Grieving In Zion

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I can say no more about the poem below than this:  there will be those who will treat it like a snack on the run and quickly move on to something more satisfying.  Hopefully, there will also be those to whom it will be more like an anticipated expensive meal, to be tasted, carefully considered and allowed to be digested in full.  By reading slowly and thoughtfully, and perhaps more than once, you may find yourself hearing and connecting deeply with the Lord’s heart.

Grieving In Zion

When the great machine rolls ever onward

Laying waste to holy ground

When souls are crushed in the race to greatness

Left trampled in the putrid dust

When good is evil and evil’s good

And truth polluted with compromise

When sacred and profane are poured

Mingled in the golden cup

 

Who is there will raise a tear

And take up a lamentation

Who’ll lift a voice of mourning

And grieve with me in Zion?

 

When love is just a commodity

To be traded for expediency

When hate hides in ideology

And dresses in democracy

When ‘Kingdom come’ is ours not His

Who will dare lament the loss

And who will stand against the crowd

When the flag obscures the cross?

 

Come all you cloistered prophets

Come you who suffer long

Amid the stench of Babylon

There are those who grieve in Zion

 

When those who say they lead the way

Never even learned to follow

When deception makes us strangers

And there’s none to heal the gap

When the freedom bell rings hollow

And justice picks and chooses

When the church has sold her soul

Who will be the greatest losers?

 

But we will dust our heads in ashes

And sackcloth we will don

Amid the proud procession

We will bear our grief in Zion

 

And when it’s all been said and when it’s all been done

When the silver tongues fall silent

And the empires crumble headlong

When there’s nothing left to fight for

And nothing left to win

And Babylon writhes in her grave

Whose name shall our allegiance claim

And who shall be our king?

 

So let us sing our song of sorrow

And let Heaven join the chorus

Till all that can be’s shaken

And the Kingdom stands before us

And let our tears fall full and free

And our steps be sure and strong

As we dance our dance of sadness

With those who grieve in Zion

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   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.

About Those Heavenly Places…..

Caucasian woman sitting on a white fluffy cloud looking at a big, bright; blue; glowing cross

Am I alone in having kept a vague little picture  hidden in my mind that I used to pull out and dust off every time I heard the phrase ‘heavenly places’? (I’m guessing I’m probably not.)

Take this example for instance: ‘But God….made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:6 NKJV).

Back in the seventies and eighties we used to sing a song: ‘I’m a conqueror and victorious, I’m reigning with Jesus, I’m seated in heavenly places with Him, with Him….’ In my imagination I would see myself sitting on a sweet little chair beside Jesus on His much larger Throne, perched on a fluffy white cloud far above the earth in this mysterious locality called ‘heavenly places’, both of us apparently having a great time though I admit I did sometimes wonder should we be doing something other than just sitting there being happy and victorious.

(Oh, and by the way, if you’re still singing that song with a similar snapshot in your mind, now may be the appropriate time to issue a spoiler alert.)

It turns out those imagined heavenly places of long ago aren’t exactly what  Paul had in mind when he was writing to the Ephesians. For one thing, my pretty little picture didn’t take into consideration that being ‘raised up’ means raised up from death, which logically suggests there has to be a burial first (gulp!) (Eph. 1:20).

And nobody told me the original language used by Paul was far more specific than just sitting beside Jesus on my own little throne. The word he used, ‘synegeiro’, doesn’t mean ‘together with’ in the sense of being in the company of someone in the same physical locality. It means being totally bound to them in unbreakable and absolute union and implies an intimate covenantal relationship.

Then there are those undefined, cryptic ‘heavenly places’. Paul mentions them five times in Ephesians ¹. Rather than actual ‘places’ somewhere in Heaven, the word here (G. epouranios) more specifically conveys a spiritual realm, an atmosphere, and a perspective. In fact ‘places’ is not even in the original text and was added by translators.

These ‘heavenly places’ Paul was referring to are better understood as a supernatural sphere where spiritual activities take place. Even Satan and his troops are active in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), but their activities are far below the authority and power of Christ and those who are His (Eph. 1:18-23).

So far my long ago imaginative picture of ‘heavenly places’ is not holding up well under scrutiny, is it?

