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In the remake of the movie The Karate Kid, Jackie Chan says to Jayden Smith, “Your focus needs more focus.”  In a recent sermon, Pastor Ralph encouraged us to “Put off the old self and put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:20-24).  Put off anger, doubt, depression, discouragement, dread, fear, worry, and all the other ungodly things that can fill us and cloud our thinking.  Identify the negative things within us and let them go.  Be aware that Satan sees empty spaces in our lives as opportunities.  So, just as soon as we have made space, consider how God wants us to fill that space.  Put on God’s wisdom, a changed heart, a different attitude, and a determination to serve the Lord.

Pastor Ralph also said in this sermon, “Start with the right priority,” and encouraged us to begin each day with God, even if it is only two or three minutes in the beginning.  In April 2017, Lifeway Research asked this question among Americans:  How much of the Bible have you personally read?  The responses:  

  • 10% - none of it
  • 13% - only a few sentences
  • 30% - several passages or stories
  • 15% - at least half of it
  • 12% - almost all of it
  • 11% - all of it
  • 9% - all of it more than once

While polls/surveys are not always a reliable source, the number of people who read and apply the scriptures to their lives continues to dwindle.  Bible illiteracy is currently called a “scandal,” an “epidemic,” a “crisis,” and a “big problem.”  Where do we fall in the above statistics?  Do we ever complete our Bible reading for the day, close the Bible, mentally check it off our list, and then totally forget what we just read?  Or, has daily Bible reading become a hit or miss event?  Or, have we just abandoned it completely and depend on Bible Study and sermons for our once, maybe twice-a-week, spiritual feeding?  What can we do to “focus our focus” and “start with the right priority?” 

Recently, I received a booklet from Our Daily Bread Ministries entitled “Biblical Meditation:  Developing a Heart for God.”  The booklet defines biblical meditation, its benefits, and gives suggestions as how to meditate on Scripture.  Could biblical meditation enrich our time in God’s Word and increase our desire to learn more about God and what He has written to us? Could it help us begin 2020 with the right priority? 

Let’s clarify that biblical meditation is not to be associated with transcendental or western meditation which focuses on inner peace, or emptying our minds, or using our reasoning capacity.  Biblical meditation seeks to purge what should not be within us and fill our hearts and minds with scripture, truth, God’s presence, and a commitment to God’s purposes.  Listed below are some of the things involved in biblical meditation: 

  • Come into God’s presence and ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to understand, to feel, to hear, and to act based on His Word.
  • Submit to God’s presence and truth.
  • Focus on God’s presence and God’s thoughts.
  • “Ponder” (think about, reflect on) who God is, what He has done.
  • Align our present life with God’s will for us.

The challenge is to develop the mental discipline of being able to close off our responsibilities, troubles and worries for specific time intervals.  Let our goal be spiritual contemplation that focuses on God, His Word and His thoughts. 

Listed below are some of the scriptures that support biblical meditation: 

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8) 

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, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) 

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. (Psalm 143:5). 

Suggestions for biblical meditation:

  1. Begin by selecting a Bible verse (longer portions of scripture or chapters can be used later as we gain experience. (Read the surrounding verses to get the setting and an understanding of the verse.)  We might want to read this verse in several translations.
  2. Write the verse in longhand on a 3x5 card. (Or, highlight it on the Bible app on our phone/computer/other electronic device.
  3. Memorize the verse.
  4. Study the text. Contemplate each word.  What does it tell us about who God is, His plan, His work?  How do we respond to this verse (in prayer, in obedience)?
  5. Pray for God to give you guidance to understand the text.
  6. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to and through the text. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you.  He is our secret weapon and will guide, teach, correct, encourage and strengthen us as we meditate on God’s Word.
  7. Consider the benefits of nighttime contemplations of scripture, particularly just before you go to sleep. Practice beginning and ending each day meditating on God’s Word.

Let’s look at a verse we have already memorized: 

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. (Psalm 23:1) 

The Lord is—He is the only Lord and ruler over all, creator of the universe, all-powerful, compassionate, forgiving, just, holy, loving, merciful, faithful, righteous, wise, unchanging, unshakable, our comforter, our intercessor, our refuge, sovereign. 

My Shepherd—He is MY Shepherd who leads by example, affirms, comforts, corrects, encourages, listens, guides, protects, sets boundaries, provides safety and life, laid down His life for us, knows us, and gives us a sense of belonging. 

I shall not be in want—He is our provider.  All our needs are supplied by the Lord our Shepherd, be satisfied and thankful for what the Lord our Shepherd has given us.  Daily make the decision to trust God to supply our needs.     

