I’m Not Your Hero

Dollarpherowoman

The Sunday morning service was about to start. The child squirmed and protested on my hip as I stood at the back of the room, struggling to keep him still and quiet. The woman approaching me didn’t notice my difficulty in keeping my charge under control. Nor did she discern the tiredness behind my smile. I guess she was blinded by the stars in her eyes.

With three children already between five and ten years my husband and I had recently become foster parents to a little boy with special needs. My friend had heard and wanted to tell me something. What she told me was pretty much what our other Christian friends were telling us, except for the few whose sidelong looks implied ‘you’re just crazy’, that is. Apparently we were exceptional Christians, dedicated, compassionate, self-sacrificing, inspirational…..the superlatives continued to flow, but, well, I’ll spare you.

“Well, I just know I couldn’t do what you’re doing!” she finally gushed before walking to her seat.

The child still squirmed and protested loudly in my arms. I still struggled. My body still ached with weariness. My mind still questioned God and the wisdom of our decision. But my friend, having delivered her message of unrestrained admiration, continued on her way no doubt feeling suitably warm and fuzzy inside.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.

I’m not your hero. Don’t put that burden on me. Don’t put it on anyone else for that matter. I absolutely, unequivocally, refuse to be your hero. If you need a hero for whatever strange reason go find one somewhere else. Go find several if you want to, but don’t include me. Furthermore, I promise I will never make you my hero. You can thank me later.

It’s years since that Sunday morning encounter, but I often remember it with an odd mixture of amusement and sorrow. If truth be told I should have responded, loudly and clearly, with what I was thinking: ‘Well, you know what, I can’t do it either!’ But back then I was in my wide-eyed ‘being a loving Christian means pleasing everyone’ phase. Thankfully, there’s been some water under the bridge since then.

What is it with Christian hero worship? Why do we build elaborate platforms and install our favourite pastor, author, ministry leader, or fellow believer on them? And not just in our churches, but more importantly, in our hearts? I’ve been on both sides of the hero worship and I never want to revisit.

This week I watched a video in which a renowned celebrity pastor stated God had blessed him with ‘a pretty big platform’ and so his heart was to ‘lift others up onto my platform’. Seriously?

It made me sad, because I knew that mega-church pastor before he was famous, before his name and his church became household words, before there was an empire and a brand-name to go with it all. I knew him when he was a friend and not a celebrity.

It made me sad, because I wished we could sit together again as equals, no platform between us, for a simple home cooked meal.  But we’re in very different places now.

And it made me sad because I, with my starry eyed hero worship, for a short time in my life helped build his platform.

I understand now what I couldn’t put into words on that Sunday morning when my friend elevated me above herself. In her effort to make me ‘more than’ herself, she didn’t realise she was actually making me ‘less than’. She didn’t know I would look back this many years later with the realisation I was robbed in that encounter.

Robbed of my right to ordinariness and human weakness; robbed of my right to be vulnerable; robbed of my need for authentic fellowship; and denied my opportunity to say ‘I need help’ and hear the words ‘help is right here’ coming back at me.

It’s what we do. We have access to all the resources of the Kingdom, each one of us, yet we insist on elevating our chosen ones to this super-spiritual hero status that separates the Body of Christ into classes.  We are proclaimed to be a joint heir with Christ, every one of us, yet we prefer hierarchy over community.

Even many of our Bible translations have a whole chapter we’ve labelled ‘heroes of the faith’¹.

In this Christian world of super heroes we’ve created, our ‘heroes’ are denied the freedom to fellowship with us simply as fellow travellers on this rocky, unpredictable journey into Christ. The luxury of publicly working out their own salvation through stumbling, failing and struggling as the rest of us do is disallowed. Their human need to express doubt, fear or inadequacy must be suppressed in case we are shocked by their insufficiency and turn on them.

We isolate these imaginary heroes into ever smaller circles of fellowship because they dare not admit they are anything less than the ‘Super Christian’ we desire them to be. Ultimately they in turn believe they are who we say they are and start talking about bringing others ‘up’ to their own level.  Or worse, they enjoy having their so called platform all to themselves.

