Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
“Habits are something you can do without thinking,” says Frank A. Clark, “which is why most of us have so many of them.” If we don’t make up our own minds, something—or someone—will make them up for us. It’s a good idea to make our minds mind. Rather than permit outright lies and half-truths to camp unchallenged in our thoughts, with the Lord’s help we can “bring every thought back into captivity” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Thoreau said, “To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
I suspect, while sitting in his tiny, cold prison cell Paul thought a lot about thinking. He discovered how one defends against toxic thoughts and conversely how to exercise the mind as a tool for virtuous purpose.
In his concluding thoughts about thoughts in his letter to his friends in Philippi he says, “Finally…” which is to say, “Let me sum it for you and be direct. Think about these kinds of things.” He proceeded to list eight categories of healthy thoughts. What is true and noble and right and pure and…
Don’t forget that our God is “embodiment” of each of these. Jesus was God embodied and modeled this mindset in his life here. He was and is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy. So when we meditate on these realities we’re contemplating him.
Lately I’ve been using this menu as a means of my own meditation. I’ll go through the list in my mind, maybe even speak them out loud, with the expectation that one or more of them will stand out in my mind. If and when it does I’ll double down on that one and contemplate its implications, in hopes of getting that quality to tunnel down into a deeper part of me. That is, I want that particular quality to make the journey beyond my mind and into my spirit.
Meditation is far more than a cerebral exercise. It is intended to be a spiritual one. It may or may not begin in the mind, but the hope is to take it beyond into deeper, much deeper places than our simple minds can take us.
Undoubtedly Paul learned the practice of meditation from his mentor, the doctor of Jewish Law, Gamaliel. I suspect that when he met Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit his meditations soared into regions beyond what he’d learned from the good doctor. Fast forward to his time incarcerated in a Roman pokey for preaching Christ. All day and all night in his cell with nothing but the Scriptures he had memorized, he had ample time to go even deeper in his contemplation of whatever is true, whatever is noble…
I hope you’ll follow along with the following eight or so posts and with me cultivate better thoughts and deeper contemplation as we highlight each of these: Things to Think…
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14