does not rebuke. That church was weak – likely in numbers and in finances – but Jesus encouraged them and spoke nothing but good about them. May the mid-pandemic and post-pandemic church be the same. Faithful whether or not we are powerful in a human sense!
Today’s Bible readings contain a strange anomaly. Two of the top three longest chapters of the Bible occur during today’s reading – they are helpfully split up over the next few days. Our readings are: Deuteronomy 28 (3rd longest chapter), Psalms 119 (longest chapter), Isaiah 54, and Matthew 2. Today we are talking about biblical meditation – a practice that is heartily commended in the Word of God, but not often practiced by Christians today. When most people hear the word meditation, they think of a be-robed individual chanting with his legs crossed, or something like that. Indeed, many Eastern religions practice something that is called meditation. The difference is that eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind with God’s Word. Let’s read our Psalms passage and consider God’s call to meditate on His Word.
A key verse to guide us and to differentiate between eastern meditation and biblical meditation is:Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Joshua 1:8 As Joshua succeeded Moses and was about to lead Israel into the Promised Land, God said to him…“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go
Foundational TRUTH: Thinking deeply about Godly Things brings supernatural renewal and transformation spiritually, mentally, emotionally and psychologically.
Romans 12:2 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Why is this important? The Early Church Fathers would say: MAGGOT EGGS!!
Let me ask this: Tell me about your thought life…how pure is it? People often apologize to me when they swear around me, and act like I am besmirched by such language, because I am a preacher. However, back in the day, I used to swear like a filthy sailer, and took pride in my skill at it.
Sometimes…I still swear in my thoughts…and sometimes when I am alone, some bad things can come out of my mouth. (Falling down flat while hiking – changing a dryer hose at the pool house, electrocuting myself when trying to fix the parsonage air cleaner) My thoughts aren’t always Christ honoring, and are sometimes scary. In fact, as I was typing this….I brushed my touchpad and wiped out 8 pages of text. “You …..stupid….thing” Was what I said, but it was almost worse.
Early church Fathers wrestled with these thoughts too – impure thoughts, bad words, wrong emotions, evil desires. They called them Logismoi – False thoughts and desires that carry us into sinful places of darkness and hopelessness. John Ortberg notes that these logismoi are the “infernal counterparts to Scripture, they equip us for bad works.” John Climacus called them maggot eggs that grow and thrive in the warm dung of our sinful nature. Don’t you love colorful language!?
What do we do about such things – how can we become more Christlike…how does the Image of God get more formed in us? Perhaps the major way is that we turn to Holy Spirit Soaked Encounters with the Word of God. (John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns .that it may take a long time before God’s Word has swept all else aside and come through. This is the very reason why we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us.”
We are called to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us” (Col 3:16) and are told that Jesus washes us with water through His Word (Ephesians 5:26)
HOW To Meditate:
Let’s take a passage: Lamentations 3: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! 24 I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.
This method is not unique to me, but has been developed over the years:
Read it– read the one verse several times through. Look for key phrases or words. Focus on what you read and what it may mean in its context. Think of other ways to say the words. Notice which words may be emphasized and how that affects the meaning of the verse.
Say it– say the verse or the phrase out loud. Say it loud enough that your ears can hear it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Most things that you believe are things that you have heard over and over again. As you repeat the verse of the phrase, certain words will leap out at you. These words should be repeated over and over again.
Write it– write the verse exactly as it is written one time. Focus on JUST THIS VERSE. Write a small phrase, and go to the next step—say it. Write the insights, thoughts and revelations that you get. Underline, Emphasize, Circle, Star, Draw connections, etc.
Sing it– singing is a means to unlocking the heart. Take your isolated phrase and sing it over and over again. Write out what you sense and perceive. When we sing, our voices function in a way distinct from any other musical instrument.
Pray it– prayer is a divine means of communion with God. When you repeat a phrase and believe it, you’re speaking it to God, which is prayer. All scripture phrases are invitations to believe and/or faith to walk it out.
So then, God calls us to meditate, and we have seen here today, how and why.