On the Meditation of Scripture

David declares, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, NASB)

As Christians, we should love God’s law. Peter says we desire it like new born babies desire milk (1 Peter 2:2). It should be our constant meditation. Unfortunately, many of us do not know how to meditate. Our impression of meditation is sitting with our legs crossed while humming.

Meditation is not that. The word used for meditation can also mean reflection, prayer, musing, and devotion. In other words, it is something you think about. Of course, there are a variety of ways to think about something. This word, however, gives the impression of eagerness and delight. For example, when I come home from work, my children run out shrieking with excitement. It is seriously one of my favorite parts of my day. I think about it throughout the day with increasing excitement. I imagine their smiling, fruit snack-covered faces giving me kisses. I muse on it. Or, to put it in a biblical way, I meditate on it.

That is the idea here. The question, then, is how do we do this?

As with many things in the Christian life, there are a variety of ways to meditate on Scripture. Depending upon your personality and way of learning, you may meditate differently. For some, meditation takes place with pen and paper (I am thinking of Jonathan Edwards here). For others, it may take the form of writing songs (perhaps an Isaac Watts?). The list could go on, but one thing I have found helpful is to briefly jot down some main thoughts.

In order to provide some structure for this, I created a little document I call “Personal Notes on Scripture Reading.” You are free to download it here: Personal Notes on Scripture Reading

I organized it in a way that suits my study habits and personal quirks. Let me breakdown what I have, and perhaps it will help you meditate on God’s Word.

PASSAGE READ

This would be the Scripture you read. It may be several chapters, a chapter, or a section of verses. It simply depends upon your time and ability to consume Scripture. Don’t worry about the amount you read, focus on the content of what you read.

MAIN THOUGHTS

What are the main thoughts of the passage? Is is a story? Is it a letter? The literary genres in Scripture are vast. The different people and points are also expansive. The idea here is to capture the main points (or thoughts) of the passage. This will help you remember what you read throughout the day. (For a little more treatment on this, check out this post.) Besides help in remembering what you read, this also helps in writing the thoughts in your own words. In other words, it helps with retention.

THOUGHTS FOR FURTHER INQUIRY

The third section is for questions that come up during your reading. In my example, my question for Psalm 119:71 is, “Why does affliction bring about greater learning of God’s

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Word?”

When reading Scripture, we need to be asking questions. Will this create more work? Yes, it will. However, it will yield fruit lasting for years. Imagine if you took a few more minutes each day to read Scripture in this way. The gems mined from your daily readings would invigorate your love for God’s Word. It would provide a feast for you for years to come. It would help you understand God, His ways, and our purpose, with ever-increasing clarity. 

 

PRAYER POINTS

The last section of my “Personal Notes on Scripture Reading” is called prayer points. What I am looking for here is how can this shape my prayer life. Using Psalm 119:71 as an example, I wrote, “Rather than praying for the removal from affliction, I should pray for learning during affliction.” This is a personal application. I can easily turn that to a prayer for my family, friends, my students, their families, our church, etc.

Every verse or passage may not lend itself to easy application. It may take more work to fill in this chart for a narrative than for an epistle. But you know what? As I continue to learn and apply God’s Word, I find myself, more and more, crying out “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

 

How do you meditate on God’s Word? I would love to hear about it!

 

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Edwards and Self-Examination: Remembering Life Without Christ

We read in Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV),

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Paul, encouraged the Gentile believers to constantly remember their estate before Christ. He wanted them to remember their hopelessness, so they could marvel at God’s amazing grace (see Ephesians 2:8-).

We, like the Gentile believers, are in need of remembrance. How easy is it to forget that we were once lost, completely blinded by sin, and spiritually dead! We are all prone to this forgetfulness. Which is why we need to obey Paul’s exhortation to remember.

I am currently reading through Iain Murray‘s biography on Jonathan Edwards. It is, second only to the Bible, my favorite book. I love Jonathan Edwards, and I am always personally challenged when I read about his life.

