From the Archives: The Gift

thegiftFor the third time, the ageing Pharisee circled the strangely shaped object lying at his feet.  No one could tell him who had left it unsolicited outside his door, or even when it had appeared.  Wrapped in the skin of a lamb and crudely labelled with just one handwritten Hebrew word, “chen”, its appearance was a total mystery to him.

Suspiciously he pushed against it with his sandalled foot, at which the object shifted effortlessly across his floor.  “It can’t be heavy then”, he mused.  “Whatever its contents, they are obviously of little weight and therefore of minimum value.”  Cautiously he reached forth his right hand, prodding roughly, but the lambskin cover gave no hint of what might be hidden inside the parcel. 

“It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before” said the old man to no one but himself.  “It’s very shape and form are completely unfamiliar.”   Unfamiliarity was not something the Pharisee was comfortable with, in any form.  “It is not an occasion for gift giving, so why should someone bestow a gift on me?” he reasoned.  “Furthermore, I am a highly respected member of this community.  Everyone acquainted with me knows I am a learned and upright man well versed in the law, and of excellent reputation.   It is evident that all I could possibly need God has richly bestowed on me.  Who would dare, therefore, to assume I have need of this unwanted gift, whatever it is?” 

Thus were his thoughts as he circled the object yet again.   Finally he stopped circling long enough to contemplate the word scribbled across the lambskin.  “Grace…” he articulated quietly lest anyone should hear.  “Grace? What under God’s heaven could that possibly mean?  The handwriting is rough and unskilled, like that of a poorly educated person.  I am not even sure the letters are correct.  Obviously this is a hoax being played by someone with a jealous grudge against me.  There may even be something inside that would harm me or my family.  But I am too clever for such foolishness.  This questionable gift is unworthy of me and I have no need of it.” 

Calling decisively to his servant he said: “Take this away from my home and consign it to the rubbish pile.”  “Excuse me, sir”, replied the servant, “but you have not opened it.”  “I have no need to open it”, snapped the Pharisee, “perhaps some fool will open it, but I will not!” And the servant obeyed. 

——————————–

The child wandered aimlessly through the household dregs unceremoniously piled at the edge of the village.  He often came here to explore when mother was busy and his absence would go unnoticed for a short time. Looking for nothing in particular and anything in general, his searching eyes came to linger on an unusually shaped object half covered by a pile of worn out wineskins. 

“What could this be?” he exclaimed loudly, his anxious fingers clearing away muck and debris so he could see it more clearly.  Excitedly he extracted the object from its hiding place, lifting it high into the morning sunlight.  His young eyes could not understand the unfamiliar Hebrew lettering scrawled across the lambskin cover.  “No matter”, he thought, “this lambskin will serve me well and I am favoured this day by God to have found it”. 

With unchecked enthusiasm he tore open the package only to find something he had never before seen.  Startled, he considered the nameless, unknown object for the briefest of moments. Then, breaking spontaneously into song he began dancing unselfconsciously, holding his new found possession high above his head.  “Treasure”, I shall call you “treasure”!” he sang.  “This day is like any other day for me.  It is not a feast day, and it is not a day to receive gifts, yet here by God’s providence I have found the most mysterious of gifts.  This day I have done no good deeds, this day I have deserved no reward, yet on this day has God bestowed on me an unknown treasure.  I cannot read its name and I do not yet know its purpose, but one thing I do know, it’s now mine!” 

And the child ran shouting through the village gladly showing all he met the treasure he had found on this day like any other day.

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The greatest thing most of us lose as we grow to ‘adulthood’ is the ability to receive innocently. I came to Christ and was born again in my early teenage years, but even by then the circumstances of my life had robbed me of the ability to receive.  One can embrace the free gift of salvation then spend the rest of life trying to pay for it. 

It was not until many years later the Lord confronted me with the penetrating question:  “Why do you not receive My love freely?”  Why indeed!  Forget about having an answer; I wasn’t even aware the question had existed!  That day my life changed as I asked the Lord to show me how to freely receive His love in childlike innocence.  He hasn’t let me down.

