What then shall we say of that happiness to come which is promised to the saints, which we consider to be nothing else but the pure and unmediated contemplation of Divine Essence itself? For if the eminence of the Divine Essence surpasses the purest power of angelic contemplation, how will the happiness of human nature be able to contemplate the eminence of the Divine Essence?
- Eriugena, Periphyseon (Irish, 9th century)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Psalm 16.11
Christians practice the presence of Jesus in two ways. First is by learning to walk in His Spirit, to live by faith rather than by sight, so that Christ within us makes us willing and able to do the good pleasure of God in all things (Phil. 2.13). This is the sense of Jesus being with us, where we are, to comfort, strengthen, embolden, convict, direct, and transform (Matt. 28.20; 2 Cor. 2.12-18).
Here the challenge is to understand how Christ works in us and to use the means He has provided so that we make the most of every opportunity to make way for Him to live in and through us toward others (Eph. 5.15-17).
The second way is what Eriugena and psalmist had in mind: practicing the presence of Christ with Him, where He is. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, in glory and majesty and magnificent splendor and power. But so are we! Paul says we have been seated there with Christ, so that, in a certain way, we can both engage Him in His glory and see the whole course of our lives, and all the events of history, from the vantage point of eternal security, strength, and beauty (Eph. 2.5, 6; 2 Cor. 4.6; Pss. 46, 110).
The Scriptures offer glimpses of the exalted Christ which are sufficient to encourage us to an ever-enlarging vision of our glorious unseen King and His heavenly court. The purposes of these glimpses - Pss. 2, 45, 47, 100; Rev. 1, 4, 5, 14; etc.) are to train our minds to think in terms of Christ exalted, our affections to desire this glorious King, our values to lodge in Him and His Kingdom, and our actions to reflect His reign coming on earth, as it is in heaven.
To put it mildly, American Christians are not much given to contemplation. Yet we are called to it, even commanded to set our minds on the things that are above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3) and to gear our hearts to penetrate that unseen realm and know the power of it (Eph. 1.15-23). Contemplation takes time and effort; it is a discipline to be learned, cherished, and practiced daily until the focus of our contemplations in quiet becomes the presence in which we live and move and have our being through the course of our day.
Practice the presence of Jesus - Him with you where you are, but also, you with Him where He is. You'll know you're getting there when the weight of His glory fairly crushes you with joy and transforming power.
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? This is the focus of today's ReVision. Are God's thoughts precious to you?
Pastor, how is your work of evangelism going? Is your church faithful to the "go/tell" mandate of the Lord, or have you settled into a "come/see" relationship with your community - in which very few are coming to see? You can change your church's attitude toward evangelism, but it has to begin with you. We can help. Why not consider signing up for a mentoring relationship in evangelism, and get the training, resources, and help you'll need to enlist your entire congregation for witness to our King? Write to me today and we'll set up a time to talk about this exciting training opportunity.
Don't forget to visit our bookstore and to read the blogs or listen to the sermons of our Members when you visit www.ailbe.org. And if this ministry is helpful to you, forward today's Crosfigell to a friend and urge him to sign up.
Finally, we've had some excellent suggestions for our Campaign for Christian Literacy, and there's still time for you to offer yours. Send them to me right away.
Even a string of unrelated thoughts can lead to praise.
Moses was the first to be entrusted with divine revelation, but not the last.
The day of the Lord, most righteous King of Kings, is at hand: a day of anger and vidication, of darkness and of cloud, a day of wonderful mighty thunders, a day also of distress, of sorrow and sadness, in which the love and desire of women will cease and the striving of men and the desire of this world.
- Columba, Altus prosator (Irish, 6th century)
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done."
- Revelation 22.12
Celtic Christians like Columba, founder of the monastery on Iona, lived with a view to the last day. They agreed with Peter that the end of all things and the final judgment should inform our conduct in the present, leading us to seek holiness in the fear of God (2 Pet. 3.11-14). They embraced the Law's command both to love God and to fear Him, (Deut. 10.12, 13), for they understood it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10.30, 31).
Men like Columba never lost sight of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed Him when He said He was coming soon, and they strove to make sure, to the best of their ability, that they would be found of Him busy at the work of His Kingdom and free of the dalliances of the world and the flesh. At the same time, they knew themselves to be sinners and hoped in the mercy and grace of the Lord, not in their own works.
Their vision of what was to come shaped their lives and guided their labors in the present. Jesus was coming soon, they knew, and there was still so much work to be done. A clear and compelling vision of the end of all things need not be a matter of doom and dread. Instead, it can motivate us, in fear and love, to acts of devotion, works of service, and celebrations of worshipful anticipation that can shape our lives for holiness and ministry.
But gaining such a vision doesn't come easy. We have to search the Scriptures, consider the writings of those for whom such vision was clear and compelling (like Columba), and encourage one another with the hope of the Lord's soon return and certain mercy (1 Thess. 5.9-11). But if we live each day in the hope of Christ's soon return - and the knowledge that we must all stand before Him - the days of our lives will be more fruitful for the King and His Kingdom.
Jesus is coming soon. Are you preparing for Him?
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
Is it possible that Christians are not living up to the world's expectations? That is, do they see Christ in us who bear His Name? Check out today's ReVision.
