Your Help Needed!

Conceptional chalk drawing - Help neededFriends,

Two weeks ago Bread for the Bride launched a sister blogsite, Ishshah’s Story.  You can read the post announcing this here.

I realise this will be of significance to some of you, and to others it will be of little more than passing interest.  That’s fine.  The issues we are addressing on Ishshah’s Story and the vision we share there will obviously be of more importance to some than others, and let’s face it, we all need to prioritise what comes into our inboxes these days!

However, whether you wish to follow Ishshah’s Story or otherwise, I am appealing for your help in letting others know about it who may find it’s vision and purpose relevant.   There may well be people within your spheres of influence who would love to be part of, or even need to be part of,  what we are attempting to do at Ishshah’s Story.  Would you please help us spread the word about the new Ishshah’s Story blogsite by passing on the information about it to others in your personal and ministry networks?

Bread for the Bride enjoys a regularly increasing number of followers and supporters.  I believe, and hope, this is because you find the posts here Christ-centred, edifying and spiritually uplifting.  We are focusing on achieving the same depth of quality with Ishshah’s Story.

So, whether you are male or female, please consider assisting us in getting the word out about Ishshah’s Story.  Better still, we would love to have your comments, your feedback, your company and/or your contributions at the Ishshah’s Story blogsite.  And remember, it is not a ‘women only’ site and males who have a heart to advocate alongside us for women’s encouragement and equality in all aspects of church life are more than welcome.

Thankyou for your support of Bread for the Bride and in anticipation of continued fellowship,

Cheryl McGrath

Endless Life

redhill sunsetEternal life is so much more than a vague never ending timeline of Heavenly ‘happy ever after’ waiting for us after this life finishes. This thing we commonly call ‘eternity’ cannot be adequately measured within the framework of any human definition. Eternal life is essentially the supernatural, abundant, endless, pure life of Christ into which His Bride has already entered. Eternal life even now manifests in those whose temporal, earthly lives are being crucified to make way for the fullness of His endless Life through the power of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 7:16). This hoped for everlasting life we so often refer to is in reality the vast width, depth, length and height of the knowledge of Christ in all His immeasurable fullness (John 17:3; Eph. 3:18,19).

This boundless, immense fullness of Christ was poured out in creation as pure and abundant Life, for “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible….and by Him all things consist….for it pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell.” (Col. 1:16-19) From that outpouring of the fullness of pure Christ-Life every living creature that ever has been, or is, or will be, received a measure of life, for “of His fullness we have all received” (John 1:16).

The source of all life and breath is God (Acts 17:25). The arrogant atheist who scoffs at the existence of God, the liberal theologian who denies Christ’s divinity, the unbelieving mocker who curses His Name, the blasphemers, the humanists, the lovers of sin, the satanists – all live and breathe only by the immeasurable Life of Christ that was poured abundantly into creation. Every tongue that mocks, derides or rejects Christ Jesus functions only as long as it has life, and that very life was received out of Christ’s limitless fullness. In Christ alone the pure, eternal Life of God came to dwell fully in human flesh. The endless, incorruptible Life that entered the world in Him is the Light of all humanity (John 1:4)

Christ is that great Tree of Life on which humanity was originally commanded to nourish itself. He is the supreme and absolute expression of the pure, uncorrupted, ever flowing Life of God. And that Life, that purest expression of eternal, endless Life, willingly came into the world to bring light into the spiritual darkness of fallen humanity. John the apostle witnessed that Life in the flesh and by the Spirit was given to understand the fullness of this endless Life present in Christ. Many years later John wrote of the wonder of what he had witnessed:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you…..” (1 John 1:1-3)

It is into this endless depth and fullness of eternal Christ-Life that His bridal company of crucified followers is journeying (Eph. 4:13).

What does this fullness of the stature of Christ look like? Light! It looks like light, but true light, not the false light of this world.

In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” The world is not in darkness, the world is darkness. When Christ walked the earth He was the world’s only true light (John 9:5). Since His bodily departure the Life of Christ dwelling now in His Bride penetrates the darkness and the darkness does not, cannot, consume it. This fullness of Christ, His endless Life, bursts through the surrounding spiritual darkness as pure, piercing light into the souls and minds of fallen humanity, both in word and in deed.

Don’t look for this Christ-Life in the outward appearance of people or institutions. Jesus, in whom the fullness and power of endless Life dwelt bodily, was unremarkable in appearance. John the Baptist did not recognize Jesus among the crowd until the Spirit of God revealed Him (John 1:33). Judas had to embrace Jesus in order for the authorities to differentiate Him from His disciples (Mat. 14:44). Christ’s endless Life was not something that was apparent in the flesh, in the way He walked, spoke or appeared. Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, Jesus was not tall, athletic, blue eyed and drop dead gorgeous.