Jesus knew something about the human heart’s desire for hero worship. After the miracle of feeding a multitude with one boy’s lunch, the crowd pressed in to forcefully make Him their king². But Jesus would have none of it and removed Himself from them immediately. The king they wanted was a political king, a superman like their ancient hero David, a hero who would defeat Israel’s Roman enemy and restore the Davidic kingdom. They were looking for a militant revolutionary to head up a renewed political nation their enemies would fear. And they wanted this hero on their terms, not Jesus’ terms.

It is appropriate for us to give honour where honour is due. It is good for us to encourage one another to walk out our spiritual giftings and functions. It is right that we acknowledge those who have gone before us and their contributions to the Kingdom. But none of us are true heroes.

David was a mighty, anointed king who used his power to sexually abuse a married woman and arrange her husband’s death. Moses saw God but failed to enter the Promised Land. Elijah hid trembling in a cave. Paul and Barnabas argued sharply and separated. Peter performed miracles that put the fear of God into people but lost his mettle when the circumcisers³ turned up.

Maybe you’ve known a Christian ‘hero’ who has turned out not to be the hero you thought they were. Maybe you’ve even helped build their platform. That’s the thing about hero worship. Eventually God has to bring our pseudo-heroes down to our own level to convince us there really is only one authentic Hero worthy of our worship.

In the end our tendency to elevate others onto spiritual platforms is an excuse for failing to pursue Christ to the utmost in our own lives. Like the Israelites sending Moses up the mountain as their substitute, we conveniently convince ourselves others can do a far better job of hearing and serving God than we can⁴.

The greatest love we can show another believer is to dismantle whatever platform we have elevated them onto and invite them to walk beside us as equals, learning, receiving from and supporting one another as we seek the fullness of Christ together.

That’s community, that’s true Body Life.

Or we can continue to elevate fellow believers to hero status and just be another celebrity fan club.

¹Hebrews 11

²John 6:15

³ Galatians 2:11-14

⁴Exodus 20:18,19

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

The Insanity of The Kingdom

Jesus Writing on the sand with his finger

Recently a blogger friend, Becky Johnson, remarked in one of her posts I think this is normal to a life of faith – this feeling like we …. are doing something completely insane”

I think she’s on to something.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time reading the gospels before you realise the gap between Jesus and His listeners was gigantic. Take, for instance, the extraordinary discussion in John 6:24-66. The escalating tension almost jumps off the page and punches us in the face. How dare He tell them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! Who did He think they were, godless barbarians? And insisting He’d come from Heaven when everyone knew His parents were a local carpenter and his wife?

What on earth was this ridiculous talk of ‘feeding’ on Him? Was He mad? All they wanted was some kind of miracle to prove He was no ordinary man, possibly even the Messiah, and they’d be satisfied. Then they’d believe whatever He wanted them to believe. Even more so if He could repeat what He’d done just the previous day and provide free food, like Moses had done for Israel in the wilderness. Simple. Just show us the bread Jesus, and we’ll follow you anywhere. What was His problem?

But now He was pointing to Himself, saying ‘this is the Bread”. And if they would eat and drink His flesh and blood they could live forever. This was not the King they’d waited for after all, just another of those crazy prophets who never made any sense, or worse still a demoniac. And anyone who followed him might well be thought mad as well.

They were offended, big time – offended by this self-styled King and His questionable Kingdom. How could someone who spoke the same language as they did make such little sense? No, they would not follow this madman into the insanity of His so called Kingdom.  So – a crowd of them walked away profoundly disappointed, presumably to continue awaiting the arrival of the true King of Israel.

So, what, exactly is this Kingdom of God that so polarises people?  Is it now, is it future, or is it both? Is it a place, or is it a Presence? Can we hasten its appearance on earth, or not?

This post doesn’t set out to answer every question ever asked about the Kingdom: that would take a volume. But hopefully it may provide some basic perspectives on Kingdom life that will encourage each of us to dig deeper.