Did you ever wonder why Christ is ‘seated’ in this spiritual sphere we call ‘heavenly places’? Or why we too are said to be ‘seated’? There is a hint in the book of Hebrews:

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… ( Heb.10:11,12)

The writer of Hebrews wanted to prove to his or her readers the superiority of the New Covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ over the former law covenant instigated by Moses. The context of this passage compares the Old Covenant priesthood to the New Covenant, in which Christ is our eternal Great High Priest, whose own innocent blood is sufficient to deal with sin once and forever.

The Old Covenant priests ministered in rostered shifts and were required to stand as they performed their duties in the presence of God, repeatedly offering sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins day by day, year after year.  No priest could sit until his priestly role was completed for the day (Deut. 10:8, 18:5-7; Num. 16:9; 2 Chron. 35:5; Judg. 20:28).   Christ however, after offering His one time, eternal sacrifice, sat down, signifying that His work was forever finished.

The reference in Ephesians 2:6 to being seated with Christ now takes on deeper meaning for us. When Paul speaks of God having raised us and made us sit together with Christ, he uses the word ‘sugkathizo’. Once again, this word implies an intimate, binding connection, not simply sharing the same space. This is the same word that the Septuagint², an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament often quoted by Jesus and New Testament writers, used when Abraham sat by God as a blood covenant was established between the two of them. Later the same word was used when Moses sat before the people to minister the Law (Septuagint Gen 15:11; Ex. 18:13).

So being seated with Christ is something more than relaxing on a fluffy cloud surveying the heavens. It speaks to us of our covenant relationship with Him. And it is positional. In Christ, we are made to sit, because His work is finished and we can add no more to it. These heavenly places in which we are seated are a supernatural realm we increasingly inhabit as we come to rest in the truth that our redemption is finished and we can do nothing to complete or increase it. This truth is known in the Heavens, it is known by angels, it is known by Satan, it is known by creation – it is only human hearts that fail to grasp hold of it.

Hmmm…it seems my long-ago neat little mental picture of heavenly places is so not the truth Paul was trying to convey to his fellow believers.

And yet……do you sense this truth taking hold of us? Do you sometimes momentarily, as a friend recently described it, ‘catch a glimpse’ of something so complete, so restful, so beautiful in its finality and its perfection, that you want to run deep into it and never return to this earthly domain where faith is ridiculed and chaos seeks to rule? Could it be that something new is happening within us, something momentous and without precedent?

Christ’s journey from the Cross to the right hand of the Father did not end with His resurrection. There were three major events in that journey: burial, resurrection and ascension.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6,7)

Our journey into the depths of Christ has led us to the Cross where we have embraced Him in His sufferings, died to our old natures and been buried with Him; it has led us on to an empty tomb where we have been raised to the new living way of resurrection Life and Kingdom dwelling with Him. And now, just as He ascended to the right hand of the Father, we must journey on to learn to live in the glory of His ascension, where we have been lifted into the heavenly atmosphere of His undisputed rule and reign.  (I am not referring to a ‘rapture’ here where believers are bodily lifted off the earth….this is a spiritual realm available to us while we learn to walk in the Spirit here on the earth.)

So….about those heavenly places? They are not a faraway celestial location at all. Could it be they are a spiritual realm that may be apprehended anytime, anywhere, by Christ-followers who have ceased striving for their own righteousness and to whom His finished work of redemption is becoming a moment by moment reality? I believe so.

Christ Jesus, after burial, after resurrection, ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father – a scriptural phrase signifying a position of unequalled divine authority (Acts 5:32; Rom. 8:34; 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1). And here’s the thought I want to leave with you: in Christ we occupy that same position, seated with Him on His throne, just as He sat down on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21).

This authority is not an authority that has constantly to be proven as some apparently feel they must do. It is not an authority we must strive to demonstrate. It is an authority born out of brokenness, forged in a furnace of affliction and sealed with the Father’s approval. Whether we feel we have it is not the issue: whether we are conscious of it is also not the issue. It is not earned by anything we do or think we are, it is covenantal. It is ours by inheritance.

This authority is exercised as we walk in the Spirit and live in the Presence of Christ the King, without any conscious effort on our part. It will flow naturally from us from a position of rest in the finished work of Christ.

Put simply it is the authority of the overcomer. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Bride of Christ is on the ascent. Hold that thought until the thought holds you.

