Meditating on God’s Word, a guest post by Jason Lomelino
I’ve been looking forward to to this weeks post in A Contemplative Approach To Christianity.
This series is dedicated to introducing the quieter side of Christian practice, featuring a new writer every week. These are all from men or women who have been able to connect with God in the middle of the noise–often using spiritual disciplines that are very similar to those found throughout the history of ancient Christian church. I’ve also asked these authors to share details about what their practices look like, should any of you wish to partake. I hope this series has been as refreshing for you as it has for me!
So far, we’ve looked at Contemplative Prayer, and Cultivating a Lifestyle of Listening. Now, let’s move on to a personal favorite of mine–and one which I believe all others to hinge on–the meditation on God’s word.
I don’t think I know a better person to share about meditating on God’s word than my friend, Jason Lomelino.
Jason is a pastor at Isla Vista Church, where he, his wife, Holly, and their five kids live and do ministry together. They are a compelling presence of God’s love in a city that never slows down. I’ve heard many testimonies of transformation in people from Isla Vista and UCSB by God through the Lomelino family. (You can read some of their stories in Jason’s book, Jesus Burgers). I experienced this “presence” during a public worship night on the UCSB campus in the aftermath of the much publicized shootings that took place there. Jason addressed the crowd of hundreds with fatherly love, brotherly tears, and the mercies of God that night. I wondered how he was able to pour out so much love during a time when his heart was so broken. But now I understand. After reading his essay, you’ll understand too.
The rest of this post is in Jason’s words…
I am originally from San Diego and every year in Carlsbad these extraordinary colorful flowers bloom on a fifty-acre hillside that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is breathtaking, even from your car as you drive by the hillside. However, the majority of locals are content with just viewing them from their car as they drive by. They don’t want to spend the time to slow down and get out of their car to view this work of art up close. But in order to really enjoy the flowers, one must slow down and go walk amongst them. Meditating on the Word is a similar experience.
There is something special about slowing down, turning off distractions, and opening your heart and life to God through His Word. There are many ways to grow deeper in our relationship with God; some may call them spiritual disciplines. Yet I have not found any of them to be richer or more rewarding than meditating on the Word of God. Many Christians know we are called to meditate on the Word, though in my experience few actually know how to do it, and even fewer actually do it.
Meditating on the Word is not about how much you read but the way you read it.
In a culture that prides itself on doing more, reading more, having more, being more, needing more, you can understand why biblical meditation is not as high of a value in culture of “more.” It’s sad, but it seems in Christian culture today that reading the Bible has become more of a duty than a delight. It becomes another thing we should be doing rather than something we desire to be doing. Thankfully, my experience as a believer has never been one of duty as I was not raised in a Christian home or culture that told me I should be reading the Bible. When I did encounter the love of God in Christ Jesus at the age of twenty-one years old I didn’t need anyone to tell me to read it, all I wanted to do was read the Bible. I was passionate about getting to know this Man who rescued me and set me free. I guess you can say I was just reading to cultivate a relationship with God not for more information or anything else for the matter.
Even the way I stumbled upon the gift of meditating on the Word was an act of God. At the time of the discovery I was working full time and going to school full time, meaning I had minimal time for anything else. The only problem–a good problem–was that my appetite for knowing God was ravenous which made me determined to find a way to connect with Him through His Word all throughout the day. This led me to writing down verses on 3×5 cards and meditating on them while at work and school.
It was like how a cow digests food in chewing on it for a while, swallowing it, spitting it back up, and repeating the process again and again.
Professors would be talking and I would be having my mind blown by what I was meditating on (I don’t necessarily recommend that, but I think my professors thought I was highly intrigued by their material). Anyways, meditating on His Word went from something I stumbled upon to a lifestyle I started living. I learned a lot about silence and solitude during this time too, as what was happening during the day was being carried over into the night once my wife went to bed. I must say this was before five kids entered the picture and pastoring a church, which left me with just a bit more time and energy. Nonetheless, something I put into practice while having more time and energy has stood with me, continued to affect me, and brought about a desire for this kind of relationship with God through His Word in the midst of busyness in every season of life for me.
Where eastern meditation is about emptying the mind, Christian meditation is about filling the mind with the knowledge of Him.
The promises are stunning throughout Psalms and other places in Scripture for the believer who meditates on the Word:
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers”. (Psalm 1:1-3)
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)
For those of you reading this who may feel like a novice in this way of connecting with God, I must say there really is no trick or fast track to becoming good at meditating on the Word.
The best advice I found came from Nike years ago when they told us, “Just Do It.” Like riding a bike or learning to surf you can receive instructions all day or watch videos on tricks and tips but eventually you just need to do it.
- A simple way to begin is to take a familiar Scripture like Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer.
- Read it a handful of times to get the heartbeat behind the entire psalm, verse, or prayer before beginning to read it one line at a time, very sloooowly.
- Remind yourself before beginning that the kingdom of God is in seed not speed. (And let me just say that if you are reading Psalm 23 and don’t get past, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” consider that a great success. Again, meditation on the Word is not about how much you read but the way you read).
- Ruminating on the Scripture, seeing the intricacies and glory in a Scripture, and beginning to let the Scripture become part of your prayer language is the key that unlocks your heart. There are longings in the human heart that can only be satisfied in God, and by His voice speaking into them.
- When we begin to speak to Him out of Scripture and He begins to respond back it changes the whole game. For example I may silently and slowly whisper to God, almost like a prayer from the heart, “Father, I shall not want.” I may repeat that over and over until it makes the eighteen inch mystical drop from my head to my heart letting Him remind me I really don’t want anything besides Him. I say mystical because I really don’t have any formulas to give but rather an encouragement that as we begin to humbly pray back the Word to God, allowing ourselves to turn it into a dialogue rather than a monologue, something happens. Something that words can’t explain, and only by being in the presence of God and experiencing this could another person relate to it.
Meditating on the Word creates a space for God to transform our minds and awaken our souls to more of Him.
He alone is the desire of every nation. He alone can fulfill the words of King David, known as the sweet psalmist of Israel, when he said, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25).
Even though to this day I have yet to find something richer or more rewarding than connecting with God through meditating on His Word, I too like most believers I know, find myself struggling to “just do it.” I guess it is like the gym for some people or healthy eating for others; we know our body will say thank you afterwards but we for whatever reason choose differently.
Sometimes it takes us getting tired, discontent, or bored in our relationship with God to move us.
My prayer for all of us reading this, including myself writing this, is that we would return back to the ancient paths. History has shown us that those who found a lifestyle of meditating on the Word had hearts that were set ablaze for Jesus and His glory in all the earth. May all of us spend a little time this day or week taking a verse or two and letting God blow our minds with who He is and all He has given to us in Christ.
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Posted on July 14, 2014, in spiritual formation and tagged contemplation, contemplative, contemplative approach, lectio divina, meditation, spiritual disciplines, spirituality, UCSB. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.