“In silence and in meditation on the eternal truths, I hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love.”
C. S. Lewis
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
True confessions. Silence is naturally hard for me. I am not usually a quiet person. I love to have music playing while I work. I love to be entertained. The truth is I am probably like most people in the modern age. So when we talk about meditation, I used to get nervous. I think it was because I had a misunderstanding of what Biblical meditation is. But as I gain understanding it has opened up a new world when I choose to engage in Biblical meditation. In this article, I want to help break misconceptions and inspire you to incorporate this practice in your life. If I can learn it anyone can.
Meditation once was thought to be an important discipline for Christians. Contemplative thought was celebrated and encouraged. Christians were people who thought deeply about how life and the scriptures related. However deep thinking has gone to more modern thinking, which is given to us in short doses. Social media has not helped us in our ability to think deeply. Information now comes so fast that our minds can only handle the headline thoughts. Think about the last time you actually read an entire article from a headline you read. Notice that you may just be skimming this magazine article. If so, I caught you! Don’t be embarrassed, our culture is teaching us to think shallow. It is teaching us to think an inch deep and a mile long. We rarely go deep into a subject.
Another enemy of meditation is distraction. As I write this I am constantly reminded of the temptation to be distracted. My phone is the worst. When my text alert goes off I have to muster up all the self-discipline I have to remind myself that I am not bound by any law regarding the timely reading of someone’s text. Even when I am preparing for my Sunday morning sermons I am constantly reeling myself in. How is it when I was researching early Jewish customs on my computer, I ended up watching a video on the new vaccines for Covid? Many of us tell ourselves, “I’ll just be a second”. Then after I have wasted time on that, it will take about 20 minutes to fully reorient myself to what I was doing. It is truly amazing that with all the information out there deep learning and meditation are being left in the dust. I desperately want off that train.
Scripture is clear. We need meditation. Even the secular world sees the value of meditation. God created us for contemplative thinking. There are so many scriptures on this that I would take up all the space here to quote them. Just do a google search and you will find it to be true. God made us to meditate on Him and who He is. As believers, we don’t just center ourselves or think about our inward selves. Our meditation is on our Creator and more specifically His word. Notice the scripture above. Our meditation is on the word of God. You will find that when the Bible talks about meditation it is talking about meditating on God through His word. Much of the time our shallow thinking has taken over and robbed us of deeper thoughts on God. We must stop, take a pause and think about the truths of God. A ministry that I love introduced me to the idea of the 1-minute pause. I have learned to do that periodically. Just take 1 minute to stop and refocus my attention back on my God. I may think about Jesus’ great love for me. I may stop and just thank Him for giving His life for me. I may think about the things that I am facing and remember how big our God is. I may say out of my mouth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Or “God I thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me” “Thank you that you will not leave me alone” but I won’t stop there. I will begin to meditate on what that truth means for me. I have to resist the temptation to think, “Oh, I know this already.” You see that is the trap. I will think about it for a solid minute. You may say, “that couldn’t help” But many times it is just what I need in the middle of the day to reset my mind back on the Lord.
There are many things you can do that will help you on your meditation journey. Just a few bellow
- Find a quiet place. I know, I know, “you don’t know my house.” Which is true. But find something. I used to go out on my lunch break and find a park and that was it for me. Just somewhere the world can’t get to you.
- Take a walk in nature. There are some great parks with trails.
- In the car. Turn off that radio. Yes, even the Christian stuff. Take a moment just you and God. Podcasts and worship music are great but sometimes it can make us lazy. Sometimes we need our own thoughts, not just thoughts created by someone else.
- Memorize some Scriptures that you would like to think about. Write them down and put them where you go regularly. The bathroom vanity is my favorite. Brush your teeth and brush your heart at the same time.
- Stop reading your Bible on your phone. It can be wave after wave of alert interruptions. Also, the google and youtube temptations are way too much for most of us
- Start journaling. Journaling is a great way to meditate and think deeply. Make your journaling part of your prayer. Writing out prayers is a wonderful discipline. Who knows you might go back later and see how God has answered them.
- The biggest thing is to begin with something. Even if it is small. Believe me, you will grow in it.