¹ Ephesians 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12

² The Septuagint, meaning ‘seventy’ (also known as the LXX) is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language.  The tradition is that 72 Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek in the third and second centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt. It was the first known major effort at translating a significant religious text from one language into another. Many New Testament quotes from the Old Testament Hebrew are taken from the Septuagint indicating the apostles and New Testament writers obviously felt comfortable using it.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   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.

Until Christ Is Formed

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Travail.

It’s a very outdated way of describing a woman’s heavy labor during childbirth. A word rarely heard these days. Try dropping the word ‘travail’ at the local Playgroup or nearest women’s health clinic and it’s pretty certain people will look at you like you just landed from Mars. It’s right up there with: ‘curmudgeon’ (ill-tempered person), ‘flummoxed’ (confused) and ‘lollygagging’ (a word my mother used when she meant ‘wasting time’).

In older Bible versions ‘travail’ (Greek ‘odin’) is used instead of ‘labor’ to describe a deep sense of spiritual anguish that can only be compared to a woman in the last stages of giving birth. It is a word Paul used to warn of the sudden destruction coming with the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:3). In a much more personal sense it’s also the word he chose to convey the intensity of his own passion to see his spiritual children, those he said he had ‘begotten through the gospel’ (1 Cor. 4:15), grow into the fullness of their salvation:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…

Gal. 4:19 KJV

What was it that caused Paul, an apostle, teacher and preacher, such inner distress? It was the lack of tangible evidence that Christ had ‘been formed’ in the spiritual children he loved.

This concept of Christ ‘being formed’ in us is not one that gets much discussion today. In fact it’s about as popular as the word ‘travail’ is. Maybe that’s why modern Christianity is crowded with believers who seem to be permanently parked at ‘Salvation Station’ and seldom progress to their great destination: ‘Christ In Us’.

Paul’s anguish wasn’t confined to the Galatians. To the Corinthians he wrote:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.   I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. 1 Cor. 3:1-2 NKJV

It’s quite possible to be a Jesus-believer, to have come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour, but yet not to have Christ formed in us. For Christ to be formed in us we must do more than believe in Him, we must partake of Him. To partake of Him we must be fed the ‘meat’ of His Kingship and His Kingdom.

The word ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ title, not His surname. It is the English translation of the Greek ‘christos’ and the Hebrew ‘mashiach’. It means Anointed One, Messiah, and King. In Old Testament times only kings and priests were anointed with oil, a sign someone was being sanctified and set apart for service to God and to His people. Jesus Christ is both our Great High Priest and our Messiah/King, set apart as God’s chosen One – the only One worthy to mediate before the Living God for humanity and the only One worthy to reign as humanity’s King.

It is this Christ, God’s chosen and eternal Anointed King who must be formed in us. It is of the knowledge of Him and His Kingdom that we must partake if we are to grow up into mature Christ-followers. It’s important that we start out  adoring Christ as Saviour and seeking to know Him. But it’s important also that we grow beyond that initial stage into the knowledge of Christ as more than Saviour – as the Risen Lamb of God who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I know this statement may be a new thought to some, but evangelization of the world, though a worthy cause, is not God’s greatest purpose for the church. His greatest purpose is to have a people conformed to the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18).

Until Christ is formed in us we will continue to follow after men and women in His place. This was the Corinthians’ problem. They had become divided into warring factions, some loyal to Paul, others loyal to Apollos. Paul called their behavior carnal. They may have believed in Jesus Christ, but they had not yet allowed Him to be formed in them. They preferred milk to meat. They preferred to remain as babes in Christ rather than ‘spiritual people’ growing in the fullness of the knowledge of the Christ and His Kingdom (1 Cor. 3:1-9).

Until Christ is formed in us we will continue to live under the bondage of law in place of the freedom of the Spirit. This was the Galatians’ problem. They had been deceived by false apostles into departing from the pure gospel Paul had delivered to them. They were embracing elements of the Old Testament Law, such as physical circumcision, in an effort to be more acceptable to God. They were rejecting the freedom secured at the Cross. Rather than having Christ formed in them they were becoming alienated from Him by nullifying their Blood-bought freedom and seeking a righteousness of their own (Gal. 5:1-8).

The issues Paul anguished over among the Corinthian and Galatian believers have not gone away with the passage of time. Modern Western Christianity is still plagued with the problem of believers who remain immature and carnal for far too long, who prefer milk to meat and whose leaders seem incapable of delivering the solid meat of Christ in any case. Similarly, way too many believers still struggle under a gospel of law-keeping and fail to enter into the soul-rest available to them in Christ (Matt. 11:28-29; Heb. 4:10-11).

