Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meditating with Deepak

While watching my nightly dose of Dr. Oz recently, I heard Deepak Chopra give this advice on how to meditate:

"Close your eyes.
Watch your breath for about 5 minutes.
Put your attention on your heart, and ask yourself:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What's my purpose?
You don't need to know the answers. Live the questions, and life will move you into the answers."

When he said that, I wondered if he was kidding. Would it really lower someone's stress level to realize they don't know who they are or what their purpose is in life?

Yet these are life questions, ones that can't be easily ignored. Is it really true that "life will move you into the answers?"

From my experience, life can move you into some pretty destructive answers. How would this philosophy have guided me had I followed it after graduating college?

Left to my own devices, I might have defined myself at the time as an aspiring medical researcher trained in engineering.

Had life been guiding my desires, I might have wanted more notoriety and attention.

Perhaps my purpose in life would have been to pursue a medical breakthrough for cardiac patients and to start a family of my own. Maybe my purpose would have been to make a name for myself.

The only problem with letting life guide my purpose, desires, and identity?
A disabling illness made these answers completely irrelevant.

Had I defined myself by my job, due to illness, I would have been left with no identity.

Had my desires been pinned solely on my own achievement and affirmation, I would have been crushed once it was all taken away.

Had my purpose in life been to accomplish great things and raise a family, I would have been left alone with no real aim.

If I changed the answers to these important questions because of my illness, I'd still be navigating with no compass - building with no foundation. My identity and my purpose must be based on something more concrete than my circumstances, or I am no better than a raft tossed by the sea.

The Bible gives answers to these questions that are unchanging and true. In John 13, Jesus clearly shows his identity, his purpose, and his desire so that we all will have an example to follow and a foundation on which to build our lives.

John says:
"Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." [His purpose - Dying on the cross to save a lost world and showing the full extent of his love to those who trust Him in faith.]

"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;" [His identity - Son of God]

"so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." [His desire - That after becoming his disciples, we should follow his example to serve others in humility rather than seeking to be served.]

If I live Christ's way, nothing can shake my identity. No circumstance can thwart my purpose. And my desire will never lead me into defeat or destruction. By meditating on the life answers provided by Christ, I can build upon a firm foundation and follow the way to everlasting life.

My identity: Follower of Jesus Christ.
My desire: To please God.
My purpose: To express my love for the One who died to save me by serving others and pointing to the hope of eternal life in Christ.

Are you uncertain about your identity? Do you know what your purpose is? Have your desires gone unfulfilled?

I can personally testify that this world will never guide you into truthful answers. Life on earth is terribly broken. Since the beginning there has been pain and heartache and evil and sin. Nothing in this life is certain or lasting - not money, health, riches, family, or even the length of life itself. But God broke through on a rescue mission to save us. He offered his only Son to us as a sacrifice so that through faith in him, we could have eternal life.

Faith in Jesus offers solid answers to life's big questions that Deepak and this world can't provide. Now that is truth worthy of meditation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Soul Tan

Due to vitamin D deficiency and to help my circadian rhythm, I've been making an effort to recline in the sun for 15-20 minutes on a regular basis. My regular sun exposure has brought about something foreign and unfamiliar to me - a tan.

Because of my fair skin and impatience, I'm not really into tanning. The only time I've been remotely tan has been on childhood vacations, and even then it was more of a quick burn. However, the tan I have now reflects a build-up of multiple short sun exposures since April. It is an outward reflection of daily discipline.

It occurred to me as I was baking in my outdoor recliner today that my regular sun time had gradually changed my outward appearance just like my daily devotions gradually change my inner-self.

Making an effort to read the Bible consistently has been a struggle for me most of my life. I would get very enthusiastic and motivated, read a lot over a period of days or weeks, and then eventually slip back into sporadic reading, feeling like it wasn't making a noticeable difference.

If there's one thing I've learned from sun exposure this summer, it's that it is not the one 20-minute period that makes a noticeable difference; it is the entire collection of those repeated times that changes me. When I am in a habit of reading God's Word and praying regularly, one devotion may not create a profound impact on my thinking for that particular day, but the habit is what keeps me walking in step with God, repenting quickly when I stumble, and receiving his forgiveness and strength to keep going.

Dr. Charles Stanley once compared our life in this world to a boat on a river with a strong current. If the boat's rope is not tightened securely each morning to the dock, it will eventually drift away down the river and over the waterfall. This world is just like that current - an ever-present force working on our minds and hearts to lull us into going along without God and relying on ourselves to make it through life, ultimately to our ruin. The truth is, if our souls are not anchored to Christ, we will passively slip downstream, away from God.

I'm learning now more than ever how powerful daily habits can be. Negative daily habits can destroy us, while positive habits like prayer and Bible study will gradually change our lives for the better. Never give into the feeling that daily prayers and Bible reading don't make a difference. No matter the trials, distractions, failures, and suffering that may tend to deter you from your discipline, daily "Son exposure" gradually transforms your soul and keeps you firmly anchored to God, our Rock and our Redeemer.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)