2012-07-24

Meditation on the Bible by Reduction

Meditation on God Words by making it shorter and yet not loosing any meaning requires hard work but it is extremely useful and powerful. We use Php 3:7-15 as an example with a mind-map to show how. Learn the wisdom gained too.
Most meditation teachings on God's Words go by adding and extending the meaning the of the words. Another effective meditation technique is by reduction. It is about reducing a passage into a tagline and still not loose its meaning. This is different from giving a title; for a title is just a rough outline. It is like writing a precis. You can be shorter but you cannot loose its meaning. Making it shorter allows us to remember it better and we can chew over it the whole day. It can sinks into our heart and affect our mental state and the decisions that we make. That is the purpose of meditation after all.

Making things simpler and shorter is great because it is easier to remember, understand and apply. But we cannot simplify too much that some key meanings are lost and misunderstanding occur. Consider the popular story of Adam and Eve's sin from the eating of 'the tree of knowledge of good and evil'.  See Knowledge Tree of Good and Evil. What is the shorter form?
Many people erroneously shorten it to "Tree of Knowledge" and then wrongly concluded that "knowledge is evil!". The accurate short form should be "Tree of Moral", because moral is about the knowledge of right and wrong. "Tree of Right & Wrong" is the right short from. In fact, a more accurate short form is "Tree of Self-Determination" because it is about Adam's decision to decide right and wrong apart from God. Adam declared to God that he shall be his own judge and want to go on his own.

The key of 'Meditation by Reduction' is then to extract the essence of passage without any loss for better memory and reflections. We shall again use the mind-mapping technique discussed earlier in the following posts:
A good mind-mapping software to use is Freeplane. I shall be using the beta 12.16 version which have many useful features over the stable version 1.1.3.

We shall use a very powerful passage Philippians 3:7-15 for our study and meditation by reduction.

Step 1 Split and Group Key Concepts

Here is a mind-map of the passage.
1. Break each verse down into its main concepts.
2. Move the topic to get some alignment and grouping.
We can easily see that there are many repeats of "I count as loss", "count as rubbish" etc.
3. Highlight (by color or icons) the topics that express similar concepts and see we can give a title to summarize it.
4. By going through the whole map, I can pick up 3 groupings and they are "I loose", "I gain", and "How-to" live this new life; the thinking of the mature as expressed in v15.

Step 2 Re-Organized with the Key Grouping as first level.
1. The software provides selection filters so that I can filter out the branches with the icons and paste them over a new map. You could delete the less important branches and just keep the icon'ed branches work on the same map. But you will loose the trace.
2. The re-organized new map will look like this:

3. v15 impressed me most and it says this is the way the mature should think. Hence, I want to pick this a main topic and regroup the rest around it. So I re-arrange the get into the next Step 3.

Step 3 Thinking of the Mature Believers - Simplification Again & Again

1. Try to remove, shorten and re-group without loosing meaning the various concepts. Keep the key branch, e.g. "from the law", to ensure precise meaning is not lost.

2. Coming out with a Tag-line.
The final extraction should to come out with a tagline that summarize the whole passage.

Please make sure we don't loose any meanings in the passage without simplification.

I came out with 2 tag-lines, either one will do, for your consideration.

3. Surprise, Surprise!
When I came out with the tag-line, I was straight away reminded of similar verses in other part of the Bible. In this case, the passage of Paul is precisely what Jesus said in John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches and apart from me, you can do nothing. Paul has given us a very good exposition on Jesus' word. You will be rewarded with your diligent study of God's words.
See also We can do Nothing apart from Jesus.

4. Meditate on the Tag-line with additions
Now that we got the tag-line, we can go back to meditation with additions; but this time, we are to be guided by the context of the passage. I have added in some key reflections in the map as example. Feel free to add more in your own map.

Here is the final mind-map:
5. The Big Jewel - Paul's very best was counted as rubbish relative to knowing Christ

We all know quite well about "To live is Christ and to die is gain" which expresses the key concept of this passage. It can also be used a tagline with additional wording. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his life?", a saying of Jesus, is also a good one. 

But one detailed point that I picked up and did not notice before is about "forgetting the past and press on to goal ....". I used to think that forgetting the past is about forgetting our past failures and hurts. Those are things to forget. But Paul did not mean our past failures but about our past successes and glory. Paul's past successes were great achievements. He was a Pharisees of high ranking and their kind of righteousness (righteousness by the Laws). He was given authority to capture the 'Christians'. He studied under great teacher. In today terms, he was a graduate of Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge or Oxford or LSE. He had all world adoration and things going for him. These are the very things that Paul counted as rubbish when compared with the knowledge of Christ. 

Paul wants us to forget and not to rely on them - the adoration of people, the wealth we created, and the desire to accumulate more for self. But to give them out in exchange to know and gain more of Christ's, even in suffering, in dead and in demonstration of His resurrection power. 

Christ has made him His and he want to make Christ his.
Christ has owned us through the Cross.
Do we show the world that we have Christ in us? 
Are we still pursuing our career, wealth, family apart from the call of Christ in us?
* Your call is not and usually not into the so called full-time in the church or para-church. Your call is likely into full-time service in whatever vocations, including politicians and entrepreneurs, in showing Christ to the world. See Secular vs Spiritual Jobs

Lim Liat (C) 24 July 2012

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