So let’s start with how the Kingdom looks in this world.

As we’ve seen, to world dwellers the Kingdom of God looks like it’s located somewhere between eccentric and insane. Consequently, world dwellers frequently find Kingdom dwellers and their King offensive in a way they can’t quite put their finger on. Put simply, the world is fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of God, does not recognise the authority of its King and considers all Kingdom dwellers delusional or worse.

Who can blame them? Kingdom dwellers talk about a Kingdom that’s invisible and pledge allegiance to a King who died in shame and agony who they say will return. Let’s face it, without the convicting agency of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible for any of us to even see the Kingdom, let alone enter it (John 3:3-5).

This Kingdom’s King is unpredictable, with little regard for what passes as normal in this world. He has been known to fashion a whip to terrorise innocent shopkeepers. He claims to be the Son of God yet refuses to call legions of militant angels to save Him from execution. He says He rules a Kingdom but voluntarily acts like a slave and washes men’s dirty, smelly feet.

He says God is His Father but lets lawbreakers off without punishment. He pays no respect to age-old traditions and seems to go out of His way to aggravate influential people. His followers have been known to sing and rejoice when thrown into the darkest of prisons, forgive those bent on killing them and weep and pray for their oppressors.

Some who seek the Kingdom wrongly believe they need to prove to the world the Kingdom exists. Some of them even think doing so is their life call. Other wiser Kingdom dwellers, knowing the Kingdom is about power more than words, prefer to demonstrate, not debate, the Kingdom.

So what is the Kingdom about then?

The Kingdom’s purpose is to manifest and rule on the earth under the authority of the King. To this end the Kingdom is currently at war, but not with the world dwellers.

Jesus came leading a Love invasion into the everyday realm of human beings, and brought His Kingdom with Him.  That Love invasion triggered a massive escalation in a spiritual conflict that existed before the creation of humanity. This conflict reaches into and manifests in all aspects of earthly life. It is presently raging more than at any time in history and will increase in even more intensity before King Jesus arrives to take up His earthly throne.

Wait, but the Kingdom is peaceful isn’t it? Yes and no. The Kingdom brings peace, but advances with force (Matt. 11:12). The force with which the Kingdom advances is neither military nor political. It is a divine, spiritual force that cannot be discerned by world dwellers.

Some believers wrongly believe they need to protect themselves and their families from the world. They build fortress like temples as bastions to keep out the world dwellers, who they suppose always prefer sin to holiness. Some think these fortresses are the Kingdom, but the Kingdom isn’t found within man-made walls, it is found within the Kingdom dwellers.   In reality it’s the Kingdom that’s on the offensive and the world that’s retreating.

The world does not invade the Kingdom – the Kingdom invades the world.

Sincere Kingdom dwellers refuse to be confined inside fortresses, but follow their King out of the temple onto the battlefields of humanity.   The battlefields are the streets, the cities, the fields, the houses, the meeting places, and the darkest places of the world. With them they bring the Love of the King, for which the world has no defence.

So how does the Kingdom advance?

Conflict involves weapons. The weapons the world uses to oppose the Kingdom include hate, deception, lust, confusion, accusation, unbelief, betrayal, violence, humanism, corruption, and human centred religion.

The world system is a spiritual entity that hates the Kingdom, despises its King and seeks to destroy all that the Kingdom represents. Those who dwell in the world system are slaves to it, but have been seduced into believing they are free and that the King wants to take away their freedom. Consequently the world and its dwellers hate, mock, persecute, harass, humiliate, imprison and kill Kingdom dwellers relentlessly. This spiritually motivated malevolence toward Kingdom dwellers will only increase until the King returns bodily to this realm to enforce His Kingdom’s rule in every corner of the earth.

The weapons of Kingdom dwellers, however, are forged by the Spirit of God. The King taught His citizens that the Kingdom can never take ground by using the same weapons as the world. He demonstrated a higher, more perfect kind of warfare and trains His kingdom dwellers in wielding spiritual, not man-made, weapons. These include faith and its twin, faithfulness, as well as humility, prayer, and the greatest weapon of all, Love.