If we have ever needed the practice of meditation, it is now. There is so much instability in our world. In a world that pushes the immediate stimulation of our minds, let’s push back against that. It will take some effort to push back but I promise you the rewards are life-changing. Remember that God is an ever-present help in time of need. Let us make a decision to be people that invite Him in. Let’s become people that meditate on our amazing God! Let us commit to reclaim the lost art of meditation.
“Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came though, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two.”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
So it’s here again. Christmas time is here. So let’s crank up that Bing Crosby or the Michael Bublé version of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. Like it or not, it’s here. Even with all the online shopping , the stores will still be bustling with people searching for that one gift that their loved one can’t live without.
This time of year is so different from all the others. There is just something about Christmas. All the stores and city streets are decorated with Christmas cheer. You see it everywhere you go. Driving in the neighborhoods you see it as well. The neighborhoods turn into a competition for the unspoken champion of the light displays. From the simple blow up Santa and reindeer to the full fledged computer generated, syncopated light and music extravaganza. The cars driving down the road with the Christmas trees securely tied to the roof. The conversation in the car goes something like this, “Oh I’m sure this huge tree is not too big for our living room.” The families get home and try not to fight over how to properly decorate the newly purchased tree. Ah…. Christmas.
But wait, what about Jesus? Did we forget about Jesus? My conclusion in the past was to get angry about the “commercialization” of Christmas. Santa, the reindeer, the lights, decorations, the trees, and the gifts, what does all this have to do with the birth of the Savior of the world? I used to get so mad about it, but much like the Grinch I have had a change of heart. Now I look at it quite differently. Do I wish there would be a greater demonstration of the birth of Jesus? Of course I do. That would be nice for sure, but maybe I could look at it all in a different way. My realization came while shopping in a store one Christmas. I was looking for a gift for my wife when I realized I was hearing “Silent Night” playing on the speakers throughout the store. I stopped and listened to the words and was reminded in the middle of that store decorated with Santa and the elves, Christmas trees and twinkling lights, the reason why everything was decorated was to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Maybe no one in that store had that realization, but I did. In that moment I made up my mind to look at all the decorations differently. I could get mad or I could use all of the fanfare of the Christmas season to remind me of why Christmas is important to me.
And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Now I enjoy the season in a new and profound way. Whenever I see all the twinkling lights I think about Jesus being the light of the world and how He shines His light into my own darkness. When I see the Christmas tree, I think of the life of God that I have in me because of what happened in that little town of Bethlehem. When I receive that gift from a loved one I think of the ultimate gift from the One who loves me the most. When I hear “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” I think of the joy that is in my heart because of God’s great love for me. I know this could sound a bit sappy, but couldn’t this year use a little bit of sappiness? It is all in the way we look at it. We have to be careful that we don’t just develop that critical heart about everything. We can use what we see around us to make us mad or we can use it to bring joy to our hearts. I choose joy. What about you? The challenge as we approach this Christmas season is to choose to let the decorations remind you of the real “reason for the season.” I choose to think about it like this. All these people decorated their houses, stores, and city streets, so I could be reminded of the most important event in human history. God loved me so much that He sent Jesus to provide salvation to me for all of my wrong I have done. I didn’t deserve it but God did it anyway. That is what Christmas means to me and through that lens I choose to see everything else. Let this Christmas season be different. Let’s be reminded in all that we see that God still loves us. I challenge you the next time you hear a faith filled Christmas song this year, stop and take note. Maybe God is trying to get your attention to help you remember. Maybe like God did for my Grinch heart that day, your heart will grow three sizes too.
Ahh.. Christmas, It is truly the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
We moved into our current house about four years ago. It is a ranch style house with a full-length basement. When we moved in, the basement was not finished. For us it was like a blank canvas. We knew we were going to finish at least a portion of it and began dreaming about what it could be. One item on our list for the basement was a bedroom for our 18-year-old daughter. We made it happen. She got her basement bedroom. She was thrilled. Did I mention that we live in a heavily wooded area? We are nature lovers so we love the occasional deer that passes by, the squirrels, birds and all the other creatures that we can watch from our screened in porch. What we do not like about it is the insect critters. We especially the 8-legged ones. We hired the bug guy to keep them out. Why? Because we do not cohabitate with spiders. If they enter my domain, they are subject to my wrath. My daughter in the basement sees more than we do upstairs. Rachel is fearless and has become quite handy with a shoe to pass judgement on any creepy critter that enters her domain. As I said before we do not cohabitate with spiders.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9
According to the scriptures we do not live in this world unopposed. We have an enemy that is bent on our demise. People get the brunt of his attacks. We can simply look around and see the destruction that he causes. We need to remember this truth. Good God, bad devil. If we are not careful, we can get this mixed up and accuse God of things that are clearly the work of our enemy. According to Jesus “the devil comes only to steal, kill and destroy but I (Jesus) have come to bring life to the full.”(John 10:10) We have a clear enemy and he has a clear purpose.
