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Archive for September, 2010

Foster emphasizes — and most of the other sources I’ve been reading keep repeating — that the whole point of meditation is greater obedience.  If meditation does not lead to more profound devotion to Christ and his work, more love for others, more service and humility, then it is an empty pursuit, or, even worse, a selfish, alienating one.

Though some of Foster’s comments can seem just a little bit “out there,” Reformed tradition does include meditation (sometimes called other things, but of similar intent and focus).  There is no reason to shy away from it, and every reason to learn to practice it, provided we keep Christ at the center of it in every way:  Christ as its motivation, its destination, its focus.  Check out these reputable seconds to Foster’s motion:

  • Ken Boa (whom I cited in the very first posting) explains meditation as step two in a four-step process of a devotional practice called lectio divina (reading scripture – meditating on it – praying through it – contemplating over it).  He separates meditation from contemplation (Foster uses these more interchangeably), and has this to say about meditation:  “As you move from reading to meditation, you are seeking to saturate  and  immerse yourself in the Word, to luxuriate in its living waters, and to  receive  the words as an intimate and personal message from God. The  purpose of meditation  is to penetrate the Scriptures and to let them  penetrate us through the loving  gaze of the heart.” So, for Boa, meditation is an extension of reading the scriptures, much like Foster’s suggestion of reading a text and then reading again, slowly, engaging the imagination and the senses to really read attentively, putting yourself in the scene to absorb what’s going on.  “Meditation,” Boa says,  “is a spiritual work of holy desire and an interior invitation for the Spirit to pray and speak within us (Romans 8:26-27) in such a  way that  our whole being is transformed into greater conformity with  Jesus Christ. It is  an intentional process of building our passion for  Christ by meeting with Him  and spending time with Him to know Him more  clearly, to love Him more dearly,  and to follow Him more nearly. By  meditating on God’s truth, we are inviting Christ  to be formed in us  (Galatians 4:19) by a deliberate dwelling on His words.” (Read more from Boa on lectio divina here – scroll down to the part on devotional spirituality.)
  • “If we willingly banish holy meditations in our solitary hours, Satan will soon occupy our minds with sinful imaginations. … God’s words must be laid up in our hearts, that our thoughts may be daily employed about them” Matthew Henry
  • “Memorization is the first step to meditation.” Jerry Bridges
  • “The hearer of God’s word ought to be like those animals that chew the cud; he ought not only to feed upon it, but to ruminate upon it.”Augustine
  • “In meditation, the whole man is engaged in deep and prayerful thought on the true meaning and bearing of a particular biblical passage.  … Sustained imaginative reflection is, if I am not mistaken, so rare today that few of us understand its power to motivate.”J.I. Packer
  • “Meditate upon what you read:  stop not at the surface: dive into the depths.  Be not as the swallow which toucheth the brook with her wing, but as the fish which penetrates the lowest wave.  Abide with your Lord: let him not be to you as a wayfaring man, that tarrieth for a night, but constrain him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for the day is far spent.’  Hold him, and do not let him go.   … It is instructive to find meditation so constantly connected with fervent prayer:  It is the fuel which sustains the flame; why are many of us so exceeding slack in it?”C.H. Spurgeon (a Spurgeon sermon on meditation or “musing” can be found here.)  Ah, Spurgeon.  Your words expose my shallowness, every time.
  • The Dutch Reformed writer Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711) actually eased my mind a bit about the idea of “rising up” that Foster describes on p. 27 (1978).  Brakel says, “This is a spiritual exercise in which a godly person–having a heart which is separated from the earth and lifted up toward heaven–reflects upon and engages his thoughts toward God and divine things with which he was already previously acquainted.  He does so in order to be led further into divine mysteries, to be kindled with love, to be comforted, and to be stirred up to lively exercises.” LOTS of good information and history about the disciplines from a reformed perspective can be found here (the section on meditation starts on page 30.)
  • Puritan pastor Jonathon Edwards describes an episode in which meditation led him to overwhelming, deep worship.  It is recounted in a chapter on Edwards by Donald Whitney (“Pursuing a Passion for God through Spriritual Disciplines: Learning from Jonathon Edwards”) in a book called A God Entranced Vision of All Things (edited by John Piper).  You can actually download and read the entire book for free here.  The episode I’m referring to is on page 113.  Pretty stunning, given how I had pictured the Puritans (particularly Edwards)!

So… slow down.  Chew your bread.

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