The greatest evidence that the Kingdom is advancing on the earth is the presence of Kingdom Love. Wherever the Love of Christ is seen and experienced, even for a moment, His Kingdom is breaking through and the world is in retreat.

So surely this Kingdom must have some laws, otherwise how would it operate effectively?

There is just one law needed in the Kingdom of God. It is called the Law of the Spirit and it is known as Love. This law is administered by the Holy Spirit, who infuses Kingdom dwellers with the Love of Christ. Kingdom dwellers love all who the King loves.

This unearthly Love cannot be measured, nor can it be divided. It does, however, take most Kingdom dwellers a while to get the hang of it. But like riding a bicycle, once they learn how to lose themselves in this Love, they never forget. Even then, it’s not so much an achievement as it is an immersion. The deeper Kingdom dwellers immerse themselves into the Love of Christ, the deeper they love and the better they demonstrate the Kingdom.

Well there it is, my concise guide to the Kingdom. This Kingdom is indeed an unconventional place to live. From the outside looking in it appears to be madness. But from the inside it looks like Christ the King.

Perhaps you have some thoughts to share on the Kingdom of God? If so, I’d be happy to hear them….just leave them in the comment box at the bottom of this post.

Oh, and one last thing I should probably add about this mysterious, insane Kingdom:

The King wins.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

On Bearing Witness, Or “Just Go With Me On This”

Can-I-Get-a-Witness2We watched on with a mixture of awe and wonderment as the old woman cavorted gleefully just in front of us. She was short, round, gray haired…..and today she was beautiful. The silver hair on her head and her chin testified of a long life, a life that had known hardship – perhaps more than her fair share. We knew a holy moment was upon us. So we played, and she danced, her feet, belying her age, keeping time with the upbeat tune, her face radiant, her joy unhindered.

She was in love with God, and He with her.

It was somewhere on the North Island of New Zealand and we had come to share worship and ministry with a house full of hungry hearted, hurting disciples at various stages of their journeys out of woundedness. Later we learned her story. Her father had badly wanted a son, but instead a daughter had been born. As a result he had rejected her and most of her life had been lived in the dark shadow of that rejection.   As she grew older, whiskers had appeared on her chin – some said a reflection of her need for her father’s acceptance. Her disgrace multiplied, she hid away in shame. Until, that is, she found rest in the arms of Jesus and discovered she had a Father who was proud to call her ‘daughter’.

This day she was dancing all the way out of that shame. This day angels would hush and demons would tremble as her dancing feet bore witness that Her Lord is risen and shame is defeated.

And we heard the Spirit whisper ‘go with Me on this’, and so we played our guitars and sang out Christ’s praise for as long as our Lord and her dancing feet desired.


The soft, unfamiliar sound made its way into my consciousness once more. For three days I had been teaching a school on prophetic intercession and had periodically become aware of a mysterious sound rising and falling somewhere in the room, but then had forgotten it as the noise of worship and fellowship grew stronger.

On the third day I saw him. A man, a very ordinary looking, middle aged man, laying prostrate on the floor weeping softly and profusely into the carpet. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance, nothing to distinguish him in a crowded room. The floor around him was saturated with three days’ worth of salty tears.

They told me he would come each day, lay face down at the back of the room, and begin to softly weep. There he would remain, leaving at the end of the day’s teaching without explanation.

So before he could slip away again, I spoke with him. I needed to understand what might be wrong, or if perhaps he needed prayer. No, none of the above. Quietly he shared with me that the Lord had sent him to intercede. With.Tears. So, as the word was taught, the Holy Spirit would burden him with intercessory groanings too deep to be uttered, and he would weep without ceasing, like some modern Jeremiah. Daily He wept for the hard-heartedness of God’s people, for his nation and for the lost.

And again, I knew I had stumbled into holy territory. And the Spirit said “go with Me on this”. And I asked no more questions.