As I was reading, I came across this reference to Edwards’ dairy. Though it is long, I think it is helpful to reproduce here for our own edification. May we, as we read Mr. Edwards’ words, be propelled to contemplate on our own wickedness in order to marvel at the majestic grace of God. Edwards writes,

Often, since I lived in this town, I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently to such a degree as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together; so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, than ever I had before my conversion. It has often appeared to me that if God should mark iniquity against me I should appear the very worst of all mankind-of all that have been, since the beginning of the world to this time, and that I should have by far the lowest place in hell.

My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge or mountains over my hear. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mount, ‘Infinite upon infinite…Infinite upon infinite!’ When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.

I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God; and, when I ask for humility, I cannot bear the thoughts of being no more humble than other Christians. It seems to me, that though their degrees of humility may be suitable for them, yet it would be a vile self-exaltation in my, not to be the lowest in humility of all mankind. Others speak of their longing to be ‘humbled to the dust’, that may be a proper expression for them, but I always think of myself, that I ought, and it is an expression that has long been natural for me to use in prayer, ‘to lie infinitely low before God.’ And it is affecting to think, how ignorant I was, when a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy and deceit, left in my heart.

(Jonathan Edwards in Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008 reprint), 101-102.

This kind of self-examination is needed. We need to remember what we were, but before Christ saved us and even after He saved us. We are all creatures of His exquisite grace, and were it not for His wonderful grace we would all perish under the righteous wrath of God.

Paul, shortly after penning the words found in Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV), writes “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

 

 

 

 

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4 Ways to Minister Like the Angels: A Word from T. Manton

In his exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Manton provides biblical insight, pastoral application, and enthusiastic advice. Jesus prays in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (NKJV)

In developing the idea of the execution of God’s will on earth like it is in heaven, T. Manton discusses the angels. One thing I love about the Puritans is they were extremely practical. “How does this apply to my life?” was a question they incessantly asked of every passage of Scripture.

Manton mentions four ways you and I can minister like the angels.

“IN CONFORMITY TO THE ANGELS, WE MUST SERVE GOD READILY” (148)

As Scripture pictures angels with wings (see Isaiah 6:2) to execute God’s will swiftly, so we must seek to do God’s will in haste. Manton remarks in his typical fashion, “It is not enough to keep God’s commandments, but we must make haste; that is, before the strength of the present impulsion be lost, and those fervours which are upon us be cooled.” (Manton, “Works,” Volume 1, 148)

One way to minister like the angels is to do so immediately.

“WILLINGLY AND CHEERFULLY, WITHOUT MURMURING” (148)

How many of us are guilty of begrudgingly serving our Lord? We ‘do’ His will because we have to do so. In this we are more like the devils, as Manton remarks, than the angels.

He writes, “When we do things with reluctancy, murmuringly, we are more like the devils than the angels. When the devils obey his word, they are forced to do so by the absolute power of Christ; yet they do it not with willingness and freeness, as the good angels do.” (Manton, “Works,” Volume 1, 148)

Does our execution of God’s will mimic the angels, or the demons?

“CONSTANTLY AND UNWEARIEDLY” (148)

We are prone to weakness of the body. Our spirits give up after long bouts with temptation. We are reminded to “not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9, NKJV)

This is why a daily time with God is so vital. We need God’s grace to be saved. We need God’s grace to be like Him. Manton remarks, “God in communion is ever new and fresh to them; the face of their heavenly Father is as lovely as at the first moment; no weariness or satiety creeps upon those good spirits. Thus should we do it without weariness, and then we shall reap if we faint not.” (Manton, “Works,” Volume 1, 148-149)

Be like the angels and constantly do God’s will (in His strength, of course!).

“FAITHFULLY, NOT PICKING AND CHOOSING” (149)

The angels do God’s will regardless of what it is. For personal edification, using a concordance (or a online Bible), look up angels and see the variety of tasks to which they are assigned. They always do God’s will.

