Thursday, January 30, 2014

Methods of Scripture Meditation

Given the exhortation in Sunday’s message to be people of the Word, I thought it would be helpful to describe for you one of the best ways to feed on Scripture. While the mainstay of our spiritual diets consists of reading the Bible, the Bible most often exhorts us to meditate on Scripture. Scripture meditation is simply thinking deeply about a short portion of the Word.
Some folks don’t meditate because they don’t know how.  I’d like to give you several methods of meditation that could help you to begin incorporating this discipline into your regular devotional time. Dr. Don Whitney, a professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, teaches on this subject at conferences and churches all over the country.  Most of the methods I’ll share today are from his lectures. 
The first step, of course, is to decide what verse you’d like to use.  It could be from your devotional reading, from a sermon you’ve recently heard, from a passage that you have memorized, etc.  It is usually best to use Scripture that you know well.  Since meditation is thinking deeply about the meaning of a text, we really need to understand the text before we try to meditate on it.  If we have studied it ourselves or heard a message preached on it, we’ll be more likely to meditate based on an accurate interpretation of the passage. It may be a good idea to just take one verse at a time, so that you don’t rush through the job.  Some of these methods will require you to be sitting down with a pen and paper.  Others you will be able to do anywhere.
1. Write the verse in your own words. 
This will require you to take the time to think about what each word means and how it is contributing to the overall meaning of the verse.  You may find it beneficial to re-write it in your own words several different ways.  You can then take the best of the best and make one final paraphrase.  Remember, the objective is not to come up with our own translation.  You simply want to use this as a tool to help you think through the verse and what it means.
2. Look for applications of this text.
Here you can set out to come up with as many practical ways of living the verse as you can.  Again, this forces you to think through exactly what the verse is saying in its context.  Remember, just because you are only meditating on one verse doesn’t mean that you ignore the context.  If you don’t know the context and how the verse fits into the material around it, you might as well not meditate at all because you will end up with wrong conclusions.  That is why I prefer to meditate on verses from books I have studied or passages I have heard preached.
3. Read or recite the verse with emphasis on a different word each time.
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
… not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:9).
Here also, the idea is to think through each word and find how that word is contributing to the meaning of the verse as a whole.
4. Discover a minimum number of insights in the text.
You simply set a number and make that many observations of the verse.  Taking Eph 2:9 above as an example (with the context in mind), I could list the following insights:
            - there is a right way and a wrong way to be saved
            - works will not bring me to salvation
            - God saves by grace so that I may not boast of myself in my salvation
            - I can place no hope in my own works
            - no one has a right to boast before God
5. Ask the “Joseph Hall” questions.
Click the link and you’ll find a pdf of these questions.  They are simply thought provoking questions to ask of a text to generate insights. 
6. Ask the Phil 4:8 questions.
Phil 4:8 reads, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
With this method, you just take your verse and pose questions based on Phil 4:8.  What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?  What is honorable about this?  What is right about this?  What is pure about this or how does it exemplify purity? etc.
This method is particularly useful with narrative portions of Scripture.
7. Finally, pray through the text.
Again, using Eph 2:9 as my text, I could pray, “Lord, I humbly recognize that my salvation is all of grace and has nothing to do with any works done by me.  Please convict me of any boasting in my heart related to my salvation.  Help me to despair of fleshly works, knowing that I am saved by grace alone, and yet help me to be conscious that works should result from your work in my life.”
You don’t need to do all of these each time you meditate.  Just choose one or two.  Try them all eventually and you will find the methods you like best.  It’s important to remember that this isn’t for super Christians only.  We are all called to meditate on Scripture.  If we do, we will be well-equipped to persevere in faithful discipleship.

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