We also need to understand that our enemy has ways he operates. Most all his attacks come by one way. That way is deception. Deception is the devil’s calling card. It is what he does best. Listen to how Jesus describes the devil. “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) He lies to you and me. The devil’s number one tool in his arsenal is trying to get you to believe something that is not true. He does this in many ways.
First the devil will lie to you about who God is. Have you ever had these thoughts? “God has abandoned you” “You are so bad that God doesn’t love you anymore.” “Because of what you have done, God has turned his back on you.” “You will have to do a lot to make God like you again.” Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? These are very normal lies that the enemy tries to put on us. These are all thoughts that most of us have had. The devil wants to lie to us about who God is. The truth is that God will always love us. We can always come back to him, no matter what. God is for you and the devil does not want you to believe that. Secondly the devil wants to lie to you about who you are. Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind? “You are worthless.” “You will never….” “No one really likes you” “You will never be happy” What about this one? “You don’t have what it takes” Thoughts like these can literally take your breath away. These thoughts come in like a gut punch. If we are not careful, they can take us out.
So, what does all this have to do with spiders? Like spiders we should not cohabitate with these lies. How do you cohabitate with a lie? You agree with it. How you deal with these lies will determine if the enemy will accomplish his destruction in your life. How many bouts of depression began by the devil serving up a lie and we believed it? How many relationships were ruined because the devil told a lie like… “they don’t really care about you. We need to crush those lies that try to bring destruction to us. How do we crush those spiders? We take out the big shoe of the truth and crush that lie! We remind ourselves what God says about us. We remind ourselves that we are indeed loved by God. We remind ourselves that if God is for us, who can be against us. A practice of mine is to find out what the Bible says about what I am thinking and begin to think on the truth rather than the lie. Google can be your best friend on this. Just do a search on “What does the Bible say about….” When you do, write it down and put it where you can see it. When we started our church, the devil was always in my head that we would not have enough money. That was the lie the devil was using to attack me. So I went to the Bible and started finding scriptures that spoke about God’s provision. This was the scripture I clung to, And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinth 9:8) I crushed that lie with what God said. I began to say “Hope Church will have plenty and we will have extra to bless others! That has been our story so far. The devil tried to get me to believe a lie. But God’s word crushed that spider. We need to have that kind of tenacity. We don’t just agree with every thought that crawls in in our mind. We need to judge every thought by what God says about it.
One final thought. Sometimes we hit that spider and it does not die. It is still moving. We have all done this. We get a tissue and put our thumb on it and we crush it again until it crunches. I know gross, right? But it drives the point home. Sometimes that lie just keeps coming. We need to continue to put pressure on that lie until it crunches. We do not cohabitate with spiders and we do not cohabitate with lies from the devil. So next time you find that critter in your home or car and you crush that critter remember that God’s truth will crush every lie of the enemy. It is time to crush all the lies of our enemy! We can do it through the truth of God’s word. Crush the lie until it does not move anymore. Crush the lie until it crunches!
The Trouble with Trouble.
“In this world you will have trouble….”
“So, I am being let go because of downsizing?” Those were my internal thoughts as I tried to process what I had just heard. Fear began to grip me as I started to realize the implications of what I was hearing. My wife is 8 months pregnant with our first born. We had just started getting somewhere financially and now this. I immediately began to think of the injustice of it all. After all, there was this guy that was close to the boss that didn’t like me, and I know he spread lies about me. I am stuck with the reality of losing my job. Now I must go home and tell my wife that I lost my job. I am in trouble.