The world describes as ‘full of life’ those who are energetic and busy, or those who attract people with their vibrant, bubbly personalities. This kind of ‘life’ is external and carnal. In the same way, Christians often describe churches where the music is upbeat, the congregation active, worship physically expressive and the preaching positive and punchy as ‘full of life’. That may or may not be the case, but beware – the measure of Christ-Life in His Bride is genuine holiness, not an outward appearance of happiness.

The endless, vibrant, pure Life flowing through Christ manifested in His words and His deeds, for in Him grace and truth came together (John 1:14,17). The world already had truth encoded by letter in the Law handed down to Moses, but divine grace mixed with divine truth had not been seen by fallen humanity until Christ came. This same combination of grace and truth will be evident in all who are surrendered vessels to His endless Life.

We need to understand that those who do not have Christ are already spiritually dead. The fullness of His Life will increasingly flow from His bridal company as it flowed from Him, to those who do not know that Life. His endless Life will manifest as spiritual light, piercing the world’s darkness and revealing Christ. This light is not seen with the eyes, but has power to awaken the human spirit. Some in the world will welcome this light and others will despise it, for there are many who love darkness more than light (John 3:19).

The endless Christ-Life that is the light of humanity resides within each member of His rising Bridal company. Outwardly this Bride may individually be dark or fair, young or old, physically strong or weak or disabled – it is irrelevant. The light that this corporate Bride brings into the darkness, this true Light, is Life Himself. The overflowing, abundant fullness of Christ’s stature, the power of His endless Life, is displayed in the beautiful brokenness of His overcoming Bride. She, like Him, is the Light of the world.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   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.

Introducing Ishshah’s Story

wfnjpgimageI’m excited to be able to announce today the launch of a new joint venture blogsite, Ishshah’s Story (www.ishshahsstory.com).

Ishshah’s Story is a collaborative effort between myself, (Cheryl), Melody of Meanwhile Melody Muses, Nancy of Wellspring of Life and Pat from Women for the Nations, and will be a sister site to Bread for the Bride.

Ishshah’s Story is about women who love, serve and follow Jesus Christ.  Together we are going to explore, learn, communicate, contribute and discover what extraordinary creatures we women can be when we are actively encouraged to blossom into all we are in Christ.

But hey, I don’t want to give the impression Ishshah’s Story is a ‘girl’s only’ blog.  No, we’d love nothing more than to have the support and input of our Christian brothers who care enough to come alongside  as Christ’s female followers emerge from almost two thousand years of gender bias within organised Christianity.  So, guys, I know you’re out there and you’re more than welcome to add your support!

Ishshah’s Story grew, the same way many ideas do, out of two ingredients:  vision and frustration.  For many years I’ve nurtured a vision to see Christian women functioning freely in Christ on totally equal terms with men.  The frustration came with a growing realisation that there’s so much discussion around this issue (and that’s a good thing!), but still multitudes of ordinary women worldwide remain limited in roles and stifled in their spiritual giftings due to gender bias that finds its justification in what I believe is an incorrect interpretation of certain Biblical passages. (I shared a little about that frustration here.)  Friends, this is nothing less than spiritual abuse on a grand scale.

There are many bloggers contributing to the discussion on gender equality in the church, and doing it well.  Your will find some of them in the Resources Section of Ishshah’s Story.  I wanted to move beyond the discussion. I wanted to establish a practical avenue that would assist women, perhaps women who have never before been given a platform, to find their voices in a safe and affirmative environment.  Ishshah’s Story is the culmination of that desire.

So Ishshah’s Story will be an online hub where we hope you, (yes, that’s right you, shy little lady hiding behind the keyboard) will eagerly share your beautiful offerings for the edificaiton of Christ’s Body.   Nancy, Pat, Melody and I will facilitate, moderate, encourage and contribute out of the depth of our own journeys, but you, your gifts, talents and journeys, will be the main event.

We are inviting you to send us your original articles and creative input that will glorify Christ and testify of your journey as you have been learning what it is to overcome in Him.  We’ll also be celebrating the female heroes of the Christian faith, past and present, and offering in depth teaching on vital scripture passages.

Curious?  Then come on over and check out Ishshah’s Story, and while you’re there we’d love to have your comments.  You’ll find all the guidelines on how to be part of Ishshah’s Story on the blogsite.  Be sure to take your time and have a good look around, and consider following along with us.  Don’t forget to visit Nancy, Melody and Pat as well.

