Christian Meditation

In February 1978, I sensed God call me to spend a summer volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel (a communal farm that provides room and board for six days of work). I asked friends to help me discern if I heard God correctly. Some were pretty sure it was from God, and others were certain it wasn’t. After deliberation, I decided to go, but not until April.

The deadline to register as a volunteer had passed a month earlier (this was in the days before internet, email, or fax; though indoor plumbing was making a splash). I still thought I heard God invite me to go, so I drained my savings and bought a plane ticket.

When I boarded a plane May 2nd, with my last $300 in my pocket, not a soul in Israel knew I was coming. And I had no idea what to do when I got there.

My itinerary took me from Detroit to London (where I visited friends), then to Athens for a two-hour layover, and finally to Tel Aviv. When I arrived in Athens, I discovered my two-hour layover wasn’t two hours but a day and two hours. The hostels were full and hotels cost about $100.

To kill time as I figured out a plan, I visited the famous Acropolis. While sitting on its steps, high above the city, some tourist-kids began to talk with me. It turned out that they were middle-school students from Israel on a field trip to Greece. (I was jealous: my Detroit field trips took me to its sewage and water-purification plant.) They introduced me to their chaperone.

That chaperone happened to be the world-wide head of the kibbutz volunteer program.

He heard my story, suggested the perfect kibbutz for my situation, gave me money for a taxi from Tel Aviv to his office, handwrote a letter for me to give his secretary, and invited me to have dinner and spend the night with him and his school kids.

Christian Meditation

Christian meditation is a gift from God to help us see him. Unlike Eastern meditation, which empties the mind, Christian meditation fills the mind, with God’s words or his actions. In my book Hearing God in Conversation I describe four biblical methods for learning to hear God in meditation. But Scripture itself recommends many more.

One of its best recommendations is a type of active remembering. King David wrote,

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands. (Ps. 143:5)

Meditation of this form—Active Remembrance—involves the recollection of an act of God, then a vigorous reflecting on what it reveals of God, and finally integrating that truth into our lives.

Scripture overflows with divine miracles. One spillover from all those stories is the consistency of God. He’s exactly the same today as then. We can ponder the work of his hand in Scripture, and we can also reflect on his work in our lives today.

My accidental layover in Athens was no accident.

What Stirred Me?

The “work of God’s hand” in my travel story reveals many of God’s attributes, but one in particular strikes me: God loves to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It is a pattern in which he delights. From Joseph triumphing through betrayal and imprisonment, to an enemy army pressing the Israelites against the Red Sea, to Gideon vanquishing the Midianites with 300 men. God loves to turn events upside down.

J. R. R. Tolkien coined a phrase for this. He calls it a eu-catastrophe (a “beautiful calamity”), when evil is unraveled, bad is transformed into good, and sorrows are swallowed up in joy.

In my current stresses, I’ve been acting like the disciples on Easter morning, living life without the resurrection. Today, I’m remembering what I’ve forgotten.

In Christian Meditation.

Sam

P. S. Try it. Recall a time God acted in your life. And then meditate on it; Actively remember it: what do his actions reveal about him? How will your life be better by holding this truth about God close? Consider sharing your story below as a comment.

It’s not that God is silent, we just haven’t learned how to recognize his voice.

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18 thoughts on “Christian Meditation

  1. Our God loves to surprise us!! We call that “grace.” No one goes to Israel without a story of glitches, happenstances, coincidences, “chance” encounters. It makes me wonder “what in the world is God up to now?” So grateful to on the journey!!! (and glad Sam is too!) – Steve

  2. So often in times of doubt, our default mode is just to think and think: we recycle our own thoughts right into confusion, anxiety, and depression. All this time, He is already in the future and knows what He will do. But we keep thinking and processing, and our problems get bigger and God seems smaller. Instead, we should roll it all off onto Him, and let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, focusing on His strength and power, and mighty deeds of old, letting His peace rule in our hearts as we thank Him by faith for what’s ahead. We forget that the sanctifying work He is doing in our hearts is making us more like Christ; this is how we reflect God’s glory to the world. Thank you for sharing this testimony of the building of your faith!

    • Hi Leah,

      Yes, our problem is “thinking and thinking” without putting God in the equation. God promises to renew our minds, and part of that renewal is to see our picture from God’s perspective.

