From The Archives: Unwashed Feet

feet“Come right on in” said the usher at the door

You’re so welcome today, please find a seat”

Failing to notice as the crowd pressed in

The stranger she welcomed had unwashed feet

 

The stranger sat down in the very front row

An elder came up with a knowing smile

“I’m sorry this row’s reserved for our leaders”

And escorted him back five rows down the aisle

 

The worship team started, one fast song, two slow

The people stood up to sing loud and strong

The stranger looked round for an eye to meet his

But all eyes were closed – they were singing their song

 

The pastor emerged and took centre stage

“Welcome to God’s house, find someone to greet”

Some gathered around and shook his hand tight

Trying hard not to stare at his unwashed feet

 

Each one had come in their best Sunday suit

Not a hair out of place, not a button left loose

And eyebrows were raised enough to take note

The stranger among them was wearing no shoes

 

The stranger stood up and his voice rang clear

“I have something important to share here today”

The pastor beamed kindly: “Please take your seat,

It’s time for the offering, let’s not delay!”

 

The stranger sat down while the tithes were taken

Much whispering was heard and heads turned to stare

At this one who had rudely upset the order

And dared to call out from his fifth row chair

 

A young child escaped from a distracted mother

And ran to the stranger, climbing onto his knee

“What’s your name, where you from?” she asked unabashed

“And please tell me why you have dirty feet?”

 

The stranger smiled warmly as he played with her curls

“I’ve been on the road for such a long time

Searching for somewhere I can belong

And a traveller’s feet can get covered with grime!”

 

“Stay here!” the child pleaded, “we have all you need

Some water, and food, and a nice place to sleep”

“Come now” said the mother and pulled her away

“And don’t talk to strangers with unwashed feet!”

 

The announcements were given and all duly noted

A conference, a wedding, a new building plan

“Mr. Smith had a fall so please keep him in prayer

We need a new hall, give as much as you can!”

 

“And now for the sermon” said the pastor at last

“Turn to John chapter one, and read verse eleven

Well can you imagine a thing so peculiar

From people who thought they were going to Heaven?!”

 

Then raising his voice to drive home his lesson:

“‘He came to His own and His own knew Him not’

Now I know such a thing could not happen here

For we are the people who live close to God!”

 

The people all hurried when the service was over

“Let’s get some nice lunch, then maybe a snooze”

Laughing and kissing and “See you next week!”

But all passed on by the man without shoes

 

The pastor came up, his wife by his side

“We hope you enjoyed being with us this week

We’d love you to come and visit again

God loves you, you know, and, oh, so do we!

 

Just one more thing if you don’t mind me saying

Next time you come it will be real neat

If you’ll sit quietly and don’t interrupt

But most of all if you’ll wash your feet!”

 

The stranger looked past him straining to see

A child standing by with tears on her cheek

“Please don’t go away, I want you to stay

I’ll bring some cool water and I’ll wash your feet!”

 

Then, kneeling, the stranger took the child’s hand

With pastor and wife looking on in surprise

With hands on her head he prayed a blessing

And gently wiped all the tears from her eyes

 

“’I’m not welcome here so I must move on

But now we are friends I’ll always be near

Whenever you’re frightened or lonely or sick

Remember me and I promise I’ll hear”

 

With a kiss to her brow, then not looking back

The stranger walked out and on down the street

On his quest for the lovers who’ll look in his eyes

And don’t give a toss about unwashed feet

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014 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 Woman Who Touched God

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There came a day when a woman, ritually unclean, dared to approach Jesus, and with trembling hand, reached out and touched His rabbi’s garment¹. Defying all convention, disobeying the Law, risking sudden and violent death, she carried within those tremoring fingers years of hope unrealised, nights of anguished tears, and one last act of final desperation.

She hoped, no doubt, that no-one would notice: that she could just brush those fingers momentarily against the fringe of His robe and slink away, face covered, unknown and undiscovered within the pushing, trampling mass of bodies pressing together to see Him, hear Him, and petition Him.

And so she would have if He had been any ordinary rabbi. But He was not.

Who touched Me?” she heard Him call out as she struggled to make her way back through the crowd. But they, trying to hear what He was about to say, only pushed back harder, enclosing her like a trapped, frightened rabbit in a cage of flesh and human odour. She turned fearfully towards His voice, part of her desperate to hide in anonymity among the swirling mass, another part of her longing to throw herself at His feet begging for forgiveness and mercy.

She had come searching for Him that day in one final attempt to end the misery of her daily life. She had no right to be among this crowd. Indeed, if they knew her condition they would draw back in horror: some would take up stones and drag her away for execution. She had wondered if that should happen if it could be any worse than returning to this life that was not life that had seemingly become her destiny.

It had been many years since she had felt human touch, even from those closest to her.   Like the lepers confined outside the city gates, her condition had made her untouchable. She was unclean and nothing could deliver her from the stigma of that uncleanness except a miracle from this strange and unfamiliar rabbi.

