Protestant pastors Chris Seidman and Josh Graves have co-written a practical guide to the Beatitudes in their little book, Heaven on Earth.
One of the best things from the Evangelical Protestant tradition is solid, clear, practical, Bible based preaching. A good Evangelical preacher can hold his congregation’s attention for a good 30 minutes or half hour and the congregation are used to taking notes, receiving solid content and practical applications of the Scriptures to the challenges of every day Christian discipleship. It’s something Catholic priests and deacons could learn from. This book sounds like the vibrant, motivating and inspiring preaching that one might hear in a Bible based, dynamic mega church. No surprise then that the authors are both senior ministers at thriving Evangelical churches.
In the ten short chapters of this 140 page paperback pastors Seidman and Graves pack numerous faith stories of individuals who have lived out the crucial challenges of the Beatitudes. We meet friends and fellow church members who cope with grief and poverty, illness and addictions, family breakdown and personal tragedy, and in the midst of the human frailty and weakness the authors show how God’s mercy and grace carries them through. We see those who have learned from experience that the poor of spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven. We meet those who mourn and are comforted. We are given examples of those who show mercy and receive mercy.
This is not a theological book, nor a paradoxical, challenging or subversive book. It does not pretend to be a full length academic treatment of the Sermon on the Mount. Instead it is a practical book to encourage and help ordinary Christians do battle with the Beatitudes, and to learn how to press on in life’s difficulties to find God’s amazing and unexpected blessing.
Catholic readers will find very little to disagree with in this book. As it is written about a shared treasure — the teachings of Jesus. There is much here for the Catholic reader to glean. Furthermore, Catholic readers may find the practical, down to earth and relevant approach of these Protestant pastors a bit of fresh air–a new perspective and a welcome new voice to their usual reading. If reading is supposed to take us out of our comfort zone and take us into new areas of discovery and truth, then I challenge some of our Catholic readers to pick up a book like Heaven on Earth and learn from it.
It might just introduce you to a new way of seeing and a new understanding of how blessed we are here in this life when we follow Jesus Christ in true and living discipleship.
I’m going to keep my review copy as a reminder of how to preach fresh and applicable sermons, and I’ll probably ‘borrow’ some of Josh and Chris’ illustrations for my own preaching.
Go here to learn more about the authors, read more reviews and connect to this new book.