Oh, and who is Ishshah?  Come on over and find out!

Cheryl McGrath

Bread for the Bride

For Black Sheep and Misfits

black pawn

My favourite childhood uncle died last week. The combination of age (he was in his eighties), dementia and Parkinson’s disease finally became too much.

I had seen him only once in the last ten years, but my strongest memories of him will always be childhood ones. I remember him as a kind and trustworthy man. Even as a young girl I sensed that as his brother’s child I was genuinely important to him. I once was told he and his wife had begun their marriage with a mutual desire to bring as many children into the world as they could support. And they did so: three daughters and five sons, each one excitedly anticipated, welcomed and celebrated; each with his or her own unique place in the family; each cherished, nurtured and unconditionally loved.

I’m told all eight, adults now, plus many of their own children, gathered around his bedside in his final days, never leaving him alone for a minute. Four hundred people attended his funeral. In his lifetime my uncle was a son, a husband, a brother, a friend, an administrator, a respected community member, and chairman of a board. But the role that defined him above all, and for which he is now lovingly remembered most, was fatherhood. This man was a natural father, not only to his own children, but to others of us outside his immediate household. He was my ‘favourite uncle’ because his fathering heart was inclusive and warm. In his company, no matter how rarely you visited, you felt like you were family.

Jesus spoke often about His Father. I sometimes wonder what kind of friction that generated within His own natural family and whether his half brothers and sisters struggled with the knowledge that His Father was different to their father. Once, when He was teaching a large crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside wanting to see Him. When told, He pointed to His gathered disciples and said: “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matt. 12:46-50).

Hmmm…..not exactly a statement conducive to family harmony I would think.

As far as Jesus’ brothers and sisters were concerned of course, they were doing the will of God, and doing it well. They observed the Law and kept the Feasts (Luke 2:27, 2:41, Jn. 7:2-10).   So where does older brother Jesus get off implying otherwise? And Jesus ‘difficult’ attitude wasn’t just a family misunderstanding. He meant what He said and demonstrated it even in His final agonising hours. Jewish custom required the next brother in line to take on the care of a widowed mother should the oldest male child die. But in a dramatic departure from tradition Jesus, from the Cross, pointedly entrusted the future care of his mother to His friend and disciple John (Jn. 19:26,27).

To Jesus, family was spiritually defined rather than naturally defined. His family ties were not to those clinging rigidly to the old traditions of law keeping and ritual. He identified ‘family’ as His disciples who included tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, widows, the poor, the disabled, and all those who normal Jewish society would have labelled misfits. His ‘family’ was anyone who knew their desperate spiritual condition and their need for a Saviour. The will of the Father they sought to obey was simply to receive His Son (Jn.1:12,13; 5:23; 6:45).

Jesus was passionate about expanding revelation of His Father beyond the fearful, thundering God who had handed down the Law to Moses (Exodus 19). He wanted ‘brothers and sisters’ who could begin to know His Father as He knew Him: a Father they could relate to intimately and who fervently desired to make Himself known to them. To Philip’s desperate demand: “Show us the Father!” Jesus had responded: “Don’t you yet understand, Philip, if You see Me, you have seen the Father! There is not a shadow of difference between Him and me!” (Jn. 14:8,9, paraphrase mine).

A father desires children, not acquaintances. A father wants a family, not ritual, ceremony and legalism. And a father wants unhindered daily intimate relationship with his children, not formality and protocol.

In the household of a father each child is individually known with their own chair at the table, their own space to rest their head, their own shelter under his arm.   Each has their father’s ear to listen and his hand to guide. Each has his shoulders to climb onto when the world becomes too much. Each one’s voice is recognised and responded to appropriately. Each one inherently knows that in their father’s household their entitlement to ‘belong’ is unquestioned. In the Kingdom household of Father God, each child fits, including those of us who have not known or have not enjoyed a safe and fulfilling relationship with their natural father.

When Jesus pointed to the crowd around Him and called them His sisters and brothers and mother, He was not belittling His natural family. He was rejecting traditional, worldly ideas of loyalty to demonstrate the higher way of the Kingdom He’d come to announce. In the Kingdom, that which makes us brothers and sisters is not a common bloodline, but a common Father.

The shared purpose of this family of God’s children is to love and follow His Son Jesus Christ (Jn. 8:42). We will only recognise our Father in our spiritual brothers and sisters through the filter of personally beholding Christ.

A tradition has grown in some areas of organised Christianity of addressing others as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ as if it is our unconditional right to do so. In the Kingdom, however, we are not brothers and sisters through attending the same church, holding the same religious traditions, or being of the same skin colour, social class or political beliefs. Our spiritual brother and sisterhood are determined entirely by our response to our Father.

If we have chosen to seek first the Kingdom, more and more we are going to find ourselves misfits in this world, including in our jobs, our communities, our churches and possibly even among our relatives. We are walking in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus was, in many ways, the ‘black sheep’ among His natural kin. He was unacceptable in His home town because He didn’t conform to what was expected of ‘the carpenter’s son” (Matt. 13:55,56). He was despised by the religious leaders of His nation because His message threatened the status quo. And for a while even His family seem to have rejected Him. (Where were His natural brothers and sisters during His crucifixion?)

In the Kingdom, however, there are no misfits, only beloved children – each one excitedly anticipated, welcomed and celebrated; each with his or her own unique place in the family; each cherished, nurtured and unconditionally loved. There is no limit to our Father’s desire for children or His ability to care for them.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Jn. 1:12,13

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   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.

Photo courtesy of: ‘podpad’ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

When Jesus Wept

jesus-wept

When Jesus wept at Bethany

What sorrow did His heart conceive?

Was it unbelief in all its masks

That caused His overflowing grief?

That human eyes that day conveyed

While human tongues unknown betrayed?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

What aching filled His gentle soul?

Knowing well our history

Did He glimpse the unrelenting toll

Of pain and grief and misery

That death has cost humanity?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did creation gasp with soft surprise

And angels gaze with puzzled eyes?

Did earth and Heaven hold their breath

While tears rolled down the face of Him

The Resurrection and the Life?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did His tears fall down to stain the land?

To mingle with the sinless blood

That Calvary would soon demand?

Did blood and sweat from Gethsemane

Join their flow into the flood?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Perchance He stood by all of us

And mixed His tears with yours and mine

And claimed our suffering as His own

That none of us who weep and ache

Could ever say we wept alone

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

He wept for you, He wept for me

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

His weeping crossed eternity

And entered every human tear

That was or is or soon will be

That in our loss and in our pain

We should know the cost is paid

 

And sorrow’s depth was plumbed by He

Who wept with us at Bethany

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   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.

 

Featured Poem for August: The Flame

White Rose

Song of Solomon 8:6,7 

There is a Flame

That burns intense

Unquenched

By many dark waters

Fuelled by divine passion

Ceaseless, vehement, unspent

 

There is a Flame

That burns ardent

Kindled by Love Himself

Before Light danced

In Eden’s garden

Or humanity drew breath

 

There is a Flame

That burns transcendent

Of which all other flames

Are but shadows

And all earth’s lovers cameos

To its unyielding intent

 

There is a Flame

That burns eternal

Fanned by God’s pure Breath

Held in Love’s Being

Raging from Eternity past

Within Beloved’s breast

 

There is a Flame

That burns contagious

Ignited by Heaven’s embrace

On souls courageous

Surrendering ever to its

Costly blaze

 

There is a Flame

That burns unchanged

Beyond the reach of time or age

There is an all consuming Flame

And I

Its glad captive

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   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.

Exploring Community Part Three: Hierarchy and Leadership

community

Where does hierarchy fit in with authentic Christian community? What role, if any, does leadership have to play? These are questions many of us are struggling with as God continues to lead us out of ‘playing church’ into the day to day reality of Kingdom life. I offer the following two suggestions for consideration in the hope they will positively contribute to our search for genuine Christian community:

1.The absence of hierarchy does not have to mean absence of order;  and

2. The presence of leadership does not have to mean hierarchy, domination or control;

When believers consider the Three in One nature of God there is often a vague assumption that the Father is in charge and the Son and the Spirit are second and third respectively. I believe, however, the scripture is clear that there is no hierarchy within Elohyim. (For the sake of brevity I won’t go into my reasons for that belief here but I have written elsewhere about it in Hierarchy, Headship and All That Stuff which is easily accessible on this blogsite.)

The Father, Son and Spirit belong to one another willingly and without reservation in community, yet without the concept of exclusive ownership that we often subconsciously attach to the word ‘belong’. None of the three divine Members of Elohyim seek to rule over the other two Members, yet within this non-hierarchical environment there is perfect order.

Some who have witnessed abusive leadership within organised Christianity subsequently reject any place for human leadership at all within the Body of Christ. But the New Testament speaks both of a gift of leadership, and functional leadership gifts given by Christ to His church¹. Furthermore, Jesus did not rebuke His disciples for seeking to exercise leadership skills; He rebuked them rather for the carnal manner in which they sought to exercise that leadership through the hierarchical model they saw displayed in the world around them². He told them they would need to learn a new and revolutionary form of leadership that they had never witnessed before.

