Friday, March 28, 2008
Is it Christian to Meditate?
Christian meditation is rooted in the Bible. In fact, the Bible commands us to meditate. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The psalmist says "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2). Actually, the Bible mentions meditate or meditation 20 times.
In the Old Testament there are two primary Hebrew words for meditation: Haga, which means to utter, groan, meditate, or ponder; and Sihach, which means to muse, rehearse in one's mind, or contemplate. These words can also be translated as dwell, diligently consider, and heed.
Christian Meditation: A History
One form of Christian meditation that has been used by believers since at least the fourth century AD is the lectio divina. It has been traditionally used in monastic religious orders and is enjoying a resurgence today. Lectio divina means "sacred reading" and has four stages: lectio (reading), meditatio (discursive meditation), oratio (affective prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). In the lectio (reading) stage, one finds a passage and reads it deliberately. The next stage, meditatio (discursive meditation), is where one ponders the text. In the oratio (affective prayer) stage, one talks to God about the reading, asking Him to reveal the truth. In the final, contemplatio (contemplation) stage, one simply rests in the Lord's presence.
Today, meditation is generally seen as a practice of the New Age movement. This comes primarily from its association with Transcendental Meditation. Transcendental Meditation (TM) was developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the Hindu religion and is steeped in Hindu philosophy. The "yogi" in the TM founder's name indicates his status in Hinduism. Courts in the US have ruled that TM is not a secular discipline; it is Hindu religion (US District Court, Newark, NJ, on October 29, 1977 and the US Court of Appeals, Philadelphia, PA February 2, 1979).
Christian Meditation: What do Christian Leaders Say?
One important thing the Bible tells us to do is to think about God's Word. Our thoughts determine our behavior and so what we think about is very important. That is why God wants us to think about His Word, or meditate on it. Jim Downing in Meditation (NavPress) says God considers meditation a "vital exercise of the minds of His children."
Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan), describes meditation this way: "Meditation is focused thinking. It takes serious effort. You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind...if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate" (190). Warren goes on to say, "No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day" (190).
In Satisfy Your Soul (NavPress), Dr. Bruce Demarest writes, "A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God … Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God's Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works … So we prayerfully ponder, muse, and 'chew' the words of Scripture. …The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God" (133).
Christian Meditation: How do we do it?
There are three times during the day we can actively turn our minds over to God's Word in Christian Meditation. Just before we fall asleep, we can have God's Word be the last thing that occupies our mind. Upon awaking, we can have God's Word be the first thing to fill our minds to start the day. Finally, we need a specific time each day to be in God's Word so it can speak to us throughout out day.
What should we focus on in Christian meditation? "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8, NASB).
Spiritual Healing - Desperate Need
Spiritual healing is a huge need in the Body of Christ. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, approximately 16 million believers walk out of the Christian church each year and most do not return. Spiritual sickness and disillusionment is at an all time high. In North America, an average of 1,500 pastors and ministry leaders leave their post each month, again, most never return to the pulpit.
Each day, thousands of believers find too wide a gap between what they are taught in church and what they experience in reality. Disillusionment then sets in. The believer works hard to make his or her life work, and often the result is burnout, anger or hatred toward the church. The formulas, gimmicks, and promises haven't worked for these people, and many walk away from the Christian faith hurt and wounded, instead of loved and healed.
Spiritual Healing - Poison in the Pot!
Spiritual healing requires a spiritual diagnosis. When we become physically sick, we often ponder what we ate the day before. When we become spiritually sick, we should examine our spiritual diet. The Christian Gospel leads to life -- real eternal life with God. If a believer follows a Gospel that leads to anger, resentment, disillusionment and burnout, he's been following the wrong Gospel -- eating from a poison pot! Elisha and his followers had the same experience. The cook created the stew, and because he was eating it himself, no one ever thought the mixture could be poison. When there's "death in the pot" of the Gospel, it can make a believer spiritually sick, and even lead to spiritual death.
Spiritual healing takes place in the Tree of Life. Living in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil leads to death. Even the "good" in this tree leads to death. We must leave the Tree of Good and Evil and enter into "Tree of Life living"! Living in the Tree of Life is a whole new way of thinking for many who are used to "churchianity" - relying on the religious institution, rather than the living relationship with God.