Learning to receive freely is a humbling process.  It entails dying to our former concepts of who we are.  Some believe they have everything they need to handle life.  They are self-assured, strong and opinionated.  Many more believe they are worthless failures at life.  They are self-conscious, ashamed and fearful.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  Christ has come to change who we think we are into who He says we are.  The Father’s grace is freely given regardless of past history or present circumstances.  But learning how to receive it is a life time journey that some will choose never to embark upon. 

When Jesus said “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” He was referring to the innocence with which a child receives an undeserved gift.  Most healthy children I know when given a gift do not tip toe around it suspiciously.  They do not waste time enquiring what does it look like, they rip off its cover to see for themselves.  They do not agonise over what to do with it, or whether they deserve it.  They grab it with both hands, shake it, rattle it, embrace it and run away to play with it. 

Hidden within each of us there is a Pharisee and there is a child.  Many in the emerging Bride of Christ are simply Pharisees being healed.   I willingly raise my hand to claim that one.   Children know how to receive.  And so do reformed Pharisees.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 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.

Deep, Deep Love

 Come’ You said. That was it, just: ‘Come’.peterandjesus

So here I am, in this place of no return. Looking back I can see the boat: familiar, safe, beckoning. There are faces I know within that boat, that’s the hard thing. People I’ve called friends. But they’re in the boat, and I’m….well, I’m outside the boat now. There’s history in that boat – my history. I’ve spent more years than I care to remember inside the comfortable boundaries of that boat and others like it.

I look around into thick darkness. It’s tangible. I am all too aware it seeks to smother me. In the darkness there is an eerie wind howling, menacing and ominous.  ‘You are a fool’ it moans, with razor sharpness that cuts through to my naked soul. ‘Return to your place of safety and your natural realm or I will overcome you and carry you away into my gloom. You do not belong here.’

Around my feet the deep feels strange and unsteady. These feet have only ever known the certainty of firm, unyielding earth beneath them. From the day I learned to walk my feet have trusted the earth, adjusting their step to her terrain, finding their stability in her constancy and firmness. Daily life has been simply a matter of one step in front of the other. The waves now lapping at my ankles offer no such partnership. They are unpredictable and hostile. ‘Look at me,’ the sea hisses, ‘and remember the countless numbers of your kind for whom I have become an unwelcome graveyard. Fear me, for I cannot be trusted. I can swallow you and bury you where you will never be found!’

The muffled shouts of my companions, safe within the boat, are growing faint. With every trembling breath the outline of the boat grows smaller to me. I had fleetingly assumed one or two might venture to join me here. Did they hear Your invitation to come, or did the wind and the sea hide Your voice from them?

Or was it only me You called to step out of the boat and meet with You here?

I don’t know. I do know the loneliness out here is overwhelming. You have led me often into crowds, but never into such loneliness. I am keenly aware of my isolation and I do not like it; it lays bare my vulnerability like nothing I’ve ever experienced. In the crowd I know who I am. Out here I have no measure of myself.

My friends want me to be where they are….in the boat. Behind me, some of them cry out: ‘Come back with us, you will die out there!’ They would feel better if I returned to the boat. It would prove they were right not to leave it. Others remain silent, and though I can no longer see their faces, I feel their eyes burning into my back. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but still they stay in the boat.

You have me now between a rock and a very hard place. The safety of the boat behind me, the menacing darkness surrounding me, the unpredictable waters beneath me.

But ever before me: You!

I am afraid of this hard place You have summoned me into. It’s unchartered, fickle, precarious. But this one thing I know: I cannot go back. I can never go back. I am between earth and heaven now.

My anxiety is not hidden from You. I am aware of Your searching eyes, willing me onward. Yes, I falter and I stumble, but You gather me up in Your arms. ‘Have faith in Me! I am able to keep You even in this unfamiliar environment’. In Your voice I hear no hint of displeasure, only reassurance.

How many times will I, glancing uneasily down into dark, rumbling water, be momentarily overcome with fear? How many times will I lose my footing and begin to sink? ‘Countless!’ You reply. ‘And countless the times I will gather you up again!’

Come!’ You said.

