The Prodigal Father

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“Prodigal”: Spending money or resources freely and recklessly, wastefully extravagant, having or giving something on a lavish scale   Oxford Dictionary

To Simon, brother of my father, greetings and peace to you and your household. I will waste no time, uncle, in presenting to you the reason for my letter. I find myself in need of assistance in a matter that perplexes me greatly and seems beyond my capacity to comprehend. As you have known me since boyhood and I have always found you a man of wisdom, I seek your advice on how to respond to the problem I will now make known to you.

As you may know, some time ago I asked my father for my share of the inheritance that is due my brother and me. I admit my motive in this was less than honorable as I had every intention of making my own way in the world, without father’s help or, as I saw it, interference. To my surprise, without argument or protest, he granted my request.  In hindsight this should have been cause for alarm, but in my eagerness to have my own way, I gladly took the large sum of money that was mine, and left without delay. It didn’t occur to me then to wonder that my father didn’t respond as any normal father would by refusing my request, or at the very least demand some explanation for my rebellion.

Determined to remove myself as far as possible from father’s influence I journeyed to a country far from home, as I felt sure he would surely send a servant to compel me to return, or possibly send someone to spy on me. Why he did not do so only adds to my current confusion and concern for his health.

From there the story, I’m ashamed to say, becomes somewhat murky. Wishing to prove myself fully independent I cast off all the good sense and every restraint instilled in me by my father and indulged myself lavishly in all manner of immoral living. It soon became known that my pockets were full and I found no shortage of so called friends willing to help me empty them. Seduced by my new lifestyle I set about satisfying every sensual desire imaginable. I lived for the minute and gave no thought for the future, foolishly believing my inheritance would see me through.

There came a day, however, when I discovered my new lifestyle had exceeded my means. With no income, credit was refused me, and my former friends deserted me for more lucrative prospects. To add to my troubles, the crops failed in that country and a severe famine fell on the land. My only means of shelter was to indenture myself to a pig farmer. This, dear uncle, may shock you, as we Jews are forbidden to touch swine, but will also testify to you of my absolute desperation.

I cannot find the words to adequately describe to you the degradation in which I found myself. As much as I hate to confess it to you, there were days I would even have gladly eaten with the swine. Friendless and without means, I suffered greatly from hunger, misery and despair.

Remembering the household servants at my former home, who were well provided for by my father, I realized my only hope was to return to him and beg for his mercy, in the hope he would take me in as his servant. I was deeply sorry for my treatment of him, but held little hope he would receive me, even as a servant. Any normal father would be justified in disowning me completely, as I deserved.

After many days of journeying I came near to my father’s house, a house I no longer considered my own. While I was still some way off I discerned a figure running towards me, shouting my name. I thought perhaps a servant had been sent to warn me not to come near.

To my utter astonishment I soon made out the familiar form of my own father. I was afraid and unsure of what he would do. He would surely rebuke me, even strike me to the ground in his anger. If so, I determined I would not resist his blows for I had no strength left to thwart them. Better he kill me than to continue in the dismal life I was living without him.

And this, uncle, is the purpose of my letter to you. What has ensued has left me in a deep quandary and I am at a loss what to do. My father did not beat me. In truth he did not utter so much as a word of rebuke. Rather, he fell weeping on my neck with kisses and tears so profuse no-one could count. Sobbing uncontrollably he held me to himself crying out to all who passed by: “My son was dead, and now is alive!”

Stunned, I knew not what to do. I was aware that I looked nothing like the son who had left his house so long ago. My hair and my beard were unkempt, my appearance that of a beggar, and my clothes stunk with the smell of swine, dirt and sweat. How had he even recognized me?

Covered in shame I cried: “Father, I have betrayed you and treated you shamefully. I am no longer worthy to be called your son”. But before I could continue, he called for the servants to dress me in the finest robes, place his own ring on my finger, and place sandals upon my feet. As you would agree, it is unknown for servants to be clothed in such things, and never do they shod their feet.

Uncle, my father has treated me in such a way that I fear for his sanity. Upon bringing me into his house he ordered for a great feast to be held to celebrate my return, with the best calf slaughtered for the occasion. Though I am exceedingly humbled and somewhat embarrassed at his extraordinary reaction to my return, I cannot but question whether he has lost his mind. He has failed to utter even one word of reproach.

