Fellowship of the Burning Heart

Does your heart burn for God? Long for God? Do you long to know him better, to love him more fully, to follow him more faithfully, to trust him more completely? Do you deeply desire to live a God-centered life in which God is glorified and reflected in your daily thinking, speaking, and doing? If so, you already belong to the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.

Of course, no one, save the Lord Jesus Christ, can say that they fully desire any of those things, much less have arrived. The Apostle Paul himself didn’t presume to have arrived but knew he must continue to press toward the goal of such communion with God and conformity to the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Yet even the desire to desire God in such a way is a good thing.

There are some who have gone before us who have hungered and thirsted for God, (as well as for his Kingdom and righteousness), and they have shared a bit about their journey with those of us who would follow them down that path. That’s what these occasional posts, under “Burning Heart” will focus on. They will share snippets – bits and pieces – from those of the fellowship who’ve finished their pilgrimage to the Celestial City and now rest from their labor. What they have left behind for the rest of us is encouragement and wisdom to help us travel the same road. More importantly, they have exalted the King of that road and call upon us to do likewise.

This small effort will be nothing more than sharing brief devotional quotations and insights of the folks who have blessed me along my own journey. I’m quite certain ten different people could come up with ten completely differently lists. Those on my list may not all be your cup of tea, yet I do hope that you will find a little gold in the gravel. But if that is the case, then please find your own fellowship of the burning heart who can help encourage you and build you up for our journey.

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.” A.W. Tozer

We all desire that far green country. Let’s walk the path of those who have successfully gone before us and left a trail of breadcrumbs behind them.

Longing for Home

Ecclesiastes 3:11[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Restless Hearts

Great saints of God have beautifully, if feebly, attempted to capture the height and depth and weight of such a majestic verse as this. In his Confessions, Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Pascal’s oft-quoted idea that people have a God-shaped vacuum in their hearts only God can fill strikes a similar note.

We do have a longing in our hearts for eternity, or better, the God of eternity. Perhaps C.S. Lewis in, The Weight of Glory, best expressed this deep desire of our hearts. He wrote,

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness… I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each of one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence… We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing in itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Homesickness

Eternity has been placed in our hearts by the King of eternity. Our longing is a homesickness of sorts. For though this is our Father’s world and was created good, it is now fallen. And when touched by the Holy Spirit we can no longer remain content with the things of this world alone, things that are temporal and destined to fade away.

Perhaps some do not experience such a longing for their true homeland because their hearts and minds are not yet set on things above where Christ our King is seated. Perhaps the ravages of sin have so infected their hearts and minds that a shadow has veiled their sight. We can only pray that the same gracious and sovereign Spirit who touched and re-created us will do the same for them.

In the end there is no end, for we were created for eternity. We are pilgrims and aliens traveling in a foreign land, longing for the City of God, not built with human hands, but eternal in the heavens.

May the longing of our hearts for things unseen serve as our true north, that we might one day arrive Home.

Walking Points

  • Have you ever sensed the longing described by C.S. Lewis? Describe that experience?
  • Did you find that you tried to locate the feeling in something temporal or were you able to understand it was pointing beyond itself, to something eternal?
  • What are some ways you could explain this experience to an unbelieving friend as a way of introducing him or her to God?

Prayer

God of eternity, I praise you for planting deep within my heart a longing for you, my true Home. I thank you that you are not content watching me move through this world with little desire for you. The penetrating calling and conviction of your Spirit ever draws me back to you. Please keep my heart and mind set on you. As St. Augustine put it, please make me restless until I am finally and fully resting in you. Continue to give me a heavenly homesickness that will continue to move me toward you. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Under A Swift Sunrise

The title of this blog comes from a line in The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Toward the end of the story, Frodo finds himself at the Grey Havens, ready to sail off to the undying lands. After saying goodbye to his friends, we find these words,

And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

In the movie, Peter Jackson placed these words in the mouth of Gandalf, in an exchange with Pippin, but it was just as powerful. Here’s the scene…

We are indeed on a journey as some of my favorite books remind me, and we will all encounter death. It is part of the path we all must take. I don’t know about you, but I long for what’s beyond it. As the following post emphasizes, I long for my true home, which is to say, I long for God. I love Gandalf’s faraway look as he reflects on the place he has been. And when Pippin tells him it doesn’t sound all that bad, Gandalf knowingly replies, “no, no it isn’t.” Was this the response of Lazarus when his life was being threatened again? He had been there and done that. What could possibly scare him? Gandalf’s smile, faraway stare, and deep sigh assures Pippin that death does not have the last say. There’s so much more awaiting them. And us.

C.S. Lewis understood this. He wrote often about longing or desire. I hope to share some of my favorite quotations by him in posts to come. Peter Kreeft even goes so far as to call “death,” the one we often think of as our enemy, as a lover. When we are in Christ, to quote the Apostle Paul, to live is Christ and to die is gain. It’s a win-win situation.

Now, to be sure, I’m not trying to hurry to the day I stand before the Lord, but as Richard Baxter assures us, there is for those who know Christ, an indescribable rest. Can you imagine anything better? To rest in the very presence of God himself?

I will enjoy my life God has given me in the here and now. I will seek his glory each and every day. But one day, when the Lord calls me home, I will look for that far green country under a swift sunrise.