One simple word. But in that word ten thousand times ten thousand promises. Promises of faithfulness, and life, and endless tomorrows together.

Come!’ You said.

So here I am in my foolishness; here I am with my faintheartedness and my smallness. Here I am, stripped of everything that I know to be safe and conventional.

Because I saw You, walking on the water!

And You desired me to be with You. And You make me to walk on water!  This dark, moving water is deep, but not as deep as the Love that calls me onward.

How can I ever go back?

You are not in the boat; You are on the water. 


 

You may assume this is about the disciple Peter bravely stepping over the sides of his Galilean fishing vessel and onto the waves to be with Jesus.  But this is not about Peter. It’s about you. And me. And every faithful Christ follower navigating their way through twenty first century discipleship.

We have been taught to think of walking on water as one of Jesus most outstanding miracles. If we are honest, every one of us would like to walk on water, as Jesus did, and as Peter did briefly. But why? What purpose would it serve apart from making us feel elated for a short time?

The water was not Peter’s destination – Jesus was.

The truth is that walking on water, in a spiritual sense, is exactly where many of us following Jesus now find ourselves: outside the boat in a hostile, unpredictable environment, with nothing on which to safely lean except His abiding love. Many others are still contemplating the risks of abandoning all they have called ‘safe’ to follow Him on the wild and windy water.

All those in the boat had already responded to Christ’s call to ‘come’. They had followed, leaving their fishing nets and their lifestyles to become His disciples. But when Jesus gave the invitation to follow even further, out there in the wind, the sea and the darkness, only one was willing.

Sometimes we think we’ve given everything, when all we’ve really done is build a new and bigger safety net of security around ourselves.

Have you heard the invitation to come into deeper waters with Jesus? Can you trust Him to be your sustenance and possibly your only means of survival in a new and unknown place? Has safe, conventional, institutionalized religion become too small a boat to contain you or your God any longer? Are you ready to let go and go….anywhere as long as you can be with the One you love where He is? Even if no-one goes with you, even though it may cost you reputation and relationships or break your heart in other ways?

I invite you to read the first part of this post again, but this time it is you, not Peter, walking on water.

Do you identify?  Take courage.  He will not fail us.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8294eajUgTQ

© 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.

This Month’s Featured Song: Lord I Thirst

 

Горная река

 

Inspired by Psalm 42

Lord I thirst

I hunger and thirst

my tears have been my food

both day and night

I pour out my soul

where is my God?

my soul hungers and thirsts

 for the Living God

 

 

I am weary

I am broken

yet shall I praise You

I will remember You

and I will offer up

a prayer

to the God of my life

 

 

And in the night

I hear Your song

Your lovingkindness

commands my days

deep calls to deep

send your billows over me

my soul hungers and thirsts

for the Living God

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2010 to 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.

Love. Uncomplicated.

Electronics laboratoryThe doctor’s manner was courteous as we entered his consulting room, even if somewhat abrupt. Mr. P and I are no strangers to medical waiting rooms with their clinical atmospheres, hushed tones and oh so efficient receptionists. This day we had sat for an hour and a quarter past our appointment time, but the building was state of the art, and the padded designer chairs (for once) comfortable. There was even a purpose built coffee shop, presumably to appease bored patients not content with the water cooler and brightly coloured magazines. It was obvious from our luxurious surroundings that this medical specialist was doing rather well for himself.

Mr. P is my thirty year old eccentric, electronics obsessed, Jesus loving, gentle giant of a son. He also happens to carry a few other man-made labels, including Asperger’s Syndrome. I shared a little about some, er, more adventurous moments from Mr. P’s childhood in an earlier post here. Going anywhere with Mr. P can be either an excruciating exercise in embarrassment or a not to be missed opportunity to learn new and inspiring wonders, depending on which way you choose to look at it. This occasion was to prove no different.

We were there to have Mr. P’s rather painful knee checked out by the orthopaedic specialist. Far from being a reluctant companion, Mr. P was enthusiastically looking forward to his encounter with the learned gentleman as he sat, chatting incessantly, beside me in the waiting room. Perhaps this would turn out to be an opportunity for Mr. P to share with the doctor his vast understanding of intricate medical procedures gained by watching his favourite TV hospital reality shows. I had seen him do this in other medical appointments, with various and interesting responses from the doctors in question. No matter how they react Mr. P is not fazed. Nothing can daunt his very high regard for the medical community.