The line of people wanting prayer was long. We moved to each one, laying on hands, listening to the Spirit, sharing words of knowledge and comfort as we were enabled. These people had been traumatized by years of persecution, war and poverty. We knew we had no personal understanding of the trials they encountered on a daily basis, but we wanted them to know we loved them and counted them as our precious brothers and sisters in the Lord.

A girl, in her teens, stepped into view. She was nervous, unsure if she should really be in this prayer line. I smiled at her, trying to find some welcoming light in her eyes, but she kept them downcast. I knew asking her what her need was would be of little help. Her English was limited and my Burmese was nonexistent. Somehow I sensed whatever I said would be unfruitful. “Help me here, Lord”.

“Just go with Me on this.”

Without a further thought I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me. There was no inner debate – it happened as simply as if I had stepped aside and Jesus had physically slipped into my place. She stiffened, rigid, passively resisting the embrace as if such intimate nearness of another human being could only bring pain and trauma. So I waited without words, my arms locked tightly around her, unwilling to let her pass back into whatever deep darkness had been tormenting her.

And as I held her, Jesus loved her.

It was not me who loved her. But I went with Him, because a long time ago I said yes, I will go with this Man (Gen. 24:58). In that moment He didn’t need to ask, and I didn’t need to decide. It was already done.

That beloved young woman was healed that day. As Eternal Love flowed through her she surrendered into His everlasting arms and walked away whole. I saw her later, laughing contagiously with her friends, her entire demeanor transformed. Where shame had lurked and fear had crippled, freedom now reigned. Brown eyes once downcast now gazed into the faces of those around her with joy and love. Radiant Light had replaced darkness. She bore within herself the witness that Christ lives, and I know it will never be taken from her. And again I understood she and I, together, had experienced something profoundly holy.


If we are to inhabit this earth as the Bride of Jesus Christ, to occupy until He comes, we need to understand that we have just one primary calling:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Christ is risen. His Life, manifested in us, is the living, tangible witness we carry in body, soul and spirit. This witness-bearing Bride is exceedingly beautiful, but not with the temporary attractiveness that passes for beauty in this world. She is not, as we like to portray her, young and pearly skinned, with long fair tresses and sparkling blue eyes, adorned in a white satin wedding gown gazing heavenward.

Let’s imagine for a moment that her skin colour might be something other than ours, and that she may just possibly be middle aged, balding and developing a paunch. Wait for it……she may even have chin hair! Not the same, is it? But isn’t it time we aligned our image of the Bride with Christ’s?

And isn’t it time we agreed with Him also on exactly what it means to be His bearers of witness? We may not like to hear the simplicity of it, but He doesn’t keep us here to give the world a lesson in morality, to rebuke the lost, to condemn those who are already condemned, to push the agenda of our chosen political party or denomination, or even to righteously sprout out our opinions on everything from gay marriage to the economy.

Bearing is carrying. It’s not about words. It is about being. It is not about convincing the world how good it is to be a Christian. They have good reason not to believe us on that. The Western church has largely forfeited her credibility as a voice of leadership and bastion of righteousness on too many important issues.

We are way too full of words and way too empty of living witness.

The world does not need our noise. It needs our Christ-Life.

That kind of witness requires a laying down of our lives. That kind of witness demonstrates a Love beyond what the world calls love. That kind of witness can only be borne by a Bride led and empowered by the Spirit of Christ.   That kind of witness can and will get us into trouble, but if we’re going to be on the receiving end of trouble, (and we are), let it be because of the Resurrected Life we bear and not of our own making.

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Acts 2:32

Let’s go with Him on this.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From The Archives: Destination Christ

  A Road Through Autumn

The Bride’s journey is not a journey to somewhere.  It’s a journey into Someone.  Her goal is communion with the Father, by means of the Spirit, through oneness with Christ the Bridegroom.  Her destination is nothing less than Christ’s fullness (Eph. 4:13).

