Practicing Lent: Meditating on Bible Stories

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

My favorite novels make my feel as if I’m part of the story. Through the author’s skillful use of word pictures, I can feel the sunshine warm my face or hear the burglar rattle the door. I can see the moon’s reflection on the lake or taste the buttery frosting on a cupcake. I can laugh at the character’s mishaps and cry with her in her pain.

God’s Word is a treasure trove of beautiful stories. Of course, the wonderful thing is that all these stories are true.

Yet Bible stories do have something in common with great novels: they tug at our hearts.

Jesus was the consummate story-teller. In just a few words He helped his listeners envision a forlorn sheep on a bleak hillside or an estranged son returning to his loving father’s arms.

One of my favorite ways to contemplate Scripture is to meditate on Bible stories–especially Gospel stories. Because I’ve known these stories ever since I was old enough to sit on a tiny chair and listen to a Sunday School teacher with a flannelgraph, it’s easy for me to gloss over these well-known accounts and miss their richness. But when I slow down and contemplate them, I notice things I’ve missed before. Jesus helps me see where I am in the story and teaches me truth for my life.

Martin Luther wrote about this way of meditating. He recommended that when we read a Gospel story, we see ourselves as the person coming to Jesus or the one being brought to Him.

When you see how he (Jesus) works, however, and he helps everyone to whom he comes or who is brought to him, then rest assured that faith is accomplishing this in you and that he is offering your soul exactly the same sort of help and favor through the Gospels…Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift. [Grace Upon Grace (p. 102), by John Kleinig]

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Meditating on Bible Stories

To meditate on a Bible story:

  1. Read the text.
  2. Close your eyes and use your five senses to imagine yourself in the story. What might have you seen? smelled? felt? heard? tasted?
  3. Picture yourself as one of the characters of the story. How would you have responded to what is happening? What thoughts would have gone through your mind? What emotions would have bubbled up?
  4. Apply the story to your life in the present. What is the story teaching you about Jesus? How is God wanting you to respond?

John Kleinig, in his excellent book, Grace Upon Grace tells that Luther emphasized two principles in this type of Scripture meditation. One: We are to meditate on the story as the Good News of Christ. Don’t just see the story as a call to obedience. As you meditate on the Gospel story, keep your eyes on Jesus–the giver of grace. Two: Meditate on the story in faith. This is not simply an intellectual exercise; it is a means to grow in trust in our Savior. God’s Word is living and active and works in our hearts to produce faith.

Lenten Meditation

The discipline of meditating on Gospel stories can be especially meaningful during Holy Week. Personally, I want to take the time to “watch” Jesus parade through the streets of Jerusalem. I want to imagine Christ stooping to wash my dusty feet. I want to feel the horror when Jesus announces that one of my colleagues is a traitor. I want to be present in the hush of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Although it might be painful, I want to fully appreciate Christ’s sacrifice for me by meditating on the account of the cross. And I want to relive the joy of the empty tomb and hear the angel say, “He is not here. He is risen!”

 Let’s all take time this week to meditate on the accounts leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through God’s powerful Word, the Holy Spirit will lead us to a deeper appreciation of the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, and the Spirit’s comfort.

God’s Word is more than a novel that takes us to times and places we cannot go. It has life-giving power.

Next step: Click here to access a resource that outlines how to meditate on a Bible story and lists Scripture references of stories relevant to Holy Week. Over the next five days spend some time each day meditating on and receiving grace from God’s Word.

204196 - Copy (2)If you would like more information about Spiritual Disciplines, check out my Bible study book: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal. It is a great way to find rest for your souls. This book can be used for personal or group study. More information here and here.

A Quick Guide to Scripture Meditation

 

scriptureMeditationGuideSit still. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus.

Sounds impossible right?

Meditation can seem difficult and impractical–even intolerable.

Meditation can appear nebulous and mysterious–even an invitation to trouble.

In fact, some types of meditation are dangerous. Eastern meditation emphasizes the emptying of the mind. Jesus warned against this in Luke 11:24-26 where He said an empty mind could be an invitation for evil to take up residence.

But Scripture meditation is different. Instead of emptying the mind, this type of meditation focuses on filling the mind with God’s Word. This type of meditation turns your heart to God’s infinite supply of grace and hope.

Still sitting still and simply thinking can seem difficult–even boring–especially to the person who craves action or thrives on crossing off items on her to-do list.

So here’s some advice for those of you who want to try Scripture meditation, but are a little fuzzy on the process.

1. Don’t expect perfection. You are human. We are living in a world with an average of eight seconds. Your mind will wander. It’s OK. Simply bring your mind back to the Scripture your are meditating on. (Hint: You might want to keep a pad of paper nearby to plunk down distracting, but important things that come to mind.)

2. Know the world will conspire against you. Just as you sit down to concentrate on God’s Word, the neighbor will start up his lawnmower, your phone will announce a tempting text message, your body will ache in a spot that never hurt before. So begin with prayer. Ask God to help you focus. Listen to the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart. (Hint: Determine a time of day that is most likely to be free of interruptions.)

3. Choose a favorite Bible verse and meditate by emphasizing different words. Repeat the verse over and over–each time emphasizing a different word. How does stressing that word change the meaning? For instance, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still–be is a verb, an action word. Stillness doesn’t happen automatically. We must take action to make it happen. Be still–take that word literally and, for now, ignore the laundry in the hamper and the dishes in the sink. Don’t jump up to answer the phone. Be still. (Hint: Other verses to try: Philippians 4:6, Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 40:31)

4. OR Choose a Gospel story and picture yourself in the story. What do you see? smell? hear? touch? taste? Turn your attention to Jesus. How does your heart respond as you meet Him in this story? (Hint: Some stories to try: Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 8:23-27, Luke 17:11-19.)

5. Remember meditation isn’t magical. Meditation is simply a fancy way of saying focused attention. There isn’t anything supernatural about it. (Hint: The miracle isn’t in your mind–it’s in the Word.)

6. But meditation can be transformative. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As we let powerful God’s Word roll around in our hearts and minds it changes us. It makes us more Christ-like. It reminds us of God’s love. It fills our souls with peace. (Hint: Expect God to speak to you through His Word and change you from the inside out.)

Meditation? Sounds hard. Sounds mysterious.

But it is really just focusing on God’s Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts.

Next step: Choose a favorite Bible verse or story and meditate on it for 5 minutes. Journal about what you learned from that time.

Is Meditation Dangerous?

This post is part of the Soul Spa blog tour. My new book is taking a tour around the Internet. You can catch the rest of this post at Natalie Eastman’s website.

Christian meditation focuses on filling

I remember clearly when a friend mentioned he was seeing a counselor who recommended meditation.

“Clear your mind,” the counselor instructed. “Try to empty it completely.”

Red flags immediately shot up in my own mind. “Empty your mind” did not sound like good advice in light of Jesus’ warning that an empty mind may be an invitation for evil to take up residence (Luke 11:24-26). So I warned my friend that this kind of meditation could be dangerous.

But not all meditation is alarming and unsafe. Christian meditation doesn’t aim to empty the mind. Instead, Christian meditation focuses on…

Click here to read more at Natalie Eastman’s site.

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