The first thing Mr. P did as we entered the consulting room was place his very large, very heavy backpack on the floor between the doctor and his desk. (Mr. P never leaves home without a bag full of computer parts, gadgets and latest garage sale finds – just in case they’re needed. And, like most aspies, aka Asperger’s sufferers, Mr. P has little regard for other people’s personal space.) Obviously annoyed, the specialist instructed him sharply to move his ‘accessories’ to another part of the room. Things hadn’t started well.

Next there were some probing questions which Mr. P. tried hard to answer without reverting too much to the medical terminology he’d learned watching RPA (Australian reality hospital show). “Tell me how much this hurts”, said the specialist as he squeezed the knee in question at several different locations, “on a scale from one to ten”. “Five” said Mr. P thoughtfully, ‘six’, OK that one’s an eight”. Numbers are something Mr. P can handle. He stores numerical information in his brain like a hard drive stores data. He doesn’t always manage to put his shirt on the right way round, but he can tell you the length and weight of the world’s longest ocean liner or the exact height of Kilimanjaro.

This isn’t going too badly, I thought, relaxing back into my chair a little.

The esteemed orthopaedic surgeon is now concluding his examination. Looking down at his notes and mumbling somewhat incoherently he begins to verbalise lengthy, detailed instructions to Mr. P.  Most importantly Mr. P is to keep a written record of pain levels several times a day for five days to be brought to the next appointment.

Mr. P looks confused but nods his head wisely, not wanting to disappoint his medical friend by letting on he’s not able to carry through this plan. Mr. P and I both know he can barely write his first name, let alone keep the very exact written records the doctor is requiring. I also know that as soon as Mr. P gets home and starts tinkling with his latest electronic project – did I mention he builds his own computers? – the doctor’s instructions will be history.

I shift uncomfortably back to the edge of my chair. The doctor knows he is speaking to a person with significant cognitive disabilities. Is it impatience I sense in his voice? Or is that a slight hint of contempt I’m detecting?   Ah, now I understand! The specialist is a busy and important man with many patients to see today. He really doesn’t have the inclination to deal with someone who obviously isn’t, well, whatever passes for ‘normal’ in his world. Perhaps if he makes it difficult enough Mr. P and his mother will take their knee problems to another practitioner, relieving him of the burden of having to treat someone who, to his mind, is going to be a little ‘different’.

I explain to the specialist that Mr. P, who lives independently with drop in support, will have a problem completing the pain diary. But no alternative is offered and the appointment is over. Mr. P and I are moving towards the door now, and I am already focusing on how to assist Mr. P with a task he can’t complete.

It’s then it happens…. one of Mr. P’s magic moments as I’ve come to call them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve witnessed these moments, but still they always take me by surprise and leave me shaking my head in awe of my unpredictable, radical, amazing God.

As the doctor moves to close the door behind us, Mr. P turns, all six foot three and 240 pounds of him, his face beaming from ear to ear, looks him in the eye and holds out his right hand. In an instant the medical man, moments ago so professionally aloof, is fumbling with confusion. He is above spontaneously shaking hands with patients. It isn’t done in this practice, thank you very much! He is the one supposedly in charge here, but in the twink of an eye the tables have been turned by a young man half his age….a young man with disabilities that have prevented him picking up on the nuances of social interaction that are crystal clear to most of us.

Unable to move forward, the man tentatively takes Mr. P’s outstretched hand and shakes it weakly, then nervously goes to close the door. But Mr. P is not finished with him. And there’s no getting past that massive frame filling the doorway. “I want you to know you are a very good doctor. Thankyou for seeing me today” says Mr P. sincerely, looking directly into his face with unconcealed admiration.