This is the very thing Jesus prayed for in his final hours of life: “that they may also be one in Us”  (John 17:21)

What is it Jesus is seeking from His Bride at this crucial time in human history?   What is it He passionately desires to find deep in her heart?

It is faithfulness. And faithfulness may not be what we have thought it is. 

King David is often referred to as a ‘man after God’s own heart”. So how was David a man after God’s own heart?  He reflected God’s own faithfulness.  Faithfulness is intrinsic to the Lord’s character; He cannot be otherwise (Is. 11:5; 2 Tim 2:13).

But David was far from perfect.  He failed spectacularly when he committed adultery with a married woman who was in no position to refuse His royal advances.  He failed also in his family relationships.  Despite these failings, God saw fit to call him a ‘man after My own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).   

Moses too was commended by God as “faithful in all My house”, but he also had some serious character flaws.  He feared to go before Pharaoh unless God sent someone else with him.  He lost the right to lead Israel into the Promised Land through a fit of temper. But more than these things, Moses is remembered as one God called ‘faithful’ (Num: 12:7).

So, contrary to popular opinion, faithfulness is not moral perfection.  It can’t be learned by studying and it can’t be practised by following a rigid set of rules. 

Faithfulness is not regularly attending church, tithing, caring for the poor, or reading the Bible. 

We can choose to do any of those things rigidly, yet still be found by God to be without faithfulness, because faithfulness is not about doing – it is about an attitude of heart. 

Faithfulness is also not necessarily the same as faith.  There is a certain kind of faith we can exercise yet still be lacking in faithfulness (Matt. 7:22, 23

Faithfulness, however, cannot be found apart from active, living faith. 

It seems to me faithfulness is steadfast pursuit of God in the face of intense pressure.  It is being so in love with the Bridegroom that nothing, not even our own failures, can keep us from running after Him with all our strength.  It is to have the eyes of our hearts set firmly on Him simply because we have found Him matchless. 

Taking spiritual inventory of ourselves from time to time, (only in partnership with the Holy Spirit) can be useful.  But those who walk in faithfulness will not allow their failures, weaknesses or sins to become their focus. They may fall, but ultimately their shortcomings cannot overcome them.  The desire to follow hard after the Beloved compels them onward in His pursuit.

Faithfulness is born when somewhere along our spiritual journey we are granted a glimpse of the Beloved up ahead of us, and we are forever ruined for anything less. 

Unable to look away, we are, as Paul described it, ‘laid hold of’ by Christ: …”I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:8-12).  

The phrase means “to seize upon” and “to take possession of”.  Elsewhere it is translated ‘apprehended’.  These are deeply powerful descriptions of someone who is no longer free to follow his/her own way but has been overcome by another. 

To press on also means so much more than dawdling along like a small child behind its parent, distracted by the butterflies and flowers along the way.  To press on has intensity about it, a determined objective.  To press on is to run with abandon in eager pursuit of the goal.  And the Bride’s goal is to be found in Christ, not behind Him, not beside Him, but in Him. 

I believe faithfulness is the single most desirable thing the Lord is seeking from His Bride right now.  When I asked Him how that faithfulness looks, this was His reply:

“She does not have wandering eyes.” 

Selah!

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

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Awakening

The golden grassy head of a reed stem blowing in the wind.

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…… Matthew 12:20

Sometimes we need a reality check.   Sometimes we fall for our own propaganda.  Sometimes we just need to sit at the feet of Jesus long enough, still enough, to cease striving to live up to our own warped image of ourself.   Sometimes, no often, we need to give ourselves permission to admit we don’t have it all together and quite probably never will.  And then we need to understand, in our deepest places, that’s actually OK. 

God is profoundly attracted to brokenness.

