From the Archives: The Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Feasting on the Tree of Life

Bread for the Bride will be inactive for a couple of weeks while I take a short break away from home, but here is one from the archives I hope will bless you in the meantime!


alberoLike an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

(Song of Songs 2:3)

Come with me to a garden, a magnificent garden where it seems every plant, tree and creature radiates intense life.  In the middle of this vast garden a woman leans to pluck the fruit of a splendid looking tree that towers over all the other plants. Tentatively, she tastes the fruit, and seeing her obvious delight the man with her also tastes.  Their enchantment with the tree is short lived, however.  Soon the woman discovers she has been deceived and the man realizes he has crossed a deadly line that is irreversible.  Now they perceive everything in the garden, and each other, in a different way.  No longer do they think and act in unison, their differences begin to define them.  No longer do they live to please the other, instead their focus shifts to their own individual desires.  The tree that seemed to them so resplendent with promise has become their death sentence, and the death sentence of all their future offspring.   From now on the man will struggle against the earth for his own survival, blaming the woman for his predicament, subjecting her to his control by means of his physical strength.  The woman will learn to distrust the man and will devise her own means of surviving alongside him.

Now come again to the same magnificent garden.  See another woman leaning towards a most majestic Tree.  She tastes and finds the taste good indeed.  So good, in fact, she hungers for more.  As she eats of the Tree she finds herself increasingly entwined in its fruitful branches.  So delightful to her is the fruit of this Tree she soon discovers she has lost all desire for any other food or nourishment.   The Tree in turn embraces her, drawing her further, deeper into its glorious interior.  Its captivating fragrance is all around her, its fruit nurtures and sustains her, and its boughs shelter her.  The Tree has become everything to her.  The Tree has become her Life.

Most of us are familiar with the first scene. It describes the first man Adam, the first woman, and their spectacular fall from grace.  I shall not refer to the woman as Eve, for the first name given to her was Ishshah, or ‘woman’ (Gen. 2:23).  Her name did not become “Eve, mother of all living”, until after the fall.  The tree from which woman and Adam ate was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which ultimately leads to death. 

The second scene centers on the Tree of Life, which is Jesus Christ.  And the woman?  The woman is His Bride, of whom Ishshah was a mere shadow and type.  The New Testament teaches that Christ is the last Adam, and that the first man, Adam, was a type, or shadow, of the second Man, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:45-47).   Seldom do we consider that the first Adam had a bride, and that she too was a type or shadow of the multi-membered ‘woman’ who would become the last Adam’s immaculate bride.  This spiritual Bride is a glorious mystery hidden within the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.

So abundant with everlasting life was the Tree of Life that God installed cherubim and a flaming sword to prevent Adam and his bride from partaking of it in their fallen state (Gen. 3:24)).  The tree from which the first Adam and his bride ate looked, smelled and at first tasted like life to them, but in reality was death.  For Adam and his wife to eat from the Tree of Life after their fall into sin would have meant their bodies would never have died.  There would have been a race of human beings on the earth who would sink further and further into the depths of sin, increasing in numbers, but living in immortal bodies that never succumbed to natural death as we now know it.  Every kind of evil imaginable and unimaginable would plague this immortal race.  The consequences are too horrible to contemplate.  God, in His infinite mercy, removed mankind from the presence of the Tree of Life.

In and by the Spirit of God, a spiritual woman is being raised up on the earth who, unlike her natural predecessor,  is rejecting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and is choosing the Tree of Life.  She has turned her back on the tree that tastes good to the natural senses, is pleasant to the eyes, and promises to make her wise.  She has tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Life and having tasted has understood nothing else can ever satisfy her.  To this woman, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or “the world” as it is better known, becomes increasingly less appealing with each passing hour.  She understands well that the two trees cannot be mixed.  One must feast on one or the other, but not both.  Those who choose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil will find the fruit from the Tree of Life totally inedible.  Those who feast on the Tree of Life will find the fruit from the other tree bitter and detestable. 

At a time of His own choosing in the course of human history God again presented the Tree of Life to humanity.  In the garden the Tree had represented Christ.  On earth, Christ came to offer Himself once again to mankind as the Tree of Life.  Man had chosen death over life.  Christ was sent by the Father to again offer humanity a choice.  A tree was raised up on the sin ravaged soil of the earth, in its very midst.  On that tree was nailed a Man, the last Adam, who Himself was Life incarnate.  In His willingness to provide the spiritual nourishment for which humanity craved, His flesh was torn and His blood spilled into the earth.  The Tree of Life rejected by humankind long ago in a magnificent garden became manifest once more in the midst of the fallen race of man.

 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no Life in you” he had said.  “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”  Such graphic language offended most who heard, and still does.  What do you do with a statement like that?  You either write it off as the ramblings of a mad man or humbly admit there is something here you do not yet understand and follow.

The Tree of Life still stands in the midst of the earth offering to share its fruit of endless, abundant God-breathed Life to humanity. Its access is no longer blocked by cherubim or a flaming sword.  All who wish to eat may taste freely and live.

And within its towering branches a mysterious woman abides, never to leave its shelter, never to crave for any nourishment except that which it provides for her, never to shift her eyes away from its incomparable beauty.  She is coming home.

 © Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013

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

Sinnerwoman and The Bride, Reblogged from May 2012

jesus_woman_washes_feetThe Bride of Christ can be likened to a woman, a known sinner, arriving unexpectedly at a banquet held by a respected religious leader.  Entering unannounced, her eyes quickly scan the room for one face,  the face of Jesus Christ.  At first few notice her uninvited intrusion, caught up as they are in conversation and merriment.  Before long, however, voices are lowered to indignant whispers as her presence becomes apparent to every guest.  The host fumes under his breath.  How did this immoral gatecrasher gain entry to his exclusive party?  Which servant should be blamed for this unacceptable situation?  Jesus, however, is neither surprised or offended by her presence. 

Sinnerwoman, as we will call her, is mostly oblivious to the atmosphere rising around her for she is focused only on what she has come to do.     For some time now, she and her friends have seen Jesus walking and teaching among the people.  She has wondered greatly about this Man unlike any man she has ever met, whose words have revived in her a hope she thought long dead and buried.   Even from a distance He makes her feel safe in a way that is foreign, yet strangely comforting to her.  She has so many questions.  Can her life really change and can He help her change it?  Would He even allow a woman like her to come near Him, let alone speak with Him?  Today word has spread among her crowd that Jesus is guest of honour at the house of the Pharisee.  Quietly slipping away from the other women,   she has dared to seize this moment, and nothing will deter her.  Averting her eyes from a room full of glaring faces she quickens her pace towards the object of her desire. 

We see her now, falling awkwardly at Jesus’ feet.  She tries to speak but finds herself overwhelmed, voiceless in His Presence.  Instead, choking sobs rise in her throat, breaking uncontrollably out of her wrenching body as she kneels before Him.  Great pools form in her eyes, spilling down like torrents onto his unwashed feet.  Liquid salt mingles freely with brown earth as her falling tears meet the sweat and dirt of His journey.  Taking the posture of a servant she wipes away the mixture of water and grime with handfuls of her own hair.  Speechless still, she reaches for a small vial of perfume hidden in her tunic and breaks it open, pouring it lavishly upon His feet.  As its exotic fragrance permeates the room she continues to anoint Him, simultaneously kissing His feet adoringly, not daring to look up until every last drop has been emptied upon Him.    At last, spent, Sinnerwoman raises her tear stained face hesitantly.  The welcoming eyes of the One she has anointed meet with hers, His smile of approval speaking more than words.  Sinnerwoman has been received by Love personified. 

An indignant hum of murmuring voices rises around the room but none dare speak openly. Simon, the host, cannot conceal what many are thinking.   That a holy man sent by God would allow any woman to touch Him, let alone this ‘Sinnerwoman’, was impossible and offensive in the extreme.  Therefore this so called ‘prophet’ could not know the nature of this woman’s occupation.  How then could He be a prophet? 

“Simon, I have something to say to you”, the voice of Jesus breaks the silence.  “….There was a certain creditor who had two debtors.  One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.  Tell Me, therefore which of them will love him more?”   

Love Him more?  Is that what He wants?  Really? Is it not enough to love Jesus?  Must He demand that we love Him more?   

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”  He asked His friend and disciple Simon Peter beside Lake Tiberius.  Twice more the question came, until Peter, confused and indignant, insisted that he did (John 21:15-17).   Another man came running, kneeling before Him, seemingly ready to follow any commandment Jesus would give.  Any, that is, except  “….. come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  Poignantly, we are told “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him”, but the man turned away (Mark 10:21).   

We will probably never know how many love Jesus but don’t love Him “more”.  Jesus is easy to love, but He’s not easy to follow. 

Can it be true that a prostitute might love Jesus more than a man of the cloth?  Is it conceivable that a thief or a murderer might enter the Kingdom of God more easily than a learned theologian? (Matthew 21:31).    Dare we believe that the Bride of Christ simply consists of those who love Him MORE? 

The lesson ‘Sinnerwoman’ teaches us is exactly that.  She leads us on the Bride’s journey: separation from the crowd,   the pursuit of the Beloved,  counting the cost, the dying to all things past, finally to discover the Bridegroom is glorious beyond anything she had been told of Him, then to live only for, through and in Him in extravagant, sold out, unashamed, scandalous worship.  (Luke 7:36-50) 

“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”.   

Two debtors, both forgiven, but one loved Him more.  Is it enough simply to enjoy the Bridegroom’s company, or does Bridehood constitute something more costly?  Many are called, few are chosen.   

 Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012   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 First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

Jesus-female-followers-in-Jerusalem

We spoke little as we hurried through the streets of Jerusalem. Slivers of warm sunlight were already piercing the dying darkness as the long night fled away. I pulled my cloak tightly around my face as if to protect myself against the harsh realities coming daylight would bring. Between us we carried the oil and the spices specially purchased for the task that lay ahead: Mary with her jar of olive oil, Joanna with the myrrh, and I with the finest spikenard I could find in the marketplace.

Each one of us, and the other women in our company, had understood it must be us, the women, who would carry out this last act of worship for Yeshua. Had we not stood, alongside His mother, there on that desolate hill while He was lifted up on that cruel Roman stake? Were we not eye witnesses to His suffering, His humiliation and His final breath? We had remained together as always, silent observers, and no man stood with us save John. I had listened while the men argued on the road about which of them was greater. I had heard of Peter’s boast that he would even die with Yeshua. Yet where were our brothers while we huddled in unspeakable anguish watching Yeshua’s execution? But such is the way of men.

And afterward, again we had observed in silence, following the two wealthy citizens as they removed His body to the tomb, hurriedly wrapping it in crudely anointed linen for fear of the Sabbath overtaking them. Why had they not openly declared their allegiance to Yeshua while He was alive, and joined our company? Why had they come after the crowds had moved on, after the soldiers had lost interest, to steal away His broken body secretly?

It was then we had agreed on our plan. Yeshua’s body must be properly anointed for burial, and in this matter for once we would not be the silent observers. We were willing to risk our lives to render Him this last act of reverence. Since time unspoken it has been so. Men rule the world, make the big decisions, and jostle for position. But it is women who quietly observe, consider and get on with what must be done.

By the time we drew near the tomb the sun was visible on the horizon. Quietly, Joanna asked how we would remove the great stone we had seen rolled across the entranceway. In our urgent desire to anoint Yeshua’s body we had not considered such a practicality. While we pondered, the earth beneath our feet shook violently and unexpectedly, causing each of us to fall to the ground. Afraid and shaken we rose and continued on our way. Nothing must keep us from what we had determined in our hearts.

The scene before us as we arrived at the tomb’s entrance halted us abruptly. Three Roman guards were lying unconscious among the trees, but it was not this that arrested our attention. The great stone had somehow been moved and the tomb lay open before us. My heart pounding like a beating drum I stepped slowly through the tomb’s entrance, the others following, but Yeshua was not within. Before any of us could speak, a man, I knew not from where, stood by us.

“Don’t be afraid” he told us. “Yeshua is not here. He is risen. Go, tell His disciples.”   Other things he said to us also but I could not take in his words for fear and shock. Trembling and uttering not a word to one another we backed out of the tomb, each of us heading as fast as we could towards the house where we knew Peter and the others were gathered. Questions beyond my understanding crowded my mind and gave speed to my feet. Perhaps the men would have some explanation for the confusing events of the morning.

Outrunning the other women I burst, breathless, into the house. Locating Peter and John I struggled to compose myself. “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him!” I blurted. Others eyed me dismissively, glancing knowingly at one another and whispering about the foolishness of women. Peter and John, however, looked wordlessly at each other with alarm, then took off running. Still breathless I followed, unable to keep pace with them, but compelled by the growing realization that someone had removed Yeshua’s body from the tomb. Could it be the members of the Sanhedrin, the Romans, or tomb robbers? No matter, whoever it was, we must know where they had taken Him!

Both men had entered the tomb by the time I arrived. Their suntanned faces paler than I had ever known them to be, they emerged, glanced at me and left hurriedly, no doubt to confer with the other nine.

Alone now, the aching sorrow that had been threatening to overwhelm me for almost three days rose like the squalls that blow without warning on Gennesaret. A sudden torrent of grief and shock swept over my weary body, draining all remaining strength. So deliberately had I kept myself busy, first with Sabbath duties and then with the preparations for anointing Yeshua’s body. For the sake of the other women, I had reasoned, I must show strength in this terrible hour. I had put from my mind lingering visions of His crucifixion….the nails, the blood, the tearing thorns pressing into His brow.