There He is again! My Jesus. Doing that thing He does. Proving one more time how He LOVES to choose the (so-called) foolish to confound the wise; outrageously choosing to pour out His abundant grace all over the mighty of this world, using human vessels none of us would think to choose.  There He is!  Scandalously disarming this proud, condescending, highly educated man with not so much as a ‘may I?’ There He is! Reaching brazenly in – beyond that tough outer crust, beyond the cold detachment, beyond the walls this man has spent years building around himself – to tenderly touch his fortressed soul with His pure, uncomplicated Love. Who is this God who so deliberately chooses the fragile, the powerless and the marginalised to shout out His love to the universe?

Stealthily, unnoticed by the world outside, God has visited this man today to bless, love and affirm him. He has come disguised inside a gentle unquestioning giant in whom He has found a safe place to rest His all-embracing Love. Struggling to find words, the doctor makes eye contact with Mr. P for the very first time this day, muttering quietly and awkwardly: “thankyou, that is very kind of you.”

The moment is over within seconds. Mr. P is light-hearted as we walk away, not noticing the tears threatening to spill out of his mother’s eyes. As I drive him home his conversation returns to his latest electronic project, the new equipment he needs to save up for and how good life is.

It’s simple, this gospel we carry. So simple we can hardly bear it. God is Love. No wonder He chooses the base and despised of this world as his Love vessels. They don’t complicate things. They simply take Him at His word and get on with life. By Kingdom standards, it’s those who build emotional fortresses around themselves that are truly disabled, not those the world calls disabled.

Mr. P does numbers, he does them well. Better, Mr. P does Love - like no one I’ve ever known. The Mr P’s of this world are all around us, especially chosen by the King as His Love bearers extraordinaire. But it’s so easy to miss them. They do their magic quietly while most of us are occupied with what we think are life’s main events. Then He moves them on to be poured out again over the next unsuspecting, needy soul. They don’t need the accolades others crave. It’s enough for them that they are loved by God and that God chooses to love through them. They leave the rest to Him.

Simple.

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor. 1:27-29 NLT

© 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 Old Man and The Train

 

 

Train speeding by in the countryside

Imagine yourself in this scenario. You are on a train travelling at high speed, a speed that grows faster with each passing moment. You are in a crowded carriage where every other passenger is seated. But you are standing in the aisle, trying very hard to stay on your feet as the train’s speed continues to increase. You try desperately to maintain a grip on the backs of seats near you but still you are being shaken around violently. As the train picks up even more speed you simply have no choice but to ride it out, holding on as tight as you can.

Glancing through the window you notice the train is approaching a station. You can see an old man on the platform dressed neatly in a suit and tie, and you are relieved the train will now need to decrease its speed. You wait for the inevitable jolt of brakes, but it doesn’t happen. The train seems completely out of control. Speechless, you can do nothing but watch as the train slams at top speed into the platform and the elderly gentleman. You are close enough to see the man’s horrified face, wide eyed with fear, as the train hurtles directly into him, after which he disappears from sight.

The train finally comes to a stop and you exit, shaken and distressed at what you’ve just witnessed. You don’t want to look back – you know the old man could not have survived that terrible impact. Angry and upset you climb the stairs to find the Station Master. A uniformed man, seemingly indifferent, meets you at the top. Thoroughly alarmed that nobody seems to care about the situation below you loudly proclaim: “I want to make an official complaint against the train driver. He has just callously killed someone!”

Without saying a word, the uniformed man raises his eyebrows, hands you a notepad and pencil, and points to your right. Looking around you see for the first time a long narrow bench where hundreds of people are furiously writing down their complaints against the train driver. The line of people stretches so far you cannot see the end of it. A sigh rises from a place very deep within you. Wordlessly, you hand back the notepad and pencil, and after soberly making your way back down the stairs, you step onto the train. The train departs the station and continues on its journey, with you on board.

I have just recounted a very graphic dream I had several years ago, one I’ve never been able to forget. For months afterwards, knowing this was no ordinary dream, I questioned the Lord about its meaning, and most of all about the identity of the old man so cruelly mown down. Was it a warning for someone I knew? Was it a call to intercession? Was it symbolic of some pending disaster? And who was that poor old man?