Add to this sad situation an army of ‘apostles’ who wouldn’t have a clue what Paul was talking about when he wrote: ‘My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…’ and it’s no wonder hungry Christ-followers are increasingly crying out for that which will satisfy their longing to be filled with the fullness of Christ.

Let me just add a word of warning here: anyone who claims apostolic authority and does not ‘travail’ in the Spirit until Christ is formed in God’s people is not an authentic apostle. I believe there are apostles among us, and always have been, because Christ gave them and others as gifts to His church when He ascended (Eph. 4:8-13). But they are not busy insisting on a title, accumulating personal wealth, or building little empires. In many cases they are hidden away, unknown and dishonored, but rest assured they know what it is to travail ‘until Christ is formed’ in His church. And they do it again and again, as Paul intimated.¹

The good news is that there is a people in whom Christ is being formed. There is a remnant whose hunger for Christ will not allow them to settle for anything less than ALL the promises of God that He embodies (2 Cor. 1:20). There is a Bride being raised up by the Spirit of God in whom Christ can and will display His fullness. This Bride pursues Him ardently, worships Him as King and increasingly lives within His Kingdom. His Presence with her is her greatest delight.

Let’s not be distracted or distressed by either the chaotic state of the world, or the confused state of organized Christianity. Let’s watch, let’s encourage one another, let’s continue to pursue the Bridegroom above all else…..

Until Christ is both formed in us and comes forth from us in all His Kingly majesty.

¹ For a Biblical perspective on what an apostle looks like read 1 Corinthians 4:1-15.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. 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.

Fire And Water

adobestock_91356836Last week I clocked up sixty-six years of living on this planet. I like to deal with the mixed emotions advancing years can bring by imagining each passing year as just another mile. The greatest part of my life’s journey has been travelled together with Jesus. Frankly, I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate the conclusion of mile ‘sixty-six’, but not surprisingly the Lord had a more positive spin on my somewhat reluctant milestone. He drew my attention to Psalm 66, in particular verses 9 to 12:

Bless our God, O peoples, And sound His praise abroad,

Who keeps us (me) in life and does not allow our (my) feet to slip.

For You have tried us (me), O God; You have refined us (me) as silver is refined.

You brought us (me) into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our (my) loins.

You made men ride over our (my) head/s; We (I) went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us (me) out into a place of abundance. (NASB)

The ancient word-pictures of being caught in a net, aching loins or people riding over our heads can be a little hard to get our twenty-first century minds around. But oppressive life circumstances, dealing with very real life and death scenarios for ourselves or those we love, and enduring false accusation, injustice, heartbreak or soul destroying rejection are things each one of us will taste, some very deeply, on this Christ-following journey.

Sometimes this Christian life can feel like a thousand thunderous riders above us pushing our faces back into the earth we were made from, in case we fix our gaze heavenward and find hope and redemption reaching out to us.

What’s hard to take is the thought that God has actually allowed some of these things to come upon us. “You have tried me, You have refined me as silver is refined.” Silver was refined within a crucible heated by very hot flames. The heat would cause the pure metal and the dross to separate so the dross could rise to the top and be removed by the refiner.

Really? Surely a God Who loves us and died for us would not willingly allow us to suffer hardship, heartbreak or oppression? After all, we now live under a covenant of grace, right?

Ah, but don’t you see it’s grace that bears you up, despite the net that threatens to ensnare you? Do you not perceive the grace that declares victory over that deep-seated fear in your loins? Do you not understand for each rider that pushes your face into the dirt, by grace you will rise again, stronger and more alive than ever, shouting ‘You can’t stop me!’ (Rom. 8:35-39).

Many of us have experienced times and events in our lives when trusted people and man-made religious systems deceived us. When we finally find ourselves walking free from that net of deception it’s natural to ask why God allowed us to walk into it in the first place.

Similarly, we may have endured painful circumstances or devastating loss. We find ourselves under the weight of an ‘oppressive burden’ with no option but to walk it through, clinging shakily to our hope in a God Who has promised never to forsake us.

Where is God, and why does He not always deliver us from such ‘nets’ and ‘burdens’?