Now He was making His way through the crowd, moving towards her. Without looking up, she knew that He knew what she had done. She knew also that He had healed her, for she sensed the change in her body. Having received her life back, would she now be condemned to lose it? “Rabbi, it was I” she blurted, her voice breaking with sobs as the story of her long shame and despair tumbled out.

We are familiar with the rest of the story. That same day the woman with the issue of blood was restored to her community. That same day the word ‘unclean’ was replaced with another word: “daughter”. And on that day, in word and action, Jesus made clear to all who witnessed, that a woman’s life, wellbeing and dignity were as deeply valuable to Him as any man’s. On that day God affirmed a woman as His own beloved daughter.

On that day a woman touched God and God was not in the least offended.

And yet, there are those in the Body of Christ who would still, by various means, infer that women are in some way ‘spiritually unclean’. “Woman is a temple built over a sewer” stated church father Tertullian, and similar sentiments have been uttered by male church leaders throughout history². Recent statements from influential male leaders such as Mark Driscoll (former pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle), and teachings regularly churned out by others (see here and here) bear witness to the truth that women are still regarded as ‘less than’ by many Christian leaders, who continue to pass on their biased opinions to the crowds who follow them.

This post is not about debating the scriptures that are still regularly used to limit the ministry and gifts of women in church life. Pat Joyce and I have provided a full examination of those scripture passages elsewhere. (Furthermore, there are abundant materials available from respected theological scholars that competently and forcefully challenge the traditional interpretations of such passages for anyone who wishes to undertake a serious study on gender issues.)

But I am moved, when thinking again about the woman with the issue of blood, to ask when will the daughters of God be recognised by some sections of the Body of Christ as full and equal joint heirs in all areas of church and family life?

If Christ Himself was not offended by the touch of a woman, in a culture where a ritually unclean woman may not touch a man, when will women be allowed to touch the spiritual Body of Christ freely and fully, without limitations being put on what they may do and to whom they may minister?

Moses, who was called a friend of God, sought to see God’s face and was granted only a glimpse of His back. But a woman, deemed unclean by her religious leaders, touched God and was received, healed, restored and affirmed as His daughter. It’s the difference between Law and Gospel we are talking of here my friends. It’s the finished work of the Cross. It’s the miracle of being ‘in Christ’ where there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. It’s the power of the Blood of Christ that makes all who will believe clean, worthy, righteous – equally.

To those who still believe they have a right to limit the ministry of women: who taught you that you may call unclean that which God has called clean? Though you may not say it in those words, and may even object loudly at such a suggestion, in effect that is what you do when you continue to dictate exactly what women may or may not do in Christ’s Name, based on your, and their, gender.

A grave injustice is taking place in the Body of Christ. The elevation of male over female is bearing horrible fruit. The tree is bad and thus its fruit is rotten. Women are suffering ongoing abuse because they are ‘biblically’ counselled to remain with violent husbands. Children are suffering trauma and life-long injury at the hands of abusive ‘heads of the family’. Little girls are being primed by extreme submission teaching to enter marriages in which they will suffer emotional, sexual, spiritual and/or physical abuse, and fear of displeasing God will keep them there.  All in the Name of Christ.

If you are a woman reading this, whether you are in such a situation or not, know that in God’s sight you are not ‘less than’. God has not limited His love, His giftings, His calling on you because you are female. God does not condone destructive relationships or require that you continue to submit yourself or your children to a relationship in which you or they are unsafe.

Friends, who the Son makes free is free….indeed. It’s time for hearts to be examined, and for the war against women that has been plaguing the Body of Christ for centuries, to be confronted, called for what it is and outrightly rejected.

It’s time for the daughters to go free.

¹Mark 5:25-34

²For more such negative statements about women see here: http://ishshahsstory.com/2014/08/13/who-do-we-think-we-are/

Further Reading: Are Women Also Sons?

© 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 Sweet Sufficiency of Jesus

Dollarphotoclubvine

You know, the further I travel along this Christ-following journey, the more I’m persuaded there’s just one overwhelming priority for the Bride of Christ in this late hour.

There is no shortage of prophetic voices proclaiming numerous messages in the name of Christ: messages about the end times, spiritual warfare, cities and nations, world events, the economy, and other things that seek to occupy our minds and thoughts. But unless those prophetic messages have been received and wrestled with in the furnace of God’s consuming love they do little more than add more noise into the confusing chaos of the world around us.

Like many other Christ followers who watch and pray, I am aware of the signs of the times, the clash of the Kingdom of God with earthly kingdoms currently taking place. Beyond that watchfulness, though, there is an even deeper conviction that the Spirit is calling the Bride into one great and final commission – to be the bearers of Christ’s perfect love even as we walk among the bleeding ruins of this fallen humanity.

But how do we manifest to the world what we so often fail to manifest even to our fellow believers?