One day, after I had again been pondering the dream and its possible meaning, the Lord suddenly lifted the veil so I could see. The old man was me, or more specifically my carnal self:

….knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 NKJV (See also Eph. 4:20-24, Col. 3:9-11 )

(I smiled at this revelation, remembering that the old man was without doubt the ugliest old man I have ever seen!)

The train represented the Holy Spirit. The Lord was showing me the Holy Spirit was about to impact my ‘old man’ in a way that would be radical, out of my control, and irreversible. Am I thankful I got back on that train and continued my journey? Absolutely!

There was a time when Jesus openly invited His closest disciples to turn back. Many on that particular day had already done so. He had spoken of spiritual things, but they wanted natural things. He had insisted if they wanted to live, He must be their bread, their very sustenance, saying “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). But they wanted bread for their bodies, not their souls. They wanted yet another new sign or wonder, when He was their sign.

As Abraham’s descendants, they had wanted Him to confirm their spiritual superiority as God’s chosen people. He had instead told them ‘the flesh profits nothing’ (Jn. 6:63). They found His sayings ‘hard’, they were offended – not because they didn’t understand His words, but because they weren’t willing to learn to live in the Spirit. And so they turned back.

“Do you also want to go away?” Jesus asked the twelve. There could be no compromise here. Jesus did not say ‘let me explain these things in a way that is more comfortable for you‘. No, there is no ‘comfortable’ way to say “follow Me and die to your flesh”. Jesus was momentarily stopping the train and allowing them an opportunity to get off. Permanently.

“But Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” answered Peter. I suspect the Galilean version would have been more like: “We’ve come too far with You. We know who You are now. We can’t live without You or Your words. We’re not looking for bread on the table every day any more, we’re looking to eternity. That’s what you’ve planted in our hearts. You’ve ruined us for the lives we used to lead. Of all the rabbis in Israel there is no other like You. Who else could we follow after being with You?” (Jn. 6:67-69)

Christ following is a one way journey. It can get pretty shaky. There are times on this journey when everything may seem totally out of control, at least to our old, dead carnal nature. We can get off the train at any point we choose to and still believe Christ died and rose to redeem us. We can set up camp on the platform, build a little fire and huddle around that truth. That’s salvation and no-one can take it from us. It’s good, but it’s not all there is.

Meanwhile the train moves on carrying what could have been along with it. If we never move beyond receiving the salvation of Christ to partaking in the life of Christ we have merely checked in our ticket but not left the airport. Salvation is the gateway to the Kingdom, but it is not the Kingdom.

There are Christians who camp out on the platform waving their train tickets under the noses of anyone who crosses their path, but should someone ask them about the journey they are unable to give an authentic answer. They intend to just huddle around their camp fire grasping their tickets until a Heaven bound train arrives. They are campers, but not travellers.

The problem with camping too long is we start to become introverted. We begin to value our platform (church, denomination, doctrinal position, tradition, lifestyle, career, etc.) with its little bit of flame more than the Holy Spirit fire that ignited our little fire in the first place. In the Kingdom of God there is no setting up camp – if we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to grow and expand us spiritually we are merely stagnating and eventually regressing. Soon we are looking like some ugly, carnal old man, all dressed up, waiting on the platform for the ‘right’ train to arrive.

There are others who understand these spiritual principles and have made a conscious choice to trust the train driver to get them to their destination, which, by the way, is not Heaven, but the fullness of Christ. Along the way they are being shaken, rattled and radically transformed, but they are also increasingly partaking in the supernatural, endless life of Christ, here and now. Though the train ride may not always be comfortable they know turning back, or camping on the platform waiting for a more comfortable ride, are not options.

Jesus didn’t send the Holy Spirit so we could play games with Him and then put Him away in a box until we want to be entertained some more. He’s not a toy train. He blesses us with spiritual gifts and spiritual empowerment, He comforts, leads and teaches us, but above all He is focused on transforming us from the image of the first Adam into the image of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Times are upon us when unless we are learning to live by the Spirit we will not be able to discern that which is Christ from that which is not (Rom. 8:13,14). If we are genuine about following Christ, we need the Holy Spirit to deal with our carnal ‘old man’. We need to respect the Train Driver as more than a giver of gifts. We need to co-operate with Him in the assignment He’s been sent to complete in us. And we need not to put it off, because time is not on our side in this.