 Awakening

I saw You cup your hands

Around a fading flame

And gently breathe it back to life

And crown it with your name

I heard You whisper love songs

Of promises unbroken

And sing upon that fragile flame

‘Till its fire was awoken

 

I saw You hold a dying reed

Bent low upon its knees

And blow upon its crippled heart

A soft and tender breeze

You kissed its ancient bruises

And lifted up its face

‘Till sorrow bowed to mercy

And death gave way to grace

 

It’s I who am that smouldering flame

I too, the wounded reed,

I am the flawed, the spent, the crushed

I am all who break and bleed

A prisoner of my brokenness

I lay me down to die

To finish what I did not start

To sleep and never rise

 

But You refuse to dim this flame

Though it waivers in the storm

And You withhold to break this reed

That’s weatherworn and torn

So let this flame be fragile

And this reed be tossed and blown

And let brokenness surrender

To Love that won’t let go


© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Royal Seal – SoS Saturday

Cheryl McGrath:

Sharing today this post from Ben Nelson at Another Red Letter Day. May it help us remember how very much we are loved…..

Originally posted on Another Red Letter Day:

Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.

Song of Songs 8:6 NASB

As you may know, in the days of Solomon a seal was a mark of identification and ownership.

A seal acted as a signature for kings and nobles. They used wax seals to signify the authenticity of a document or artifact. A title-deed for example, or private communication,  after it’s writing, would be rolled or folded. Then the writer melted wax and the pressed his seal into the it. If the recipient found the seal broken, he knew that the communication was no longer secure.

The king’s army was the force behind the kings seal, and it was that force that would ensure the safety of the message, and…

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Of Wolves and Kings

 

Dollarphotoclub_wolfsheepThe scene was somber. Weeping unashamedly each one in turn fell upon the apostle’s neck, covering his face with kisses, embracing him for what they now knew would be the last time.  Each of them feared for their spiritual father’s fate, but none could contend with his determination to go on. Regardless of whatever might await him, he would continue by sea to Jerusalem, for the Spirit compelled him.

With moistened eyes and heavy hearts they watched as the ship disappeared on the horizon, straining to follow the last glimpse of the beloved leader for as long as possible. Turning then, they set their faces for the journey home, each one pondering the apostle’s parting words and his warning of the serious challenges ahead (Acts 20:17-38).

Such was the final meeting between the apostle Paul and the leaders of the Ephesian church. Aware that he would not see them again in this life, Paul had tempered his final message to them with this warning:

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

We’ve all heard about wolves in sheep’s clothing, haven’t we? Jesus said these would come into the church claiming to be believers but in reality they would be hungry wolves seeking to devour the sheep (Matt. 7:15). Oh, we keep a wary eye out for them and their cunning ways, herding our sheep into ever tighter compounds as we protect ourselves from the wolf ridden world outside.

But Paul’s warning was twofold. There would also be those rising up ‘from among yourselves’. They would be gifted communicators, using their oratory gifts to pervert the gospel and attract followers.

Sadly, Paul’s prophetic warning to the Ephesian elders is as relevant today as it has ever been.

While the church guards herself against the world, home grown wolves roam among us, drawing multitudes to themselves. Abandoning the leadership of the Holy Spirit, who alone embodies ‘all truth’, believers flock to drink in the latest utterances of celebrity ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’ and ‘pastors’. Every day, via conferences, internet, books and other media, itching Christian ears are tickled by smooth speakers whose intent is to make disciples for themselves.

The doctrines spread by these wolf-sheep are not Christ-centered, do not lead us in the way of Love, and are not born of the Spirit of God. They teach us to live in the kingdoms of men rather than seek the Kingdom of God. At their heart are some ‘perverse things’…..things that are contrary to Christ while claiming to be leading us to Christ.

Let’s not blame the world for the poisonous mixture now in our midst. We are not called to condemn the world; the world is already condemned (Jn 3:17).

It is we, the church, who have been content to simply fill pews and sit in enraptured obedience while our demi-gods build their ever expanding kingdoms. We may call these human idols apostle, prophet, senior pastor, bishop, reverend, priest or pope, but what we have really wanted is a king we can see, handle and adore. A king like us.

The ancient Israelites had the same desire. ‘Give us a flesh and blood king to rule over us” they cried out to God, “so we can be like the other nations’ (1 Sam. 8:4-22).