      It’s not that we shouldn’t think; it’s that we shouldn’t “think” of life without the resurrection 🙂

      Sam

  3. I struggle so to believe that I have not experienced “my ration” of God’s love for me. This has been a difficult year for me. I turn 60 a few months ago, and in the last year, I have had several non-threatening but frustrating and painful health issues. My job is now pinning the stress needle. Five years ago, my husband and I had a major marital crisis, and I am still seeing a counselor, not just for my marriage but for the physical, sexual, and mental abuse I suffered at the hands of my siblings when I was a kid.
    Ever since my early teens after, I became a Christian, my battle with believing that God loves me unconditionally has been virtually nonstop. Now I find that I am struggling to believe the miracles of Scripture.
    I can recall so many times when it was obvious that God was showing up in my life in a way that was undeniable. However my life of late has become very desert-ish. This last year had me struggling more with my faith than I ever have before.
    I’m grateful for this post that showed in my email today. It is made me think back on times when God’s presence was unmistakable, and caused me to think maybe it’s not futile to hope that that will happen again, hopefully in a way that is not the result of a life-shattering crisis.

    • For God so loved the world (you included) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3;16

      There is no greater love that we are waiting for. We are like Israel in the desert waiting for the promised land. This is the hope we have when Jesus comes and makes all things new. Unfortunately we live in a cursed world until then. Praying for you. Don’t feel like you are alone, we have all felt this way at times. God Bless!!

    • Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for being so personal with us. Your vulnerability encourages others. It is a way you show us love; and that love obviously comes from the Father through you to us.

      Thank you,

      Sam

  4. The greatest, most obvious thing that God did in my life is doing a tie-breaker in answer to my prayer. I had two doctors giving me conflicting advice concerning the correct treatment for my thyroid cancer. I felt so ignorant that I cried out to God to confirm to me which doctor I should listen to. Without letting anyone else know, I received 3 phone calls within the next 24 hours. Each person, including a nurse at the university medical center whom I had never met, affirmed to me that I should trust my original doctor! I was so humbled that God had “gone out of His way” to make clear to me what I needed to do!

    Whenever I’m am in a quandary, I remember how God sees me and is able and willing to reveal any answer to me that I need!

  5. Exactly. By the time many of my clients come for help, they are feeling hopeless because they haven’t factored the God “whose greatness no one can fathom” into their thinking.
    Back in October of 1978, my husband and I were a week away from flying to South America as missionaries, planning to work in a remote tribe out in the desert.
    We had $50 left for food to last the week. That weekend, my husband found the perfect trail bike for our ministry, and felt that he should put the $50 down to secure it. We would have to pay $1500 more the next Monday. Where would THAT come from?!
    I felt angry that he would do such an irresponsible thing. We also had a toddler to feed! But my husband said, “Let’s see what God might do!”
    That Sunday after church, we arrived home to a table and fridge full of groceries. We had leftovers to give away at the end of the week.
    Amazingly, our VW bug sold for $1500 that very afternoon and my husband picked the bike up the next day.
    God took care of us for 25 years of ministry in South America and is still doing marvelous things to meet our needs.
    It’s so important to share our God stories!

  6. I need not think back far to find an example of God’s acting in my life. It happened just this morning, mere hours ago, as I received word that a battle I’d anticipated having to fight had already been won. God had miraculously gone before me and effortlessly cleared the way. I am rejoicing still, and your good post reminds me to keep on rejoicing…and remembering.

    • Hi Katherine,

      I just read your comment and Leah’s above. I wonder sometimes. Someone needs to create a website just of stories of God’s actions today.

      Not that the Bible isn’t “enough.” It’s that too many of us forget that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And we tend to forget that little truth.

      Your story reminds us of the God who parted the Red Sea.

      Thanks

      • Yes! Just like the stones of remembrance in Joshua 4 – reminders of God’s faithfulness and miracles.

  7. Christ IS Risen!
    The Orthodox have always done what you’ve discovered. The Monastics memorize the Psalms and the services, and Liturgy is comprised of Scripture combined with the results of the pondering of the Early Church Fathers (which includes the female too, we even call some Saints “Equal to the Apostles ”
    Taste and see that The Lord is good!
    Go and experience it for yourself… listen and count the scripture contained therein.

  8. Shalom Sam,

    That was awesome and showed how God was going ahead of you preparing the way.

    Bill

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