Thursday, February 6, 2020

Meditating on Scripture

All my life I've heard about meditating on scripture, but I must confess that I have never done a very good job of it. I have been fairly consistent in spending time in the Word since I was 19 and went on a missions trip with Operation Mobilization. Our team leader made us spend an hour of quiet in the house each morning. Since I had never spent more than 20 minutes before that, I had to teach myself to fill that time. After two months, I realized that I had been having a long quiet time every day and had learned to enjoy it. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) came true in my life and I would say that I have spent some time with the Lord most of the days since then. (Not generally an hour--especially not when the children were little!)

I also did some memory work. When I returned home from that trip, my home church had adult Sunday School classes which required a memory verse a week. I had memorized previously in the King James version as a child in Sunday School and children's Bible clubs. Now I chose the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for these verses. When we were new missionaries in Peru, I made an effort to relearn most of my verses in Spanish. Having already memorized them in English made it easier as I knew what the verse said. Later, in Colombia, several ladies and I made a pact to memorize scripture together and we were amazed at how it affected our prayer lives. Then more recently I have started memorizing again and using the Bible Memory app, I have been fairly consistent.

I tell you all this to say that despite what I was doing I was still not meditating. I was checking things off on a to do list: memorize, review, repeat. Even these last three years where I have been intentional about memorizing, I was not spending time thinking about what the verses meant and talking to God about them.

We all know how to meditate. You take a thought and turn it over and over in your mind, talk to God about it, ask Him questions about it, maybe complain about it, and think about it some more. We usually do this in the form of worry! That isn't very profitable.

I wanted to start doing that with scripture.

So I did two things to help myself:
  1. I decided that each Monday when I memorize a new verse I would use my quiet time to study out this verse, think about it, learn from it, and talk to God about it. Since I've started that, sometimes I have to continue into Tuesday.
  2. With the help of my son, I found an app that helps me meditate on scripture that I have started using every morning.
Using the app takes about 10 minutes and it has changed the way I think about God's Word, my ability to concentrate on God's Word, and given me greater peace of mind. The app I am using, called Christian Mindfulness, has the option of silence or several quiet music pieces playing in the background and the relative volume you want of music to speech. The man, with a pleasant British accent, first begins by encouraging breathing exercises to calm myself and focus my mind, first on my breathing and then on the scripture he reads, clearing away the distractions of daily life. 

After he reads the passage he goes back over it slowly focusing on key words and suggesting I repeat them to myself or think them through. I usually try to think about what that word means, what God is telling me. I might ask God what He wants me to learn from this verse, this word, today. I often have other verses come to mind that help me understand or view the truth from another angle. When I am done listening, I am calmer and take a moment to think about what God wants me to do today with what I learned.

I am an auditory learner so this is a great way for me to concentrate. For someone else, looking at the words and thinking or writing about the verse might be the best way. The principle is the same: look at the verse or short passage from many angles, turn it over in your mind, think about the meaning of key words or phrases, and ask God to help you understand in the light of the rest of scripture. I do write my thoughts during my quiet time, but, for me it becomes a "job" to get done. Inactive meditation has become a valuable means for me to connect with God that I have not been able to do before.

My verses for the year are Joshua 1:8-9:
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful
to do according to all that is written in it;
for then you will make your way prosperous,
and then you will have success.
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous!
Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.

This is my goal for this year and for life. And this is how I have started.

I believe you can teach your children to start meditating on scripture at a very young age. Read them a verse--maybe their memory verse for the week--then go back and read through it phrase by phrase while they listen. You could have them close their eyes so they think about it. Point out important words or phrases and ask simple questions like, "What is another word for _____?" or "What do you think God is telling us when He says, _____?" Get them to think about the truth of the verse and how it is used in a Bible story they know. Finally, ask them what God is telling them personally from the verse. What a great habit to start in your children of any age!

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  1. Nate Bramsen suggested asking 20 questions about each verse as we study. It keeps me turning the verse over in spite of the fact I find it difficult. I appreciate the encouragement to meditate it is rewarding.

    1. There many ways to help us turn over scripture in our minds. I think we should find one that works for us and that may change over time. I’m glad Nate’s way helps you!



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