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The Pleasure of Meditation: Lesson 5
As we include ourselves in the story of Scripture, Scripture includes us in its story
Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • July 23, In the year of our Lord, 2017
Meditation gets us into the story and then the story gets into us.
Hebrews 4.12 speaks of the living nature of the word of God, 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4.12).
The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to form us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, while we want to know more,
it is because we want to become more.
We want to become more like Jesus Christ.
For this to happen,
we must see that we relinquished control of our lives
when we confessed the Lordship of Jesus.
As we hear the words of Scripture, let us also learn
to see the words (Psa 119.18),
to delight in the words (Psa 1.2),
to taste the words (Psa 19.10),
to walk and to run in the words (Psa 119.32).
not only with the ears and the eyes, by
by the doing.
Is that not how you learned to drive a car?
Consider the words of Eugene Peterson, “This text is not words to be studied in the quiet preserves of a library, but a voice to be believed and loved and adored in workplace and playground, on the streets and in the kitchen” (p. 62).
This leads to an adventurous exploration of the biblical text or story.
Use your imagination
to get the story into you and
to get yourself into the story.
Participate in the story of Scripture.
You will find the story coming right off the pages or
you will see yourself going right into the pages.
Once you learn how to get into the story of the Bible and
see that the story continues in our lives and in the world,
it is exciting to see what is in the biblical text, and
then to correlate it with
what we see going on
in our world and
in our lives.
Therefore, the biblical story is about
Adam and Eve,
Abraham and Sarah,
Joseph and his brothers,
Moses and Pharaoh,
the prophets and the Israelites,
Paul and the apostles, and
you and me.
However, that does not mean
that the Bible always agrees with us or
that we always agree with the Bible.
What happened to John after he ate the Book? 8 Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” 9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10 Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter (Rev 10.8–10).
First, it was sweet to his mouth.
Then what happened?
It became bitter in his stomach.
Not everything is to our liking in the Bible.
It is exciting to see ourselves in the story of the Bible, but
the Bible was not written to excite us or
even to make us feel good.
We enter God’s world
when we enter the Scriptures.
That leads to conflict between
God and us.
Are there not hard things in the Bible?
Some things are hard to accept.
Some things are hard to obey.
Some things are hard to digest,
leading to bitterness in the stomach.
In response we often
try to reshape the Bible
into what we want.
We do not like the things that it says.
Listen to how we say, The Bible does not mean that…
The Bible does not accommodate us.
It is God’s way or
hit the highway.
The encounter of Jesus and the rich young ruler
in Mark 10 illustrates this point, 17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ 20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10.17–22).
Remember the meeting between Balaam and Balak.
If we arrive at the point where
we think we know all that the Bible teaches,
then we have not arrived.
Eugene Peterson has rightly written, “We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers. And that is certainly correct. The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God’s image and what we are designed for in the purposes of Christ. But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge. The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book…You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands. This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our own terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we will be. This book has generative power; things happen to us as we let the text call forth, stimulate, rebuke, prune us. We don’t end up the same” (p. 66).
When you start reading and meditating in the Sacred Text,
you have entered God’s world.
Do not expect, therefore,
to be like ours.
When we do,
meditation is hindered
First Corinthians 1
We enter the text
to see how we fit into God’s story,
not to see how we fit Him into our stories.
Because of this, the Bible speaks the truth about God and us.
It speaks very highly of God, and
its goal is not to flatter us,
rather it is intended to speak the truth,
regardless of what that truth is.
It help us, but not on our terms.
Now, ponder this powerful quote from Eugene Peterson, “As we cultivate a participatory mind-set in relation to our Bibles, we need a complete renovation of our imaginations. We are accustomed to thinking of the biblical world as smaller than the secular world. Tell-tale phrases give us away. We talk of ‘making the Bible relevant to the world,’ as if the world is the fundamental reality and the Bible something that is going to help it or fix it. We talk of ‘fitting the Bible into our lives’ or ‘making room in our day for the Bible,’ as if the Bible is something that we can add on to or squeeze into our already full lives” (p. 67).
Learn to live in the reality that the Bible opens for us.
Learn to see
that being biblical
is not simply throwing passages together
that support what we want to believe or
that we want to use to refute someone, but
learn to see
what Paul spoke of in First Corinthians 2,
which is not a reference to heaven necessarily, but
to all the things
that God has revealed to us. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God (1Co 2.9–10).
The world is much greater than the events of the daily news.
Learn to see
that the Bible does not speak of a world that is in the distant past,
fully removed from what we live, but
see our world
as a continuation of
what you see revealed in the Bible.
How does a young child look at the items in a store?
How do you look at a mountain scene?
Do the same with the world of the Bible, and
see our world fit into the Bible rather than vice versa.
Our part in the biblical text.
For example, the Book of Acts,
the only inspired history of the church,
ends abruptly, because
God intends for us to continue its history.
Not that we write it
as Luke did, but
that we live it as Paul was living it.
We come to a full knowledge of God
when we obey
what we know. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (Jam 1.21–25). 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2Co 3.18).
We have been accustomed to asking,
“What does this mean?” but we should also ask,
“What am I to obey?”
When you do what God wants you to do
you will learn more and faster.
Meditating leads to participation in the story.
Read with understanding and passion.
In 1968 or 9, when I was in the sixth grade,
we began the Pledge of Allegiance as we always did.
Our teacher stopped us.
We had no passion and did not understand the words.
She was extremely passionate,
as she rebuked us and told us its meaning.
She then explained that a male relative,
perhaps her son,
had been either wounded, captured, or killed in Vietnam.
He gave his life for his nation
while we took no thought for what the flag meant.
We said the Pledge again, but
this time it was passionate.