His actions go far beyond the duty of any righteous father’s response to a son who has acted as I have.   The extravagance he has poured out on me, along with his unconstrained affection, is beyond my comprehension. My older brother is also angry and resentful, but father will not be moved from this extraordinary demeanor. Could it be that my former actions have forever disturbed his faculties?

Uncle, I seek your counsel urgently. What am I to do with my prodigal father?

*     *     *

To Joseph, beloved nephew,

It was with profound interest I read your letter. My heart was deeply cheered to hear of your return to your father and your home. This is my advice to you:

There is nothing to fear concerning your father’s state of health. As you have observed, he has not acted like any normal father would, nor has he treated you in the way I agree you deserve. This is not because he is lacking in any faculties. It is simply because he is who he is.

There is no explanation for his actions towards you that will ever fully satisfy your puzzlement. You are discovering a side of your father you have never before detected. There are only two courses of action open to you from which you must now choose:

First, understand that your father will not be moved from his disposition. You may continue to judge yourself unworthy of his somewhat eccentric actions, refuse to be called his son, and leave to make your own way forever estranged from him. As you have already tried that once, it’s not the path I would advise.

Alternatively, you can humbly acknowledge you are confronted with a mystery far greater than anything else you will ever encounter and realize you will never comprehend the magnitude of your father’s love for you.

Such unique and extravagant love can only be compared to a great and powerful ocean, an ocean that chooses to use its power for restoration rather than destruction. Though it may overwhelm you at times, it will never harm you.

You cannot measure it; you can only surrender to it. You can discover neither its beginning nor its end; you can only explore it endlessly. You cannot ever say you understand it; you can only live in wonder of it. But in the wondering make sure you receive it!

Can you fit an ocean into a bottle? Neither can your father’s love be contained within your limited capacity to understand it. If you are wise you will learn to rest in its mysterious intimacy, allowing its tide to wash over you time and again, carrying you where it will.

Yes, Joseph, you have indeed returned to the arms of a prodigal father. You are now part of an extraordinary mystery – a mystery beyond the wisdom of even the wisest. Embrace it! Immerse yourself in it! And spend the rest of your days discovering its boundless depth.

For this ocean was not created for you – you were created for the ocean.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.  All rights reserved.  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.

What If Revival Doesn’t Look Like Revival ?

Photo public domain, courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo public domain, courtesy of Pixabay.

Y’know how everyone says they want revival?  And y’know how so many only really want a revival they can control or own or put their name on somehow?  Oh, you didn’t?  OK, we must move in different circles.  Nevermind.  But have you noticed God’s up to something, and it’s not in the rule book?  Here’s something to chew on.


The Missing Revival

 

I hear talk of great revival

An end time harvest, overdue

To sweep through towns and cities

There’ll be no room in the pews

From the nearest to the farthest

Get ready, clear the aisles,

It’s coming sure as Christmas

To a church somewhere near you

 

They say the day is not far off

Such miracles there’ll be

With shouting and rejoicing

As the sinners get set free

It’s so close you can smell it

It’s hanging in the air

When the Spirit comes in power

There’ll be nothing to compare

 

But what if God has other plans?

What if He won’t comply?

What if our great revival

Doesn’t fit with His design?

What if He smiles and says “No thanks,

I’ve something else in mind?”

Will we find it in our Bibles

If we have to wait in line?

 

And what if He’s left the building

And is dancing in the streets

With the prodigals and prostitutes

‘Caus He’s found a different beat?

What if He’s crashed their party

The down and outs and losers?

What if He’s set up camp

With thieves and pimps and users?

 

What if He’s marched into the darkness

With His Cross and wine and bread?

And challenged every lurking demon

To defy him if they dare?

And instead of gracing our pretty pews

He’s sitting in the gutter

With a wino and a painted lady

‘Caus He likes it better there?

 

What if the Son is rising

With healing in His wings

On the cripple and the refugee

And the kid with silver piercings

And the ones whose minds are broken

Are now His closest friends

And the homeless serve Him supper?

What then?  What then?

 

What if those who never heard a sermon

Or walked through a church door

Are preaching God’s salvation

To the poorest of the poor?

And those who’ve never read the Word

Are living it instead

As they sit in darkened corners

And share their daily Bread?

 

I hear talk of great revival

It’s preached across the land

There’s praying and there’s fasting

For God to show His Hand

From mega-church to chapel

From mountaintop to coast

They’re pleading that He’ll hear them

And send the Holy Ghost

 

But what if God is done

With the shouting and the pleas

And gone to take up residence

In the dregs of human need?

With invitations in His Hand

Is He handing out free passes?