Actually, He is right here…..keeping us. The keeping power of God is greater than anything this life can throw at us. If we think we can keep ourselves righteous, strong and committed, we will most certainly be disappointed. It is God’s hand alone that keeps us (Luke 17:33; Jde 1:24; 1 Jn. 5:18; 1 Peter 1:5).

During my journey with Jesus I have failed Him and others many, many times. I have been deceived by the systems and selfishness of men and women; I have known the deepest, darkest fears; I have had my face pushed into the mud more times than I can count. I’m guessing, wherever you are on the journey, you have lived or are living some or all of these things also.

Beloved, we have been through fire and through water.

Fire is a biblical symbol of the testing of God, but it is also a symbol of His Presence (Ex. 3:2, Daniel 7:9,10; 1 Peter 4:12). God’s testing is not an examination to determine our level of righteousness. He has already declared us righteous and holy (Rom. 5:17; Phl. 3:9; Heb. 12:23).

God allows testing to expose hidden areas of our soul to us – things such as fear, unhealthy habits and lying mindsets. God will allow us to experience situations, sometimes several times over, that lay bare these problem areas so that we will let Him touch and heal them. Our natural preference is to hide our weaknesses from Him (and often from ourselves), but His heart is always to reveal and then heal.

Water can symbolize those life-circumstances that threaten to overcome us – to drown and bury us in despair and unbelief; it can also represent bitterness (Ex. 15:23; Rev. 8:11). Such waters can come at us like a flood, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, buried beneath their weight and lost in their darkness.

But many waters cannot match His love for us (Sng. 8:7). We are children of the resurrection. God will never leave us buried beneath such a flood. The waters cannot overcome us, for just as He has set their physical boundaries, so He has set the boundaries of these waters of despair and bitterness that seek to bury us and make our testimony ineffective (Pro. 8:29; Jer. 5:22).

There is another Psalm that celebrates this ‘keeping power’ of God. It is one of fifteen Psalms that are called the Songs of Ascent, because the Israelites would sing them on the uphill ascent into Jerusalem as they came to worship during the festivals.

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side, let Israel now say,

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side

When men rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us alive,

When their anger was kindled against us;

Then the waters would have engulfed us,

The stream would have swept over our soul;

Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.

Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.

Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;

The snare is broken and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 124)

However the view may appear from where we are right now, you and I, if we are in Christ, are on the ascent. Our destination is the Kingdom of God in fullness. Our calling is to take our place within the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).

Psalm 66 concludes like this:

Come and hear, all who fear God,

And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.

I cried to Him with my mouth,

And He was extolled with my tongue.

If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;

But certainly God has heard;

He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,

Who has not turned away my prayer

Nor His lovingkindness from me.

God allows the fire and water that we may be a living testimony to Him. He has never promised otherwise (John 16:33). We don’t undergo painful times apart from Him. He walks with us and keeps us by His enduring grace. He is in the business of transforming us from victims to overcomers. His intention, if we will trust Him, is to bring us through the fire and the water forever changed, with a testimony of His faithfulness, His goodness and His incomparable Love.

As I enter my sixty-seventh year this is my testimony: that He has kept me through the fire, and through the water. Seldom do I share about these things but He has kept me through childhood abuse, despair, betrayal and deceit at the hands of fellow Christians, spiritual abuse, intense spiritual battles over the lives of my children, dangers and isolation while ministering in remote places, false accusation and impending imprisonment in a war-torn country, serious illness, and being disowned by members of my own family. God has allowed refining fires and deep dark waters in my life, but His grace has kept me and His Love continues to enable me.

I share this for one reason: I am a living testimony of God’s keeping power. So are you. You are the bearer of testimony. You are the evidence of Christ’s resurrection. Your testimony has been, and continues to be, wrought in the fires of affliction and the waters of oppression. But the fire and the water cannot stop us because we are held in the arms of Christ Himself. We are on the ascent, we are born to rise. No grave can hold us and no devil destroy us.

Though our flesh be destroyed, yet with our eyes we shall see God. This is not a pep-talk; this is reality for every true Christ-follower. May the truth of who we are and Who we belong to penetrate and transform us as this great journey continues.

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul. Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me!

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   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.

 

Correction to “Where Shall We Buy Bread” Part One

An astute reader  has pointed out to me that there was an error in the first part of this week’s post “Where Shall We Buy Bread?” Part One (thankyou!).

