While few people in Western culture, including Christian leaders, think much of heaven, Scripture calls us to set our hearts and minds on things above (Col.3:1-3). Heaven as “a great lake of beer” is Bridgid of Irelands’ (451-524) attempt to describe the bliss and fulfillment that awaits us when we see Him face to face. One of my great learning curves the last few years is how foundational this is for the leadership we offer our churches. The following is my summary of Thomas Aquinas’ excellent description of heaven and how it is meant to inform our daily lives. Take a few minutes to prayerfully ponder his insights. When you taste God, there is nothing else to wish for. God’s love for us is both eros and agape – i.e., passionate, ecstatic, and joyful, as well as loyal and faithful. Your human soul was built for a joy the world can’t offer you. You. Read more.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153 AD) was the greatest Christian leader in Western Christendom in the 12th century. He was a very active abbot with a “sphere of influence” over tens of thousands throughout Europe. I spent a good part of my annual retreat last week pondering just one of the insights from his sermons on the Song of Songs — that our thirst for God, and His love, only increases through eternity! All I could think of was what a contrast this was to the leadership seminars and books we promote in our day. Bernard writes that in heaven: We find satiety (i.e. the state of being full beyond the point of satisfaction) without the sense of having indulged too much. We find a desire to penetrate deeper that which is never quenched, yet which has no sense of unrest about it. We experience the eternal and incomprehensible desire that knows no. Read more.
“To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it. A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset; but to poets, artists, and saints, the world is transparent like a window pane––it tells of something beyond…a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity.” Bishop Sheen. My journey towards “sacramental living” has been slow yet, in some respects, I feel that I am finally getting it. Sacramental living understands that all matter is meant to lead us into God’s heavenly presence, to bring about communion with Him and a participation in His life. In fact, the entire universe is meant to serve as a “sacrament” — i.e., a material gift from God in and through which we enter into the joy of His heavenly presence. I have been helped by the great poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins,. Read more.
Most Christians are more focused on the here-and-now than on the then-and there, i.e., our future life that is anchored in heaven (Heb.6:19). Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1647-1652) and his sculpture of Teresa of Avila. and the angel with the spear, portrays the following episode from her autobiography where she describes her encounter with God. We see in her a picture of our greatest longing: I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could. Read more.
Here are my final 3 books that have shaped my walk with Christ: Fill These Hearts, Christopher West All of us are here because of sexuality. God has built it not only into our bodies but into the core of the universe. To read Christopher West is to ignite one’s heart about all the ways God has given us to know Him and satisfy our deepest hungers. The study of God (theology) is built right into our bodies. Dance of Anger, Harriet Lerner I have found that anger is a very complex, misunderstood emotion and causes a lot of pain by being ignored and/or abused. We’re not any holier for stuffing it and worse off if we explode. Christians need to learn how to acknowledge and process anger. Lerner practically unpacks the emotion of anger. Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer, David Benner David’s book brought me to heaven each time I opened it reminding. Read more.
This past week I presented two workshops at “the largest gathering of church planters in the world” – at the Exponential Conference. Over 5000 people attended while another 20,000 leaders watched through a live webcast. It was extraordinary to see so many men and women with a passion to serve Jesus and offer their entire lives to advance His kingdom in the 21st century. I was in awe of God as I listened to speakers and learned new things about what God was doing in different parts of the world. As I interacted, however, with young pastors, missionaries, superintendents, and denominational leaders, it became readily apparent (to me at least) that at least four temptations threaten to derail what God wants to do through His church going forward: 1. Drivenness – Cattle are driven. Sheep are led. The word doesn’t belong in our vocabulary. The primary call for us as preachers/leaders/pastors is to embrace a. Read more.