People have said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Songs have been written about it as well. Also, people have said that “tough times make you stronger.” Both statements are incorrect. You do not have to be around long to have seen people that have gone through trouble and it does not make them stronger. The trouble they faced crushed them. Whether they fell prey to the trap of drugs or drinking or any other unhealthy coping methods, the trouble did not make them stronger it took them out. So, it is not the trouble that makes you stronger it’s the way you handle trouble that can make you stronger. How we handle the trouble we face is the most important thing to determine how we will come out the other side. There are many ways to handle trouble.
There are some very destructive ways to deal with trouble. The first is that we put our head in the ground and pretend nothing is wrong. Many times, these troubles are situations of addiction or bad behavior that are causing relational trouble, health trouble or financial trouble. If we pretend that it’s not there, we do not have to deal with it. The result is that the problem continues to grow, and the consequences of those problems grow with it. I have seen too many people wait too long to identify or admit problems in their life only for the consequence to be overwhelming. Another thing people do is similar but different. Some people just ignore it. They know there is a problem but choose to ignore it. It’s like a drain problem in your sink. Some people think if you just ignore it Maybe the sink will just clear on its own. Many people take the approach that “It’s not that bad.” or if I ignore it will go away. Doing nothing seems like the easiest approach but it can have terrible consequences. We take the “Maybe an opportunity will just present itself.” approach. This rarely happens and the results can be devastating. The last thing people do is to blame someone else. This is what I faced in my situation with my job. I had every reason to blame someone and I felt that I was justified in blaming. Plus, my boss knew my wife was pregnant surely if he had a heart, he wouldn’t have let me go. This can sometimes be the most destructive and long term detrimental to us. When we allow bitterness and unforgiveness it does many things to our health not to mention our future. Dealing with trouble this way certainly does not make you stronger.
The main problems with these ways of dealing with trouble is the inaction it causes. Inaction during trouble usually causes more trouble. When I was fired from my job my mortgage company did not care that I had been wronged or mistreated. My wife felt bad for me but she wanted to know where my next paycheck was coming from. You see, I couldn’t wait for my feelings to catch up or my “want to” to be strong enough. I needed action right then. I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t just complain and post something terrible on social media. My situation demanded that I act.
So what are the actions that we need to take. The answers are as many as the troubles we face. But there are some common things we should do. First thing we need to do is to invite our loving God into the situation. Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, so this trouble did not take Him by surprise. Invite His wisdom, forgiveness, comfort and yes, His help in this situation. This is the first step because this will help you gain proper perspective about the troubling situation. Next is to seek council. Maybe it is dealing with your child or marriage. Find someone older in experience that you respect. Remember older does not always mean wiser. We all know that to be true, don’t we? Find people that have been where you are and are on the other side of the trouble you are in now. Gain wisdom and utilize the wisdom you gain from those conversations. We have couples in our church that have been happily married for 50+ years. 50+ married and happy? Listen to people like that.
Lastly, stay humble and patient. We hate both of those words. They are, however, critical. Humility, God may want to teach us a thing or two. Maybe there is a blind spot in our character that He wants to heal and make right. Maybe He wants to take us to a new direction in our lives. He loves us enough to correct us, as parents we know this to be true. God corrects us because He loves us. Maybe God wants to teach us some things. What was my lesson from my ordeal? Patience and stay teachable.
I will finish my story up quickly. I was out of work for a month. I was applying but no one was hiring. I did some odd jobs here and there but nothing permanent. Finally, I got a job. It was a 1hr and 30 min commute. I had to travel down 400 to 285 and across to Highway 78. If you know Atlanta, you just gasped. This was a terrible commute. Humility caused me to take that job. I got the job, worked two days and my wife gave birth to our first-born daughter. I did what I had to for my family. Humble enough to know that God had a plan and I could trust Him. The next part of the story is my favorite. After a year and a half, my old boss called me and let me know he had fired the wrong person. He offered me more money to come back to work for him. It was also 15 minutes from my house. I accepted. It turned out better than it was before. What did God teach me? Don’t hold on to bitterness and that God is perfect in His plan. This scripture became more than just a cool saying. It became real.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 NLT
My trouble made me stronger. Why? Because trouble makes you stronger? No, because of the way I handled the trouble that was in front of me. The trouble with trouble is that it is not a guarantee of becoming stronger. It is an opportunity to become stronger. Invite God into your trouble, face it head on and watch what happens. By the way, now the rest of that scripture I quoted at the beginning.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”