Like the angels, you and I are assigned different tasks. Perhaps we are given a glorious work (like announcing the arrival of the Messiah, Luke 1:8-14). Or, we may be given a behind-the-scenes task (like ministering to saints throughout the ages, Hebrews 1:14). Either way, we never read of angels bucking at God’s will or only doing part of it.

One important point Manton makes is, “‘They hearken to the voice of his word,’ whatever it be, be it to ascend or descend. So we, if it be to go backward for God, though it be against the bent of our hearts.” (Manton, “Works,” Volume 1, 149)

Has God called us to descend? Let us do it with trust in our sovereignly, good Heavenly Father.

These are four ways we can minister like the angels. Let us always, in all places, circumstances, and experiences, pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, NKJV)

3 Ways to Exercise Yourself to Godliness

It has been a while since my last posting. Life and ministry have a way of overrunning us if we let it! With that said, I have been reading Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry, printed by the Banner of Truth Trust.

It has been an amazing book. I should underline what does not speak to me as this may save me some ink! Seriously though, the book has been incredibly fruitful.

One thing that Bridges discusses that is of vital importance is the reading of Scripture as it relates to godliness. Though lengthy, I want to provide his paragraph for your digestion.

“’Exercise thyself unto godliness’—was one of the wise rules of the Apostle to his beloved son, for the course of his Ministry; a rule, which bears with most important application to the noviciate. Its connection with the rule of study in the succeeding context is worthy of remark. ‘Giving attendance to reading,’ without active energy, would form a most incomplete and inefficient ministry. The want of exercise is as hurtful to the spiritual as to the bodily system; nor will ‘reading’ communicate any benefit, except its results are operative in Christian activity. Equally important is the combination with prayer. In fact, study, prayer, and exercise, may be said to form the minister. Study stores the mind, prayer infuses a divine influence, exercise carries out the resources into effective agency.” (Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry, 63-64)

Christians should read the Bible, and many often do. However, how we read is more important than simply reading. How many of us are guilty of reading a passage in the morning and completely forgetting what we read by lunch? Are we truly exercising ourselves to godliness? Are we giving ourselves a good workout toward Christ-likeness?

What are some ways we can combat this? How can we exercise ourselves to godliness?

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH ACTIVE READING

First, by being active in our reading. When we read we can ask questions, like:

  • Who is this passage talking about?
  • What is going on?
  • What is being said?
  • What does this passage teach me about God?

The questions could go on and on. Active reading can also take the shape of diagramming the verses. It can be jotting the main points down in the margin of the Bible or in a separate journal. Though the method may vary, the point is to be active.

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH DIGESTION OF WHAT YOU ARE READING

In his book, Changed Into His Image, Dr. Jim Berg discusses the MAP method for meditating on Scripture. The “P” is “Personalize the passage.” (Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, 298-299)

He goes on to write,

“Plan concrete changes in your life that are consistent with your understanding of the passage. Such plans would include schedules, steps, and details.” (Berg, Changed, 299)

Exercising yourself to godliness includes putting what you read into practice. When you read verses about praying, you change your habits of prayer to reflect what the Scriptures are teaching.

EXERCISE YOURSELF TO GODLINESS THROUGH CONSISTENCY

The analogy Mr. Bridges uses is one of physical exercise. The human body responds to exercise. When someone lifts weights, they tear down their muscles. During the healing process, the muscles become stronger in order to lift the weight effectively. Through continued weightlifting, the individual develops stronger muscles. He can now lift weights he was unable to do so previously.

If, however, he skips a few months, the weightlifter returns to square one. In a similar way (though not precisely), we need to exercise ourselves continually. We must consistently read, meditate, and apply Scripture in order to grow in godliness.

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

So, how are you doing? Are you exercising yourself to godliness? Are you actively reading God’s Word? Are you digesting what you are reading? Are you doing so consistently?