(from “Daily Thoughts for Disciples” by Oswald Chambers, March 10th entry)
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“After serious thought…” — Nehemiah 5:7
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Meditation means getting to the middle of a thing; not being like a pebble in a brook letting the water of thought go over us; that is reverie, not meditation. Meditation is an intense spiritual activity; it means bringing every bit of the mind into harness and concentrating its powers; it includes both deliberation and reflection.
Deliberation means being able to weigh well what we think, conscious all the time that we are deliberating and meditating. “After serious thought…” (Nehemiah 5:7) — that is exactly the meaning of meditation, also — “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
A great many delightful people mistake meditation for prayer; meditation often accompanies prayer, but it is not prayer. It is simply the power of the natural heart to get to the middle of things. Prayer is asking, whereby God puts processes to work and creates things which are not in existence until we ask.
Prayer is definite talk to God, around which God puts an atmosphere and we get answers back. Meditation has a reflex action; people without an ounce of the Spirit of God in them can meditate, but that is not prayer. This fundamental distinction is frequently obscured.
Mary pondered these things in her heart, that is, she meditated on them, got right to the center of the revelations about her Son, but as far as we know, she did not utter a word to anyone. But read John’s gospel, and a wonder will occur to you. St. Augustine has called John’s gospel “the Heart of Jesus Christ.”
Recall what Jesus said to His mother about John: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John about Mary, ” ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” It is surely quite legitimate to think that Mary’s meditations found marvelous expression to John under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and found a place in his gospel and epistles.
Taken from Daily Thoughts for Disciples, © 1976, 1994 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.
[[Some words Chambers uses are not used often today — click [here] to look up difficult words.]]
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It has often been said that praying is like enjoying a Creole dinner then asking what all was in the pot, while meditating is like simply savoring every bite of what’s there without asking about what’s on your plate. God doesn’t slip us spiritual “food” that we’d gag on if we knew what it really was — “I can’t believe you threw some Peruvian wombat in my gumbo, Jesus…that’s so not cool.”
Sure, there are some times that He won’t always disclose that tonight is a “peas and spinach” night (or whatever vegetables you know you need but try to avoid), but only with things that are beneficial, not things that are just for His own amusement — “Hey, Dad, shhh! Jason’s totally about to eat some of that wombat snout! …. don’t make it too obvious We’re watching him now…OH!! He bit it! Ewww, that’s so GROSS!”
We don’t have to worry about Him giving us any disgusting spiritual food, thus armed with the knowledge that He delights in treating us to exotic nutritious foods, we don’t have to concern ourselves with the menu; we can just sit back and enjoy what He’s dishing. If you can’t see who’s in the kitchen cooking your food, you better verify the source before you eat, so make sure the only “restaurant” you pull out your knife and fork at is “His Bible Cafe”. Doing so ensures that you’re not digesting any trash from some “D-rating-from-the-health-department” greasy spoon.
Once you come to His Word, there will be times you come across things that are simply too much for your brain to process adequately, and it’s best to tuck them away in your heart the same way Mary did after hearing from Simeon and Anna. Sometimes we get a piece of the puzzle and we need to wait until we find all the border-pieces first so we can know where to fill in the center tiles.
It’s great to pray about what you’re studying — you should get into the habit of doing so before, during and after you read regardless of how challenging or elementary you feel the section at hand is — and it’s great to meditate on what you’re going through. Prayer will invite the Holy Spirit to brighten your dim vision, while meditation will run what you’re reading “through the grid” of the things you’ve studied before, taking time to compare and contrast and search for connections and unearth parallels.
But Mary, she had no idea just how vivid the impact of the words she had received that day, nor did she even know where to go to try to make heads or tails of it all, so she hid them away in her heart — basically adopting a “we’ll wait for the time and see for ourselves” approach. And when she stood there with John the Beloved on Golgotha that afternoon, looking at her Son hanging there on a tree in fulfillment of Psalm 22, the things she’d hidden away likely came bubbling back up to the surface again for her contemplation.
John, having just spent three and a half years with Jesus, would likely have been the next best thing to discussing the things with Jesus directly. And these insights into things that happened before John met Jesus would do nothing but build up his readers. If it’s really how things unfolded, it certainly would answer some questions as to how John acquired a lot of the insights about Jesus’ early life that he recorded.
Think about it like a recipe. When you first decide on a recipe, you typically start with the main ingredient, but there’s nothing else with it. After you grab the main ingredient, you have to generally prep it in some way, adding a few other important ingredients to build on the base. Toss in a couple finishing touches, a sprinkle of some seasoning and a bit of garnish, and voila, you’ve got a gourmet dish.
The awesome thing about meditation is that you leave the idea on “simmer” long enough for other ingredients to make their way into the mix, and after a while, the whole recipe comes together in such a way that now as you meditate on it, it tastes sooooo good you enjoy every time you think about it. So if it’s been a while since you’ve last meditated on a section of Scripture, I’d suggest doing so today…it’s never too soon to start preparing your next gourmet meal.