Just as there is authentic and non-authentic community, (see Part Two), so too is there authentic and non-authentic spiritual leadership. Genuine, God-endorsed leadership grows out of a desire to follow God, not a desire to gain followers.   We speak frequently about “servant leadership’, but one cannot be a servant of God’s people if one is not first and foremost a surrendered servant of God. True servant style leadership is essentially an act of service and worship, focused God-ward, not man-ward. Hierarchy, on the other hand, is the structure carnal authority builds around itself to maintain some semblance of perceived order and strengthen its power base.

Authentic, God-endorsed leadership doesn’t need the hierarchy on which organised religion is built because genuine spiritual authority does not require a man-made structure in which to operate. That doesn’t mean there are not examples of genuine leadership gifts within organised Christianity, but genuine spiritual authority will be evident regardless of whether or not it has the approval and recognition of an organisation. And often, too often, authentic gifts of leadership are hindered, stifled, and controlled by those who have found a comfortable niche within a hierarchical environment.

Jesus demonstrated a non-hierarchical leadership model that was radical and confronting both to His disciples and the religious leadership of His day.  At all times His leadership was evidenced by a genuine spiritual authority that was recognizable to those around Him³. He did not impose His will on people by emphasising that authority, or as we might say today, “throwing His weight around.” Those who recognised His authority He invited to join Him. Some did, some didn’t, but He didn’t rant against those who rejected His authority, labelling them as heretics and rebels.

Jesus never sought to prove His authority, even when faced with death⁴. He knew the level of spiritual authority He walked in and trusted the Father to confirm it. His leadership was an offering, God directed, not man directed. This is the authentic servant leadership He modelled for us.

Within the community of Three in One Elohyim none is less and none is more. Each Member is fully valued, fully functional, fully united in purpose and will, yet different in expression. Each delights in the Others’ fullness. We, in our fallen state, have yet to learn how we are to walk together in this kind of community if we are to be a Bride who reflects Christ on this earth.

There can be no true, fully functioning spiritual community where hierarchy exists. Hierarchical leadership is always dependent on the continual submission of someone other than the ‘perceived’ leader. Mutual submission one to another as we recognise Christ in each other is entirely Biblical. Requiring other individuals or groups to submit to us without reciprocity on an ongoing basis based purely on gender, race, title, position, or seminary training is not.

In Part Two I said the first result of the Fall was broken fellowship between Elohyim and humanity. The second result of the Fall was broken fellowship within the first human community, male and female. This male/female fracture is the oldest human division that exists, older even than racial division. It is entirely possible for us as God’s people to receive and embrace one another free of racial, social, economic and other divisions, yet still be clinging to hierarchy when it comes to gender relationships.

Christian community, to be complete and authentic, must be an inclusive atmosphere where both genders are free to exercise all their potential spiritual giftings and give and receive from one another without restriction, as it was in the beginning. This freedom to function as equals between male and female is foundational to true community, including in marriage, which was the first human community. Until hierarchy, i.e. the need to rule, is no longer an issue in either the home or the church, we will not experience spiritual community as God initiated it and desires it among us, for the broken fellowship between the genders will remain unhealed. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is addressing this injustice within the Body of Christ and many are having their eyes open on this issue.

We have built a religious system in which we have mistakenly equated hierarchy with order, and in doing so we have controlled, quenched and excluded the Holy Spirit who was the only One charged with organising us⁵.  We have failed to discern true spiritual authority from false and have too willingly handed leadership to those whose authority is carnal. We have thought to do community by our meetings, our programs, our conferences, our agendas, our doctrines, our law keeping, our endless activities; but we have failed to learn to simply be the living, vibrant extended community of Elohyim to one another.

But God is not finished with us. From the beginning it has been covenant that has been at the heart of true community. Our covenant is first with Christ, and through Christ it is then with every other genuine Christ follower. It is only as we immerse ourselves ever more deeply into covenant relationship with Christ that we will increasingly participate in the community of Elohyim and discover that same mysterious Community present and vibrant among ourselves.

¹Romans 12:8, Eph. 4:8-12

²Matthew 20:25-28

³ Matt. 8:5-10; Mark 1:22, 27; Luke 4:32,36;

⁴ Matt. 26:53

⁵ John 14:16, 26

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   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.

Related Articles:

Exploring Community Part One

Exploring Community Part Two