Experience the Holy Spirit in Contemplation | 03

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

READ:

Read or listen to Philippians 4:8–9.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. does Mary’s undivided attention to Jesus challenge you?

What is one step you can take to cultivate the thoughtlife described in these verses?

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.

FOCUS:

Read or listen to the blog. What is one thing you learned about what it means to lovingly gaze on Jesus? How can you incorporate what you learned into your daily routines? For example, I will pay attention to the beauty in nature around me, and acknowledge that it is from the hand of God.

Contemplation: The Need to Develop Good Habits of the Mind

by Bill Gorman

 

When I was kid, Jabba the Hut gave me nightmares. Looking back on Jabba now, I wonder why he scared me so much. As far as monsters go, a morbidly obese slug with tiny T-Rex arms isn’t that threatening. The Demogorgon from Stranger Things frightens me way more! 

But the Demogorgon hasn’t ever kept me awake at night. The monsters that haunt my dreams keeping me awake are way worse. They have names like Foundation Repairs, Property Tax Assessment, and College Tuition. Give me the Demogorgon any day over those hideous beasts. 

Maybe yours have other names: Cancer. Losing A Child. Dying Alone. Spouse Leaving You. Or maybe the actual Demogorgon stalks your nightmares. 

 

Defeating the beasts

Can the discipline of contemplation defeat these beasts? Yes. Why? Because contemplation has everything to do with attention. What we pay attention to shapes who we become. 

The discipline, the spiritual practice of contemplation, is intentionally paying attention to God in every moment, staying alive to his presence, aware of him spreading his lovingkindness over us. As we develop the habit of contemplation, we develop habits that with practice erode the midnight (or midday!) monster’s power to control what fills our mind. 

Philippians 4 gives us the battle plan.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8–9)

Paul instructs us to use two tactics. What are they?

 

Tactic 1: Direct your dwell

First, Paul instructs us to direct our dwelling. I’m thankful the Christian Standard Bible selected the word dwell for the translation from Greek in this passage. Many translations use the word think instead. But that is too cognitive. The leading Greek lexicon entry for the word logizomai offers this definition: “to give careful thought to a matter, think (about), consider, ponder, let one’s mind dwell on.”

In this usage, it’s less about the kind of thinking you use to solve a math problem and more about what you ruminate on morning, midday, or midnight. Paul’s interest here is what you dwell on—not just what you think about occasionally. And, it turns out, our dwelling can be directed. 

We direct our dwelling to the list in the verse. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase breathes fresh life into the list. In The Message it reads: 

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8)

But how do we learn to do this? Not just by gritting our teeth and trying harder. Instead, we use the second tactic.

 

Tactic 2: Learn from those who know 

Second, learn from those who know. In verse 9, Paul adds these vital instructions to what he wrote in the previous verse: “Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

The Philippians didn’t just receive a letter from Paul. They knew him. He spent time with them in person. They watched him. They trained with him. 

We can’t watch Paul. But there are others further down the road in this journey that we can watch. Who do you know who seems to have God’s peace with them? Ask them how they do it. How do they direct their dwelling?

If you ask Jesus how to do it, he will tell you this: 

Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. (Matthew 6:26–29)

If you turn to any contemporary resource on the practice of “mindfulness,” which is a way of directing your dwelling, looking at beauty in nature will be one of the recommendations. 

It turns out that Jesus, the most brilliant human who has ever lived, knew this long before the mindfulness movement. He designed us. He designed your body and your brain—your heart and your mind. Behold the beauty. Direct your dwelling to your Father’s good world, and Jesus’ peace will be with you.

PRAY:

Lord, examine my thoughts, renew my mind, and grant me discipline to cultivate a healthy thought life.

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Week 3 of 8 Contemplation

2 Comments

  1. Eben Fowlet

    Bill,

    Thank you for writing this blog. The verse it’s based on is one of my favorites. It’s a great reminder to dwell on that verse.

    Reply
  2. Ramona

    Dwell. My body too, not just my mind…both. I have found this practice to be very helpful in combating anxiety.

    Reply

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