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Monday, March 2, 2015

"God's Battle for the Mind" (David W. Saxton)

TITLE: God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation
AUTHOR: David W. Saxton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015, (142 pages).

There are people who manage to take time to look at the Bible but not read it. Using the metaphor of looking and smelling food without eating it, a Christian life without meditation is like superficial reading of the Word without actually understanding it. David Saxton, senior pastor of Hardingville Bible Church in Gloucester County, New Jersey believes that modern Christianity is in trouble because "it has become thoughtless, superficial, and self-absorbed." Using the Word of God and the necessity of experience with God, this book focuses on Christian meditation, what it is, what it is not, how to meditate, the reasons for meditation, and anything related to this spiritual practice.

Saxton has brought a into sharp focus the very antidote we need for our spiritual lives. On the outside, believers are bombarded by worldly distractions and daily struggles. On the inside, they are threatened by fear, worries, and common anxieties. In such an unstable spiritual state, personal devotions and Bible reading have become cursory browsing. They spring to action on their own strength instead of depending on the Spirit to lead us through the Word of God. That is why Saxton is convinced that the battle is first and foremost for the mind. Meditation is that giant anchor to keep us from flailing thoughts and anxious behaviours. In contrast to days of old where people were hungry for a personal Bible, today's generation is spoilt for choices of many versions, translations, and electronic options. They have everything, many free choices as well. The trouble is, they are not really studying or reading it as much. If this is the case, what more about meditation?

Saxton sets forth the benefits of meditation. It is healing and settles one's mind. It improves our spiritual discernment, and increases our understanding of biblical truth. It is necessary for spiritual growth and continued health. These have been discovered and proven by many Puritans who had experience the benefits of meditation. We learn that meditation is something very practical and not metaphysical. It helps us combine the Word of God with our personal experience.

We learn about the unbiblical forms of meditation like the Far Eastern religions, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, and meditating on lesser things like material stuff. An interesting section tries to distinguish Roman Catholicism from Protestantism forms of meditation. Though I recognize Saxton's concern about the fundamental differences between the two forms of Christianity, the explanation is is less than convincing.

Going into Old and New Testament teachings about biblical meditation, Saxton highlights the "dwelling," the "considering," "pondering," "remembering," and the filling of one's mind with the Word. Knowing how challenging it is for modern day living, the Puritans are also very practical in their prescription. Though "deliberate meditation" as the preferred method, it is possible to incorporate "occasional meditation" according to one's lifestyle. The only thing is that it must not become the substitute for the former.

With many examples from Puritans like William Bates, John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, I was also pleasantly surprised to see him quote Simon Chan, a Pentecostal theologian quite freely. After all, Chan's excellent doctoral dissertation was on the "Puritan Meditative Tradition." On and on, Saxton tries to convince readers that meditation is that one big spiritual thing that believers ought to cherish and to practice more and more, as the challenges of the world increases. We are reminded that the way forward is not more seminars or conference, not more books or articles, but simply meditating on the Word of God. Let me close with one of Saxton's practical tip.
  • Figure out the best time for the meditation exercse
  • Find the best place
  • Allocate an uninterrupted time
  • Be consistent
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to assist
  • Choose a passage and use the passage to examine ourselves
  • Conclude with prayer and application
I recommend this book highly for believers to renew their love for the Word of God through biblical meditation.  If we fail to practice this exercise, our minds become sitting ducks for the flesh, the world, and the spiritual forces of darkness. With meditation, we give ourselves a great fighting chance.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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