Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meditation: Introduction to Spiritual Disciplines

Throughout this year, we will be looking at many of the Spiritual Disciplines; last week, Adam V introduced us to them by examining the discipline of meditation.

photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr
Spiritual Disciplines rarely get talked about among America’s churches. If I asked you name a few, you would probably name praying and reading the Bible, and maybe even fasting; and not that these are unimportant, but that’s usually all we ever hear about.  Disciplines like solitude, service, and simple living get much less airtime, but they can be vitally important. 

What is a spiritual discipline, and does it matter?  They are tools that we have to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  We do not use them to change ourselves by our own strength, but they are indispensible methods of allowing God’s power to transform our lives.  

Meditation, in some ways, opens the door to the other Disciplines, because it teaches us how free our minds from distraction and listen for God’s voice.  Here's Adam V's lesson:

What is Christian Meditation? (And What it is Not?)
  When a lot of people hear the word ‘meditation’, they might think of relaxing and doing nothing. People may say that it helps you get in touch with your inner self or spirit, or helps relieve stress. When I looked up the word ‘meditate’ in the dictionary, it said, “To think deeply”. But we as Christians (when we meditate) are not supposed to just ‘think deeply’; it is about thinking deeply about, to, and on God. Meditation is different from prayer because you aren’t asking for his blessings or confessing your sins. The definition of biblical/Christian meditation is “The ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word.”
  The differences between worldly meditation and that of the Christian variety are this: worldly meditation is an attempt to empty the mind and Christian meditation is an effort to fill the mind; filling the mind with things of God. Those are two very diverse thoughts.

  A common misconception of meditation is that meditating is too hard and too complex. They say it is best left to the professionals. To the contrary, meditation is said to be a natural human action. Something even I can do.

What Prevents Us From Meditating on God?
  Ways that keep us from meditating ourselves are things such as busyness, thinking it is too difficult, being uneducated about it, leaving it to the ‘spiritual giants’, and thinking that it is simply weird.
  Why is Meditation Important?
  Christian meditation is important because… 
·         It reveals who God is.
·         It helps you understand Scripture.
·         It calms you.
·         It brings you closer to God.  
·         God speaks to us through meditation.
Meditating on God reveals who He is and what He has to say to you.  You can’t hear what He has to say if you aren’t listening to Him.
  Meditation connects us to God in ways prayer and reading the Bible does not allow us to.
   The truth of the matter is, God desires our companionship. Meditation allows us to, in a way, walk with him as a friend walks with a friend.
  The following verses are some situations where meditation comes up in the Bible. 
  1 Kings 19:7-14
  Joshua 1:8
  Psalm 1:2, 19:14, 104:34, 119:15&78&97, 145:5
   In these circumstances, they are meditating on the Law of God and on the Works of God.
  There are also some circumstances where Jesus has gone away from the crowds for purposes that include prayer and probably meditation as well.

  How Should You Meditate?
  You cannot properly learn to meditate on God just by reading about it in a book, by watching a ‘how to’ DVD, or even by listening to me. You learn how to meditate by, well, meditating.  

Meditate When?
   Well from what we read earlier the answer is “day and night or all the day”, but with schooling and other activities it is difficult to devote your entire day and night to meditating. That being said, the best time to meditate is at a time when you have a clear mind free of distraction and you can put full effort of thought into meditative matters.  It’s difficult to be in a peaceful state of mind when your thoughts are constantly jumping from different things you need to do when you are done meditating.

Meditate Where?
  The best location to meditate is at a place of few distractions. Distractions, such as, phones or (in some cases) people, should not be present. Some people prefer to meditate in the great outdoors, where God’s immense creation is most evident, with trees and birds and such.

On What Shall We Meditate?
  I came up with a few things on which to meditate. The first of which is God’s creation in which God’s greatness is tangibly showcased. Looking at the clouds on a warm afternoon or the colorful leaves of autumn spikes amazement inside of me. I love watching snow cover the ground and the sound of the rain hitting the pavement.      

  Secondly, you can meditate on God’s word. From the verses we read earlier, the psalmists wrote a lot about meditating on the law. When you are reading the Bible, it is good to stop on a passage that means a lot to you, take a key word or phrase and let it take hold of you.
  Branching off of that, I like to spend time pondering the words of a worship song or hymn. One of my favorite hymns is How Great Thou Art. The refrain and verses of that song move me. Here is the first verse of the song. “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed.” 
  I had not noticed before, but the writer of the hymn is writing about meditating on the greatness of God.
  I have also read about people who like to imagine that they are in at a biblical event. Say, for example, you pretend you are one of the five-thousand Jesus fed or the prodigal son or witnessing the trans- figuration. It may help you understand the stories in a way you have not before.
  Meditating on the works of God is my third and final idea that I came up with on which to meditate. We can’t take for granted everything God has done for us, but I think it is safe to say that we all do.  Thinking about Jesus getting spat upon, stripped of his clothes, flogged, humiliated, and nailed to a cross should send shivers down anyone’s spine.
To sum up on all that I have said, Meditation is important in helping us take the next step in our relationships with God.

  For further study on the disciplines in general, please check out these resources:
Inside Out Pt4: A sermon by CTK Bellingham Pastor Grant Fishbook

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