And opening Heaven’s golden streets

To the very least of these?

 

What if our great revival

So long anticipated

Is not what we imagined

And so fervently awaited?

If after all we’ve said and done

It really isn’t about us?

What if God escaped our box

And started it without us?

 

And what if undesirables

Get first place at the table?

What if they bring their friends

And steal our great revival?

And what if they don’t need us

To help them be good Christians

What if they found Jesus

Outside our definitions?

 

I hear talk of great revival

It’s where it shouldn’t be

In ghettoes, pubs and strip joints

And nations that aren’t free

It’s blowing through the windows

And falling from the sky

It’s spreading like a wild fire…..

Did it just pass us by?

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond.   All rights reserved. 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 Foot of The Mountain

pilgrimage-336615_1920pixabayHad any mountaintop experiences recently?  By ‘mountaintop’ I mean those encounters with God that can leave us dazed with glory for hours or days, suddenly propel us into a deeper revelation of Who He is or enlarge our prophetic understanding of time and events.

Peter, James and John had a pretty cool mountaintop experience with Jesus.  Elijah and Moses, neither of them strangers to mountaintop encounters with God, were there too.  After Jesus led the three disciples to the top of a mountain they saw Him transformed as the King of Glory;  they witnessed Moses and Elijah in conversation with Him; and they experienced the cloud of glory and the voice of God announcing: ‘This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!’

Hmmm, that’s some five star mountaintop experience in my opinion.  Peter must have thought so too because he wanted to build three tabernacles, right there on the pinnacle, where they could go on worshiping Jesus, Moses and Elijah indefinitely.  In other words, Peter wanted to stay up there on the mountain.  I suspect James and John may have been pretty much into the idea too.

And who can blame them?  At the top of the mountain all was as it should be.  The King was revealed for who He is.  The environment was saturated with God’s glory.  The voice of God penetrated their beings. Even a lawgiver and a prophet joined them, up close and personal.  And, most importantly, all Jesus recent talk of rejection, suffering and being killed faded like a forgotten bad dream (Mark 8:31-38).  Given what had been going on down at ground level, I guess I’d want to stay there on the mountain too.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not mocking mountaintop experiences.  I’ve had a handful myself, and would welcome more.

But the truth is those grand mountaintop panoramas are there to give us perspective.  The actual living out of our faith takes place down at the foot of the mountain in the in-your-face, nitty gritty events of everyday life.  Jesus had led His three disciples up the mountain, but it was also Jesus who just as intentionally led them down again.

There were a lot of typical disciple questions on the descent from that mountaintop, some spoken and some probably unspoken.  What did Jesus mean when He spoke of rising from the dead?  How did what they had just witnessed fit in with the teachings of the Hebrew scribes?  Mountaintop experiences often leave us with more questions than answers.

Inevitably, however, life resumes at the foot of the mountain. There we are all too quickly besieged by the practicalities of daily life crowding in on us with its frantic demanding voices, unfathomable tragedies, and never ending opportunities for doubt and disbelief.

When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.  Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.  Mark 9:14-15

Here, at the foot of the mountain, await the ever present, never satisfied multitudes.   For us the multitudes represent the world around us with its constant demands, attention seeking and distracting busyness.

Then, of course, there are the scribes.  The scribes, who were aligned with the Pharisees, were respected as experts in the written law. The scribes, however, had used their influential positions to elevate man-made traditions above the Mosaic Law.  In Jesus and His growing band of disciples the scribes found a constant source of irritation, so they took every opportunity to accuse them of law-breaking.

Condemning, accusing religious voices from our past or present are something many Christ followers still wrestle to overcome.  Such voices have no place in our journey with Christ.  Still they wait for us at the foot of the mountain eager to judge and sentence at any opportunity.

And one of the crowd answered Him, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.’  Mark 9:17-18

At the centre of this demanding, accusing crowd, are a desperate father and his tormented son.  As we look around us the magnitude of human suffering evident can be overwhelming.  Like the father waiting for Jesus at the foot of the mountain, we seem helpless to deal with the scale of war, poverty, injustice and human misery manifesting across this weary world.  ‘How long has he been like this?’, Jesus asks.  ‘From childhood’, the boy’s father tearfully replies (Mark 9:21).  So it is with the human condition.  How long have we, as a human race, struggled with ourselves and come up with no lasting solution to our suffering?  From childhood – from the dawn of humanity’s creation.

Such is life at the foot of the mountain.