In the section discussing ‘logos’ and ‘rhema’ I stated the Greek word used in Hebrews 4:12 is ‘rhema’, when in fact it is ‘logos’.  The rhema reference should have been to Ephesians 6:17.  The relevant section has now been corrected at  Bread for the Bride to read as follows: 

For instance, Hebrews 4:12  uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:. 

For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.
As I know some Bread for the Bride subscribers do use these posts as group Bible Study resources, could you please ensure the above correction is made to any notes before sharing, to avoid any confusion. Thankyou!

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part Two

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This is Part Two of a two part post, Where Shall We Buy Bread? It will make more sense if you read Part One first.  You can find Part One here. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!

Part Two of Two

We are taking up where we left off in Part One, considering God’s dealings with the Israelites when they suffered hunger on the exodus from Egypt. According to Deuteronomy 8 God was humbling and testing His people. It was He who caused their hunger so they could realise their total dependence on Him.

You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord… Deut. 8:2-3 NASB

The people were instructed to gather what was needed for their household for one day only. When some of them disregarded this commandment they found the manna they had tried to keep overnight went bad and filled with worms. Furthermore they were not to gather it on the Sabbath, the day of rest. God would provide double on the sixth day so the people could rest on the seventh. There were those who disregarded this commandment also and went out seeking bread on the Sabbath, but there was none. Israel was being tested by God. Would they trust Him unconditionally to deliver them from bondage and provide for them and their children? And His testing was revealing the true nature of their hearts.

So unfamiliar to the Israelites was this bread from Heaven it became known among them as ‘manna’ which means “what is this”.

The Old Testament manna was symbolic of the Living Bread Who was to come: Jesus the Christ. Now, for the second time in Israel’s history, God had provided bread in the wilderness. And for a second time in their history, many in Israel were saying “what is this?” of the Christ.

But Jesus, the Living Bread, read their hearts. Many of them did not seek Him to quench their spiritual hunger. Life under Roman rule in Israel was not easy. The people sought a political Messiah who would vanquish the Romans, become their national king and cause Israel to prosper so that no-one would be hungry. They were following in hope of easier lives, not because they believed He could save them from their sins.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing,He tells them. The words (rhema) that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).

It was not very long afterward that many who just one day before had tried to make Him their earthly king abandoned Him, complaining they could not understand what He was saying (Jn. 6:60-66). They could not understand because His words were of the Spirit.

“Do you also want to go away?” Jesus asks the twelve. But at least one of them had understood the lesson of the Living Bread.

But Simon Peter answered him: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words (rhema) of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-68).

The life Peter spoke of was the Greek word ‘zoe’, the endless, abundant, spiritual life essence of God. The Logos had spoken truth from the mind of God; the Spirit had breathed the God-Life into Peter’s heart. Christ was being revealed.

Law and Life

You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (Jn. 5:39-40).

Life! The Bread is always about Life.

The words Jesus spoke were eternal life, spiritual life, God-life. They were rhema. Eternal life is not life after death. Eternal life is always present. It is the endless, perfect, pure Life that is only found in God and emanates from Him. The written scriptures are only life-giving to the extent they reveal a Living Christ to a searching human heart.

As a very young Christian those in authority over me consistently emphasized the importance of daily Bible reading. Being eager and hungry for more of God I followed their advice. I received comfort, hope, instruction, and training by doing so. But the Bible was also law to me. Reading it was a religious duty. I could quote it but I couldn’t live it.

I learned something. If the Bibles we carry around don’t deliver a living Christ to us, they are nothing more than a temporary fix, just like the bread we eat. You will be hungry again tomorrow, as the Israelites were. The Logos is not to be quoted, He is to be lived. Rhema is the Spirit-breathed revelation of the Living Bread being unveiled within our own hungry spirits.

The ‘word of God’ we call a sword is only effective, dividing between soul and spirit, when wielded by the Spirit of God. Scripture on human tongues can convey life or can be used as a weapon of destruction, condemning rather than convicting. Scripture does not convict the world of sin unless it is delivered as rhema, by the power of the Spirit, because it is the Spirit’s role to convict of sin, not ours (John. 16:8).