We felt her passion because we understood the Pledge.
Every time since then,
I have said the Pledge of Allegiance with understanding and passion.
That day when the class restated it, and every time I say it now,
I still utter the same words
but there is something different.
From 1995 to 2004 my daughters entered singing competitions.
I would listen to them and to the other singers.
It was all very impressive to me.
Everyone in attendance would clap.
Then the adjudicator spoke.
He or she would point out things about
their eye contact,
certain notes they were not getting right, and
the one that impressed me most, because
it seemed to make the biggest difference,
was the adjudicator asked if the singer
knew what the song was about.
If the singer did not, the adjudicator explained it,
if the singer did, the adjudicator reminded the singer of what the song was about, and
how the singing should reflect
the meaning of the song.
It was like they were singing a different song
when they understood the meaning, because
they now sang with passion.
They sang the same words.
They sang the same notes.
Much of what they did
was the same as before.
However, something was different.
Like the man who sang Amazing Grace (video).
This is why I have done some sermons on our songs.
I learned that sometimes I was singing our songs
without the understanding and
without passion, 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding (1Co 14.15).
Therefore, try to pay close attention to your singing
noticing the words,
with the understanding and
We can do things without thought
so that they become meaningless routines.
We can do this with our singing and
we can do it saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
However, how many of us do it with eating our food?
How many of us do it with reading the Bible?
How then shall we read Holy Scripture?
Remember the way that I told you
I read Mark’s crucifixion account one morning.
Consider another example, this time from Psalm 44, 22 Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Psa 44.22).
Paul quoted this in Romans 8.31–39.
How do we read that?
It is familiar to us because Paul quoted it in Romans 8.
Why did he quote it?
Is there a connection between Romans 8 and Psalm 44?
The only thing we can do is start at Psalm 44.1 and
understand what the Psalmist was saying,
then when we get to verse 22,
we will understand
the great declaration of faith or trust that the psalmist made.
[Read and comment upon the text.]
Perhaps we can appreciate this passage now, 32 I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart. (Psa 119.32)
The Pleasures of Meditation: Lesson 6
Scripture forms our lives
Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • August 6, In the year of our Lord, 2017
Can Reading the Scriptures Be Dangerous?
The word of God is likened to fire, a hammer, and a sword.
Can you hurt yourself with fire?
Can you hurt yourself with a hammer?
Can you hurt yourself with a sword?
The word is also like a rope.
You can use the rope to pull yourself to safety or
you can use the rope to hang yourself.
Yes, we should read the Bible.
Yet, how we read the Scriptures should also concern us.
Do you give keys to an inexperienced driver and say, “Drive this car”?
Which can do more harm?
Driving a car or misusing the Scriptures?
Likewise, watch how we handle the Scriptures.
We sometimes use them as an inexperienced driver does.
The power intoxicates us.
We use it without regard to the damage we can do.
Eugene Peterson is insightful, We pick up a Bible and find that we have God’s word in our hands, our hands. We can now handle it. It is easy enough to suppose that we are in control of it, that we can use it, that we are in charge of applying it wherever, whenever, and to whomever we wish without regard to appropriateness or conditions (pp. 81–82, emphasis in original).
Is there more to driving a car than turning the key and stepping on the gas?
Rules of the road
Rules of nature
Other vehicles and obstacles
Is there more to reading the Bible than opening it and repeating the words?
Rules of language
Have you heard, “Let the buyer beware”?
What does that mean?
When it comes to the Bible
should we not also say,
“Let the reader beware”?
Is it enough to own a Bible?
Is it enough to read it?
What dangers does the reader need to know about?
We may own a copy of the printed Scriptures, but
if we truly meditate in the Scriptures,
the Scriptures own us.
What Is Your Reading of the Bible? 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10.26).
Some translations have the second question as, “How do you read?”
By reading the whole context,
how do you think the lawyer read the Law? 25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10.25–37).
What do you think of the lawyer’s initial question?
What insight did Luke give us into the lawyer’s question?
He was testing Jesus.
What does that mean?
In some way, he hoped to catch Jesus making a mistake, or
hoped to get into an argument with Him
rather than truly wanting to know
how to inherit eternal life.
Moreover, he was attempting to use Scripture
for his evil purpose.
Was there anything wrong with the lawyer’s Bible knowledge?
There was something wrong in his attitude toward Scripture.
He knew what Scripture said, but he did not know why it was said.
He attempted to avoid taking the commandments personally, Defining “neighbor” depersonalizes the neighbor, turns him or her into an object, a thing over which he can take control, do with whatever he wants. But it also depersonalizes the scriptural text. He wants to talk about the text, treat the text as a thing, dissect it, analyze it, discuss it—endlessly. But Jesus won’t play that game. The scholar has just quoted words of Holy Scripture that witness to the living word of God. They are words to be listened to, submitted to, obeyed, lived. So instead of inviting the scholar to join him in a Bible study of Deuteronomy and Leviticus under the shade of a nearby oak tree, Jesus tells him a story, one of his most famous, the Good Samaritan story, concluding, as he had begun, with a question “Which of these three, do you think proved neighbor to the man…?” The scholar is impaled by the question: the words of Scripture can no longer be handled by means of definition, “who is my neighbor?” The text insists on participation, “will you be a neighbor?” Jesus insists on participation. Jesus dismisses the scholar with a command, “Go and do…” Live what you read. We read the Bible in order to live the word of God (p. 84).
Therefore, merely reading or merely knowing the Scriptures
we are still dead,
no more alive than
the words we have read or quoted, but
those words become life when we do them.
Consider the Pharisees.
They knew the word, but they did not know Jesus.
Most people believe that the problem of the Pharisees was strict obedience to the Law. However: