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Entries in Meditation (3)

Thursday
Dec312015

Book thoughts: God's Battle Plan for the Mind

I just finished reading God's Battle Plan For the Mind, by David Saxton. Here on this last day of 2015, I finished one of my favourite reads of 2015.

Drawing from the rich resources of Puritan writing on mediation, Saxton presents an argument for the necessity of meditation in the Christian's life. Naturally, he does not mean what the stereotypical view of meditation is, i.e. emptying one's mind. Rather, one fills the mind with Biblical truth. Saxton presents a case for the necessity of meditation, both deliberate and occasional, and then reviews important occasions and topics for meditation. He evaluates both the benefits of meditation and the enemies to meditation.

Overall, the message was clear: a Christian needs to be a thinking individual. A Christian's sanctification requires concentrated thought on Biblical truth. I think this message is even more needed more than ever because we live in a world where nothing is ever "turned off." Because there is always continual noise, both visual and audible, we have to make a concerted effort to withdraw and ponder seriously Biblical truth. I have been very convicted as I read, as I think about how often I waste valuable time just noodling around the internet when I could be thinking upon better things.

At the conclusion of the book, Saxton shares some very good words:

The believer's ultlimate purpose is to glorify God through becoming more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 3:18). Of course, conformity to the image of Christ occurs gradually rather than instantaneously. This process of progressive sanctification is all of the Lord's grrace, yet it is a duty in which God's people are responsible to participate. Paul describes this process of ever-growing change in Ephesians 4:23-24: "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holinesss." This passage reminds us that a believer grows into the likeness of God by replacing sinful attitudes with a renewed perspective "in the spirit of [our] mind." The battle against sin starts in the mind -- the thoughts or what one dwells upon. This is why meditation is so important. It is God's ordained plan for biblical thinking, renewing the mind, overcoming sin, and thus growing in greater Christlikeness.

I also found convicting Saxton's discussion of how our love of entertainment can draw us away from Christ. I won't go into it here, but suffice it to say, meditation is much more work than being entertained, and perhaps that is why we don't engage in it as much as we ought.

This book is not a long read, and the bonus is that he uses footnotes instead of endnotes. There is a very nice bibliography at the end which will introduce the reader to some of the best Puritan writing on the subject. One of the books, by Nathaneal Ranew is quoted often, and I happen to have that on my shelf. It will be one of the "as yet unread" books I tackle this year.

Meditation should not be onerous, but it is work. Saxton makes that clear. However, we should regard it as a privilege. To spend time in fellowship with Christ through meditation should make us aware of our union with Christ. And that can only be a positive thing.

Thursday
Dec032015

Everyone meditates on something

We all worship something. It may be God, and may not be God, but we all worship something. Apparently, we all meditate on something. That is one of the intriguing things I've read so far in David Saxton's book God's Battleplan for the Mind. Technically, I should be waiting to read until Saturday after my final exam, but everyone needs a study break.

Saxton says this:

Everyone meditates on something, whether it is right, wrong, or neutral. Some meditate on problems in life or offenses committed by others. Some consider how to make more money or how to complete home projects. Others meditate on some truth of the Bible. Universally, though, meditation is practiced by all. Thomas Watson explaiined, "The farmer meditates on his acres of land ... The physician meditates upon his remedies ... The lawyer meditates upon his common law ... The tradesman, is for the most part, meditating upon his wares."

I think there is room to meditate on more than just the Bible. There is nothing inherently wrong with meditating upon our work. It is part of doing our vocations well. I think his point here is that we all mediate; the point is on what? Do we make room for biblical meditation?

I'm afraid I am too prone to meditate upon my particular problems of the day more often than I am on Biblical truth. We live in such a rush-rush world.

I'm looking forward to reading this. It's not a long book, so maybe I can finish it before Christmas.

Monday
Jan192015

Memory, meditating, and music

I just finished a little book by Edmund Clowney, called Christian Meditation. My first reaction to having finished this was "Why have I not read anything by Clowney until now?" He was a very eloquent writer. I have already added a couple of books to my wishlist for the future.

The book, as the title suggests, is about Christian mediatation. The foundation of Christian meditation is threefold: " ... it is centered on the truth of God, moved by the love of God, and directed to the praise of God."

Those three points are the basis of the book as he unfolds them. He focuses on meditating upon God's character, his wisdom, and his acts, all which are found in God's word. Christian meditation depends on the truth, which is found in God's word. There are a lot of references to the Psalms, which I liked.

When we think of meditation, perhaps the picture we have in our heads is of someone sitting cross legged on the floor, chanting a meaningless mantra in order to empty our minds. That is not Christian meditation. Early in the book, Clowney points to the meaning of "meditate," as given in Psalm 1:

When the psalmist speaks of meditating on the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2) he uses a word that means "to mutter." The word occurs again in the second psalm to describe the rebellious mutterings of the kings who would cast off God's yoke (Ps. 2:1). It is also used to describe the growl of a lion and the cooing or "chattering" of doves (Isa. 31:4; 59:11). It seems evident that the psalmist's meditation is closely related to the repetition of the words of Scripture.

At the end of the book, practical suggestions are given, and one of them is memorization, and considering this notion of "muttering," the relationship between meditation and memorization is obvious. Memorization helps us with meditation, because it involves repetition. As we read and think of Scripture over and over again, it becomes part of us.

Clowney extends this to meditation through singing. What better way is there to memorize Scripture than to memorize it with the aid of music? How often have you heard a chorus of a song you have known from childhood, and find yourself remembering every single word? Music and memory go hand in hand. This means that what we sing is important, because singing contributes (or it should) to meditation on godly truths.

Clowney says this:

The hymns of the church are the richest source of written meditations on Scripture. Changes in musical taste have eliminated beautiful hymns from use because their tunes are no longer in vogue. But the whole treasury of hymns from across the centuries lies before the Christian in meditation.

The words of songs, therefore, are important. Really important. Content matters. Just because the tune is great and it's easy to learn doesn't mean the content is worth meditating on. It seems these days, we are more worried about how many instrumentalists we can fit on the platform, not how enriching the words are. But I'm being a curmudgeon, and showing my age. I know some talented musicians; I'd love to see them use those talents and bring the words of the Psalms to bear on their compositions, like Sons of Korah have done. I think our problem is that we believe our worship music has to sound similar to popular music, and I don't think I agree with that. Music rant over. 

It is my goal this year to memorize some Psalms. I'm not sure how many but I know Psalm 46 and Psalm 145 will be on my list. And I don't want to memorize them just so I can say them without error; I want to think about them to ponder them, so that they will sink into my bones.