Some people may as well carry around stone tablets under their arm as their Bible  I have heard people rattle off scriptures like machine gun bullets believing they are speaking for God and carry His authority. They do not. They are speaking condemnation and death. They are merely quoting, but they are not imparting Life. Scripture is only holy as it reveals a Living Christ to us or to others. Otherwise it’s  just another set of moral guidelines like any other religious book, with no life and no power. Many don’t want to hear this but the Bible is not to be treated like a book of magic. We need to stop worshiping the ‘good book’ and start seeking its Author.

Somewhere in my journey I caught a glimpse of the Living Christ in the pages of my Bible and from that point on I began searching for Him every time I opened it. Gradually, the scriptures became a delight to me because I met Jesus there. Everywhere I looked in them I found the Beloved, revealing Himself to me, beckoning me to follow and seek more of Him.

Our attitude to ‘the word’ is determined by who or what we’re looking for. If we are taught, or teach others, that reading the Bible will make us  good Christians, we will find only a moral framework – law. It’s tough to chew and will soon become lifeless ritual.  If, however, we are truly hungry for Christ,  He will reveal Himself to us within its pages.  The word of God really is living and active when wielded by the Spirit of God.

These days I go to my Bible looking for a living Jesus. If I am not beholding Christ within a few minutes of opening my Bible, if I am not receiving a tangible impartation of His Life, I put it down and walk away. I refuse to look for the Living One among the dead letters of law. I love the written Word of God, both logos and rhema, more than I can tell you, because it has become a sacred meeting place to me, where the One who is Life awaits.

The bread I seek to impart through Bread for the Bride posts is always Christ. Truly, if you are not receiving a portion of the living Christ when you read these posts, please do both you and me a favour and unsubscribe. Go somewhere else where you will be fed Christ-Life. I have absolutely no desire to pass on anything but the Living Bread through my writings.

The Word of God, written or spoken can only be two things: it is Life, or it is Law. Law is for the satisfied. But Living Bread is for the hungry. We don’t need an ever increasing choice of Bible colours, covers, styles, and formats to prove we are Christ-followers. Christ does not live in black, white and red print. He lives in His people.

We need Living Bread, the Spirit-breathed revelation of Jesus Christ, in our hearts and on our tongues. That’s when we’ll turn the world upside down.

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. 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.

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

 Bible on a dinner plate with silverware in lentThe following post has been on my heart to write for some time.  Due to length I have divided it into two parts for easier reading.  It could not be fully covered in a shorter article and I believe this subject is worthy of  serious consideration by all committed Christ followers. Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two will be posted shortly after Part One. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!


I stumbled over our town’s only Christian Bookstore recently. I say ‘stumbled’ because the last time I remember seeing it the store was two streets south of where it is now. When I asked the man behind the counter how long they’d been in the new place, he replied “two years’. Uh huh, I definitely need to get out more.

I admit I barely glanced at the latest book releases – I was too distracted by the bibles. Buying a Bible these days is evidently a minefield. Hard cover, soft cover; women’s, men’s, youth or children’s; study, parallel, large print, travel, compact, slimline, new believer’s or orthodox. How about the ‘thirst quencher’, a ‘manga’ bible or a’ creative journaling’ bible? And several Christian celebrities like Joyce Meyer and Jack Hayford have even come up with their own bibles….who knew?

Add to those a seemingly endless number of translations and the choice becomes even more head-spinning.

As a younger Christian I was taught the Bible, aka the word of God, was my daily bread. Spending time in the ‘word’ first thing every morning was the eleventh commandment, usually preached by a male pastor whose wife fed the kids, got them ready for school and ironed his shirt while he clocked up his essential time in the word.

My little visit to the bookstore prompted me to do a quick, non-exhaustive internet search on the Bible as our ‘daily bread’. Here are some unaltered quotes from my search:

Website One: “The holy Bible is our bread.”

Website Two: “(Ministry newsletter name) delivers the Word of God as the bread of life daily via email. With a few verses from the Bible and a short word of ministry it will nourish you and strengthen your faith.”

Website Three: “I will eat the word of God every day.”

Website Four: Bread represents God’s Word. The Bible is spiritual food. Bread is a symbol for Scripture. The Bible says, ‘People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ “

So is the Bible our daily spiritual bread? Can reading the written word of God every day really strengthen our faith and make us grow spiritually? I believe regularly meditating on scripture can certainly edify, encourage and comfort us. Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy about scripture:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work  (2 Timothy 3:14-17 Net Bible).¹

And this in Romans:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

The word used by Paul for written scripture was the Greek ‘graphe’, meaning a document. As we’ve just seen, the purpose of the written scripture is teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, patience, comfort and hope – “that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find bread as a symbol for written scripture. Maybe this is going to be news to some, but our Bibles are not our spiritual bread – Christ is.