From this example, go to other favorite chapters or verses such as: 

Psalm 121

Proverbs 3:5-6

Isaiah 41:10

Romans 1:16-17

Romans 15:13 

Since all Christian forms of meditation are open to God’s presence and perspective, sometimes the things God reveals to us result in prayer to thank God, ask His guidance and wisdom in a particular situation, ask for forgiveness for a particular sin, or ask for His help in determining and developing action steps for what He wants to do in our lives.  This is not a lack of focus; it is following the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Once we’ve prayed, we can return to our Christian/biblical meditation.  

As I worked on this blog, Christian meditation has often been typed “Christian medication” and I’ve had to go back and make corrections.  To meditate on God’s Word is, in a sense, “Christian medication” indeed.  Prescribed medication can be effective, ineffective and sometimes even deadly.  A daily “dose” of spending time in God’s Word, seeking His presence and His will, and getting to know Him better will always be beneficial and effective.  Let us resolve to start this year with the right priority by studying God’s Word.  Our focus will have more focus.     

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When Does A Good Thing Become The Wrong Thing?

This past year, our Bible Study group studied People of the Promised Land Part I which included Joshua, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, I Kings 1:11, overviews of Psalms and Proverbs, and some parallel scriptures in 1 and 2 Chronicles.  One of our lessons covered in 2 Samuel 6 which includes a failed attempt to move the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and then a successful effort at the end of the chapter.  This chapter made me want to dig deeper into Scripture to try and understand some of the reasons the first attempt to move the Ark failed and the second attempt succeeded.

In the beginning of 2 Samuel 6, David was established as king over all Israel and it was his desire to establish a central place of worship for his people.  To accomplish this, the Ark of the Covenant needed to be brought from Kiriath Jearim (I Samuel 7:1-2) where it had been for 20 years.  Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem would be an important step toward providing a specific place of worship for all of Israel, and would enable the Israelites to feel the almighty presence, power and glory of God. David presented his plan to the whole assembly of Israel (I Chronicles 13:1-4) and they agreed because this seemed the right thing to do.  David then took 30,000 of the chosen men of Israel to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.  (There is no indication in the first part of this chapter that David inquired of the Lord before he made this attempt to move the Ark.) 

The Ark was removed from Abinadab’s house, set on a new cart, and Uzzah and Ahio (sons of Abinadab) guided the new cart.  As they traveled, David and the whole house of Israel celebrated before the Lord with all their might.  Suddenly, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out and took hold of the Ark to keep it safe.  Scripture tells us that God’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act, God struck him down, and he died beside the Ark of God.  Immediately the celebration stopped.  David was first angry and then afraid because of God’s wrath against Uzzah, and he left the Ark with Obed-Edom for three months. 

As we study these verses, we might be stunned that Uzzah’s punishment was so severe when his actions appear to be well-meant and instinctive.  Then, we have to remember that God sees the heart of each one of us and He could see the heart of Uzzah. God’s harsh punishment indicates Uzzah’s action went deeper than just an automatic reflex.  In Exodus 25:10-22 and Numbers 4:5-6, 15, God gave specific instructions for the Ark.  It was never to be transported on a cart.  It was designed to be carried and it was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath.  Even those designated to carry the Ark could not come near it until the priests had covered it.  They also could not touch the Ark except by the poles provided to transport it. 

How do we explain Uzzah’s behavior since he must have been aware of the guidelines for moving the Ark?  We know the Ark had been in his father’s house for 20 years. Could Uzzah have become so accustomed to it being there that it became a familiar object and he forgot what it represented and failed to give it the reverence it deserved?  Did he not know the instructions for carrying the Ark?  Was he just following orders?  Had he begun to see no difference between the Ark of God and any other valuable object? We don’t really know all the answers but we do know that Uzzah was wrong in thinking it didn’t matter who carried the ark or how it was carried.  Like many of us, he most likely had good intentions but he had forgotten God’s instructions. 

In the last part of Chapter 6, we learn David became aware that God was richly blessing the house of Obed-Edom where the Ark had been left, and he made another attempt to bring the Ark to the City of David.  In I Chronicles 15:1-28, David inquired of the Lord about the prescribed way to move the ark.  The second time, David moved the Ark God’s way, and this time he was successful. 

Our group then discussed what lessons we learned from 2 Samuel 6 and the following are some highlights:

  • Moving the ark (the first time) was a good thing but it was done the wrong way.
  • Man’s way cannot be substituted for God’s way—God’s work must be done God’s way.
  • Doing good things is worthless if not accompanied by obedience to God’s commands.
  • Don’t attempt to ‘harness’ (or ‘hitch’) God’s presence to our new carts (a new ministry, a big, new production, a new way of doing things, or a new thing we want to do), and then go forth in our own strength and expect God to bless our efforts. Seek God first before we begin any work for Him.
  • While New Testament believers are told to approach the throne of grace with confidence because Jesus is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:16), we must never forget that we are also to come reverently to God with a desire to listen, obey, praise and worship Him.
  • Ask God to give us a greater awareness of how holy and majestic He is.
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