In His last hours with His disciples, Jesus steered the conversation to tell them He was about to leave them, and yet not leave them.

‘He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.’

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ (Jn. 14:19-22)

The question being asked by one of the disciples back then was obvious. Lord, how will this work? It’s still obvious. Lord, how does this work?

Earlier Jesus had given them the commandment to love one another in the exact same way He had loved them (Jn. 13:34). His commandment has not changed.  But then, as now, His followers struggled to love as He loves.

Like those first Christ followers, we are pre-disposed to legalism. Legalism is in our fallen nature as water is in the ocean. Our tendency to legalism is the fruit of the wrong tree. So when we read the word ‘commandment’ we immediately assume this is something we ourselves must fulfil if we are to please God.

Jesus knew about this.

He kept the conversation going. ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.’ ( Jn. 15:4-5)

To paraphrase: This is how you do it, my friends. You abide in Me, because unless you do so, you can neither love one another nor do anything else for Me.

It’s a rather foreign concept to us, this ‘abiding’. This is a world where love affairs are carried on via Facebook, business deals can be sealed or lost on mobile phones, and our idea of how to conduct a relationship might be shaped by reality TV shows. In such a context ‘abide in Me’ sounds like something belonging to a long forgotten time when knights rode white horses and maidens played harpsichords.

Though we may understand ‘abiding’ in the more modern terms of ‘remain with’ or ‘live with’, the concept actually being conveyed here is somewhat deeper than just dwelling with someone. It means to ‘continue to be present’.   Not only does Jesus tell us we need to ‘continue to be present’ with Him, He commits Himself to ‘continue to be present’ with each one of us.

This is a two way deal. It is not simply about us, as branches, drawing from Christ, but about Christ, as the vine, the life source, connecting to us in such a way that His life force flows continually to us. This is something He has covenanted with us to do.

So Jesus was telling them: Forget about the way you’ve done things before. This is a new kind of commandment. You simply draw from Me and I will enable you to do that which I require of you.

The disciples had a bit of identity confusion going on. I’ve suffered unnecessarily from the same identity confusion and I’d lay odds you probably have also. So Jesus spelled it out very plainly for them: He is the vine, we are the branches. Legalism deceives us into believing the opposite.

This is how legalism works: if I do this, this and this, and continue doing it, then I will bring forth fruit and I will please God. This faulty belief makes us the vine, not the branch.

This is how the New Covenant works: I am not the Vine, I am merely the branch, who can do nothing unless I am continually present in the Vine. The Vine has undertaken to provide all I need to bear fruit pleasing to God. He doesn’t ask me to be the Vine, He simply requires me to rest in the knowledge that He is the Vine and He is sufficient to make me fruitful.

Jesus shifted their focus from legalism to grace. He turned the order around. This loving one another in the same manner as He had loved them could only be manifested as they ‘continued to be present’ with Him, and He with them. And as we know, this new journey He was initiating for them would be a lifelong one.

So it is with us.

The truth is, if we haven’t already discovered it, we are utterly incapable of loving one another as Jesus loves us. So our usual solution is to try, and try harder, and fail, and beat ourselves up over it, and try harder again. Trust me, I am someone who has spent a good portion of my life perfecting the art of failing to love others as Jesus loves me.

Jesus knows about this too.

He is asking us, above all other ministry, above whatever other spiritual or secular responsibilities we may carry, to love as He loves – first with one another, then outflowing to the world around us.

As much as I want it to be otherwise, I confess I cannot love you as Christ loves you. But if I am sincere about following Him, there is something I can do about this conundrum. I can seek to abide, to be ‘continually present with Him’ and allow Him to be ‘continually present’ with me. But even that pursuit I can easily turn into law.   Everything that I read in the Bible, if I am not reading or hearing from a place of rest and revelation, I will read through the lens of law, for this is my default.

Jesus knows that apart from His being ‘continually present with us’ we are hard wired to law. This is why the Holy Spirit was sent to us – to make us gracekeepers instead of lawkeepers.

In His conversation with His disciples on that fateful night, Jesus answered the question hanging in the air. He revealed the way it works. It works because the commandment is fulfilled out of the abiding, not because the abiding is fulfilled out of the commandment. Please go back and read that last sentence again. Put simply, if we are to love as He desires us to love, we must first abide as He desires us to abide.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus reversed the order. We will finally love as He loves when we ‘get it’ that He is our sufficiency. In. All. Things.

Love is our mission. Abiding is our modus operendi. The Spirit is our agency. Jesus is our sufficiency. We can do nothing else and we can do nothing otherwise.

© 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.

Gurrumul – “Jesu”

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is an indigenous Australian from  Arnhem Land, Northern Australia. Born blind, Gurrumul, as he is known, is from the Yolngu people on remote Elcho Island and speaks little English.  May this beautiful worship song from Garrumul’s Gospel Album cause your spirit to soar today.

I’m Not Your Hero

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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.