Wednesday Night Bible Study


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Spiritual Disciplines


  • Why Meditation?
    • In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manliness,” he will be satisfied~Foster
    • If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture, including our religious culture, we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation…Though it may sound strange to modern ears, we should without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer~Foster
    • Biblical Witness
      • The Bible uses two different Hebrew words to convey the idea of mediation, and together they are used some fifty-eight times.  These words have various meanings: listening to God’s word, reflecting on God’s works, rehearsing God’s deeds, ruminating on God’s law, and more…Repentance and obedience are essential features in any biblical understanding of meditation.  
      • Psalm 119:97-104
        • How I love your instruction! It is my meditation all day long. 98 Your command makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers because your decrees are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the elders because I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow your word. 102 I have not turned from your judgments, for you yourself have instructed me. 103 How sweet your word is to my taste—sweeter than honey in my mouth. 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.
      • Genesis 24:63
        • 63 He (Isaac) went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. (NIV)
      • Psalm 63:6
        • When I think of you as I lie on my bed, I meditate on you during the night watches…
      • Psalm 119:148
        • I am awake through each watch of the night to meditate on your promise.
      • Psalm 1:2
        • Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.
      • The old priest Eli spent time helping the young boy Samuel know the word of God.  Elijah spent time alone in the wilderness learning to discern “the still small voice of God”.  And there are many other examples spread through the Old and New Testament.
      • The Most Compelling
        • Jesus regularly went off by himself to commune with God
          • This encompasses more disciplines than just meditating, but it definitely includes meditating on God’s word.
    • Hearing and Obeying
      • Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word.
        • In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve talked with God and God talked with them—they were in communion
        • Throughout Acts, we see the practice of meditation over and over again.
          • Christ leading and guiding Philip
          • Christ revealing Himself to Paul
          • Teaching Peter the gospel is not just for the Jews
          • What we see over and over again is God’s people learning to live on the basis of hearing God’s voice and obeying His word.
    • The Purpose of Meditation
      • Growing into a familiar friendship with Jesus.
        • The omnipresence of the Lord moves from a theological dogma into a radiant reality
        • “He walks with me and he talks with me” ceases to be pious jargon and instead becomes a straightforward description of daily life.
        • The wonderful verse “I stand at the door and knock…” was originally penned for believers, not unbelievers (Rev. 3:20). We who have turned our lives over to Christ need to know how very much He longs to eat with us, to commune with us.
    • Misconceptions
      • Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind
      • Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind
      • Easter meditation stresses the need to become detached from the world
      • Christian meditation goes far beyond the notion of detachment
        • Detach from ourselves, yes
        • Danger in detachment; Jesus tells the story of a man who had been emptied of evil but not filled with good
        • But we have to attach to something…Christ
        • 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 give ourselves to God freely
      • Too difficult; only for spiritual giants
        • Thomas Merton “Meditation is really very simple and there is not much need of elaborate techniques to teach us how to go about it.”
    • Purpose revisited
      • Human beings seem to have a perpetual tendency to have somebody else talk to God for them. We are content to have the message secondhand
        • Israel’s fatal mistake was asking for a King, because they didn’t want to talk to God themselves
        • The history of religion is the story of an almost desperate scramble to have a king, a mediator, a priest, a pastor, a go-between. In this way we do not need to go to God ourselves. Such an approach saves us from the need to change, for to be in the presence of God is to change.
        • We do not need to observe Western culture very closely to realize that it is captivated by the religion of the mediator (Catholic)
          • All who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord are the universal priesthood of God and as such can enter the Holy of Holies and converse with the living God.
    • Preparing to Meditate
      • It is impossible to learn how to meditate from a book (or a lesson)
        • We learn to meditate by meditating
        • The church Fathers often spoke of “holy leisure”. It refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. With our tendency to define people in terms of what they produce, we would do well to cultivate “holy leisure”. And if we expect to succeed in the contemplative way, we must pursue “holy leisure” with a determination that is ruthless to our datebooks
      • Basically, it is important to find what works for you. There is no right or wrong time or place or posture, as long as you’re not distracted
        • Regardless of how it is done, the aim is to center the attention of the body, the emotions, the mind, and the spirit upon “the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
    • Forms of Meditation
      • Meditating upon Scripture
        • Whereas the study of Scripture centers on exegesis (which is important), the meditation of Scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage.
        • The written Word becomes a living word addressed to you. This is not a time for technical studies or analysis, or even the gathering of material to share with others
        • Dietrich Bonhoeffer~”…just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.”
          • When Bonhoeffer founded the seminary at Finkenwald, a one-half hour silent meditation upon Scripture was practice by everyone
            • Bonhoeffer recommended spending a whole week on a single text
        • Pick an event, parable, a few verses, or even a single word, and let it take root in you
        • Always remember that we enter the story not as passive observers, but as active participants. Also remember that Chris is truly with us to teach us, to heal us, to forgive us.
      • Re-collection or Centering Down
        • Turn over any concerns you may have to God
          • Your anger toward someone
          • Fear or anxiety over something
          • Frustration
        • Receive from God
          • Your divine love for the person I’m angry with…
      • Meditating upon creation
        • The discovery of God in His creatures
      • Meditate upon the events of our time
        • Seek to perceive their significance
        • Thomas Merton~”…who has meditated on the Passion of Christ but has not meditated on the extermination camps of Dachau and Auschwitz has not yet fully entered into the experience of Christianity in our time.”
        • Best accomplished with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
    • Don’t get discouraged as you put meditation into practice
      • You must not be discouraged if in the beginning your meditations have little meaning to you. There is a progression in the spiritual life, and it is wise to have some experience with lesser peaks before trying to tackle the Mt. Everest of the soul. So be patient with yourself. Besides, you are learning a discipliner which you have received no training. Nor does our culture encourage you to develop these skills. You will be going against the tide, but take heart; your task is of immense worth.

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