Monday, December 14, 2015

An invitation to Christian meditation

hands clasped in prayer resting on a Bible
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 4:1-23

"Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8

Do you meditate? What is meditation?

The very week I'm writing this our pastor gave a talk on meditation to our Wednesday Women's group. In his talk he referred to the chapter on meditation in Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster)—which I own and so have re-read in the past few days. And now this reference to meditation. It feels like an invitation to share some of the things I've been learning, thinking about—meditating on!

What is Christian meditation?

"Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey His word…. It's growing into 'a familiar friendship with Jesus'" - Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 17. , p. 19 (quoting Thomas a Kempis).

How do we meditate? 

1. It may not be a natural desire
Foster describes the desire to want to meditate on God, hear His voice, and obey it as a  "grace." In meditation we detach from the things of this world and attach to the things of God: "The detachment from the confusion all around us is in order to have a richer attachment to God. Christian meditation leads us to the inner wholeness necessary to gives ourselves to God freely" - Foster, p. 21.

2. We find a quiet place and assume a posture that is conducive for us
Some kneel, some sit, some walk about.

3. We focus on Scripture.
… the meditation upon Scripture, is the central reference point by which all other forms of meditation are kept in proper perspective" - Foster, p. 29.

Some advice about Scripture meditation:
  • Small portions: My pastor and Foster advise meditating on small bits of Scripture at a time—a verse, a phrase, a word.
  • Review: My pastor said: "Plant it early (in the day) and come back to if often" - Derrick Hamre.
  • Memorize: memorization helps us internalize the Word, get it into our very DNA.
  • Journal: what God says to us, our insights, learnings, confessions.
  • Martin Luther's questions. Pastor gave us these questions to ask about a Scripture passage:
1. What does this text say about God (e.g. to help me praise Him)?
2. What sin does this text bring to light that I need to confess?
3. What do I need to ask God for in the light of this text?

4. We use imagination.

  • Live the Scripture passage vicariously—experiencing, through imagination, the very physical sensations of the parable, story, or event.
  • With news headlines at hand, "…ask God for prophetic insight to discern where these things lead. Further, we should ask for guidance for anything we personally should be doing to be salt and light in our decaying and dark world" - Foster p. 32.

5. Meditate in nature.

While we're outside, walking beside a field of grain, watching the birds in the forest, standing beside the crashing waves "…the Creator of the universe shows us something of his glory through creation" - Foster,  p. 31.

What are the benefits of Christian meditation?

"What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary of the heart" - Foster p. 20.

Being in touch with God through times of meditation in this way can change our whole day. Foster suggests that a regular habit of Christian meditation can lead to living with a sense of "holy leisure" - Foster, p. 27.

With the above in mind, we see what a treasure trove of meditation material Philippians 4:8 is. We could meditate on a quality a day and this verse could last us a whole week. We could examine our lives for the presence or absence of each quality, confess their lack,  and pray for more of them. We could memorize the list so that we can recognize their presence and turn our minds to good thoughts the moment one of their opposites makes an appearance.  For "'Meditation has no point and has no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life,'" - Foster, quoting Thomas Merton, p. 22

PRAYER: Dear God, teach me to meditate deeply and practically on You and Your words. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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