The Bride of Christ consists of disciples who have fully committed to the journey, trusting the Bridegroom’s grace is sufficient for whatever unfolds along the way. They have nowhere else to be apart from the costly, unbroken, extraordinary Presence of Christ.

© 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.

THIS MONTH’S FEATURED SONG: Sweet Communion

This is the time of year when traditionally we hear ‘words for the coming year’ from numerous prophetic voices across the internet.  I have no problem with that, as long as they’re authentic, fresh and give a clear sound of direction to God’s people.  If they’re nothing more than yesterday’s dead religious language dressed up to look like the real thing so someone whose income depends on it can be seen to be ‘hearing from God’, I’d rather give it a miss.  Sometimes it’s better to be quiet, unless God tells us very clearly to speak.  No, not sometimes…..all the time actually.

That being said, I have two words for 2015: “More Jesus!”  And again in case you missed it:

MORE Jesus!”   I think that about sums up what we need to hear right now.

Oh, and here’s the first Song or Poem of the Month for 2015, written some years ago, but love songs are timeless…..aren’t they?

 


Bread and wine

 

 

 

SWEET COMMUNION

“Jesus said to them…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53

 

I DIDN’T COME FOR WORDS AND REVELATIONS 

I’M NOT SEEKING ANGELS OR GIFTS 

IF I NEVER SEE ANOTHER REVELATION 

WHAT CAN I KNOW GREATER THAN THIS? 

THAT THERE’S NOTHING I NEED  

MORE THAN YOUR PRESENCE LORD 

I SEEK PURE HONEY

FROM THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK 

THE SWEETEST TASTE

FLOWS FROM THE DEEPEST PLACE:  

SWEET COMMUNION!

  

I DIDN’T COME LOOKING FOR A NEW ANOINTING 

I’M JUST HERE TO POUR MY OIL ON YOUR HEAD 

I’M NOT KNOCKING SEARCHING FOR MORE ANSWERS 

I CAME TO DRINK YOUR BLOOD AND EAT OF YOUR FLESH 

‘CAUSE THERE’S NOTHING I SEEK  

MORE THAN YOUR FULLNESS LORD 

FEED ME WITH HONEY

FROM THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK! 

LOSING MY LIFE

AND FINDING IT IN CHRIST  

IT’S SWEET COMMUNION!

 

© Words and music copyright 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: The Courts of the King

"Walking with God" by Morgan Westling

“Walking with God” by Morgan Westling

And Enoch walked with God, and he was not for God took him.’  For much of my Christian life, I have found that simple Old Testament statement profoundly intriguing.  What did it mean that Enoch walked with God to the extent that God found it irresistible to remove him from this earthly life into His immediate Presence? For that matter, what does ‘walking with God’ mean anyway and is it even possible in this world where everything is permanently switched to warp speed?

One thing is glaringly obvious from this little portion of scripture tucked away in Genesis 5:24:   God wants us to walk with Him.  In fact I would venture to say He’s passionate about the idea.  The first man and woman freely walked with God at will until sin and shame interrupted.  While most of our Bible translations tell us our Creator God came seeking man ‘in the cool of the day’ the word is actually ‘in the ‘ruwach’, i.e. ‘spirit, breath, wind, of the day’.  The Spirit was present.  Furthermore it was the ‘Voice’ of the Lord they heard seeking them out.  Christ, the Word of God, was present.  And it was from the plural Elohim, the three in one God, that the man and the woman hid themselves (Gen. 3:8).   I find it overwhelmingly poignant that after their fall, it was God Himself who came seeking the man and the woman, not the other way around. And He has never stopped seeking the company of human beings willing to walk in perfect fellowship with Him.

The Bible tells us little about Enoch, but it does hint that Enoch’s walk with God was progressive, for Enoch walked with God for 300 years before he was somehow ‘beamed up’ by the Lord (Gen. 5:22; Heb. 11:5).  Did Enoch’s walk with God reach a point where God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit so possessed him that he could no longer walk in this fallen world of earth?