But what about this?

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4).

Let’s unpack this a little.

Logos and Rhema

There are generally two distinct New Testament Greek words for ‘word’: logos and rhema. Without getting too deeply into linguistics, logos conveys the idea of ‘reason’ and is our source for the English word ‘logic’. In the New Testament logos can be used for the spoken word or the written word. Jesus is called The Word – the living ‘logos’ that was with God and is God (John 1:1). Rhema, on the other hand, usually emphasizes divine utterance.

For instance, Hebrews 4:12  uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:. 

For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.

People sometimes define ‘logos’ as exclusively the written word and ‘rhema’ as exclusively the spoken word, but it is not that clear-cut. Logos can be both spoken and written, and rhema can also be written or spoken. Here is one of the best statements I have seen on how both the logos and the rhema can represent God:

“God the Son as the logos word defines, explains and expresses the Father’s thought, and God the Spirit as the breath conveys the rhema word to the recipients and applies God’s essence to them.” (Roger Good)²  

Now getting back to our verse in Matthew 4:4, Jesus is responding to Satan who has tempted Him to turn stones into bread  to satisfy His physical hunger. He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:30.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

So here we have Jesus (the living Logos) quoting written scripture (graphe) stating humanity should live by the ‘rhema’ word (revelatory utterance) of God.

Logos and rhema are not opposites. They are simply the word of God in different stages of declaration as expressed by our three in One, One in three, living God. Logos and rhema are separate yet connected parts of an unfolding process, beginning in the mind of God as divine thought, taking form in human flesh through the Son who is the Living Logos, and quickened as revelatory truth in humanity by the Spirit who is the Breath of God.  In this divine process the written word can, when uttered under the unction of the Spirit, become rhema, or revelation, of the living Christ. Equally, the same written word when uttered under the influence of human flesh, is not rhema, and is no more than a quotation devoid of supernatural power. Even Satan can quote the logos word of God, but the result is death, not life.

The “every word from the mouth of God” that Jesus said we are to live by was not written scripture, but rhema: always fresh, always Life-imparting, always Spirit-breathed, always revealing some aspect of Christ.

The Bread

Many are familiar with the narrative in John 6 which relates the feeding of over five thousand people. A great crowd, after witnessing His healing miracles, had followed Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 9:10). Realising the people are hungry Jesus asks Philip “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” The best the disciples can come up with is five loaves and two fish and Jesus, despite His own weariness, miraculously multiplies them so that everyone can eat and be filled (Jn. 6:1-15)

On the following day many who had eaten the miraculous meal came searching for Jesus. They had seen Him multiply a few small loaves, had tasted and been filled. They knew this was no supernatural food they’d eaten – it was ordinary, everyday, belly filling bread. And they wanted more.

It reminded them of a similar event recorded in their scriptures when their ancestors ate bread in the wilderness on their journey out of Egypt. They started comparing Jesus with their greatest national hero, Moses. Could He provide them with bread for themselves and their families every day?  After all, Moses had done so for forty years, hadn’t he? So they asked Jesus for a sign to prove He was as great as Moses. The sign they wanted was more ‘manna from Heaven’.

Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. (Jn. 6:31-36)

God provided Israel with bread, or “manna”, for forty long years. Think of it, for forty years every Israelite woke up each morning to find fresh bread had appeared in their camp overnight.  God would rain down the manna each morning, which fell as fine dew on the ground and solidified into paper thin wafers that tasted like honey. Six days a week for forty years the Israelites would collect and eat fresh, heavenly manna until they reached the Promised Land (Exodus 16).

What was going on here?  We’ll investigate further in Part Two of Where Shall We Buy Bread.

¹ I quoted the Net Bible in this instance because it is the only translation I found that says ‘person’ rather than ‘man of God’.   If Paul had wanted to be gender specific he would have used ‘aner’ the Greek word for a male, but he used ‘anthropos’, which is a human being, male or female. Why do translators persist in translating this phrase as ‘man of God’?

² God As The Word: Logos and Rhema, by Roger Good

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. 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.