Our mentoring programs offer pastors an excellent opportunity to refocus their spiritual lives and sharpen their ministry skills. It's not too late to sign up for a program tailored to your needs. If you're looking for a way to jumpstart your ministry of writing, or to gain a quick and comprehensive overview of the Christian worldview, our online training may be just the thing. Don't forget to visit our Member blogs and to interact with the brethren as they share their thoughts and insights about the life of faith. And visit the bookstore while you're at the website, www.ailbe.org.
People have a right to expect that those who bear the name of Christ will resemble Him.
I take this to be a measure of my faith in the Trinity that, without regard to danger, I make known God's gift and the eternal comfort He provides: that I spread God's name everywhere dutifully and without fear, so that after my death I may leave a legacy to so many thousands of people...
- Patrick, Confession (Irish, 5th century)
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
- Psalm 45.17
Any pastor or church leader is only as good as his vision. Unless he gazes on what he should and works toward the future, his ministry won't accomplish much for the Kingdom of God. That, at least, appears to have been the attitude of many of the Celtic Christians.
For them, "vision" mattered in two ways: First, the ability to see through to the unseen realm and live continuously in the presence of the exalted Christ. Second, the longing to make a Kingdom impact that would last beyond their lifetimes. They succeeded on both counts.
Nurturing spiritual vision is a key component of the life of faith. Paul longed for the Ephesians to be able to see clearly into that unseen realm, so that the power of it could fill their lives more fully and completely (Eph. 1.15-23). Our psalmists clearly hoped that their prayer, celebrating the exalted Lord they could only see in prospect, would be a source of inspiration and praise for all generations (Ps. 45). This is the kind of vision that advances the Kingdom of Christ.
What is your vision for your life in Christ? Everyone has a vision for his life - you, too. And everyone is, to one degree or another, living in line with that vision. If your vision is small, unambitious, timid, self-condemning, unwilling to risk or learn - well, guess what: What you're experiencing now as the life of faith is as good as it gets.
The problem, of course, is that the life of faith is never as good as it gets; there's always more, so much more than we could ever dare to ask or think (Eph. 3.20). Jesus piled parable on parable concerning the Kingdom of God, enticing us to think big, dream big, and strive big in pursuit of His rule. We are unfaithful to His example if we mire ourselves in puny, small, unproductive visions of what God is calling us to be and do.
Think big. Dream big. Then go for your vision. You can never outpace Jesus, Who calls us to run our race with our eyes fixed on Him.
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
Pastors, if you have ever wanted to learn to write, and to have writing as a significant part of your ministry, then an opportunity is coming up for you right after the first of the year. Check out the course, "The Writing Pastor," at our website, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.
Pastors and church leaders, looking for a quick and challenging overview of Christian worldview? The course, "One in Twelve," may be just what you need to train and inspire your church members for more consistent Christian discipleship.
In today's ReVision we look at the rehabilitation of narcissism as a new state of normalcy. Great.
Get a mentor, visit the bookstore, check out the blogs, ask a question for the Members of The Fellowship - so much more to do at the website, www.ailbe.org.
Increasing numbers of our contemporaries are practicing narcissists.
Pastors and church leaders: Exciting training opportunities following today's issue of Crosfigell.
How miserable is our state! The things we ought to have loved are so remote and undiscovered and unknown by us, that while we are men and situated in this prison of the body, the things that are truly good and eternal are utterly incapable of being seen or heard or thought by us. What then are we to do? Let us love and seek them...
- Columbanus, Sermon III (Irish, 7th century)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- Philippians 4.9
As you will recall, we are ramping-up for a Campaign for Christian Literacy to challenge our fellow believers to more diligence in reading and studying eternal truths. It will be difficult for us to fulfill the requirement of Paul's exhortation if we have but little acquaintance with such lofty thoughts and ideals.
But we will not be inclined to take up the work of study - to seek these true and beautiful ideas - unless we first love them, as Columbanus knew. What do we now love? That is simple enough to determine. How do you spend your time? Watching television? Working? Playing sports? Listening to pop music? How you spend your time is the surest indicator of what you love. If you love the Lord, for example, a significant portion of your time each day will be devoted to seeking and knowing Him.
If we do not love those "things we ought to have loved" it's no wonder they seem so "remote and undiscovered and unknown by us." Loving other things more, we give our time and strength to them, rather than to learning the pure and lovely and true and excellent things of God in all the disciplines and fields of study where He is making Himself known.
Columbanus, could he have seen our miserable state - trapped as we are in the mundane prisons of our too-worldly flesh - would have made a simple prescription: change what you love, then pursue what you have begun to love. Love the world less and the Lord more, and we will spend more time seeking the things of the Lord.
That's good advice for any follower of our glorious and reigning King.
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
We should be encouraged to learn that, as in many other areas of life and learning, the discipline of neuroscience is catching up to the Bible. Check out today's ReVision.
New blogs by Jess Slusher and myself will challenge you with the greatness of God and the necessary conditions for being transformed.
We still have some spaces available for men seeking a mentor. Check out the opportunities, then get in touch if you have any questions.
Our book store can provide you with some excellent Christmas gifts, such as John Nunnikhoven's one-year reader, Voices Together. Here is a year's worth of praying the psalms that any of your Christian friends will bless you for bestowing.