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow Christian that went along these lines:

Friend: ‘You must read so and so’s (contemporary theologian) works. He is so wonderful in the way he explains the Bible. I’ve read all his commentaries.’

Me: ‘I rarely read commentaries.  They don’t form my understanding of scripture.’

Friend: ‘Oh, but so and so’s different. When I’m reading his books it’s like having him in my own house. You should read them too.’

Me: ‘Why would I want him in my house?’

Friend: ‘Because reading his words feels like he’s following you around the house talking to you while you read.’

Me: ‘You mean like the Holy Spirit?’

The person I was talking with is a believer of many years and holds a Masters Degree in Theology.

Jesus did not leave His church defenceless. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, teach, reveal truth, and anoint her with supernatural power and spiritual gifts. He also gave her the people-gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to serve, equip, edify and mature her (Eph. 4:11-16).

These ones are among us and always have been, but very often they do not look the way we think they should.

The hard working believer beside you riding the train to work could be a prophet. The Christ following lady at the supermarket checkout may be an apostle. That unshaven old man waiting at the bus stop could be an evangelist, a teacher or a shepherd. While the Israelites were fawning after a king who was tall, handsome and from a powerful family, God’s unknown, chosen king sat in a lonely field, as a lowly shepherd guarding his father’s sheep (1 Sam. 9:1-2).

Christ’s people-gifts don’t normally come wrapped in expensive suits and driving the latest model car. They don’t need fancy business cards or state of the art auditoriums and they would probably prefer to ride a donkey than sit in a limousine. You could be one of them. What? Haven’t been to seminary? You’re shy, awkward, a nobody? That sounds just like the raw material God prefers.

The Bride of Christ recognizes only one King. All others desiring her adoration are usurpers craving His crown. God ordained authority does not seek to stand out in the crowd celebrity-like. It looks like you, and me, and Mr and Mrs Blogs down the road.

When we come into Christ we are encouraged to no longer recognize anyone ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor. 5:16 NASB). That means how someone looks, where they come from, their academic credentials or their Bible-quoting should not impress us. Neither should their charismatic personality, their ability to gather a crowd or even their spiritual gifts.

When we elevate others in their flesh, no matter how spiritual they may appear to us, we diminish the call of God on our own lives.

We convince ourselves that we have no place of service in Christ’s Body because we could never do as well as the one we’ve elevated. The good news is we were never meant to be like someone else – we are to be conformed only to the image of Christ. Knowing each other after the Spirit is simply recognizing, receiving from and responding to Christ in one another.

John the Baptist did not recognize the One He had been waiting for among the crowd until the Spirit revealed Him (Jn. 1:33). ‘One stands among us whose sandal strap I am unworthy to even loose’ he told the Pharisees who were supposed to be watching for their Messiah. Regardless, Jesus insisted on submitting to John’s baptism (Matt. 3:14,15). In a beautiful act of mutual submission, Jesus recognized and honoured the Holy Spirit in John, and John complied and submitted to Jesus’ wish.

When we refuse the anointing and call of God upon us, no matter how inadequate we feel, we dishonor the Spirit.

It is no accident of chance that you and I are alive at this moment in history. Our Kingdom is not of this world. Because we belong to a King and a Kingdom that are outside the boundaries and systems of our surrounding world, we are always placed in a unique position to be part of the solution.

We are alive at such a time as this because our King has need of us for such a time as this! None of us were born simply to warm pews. None of us became Christ followers in order to help build and maintain the kingdoms of usurpers who seek the Bride for themselves.

Nor are we here to ‘tut tut’ and shake our fingers at the messed up world. We are here to get our hands in among the grime and the muck and demonstrate another, better way.

We are here as light among darkness.

We are here as healing among suffering.

We are here as a royal priesthood of lovers and peacemakers.

We are here as Lifebearers in the shadow of death.

We are here to be about our Father’s business, and His only.

Let’s each of us find out what that business is for us, and seek, together, to be the answer in a church and a world rapidly running out of answers.

For truly, there has never been such a time as this, and never will there be again.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.