Walking with God is to walk more and more in full restoration of that spiritual state for which humankind was created.  Walking with God is far more than our initial salvation;  it is the realm beyond salvation.  When a child is born new life is present but that child cannot yet walk.  A newly born child needs to be carried everywhere.   However, that child was created to walk, run and leap.  If in the course of time a child does not begin of its own will to walk, there will naturally be deep concern.

Even so, salvation, or being ‘born again’, is the gateway by which we all must enter the Kingdom, but we were created for so much more than the new birth.  We were created to walk, run and leap with God.  How foolish we would be to spend our lives sitting at the city gates, in sight of the inner courts of the King, but never moving beyond the entrance (Psalm 100:4; Matt. 7:14; Rev. 22:14).   ‘Narrow is the gate’, said Jesus, ‘and difficult is the way (walk) that leads to life’.  He made it clear there is a path, a road, beyond the gate which we are to traverse.  He expects our initial salvation experience to be the entrance way into a new kind of life, a life increasingly drawn from His fellowship, the Father’s love and the Spirit’s companionship.  It is not at the gates, but within the courts of the King, where we walk continually in the manifest Presence of God, that we will discover what it means to become one with Him.

But there’s a strange attractiveness to sitting at the gates.  From the gates we can still look out over the passing world.  From our presumably safe little niche in the wall we can still satisfy the lust of our eyes, taste the exotic flavours, and fill our nostrils with the stench of the world that once was our life.  The courts of the King, with treasures far beyond anything we have seen or known, await our presence,  but we are still transfixed on the temporal pleasures the old world holds out to us.  Walking with God is our destiny, but if we are to achieve it, we must move beyond the narrow gate, turning our face resolutely towards the unfamiliar but beckoning pathway,  without looking back.

Through Christ, and Christ alone, we CAN walk with God.  Think of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the sea to Jesus.  So often we focus in on the fear that caused Peter to sink, but the fact remains for a few glorious moments a man walked with God where men do not walk!  Think of the two disciples on the Emmaus road, discouraged, fearful, believing all was lost.  They are joined by a stranger they don’t recognize, whose words burn their hearts like fire and birth an inner boldness they’d never known.  The One they walked with that day was the newly resurrected Christ …. God walking again with man, supernaturally imparting His endless life into hearts that were downcast and afraid.  So much so they turned and made haste immediately back to Jerusalem, the very city they had fled in fear of their lives.

Walking with God is not impossible in this life, but it is costly.   And the cost?  Oh, it will cost you the world to walk with God!  It will cost you separation from all the world loves and values.  But let’s be clear:  this separation to a walk with God  is not  withdrawing into some kind of pseudo religious monastic lifestyle, nor is it taking on an aloof and super spiritual attitude towards those around us.  That kind of  sham holiness is nothing more than Phariseeism.  The separation the Spirit of God leads us into is worked within us.  It is simply a choice to pursue Christ whatever the cost, and the cost will soon become apparent.

Learning to walk with God means there will be times when it seems no one else walks with you but God.  It means there will be times the world will demand explanations from you that you can’t give.  Despite His popularity among some, Jesus knew what it was to be hated by the world (John 15:18).  When He was serious they hated Him because He would not join in their fun.  When He was lighthearted they hated Him because He wasn’t downcast (see Matt. 11:16-19)

Walking with God means this world will become increasingly alien as you learn to think the thoughts of God, see through the eyes of God , love what He loves and hate what He hates.    What the world values will become worthless to you and what you treasure will be worthless to the world. Our brother Paul put it this way:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Gal. 6:14

Can two walk together unless they are agreed?

Somehow, I think these are things Enoch, living only seven generations after Adam, must have discovered.  His life speaks prophetically to us of a people, a separated Bride,  learning to walk with God, ‘Even just a day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere!” is her heart cry.    And at the appointed time,  may it also be said of this elect Bridal company:  ‘And she walked with God and she was not for God took her.”  Even so, come Lord Jesus!

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013, 2014, 2015

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