But Jesus is not fazed.  He is just as much in control of the situation here at ground level as he was on the now distant mountaintop.

When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’  Mark 9:28

And finally, there are the disciples and their inadequacy.  Why couldn’t we cast it out, they implore Jesus, after He has ministered healing and deliverance to the suffering child.  Here, in our foot of the mountain lives, we too wrestle with self-doubt and discouragement.  Desperately we fling our mistakes, failures and seeming defeats into the face of God seeking answers.  What we have failed to see is the presence of Jesus is our answer.

Jesus didn’t remain on the mountaintop.  He had every right to do so.  He is the King of Glory.  He is the Living Word that created all things.  He is Captain of the Host, Redeemer and Son of the Living God.

But He also chose to identify Himself as the Son of Man.  And the Son of Man elected to descend from the glory of the mountaintop to be present in the human turmoil going on at the foot of the mountain. Up there on the mountaintop Peter, with his grand plan for tabernacle building, had missed something.  The tabernacle of God was Jesus.  And the tabernacle of God was finally living and walking among humanity.  He still is.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God With Us’.  (Matt. 1:23)

Welcome to another year at the foot of the mountain.  In the world around us chaos runs amuck, injustice mocks and confusion defies order.  But Christ chooses to walk among us.  God chooses human vessels as His dwelling place.  We are not left alone in the darkness.  The One who is Life is the (only) Light of humanity.

May the Christ Light increase in you in the coming days.  And may your mountaintop experiences with Him be many.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond.   All rights reserved. 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: Deep, Deep Love

peterandjesusIn this season of newness, when we look back at where we have been and contemplate where we may be going, I have decided to share again this post from the Bread for the Bride archives.  For all who are in the process of stepping out of the boat and onto the wild water, whatever that may mean in your life, this is for you.


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

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.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, All Rights Reserved.   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.

No Fear? Part Two

dollarcrossPart Two of Two

Most of us know that Jesus told people not to have fear. Often. Recently I attempted to count how many times in the gospel accounts Jesus said ‘fear not’, ‘don’t be afraid’, or something along those lines. I gave up.

I had no difficulty counting how many times Jesus told people to fear, however.

Just. Once.

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Lk.12:4,5; see also Mat. 10:28)

There it is, right there in the middle of a conversation about Pharisees, secrets being shouted from rooftops and sparrows.

I love the habit Jesus has of inserting the deeply profound and mysterious into the basic conversations of life. My immediate somewhat impulsive response is: “Oh really Lord? I may inadvertently imitate a Pharisee some time, or be less than careful what I whisper. And I’m still wondering about God’s reluctance to forget a single sparrow. But being more afraid of God than someone who wants to do me serious harm? That’s a pretty big deal and You make it sound like something I need to remember if I want to avoid some fairly undesirable fallout. Umm…think I’m gonna need more than a little help here!”

Every message I’ve ever heard preached about fear reinforced that Christians aren’t supposed to be afraid. Of Anything. (Well, apart from women in tight skirts and bright lipstick….then you should run, right??) I mean, after sin, fear is just about the worst thing you can have going on. Fear is bad. Full. Stop. Some even say fear is sin. “Be bold, be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you!” isn’t meant to be just a happy-clappy chorus (or is it?)

Yet here’s Jesus telling us that the very One who has promised to do away with all fear, should Himself be feared. To add to the conundrum the Bible even says God takes pleasure in those who fear Him (Psalm 147:11).

So, how are we supposed to do this ‘fear God’ thing?

‘Tis grace that taught my heart to fear…..’ we sing…..regularly. Well, fortunately for us, this is where the grace comes in. Apart from grace we humans are incapable of fearing, or reverencing God, without also fearing God’s judgment.

There was quite a lot of God-fearing going on under the Old Covenant. Leaders and prophets alike exhorted the Israelites to fear God, but their fear was law-based. They lived with a dread that this sovereign, mysterious God might open up the ground to swallow them or suddenly strike them dead if they failed to obey Him. It was the kind of fear that caused worshipers to write:

My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments. (Ps. 119:120)

That was the age of law-inspired fear. Strangely, that fear didn’t prevent Israel falling into idolatry. However, it was the best God’s people had available to them, and it was certainly better than the lawlessness of the nations round about them.

But the law was an intermediary, a temporary provision, a method of moral instruction, until the grace that would come through Christ would be revealed (Gal. 3:19-25). The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Enter Jesus, bearer of a New Covenant. He didn’t just say we need to fear God. He said He would show us ‘whom you should fear’. The word means to ‘show by example’. Jesus demonstrated to us this God who desires to be feared, provided us with the grace to fear Him and taught us how to fear Him properly.

Without sin, Jesus had no need to fear God’s punishment. Yet He feared God.

…who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear… (Heb. 5:7)

In fact Isaiah prophesied that the Christ would actually delight in fearing God:

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD…. (Is. 11:2-3)

Jesus showed us a fear of God that was centered on New Covenant Spirit and truth worship, not Old Covenant fear of punishment. He provided us with the grace to reverence God for Who He is, not fear Him for what He may or may not do. Without that grace we are, all of us, too intelligent, too wise, too brave to fear God!

Evidence of the lack of the true fear of God is all around us. Some fear a god who delights in spreading terror, unjust punishment, and mass murder. That is not the God Christ reverenced. Some others who call themselves by the name of Christ fear a god who delights in a gospel of condemnation, hatred and hypocrisy. That is not the God Christ reverenced either.

It was not always so:

Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (Acts 9:31)

The first Christ followers walked in both the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. They reverenced God’s unmatched holiness while resting in the Spirit’s assurance that their sin had been fully accounted for.

If we try walking in the fear of the Lord any other way than with the comfort of the Spirit we will end up worshiping a false god. It is a rare and precious thing to walk in the fear of the Lord combined with the grace of the Holy Spirit’s assurance that, through Christ’s blood, we may run boldly into His awesome Presence without dying.

And it is a common and profoundly arrogant thing to believe we have no need to reverence this God who, being all powerful, could blow us away like the dust that we are, yet chooses instead to be Love to us. No human mind can understand such a God. No human mind should presume to undervalue such a God either.

The Bible hints that the fear of God and the glory of God go hand in hand (Lk. 5:26, 7:16, Acts 19:17). We pray fervently for the glory of God to manifest among us. Perhaps it doesn’t manifest as often as we wish because we prefer the glory without the fear.

No fear? No glory.

Lord, grant us the heritage of those who fear Your Name! (Psalm 61:5).

Related Post:  No Fear? Part One

© 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: An Un-Christmas Carol

Music notes with Christmas carol and Christmas ornaments

The night was not so silent:

In the bustling streets

Crowds pushed and poked

With shoving elbows and trampling feet

Men cursed

Dust choked

Indifferent to a woman heavy with child

In desperate need of a place to sleep

 

The little town was not so still:

It’s streets and houses overflowing

With one night standers, out of towners

Compelled together by Roman decree

Eager to reclaim their normality

The shrill shouts of merchants intertwined

With the noise and smell of humanity

For trade was brisk and coins flowed free

 

The virgin mother was not so peaceful:

Her young face etched with pain and fear

On her lips a voiceless prayer

Her womb, its patience spent,

Pushing, heaving, stretching,

Sharply signalling its intent

Amid the turmoil of the dung strewn street

To expel her child right then and there

 

The Child’s face was not so radiant:

Stained with the blood of newborn birth

Tender untouched flesh

Trembling in the sudden cool

Untried lungs gasping earthly air

A cattle trough to lay his head

His holy Presence barely noted

By passing crowds with minds elsewhere

 

The world was not so joyful:

No shining golden trumpets

Heralded this King’s advent

No pushy journalists jostled for a view

Or flashing cameras recorded the event

Just a few poor peasant shepherds

Whose witness was devoid of worth

The world too busy to pause and ponder

Another common Jewish birth

 

SO….for just a brief few moments:

 

Can we put aside the Christmas cards

With their sparkling pretty nativities?

Can we forget about turkey and tinsel

To confront our sad reality?

Can the man in the jolly red suit sit down

And the merchants cease their endless clatter?

Can the social networks take a break

From their numbing and distracting chatter?

Can the politicians just for once

Step back from their cherished limelight?

Can the Christmas lights all be dimmed

And the tree forego its dazzling spotlight?

 

For unto us this Child was born

And unto us this Son was given

This Holy Prince of Peace

This God of Living Light

Stands amidst our frantic frenzy

This noisy chaos we use to disguise

That we’re really running all on empty

We need Him now as we did then

When first He came to dwell with men

 

Let’s take one united collective breath

For just a single shining moment

Let towns and cities be at rest

And let the starry night be silent

Let’s ask the questions we can’t forget

Let’s weep for what we lost

As we kneel to worship God made flesh

And wonder why He loves us yet !

 

© 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.