Just as determinedly, I had pushed aside memories of our first encounter when He had delivered me of my devilish tormenters. I had refused to think on the hope that had grown in me as He taught us of His coming Kingdom, lest sorrow overwhelm me beyond reason.   I would hold the crushing sorrow at bay, defer my gnawing grief, until afterwards when all that could be done was done. Then, I knew, I must give place to a depth of heartbreak I had never known before.

Now that heartbreak was here, before I wanted it, and I had no strength left in me to resist. Surrendering, I lay sobbing on the ground, shaking uncontrollably. It was not enough that my Lord had been unjustly executed, and had been buried by strangers, but now we had been robbed of His body and denied the chance to render Him this last small act of devotion. They had taken Him, and I knew not where to find Him. For me not to be able to follow Yeshua was unbearable beyond words.

“Why are you weeping woman?” came a voice from inside the empty tomb. Rising slowly to my feet I looked and beheld two men in white. I cared not who they were or what they might do to me now. Whatever befell me for following Yeshua, I would not deny Him. Defiantly I answered: “It is because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve taken Him.” Yes, let them know and understand that Yeshua was still my Lord, and I would not turn back even though they kill me as they killed Him. He had given me back my life and in return I had vowed to serve Him till my dying breath. Let God determine my fate, for without Yeshua life would not be life.

Another voice then, from behind me this time: “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Turning to a man I assumed to be a gardener I hardly looked up. My eyes swollen from weeping, my voice quivering, I answered: “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away”. I knew that I, a woman trespassing in the garden of a wealthy man, risked being brought before the authorities for my audacity. But love and desperation compelled me. Even if no other disciple came with me I must locate Yeshua’s body and somehow convey Him to a safe place where He could lie undisturbed.

“Mary!” The unexpected familiarity of the voice startled me. Could it be that such deep grief had deluded my mind? Dare I look at that face? But I must. None but One had ever spoken my name like that. Reason told me I was sick with heartbreak, but something else told me I had never heard anything more clearly.

Turning again, my eyes desperately seeking the eyes of the One whose voice had uttered my name, I looked fully upon that Face…that Face that I had so recently seen contorted in pain and anguish. It was indeed Yeshua, not bloodied and beaten, but joyful and glowing with the vibrancy of life!

In the twink of an eye the despair of the last few days was transformed into a joy that cannot be spoken. I had watched my Lord suffer, heard His final cry, seen the soldiers pierce His side and witnessed His limp and lifeless body removed from that most dreadful stake. Yet, here He stood before me, more alive than any person I have ever met.  I had thought to find my Lord, and instead He had found me! Falling at His feet in the same place where I had just laid weeping, joyful, adoring worship poured out of me: “Rabboni! My Master! Rabboni!”

I had come to the garden in mourning, bearing oils and spices to anoint the dead. Instead, through some divine mystery for which I have no words, I found Life. Surely whatever has transpired this day can never be reversed.

Surely this day is the first glorious day of forever!

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Footnote on Mary Magdalene: Mary was called Magdalene after Magdala, the Galilean town she came from. We may assume Mary from Magdala was an unmarried woman, otherwise normal practice would be to name her as ‘wife of………”.   Church tradition has grown up around Mary from Magdala suggesting she was a former prostitute.  However, neither the Bible nor historical records give any indication this was the case. She has often been confused with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11 or the woman ‘who was a sinner’ from Luke 7:37-48,  but this confusion came into the church from non-Biblical sources and has been perpetuated throughout history through art, literature, Hollywood movies and such theatrical shows as “Jesus Christ Superstar”.  In fact there is no Biblical passage at all that indicates Mary of Magdala had ever been a prostitute.  We do know from scripture she had been tormented by seven demons.  

Around the sixth century, the Catholic Church under Pope Gregory began to identify Mary Magdalene as a woman of loose morals because they equated her demonic oppression with sexual uncleanness.   Jesus, however, always distinguished demonization from wilful sin.  He rebuked sin and delivered the demonized. Prior to her healing and deliverance,  Mary could well have been suffering from what would now be identified as any one of several mental illnesses,  or some form of self-destructive behaviour.  There is absolutely no Biblical basis for assuming she was a prostitute.  Another thing we can surmise about Mary is that she was a woman of financial independence since she was free to contribute to the itinerant ministry of Jesus and the twelve.    Mary was not only among the ‘many women’ disciples of Jesus who stayed with Him at His crucifixion (Matthew 27:55), she is the only person mentioned by name in the gospels who witnessed Christ’s death, His burial and His resurrection (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56, John 19:25). She was chosen by Jesus to be the first disciple He revealed Himself to after His resurrection and the first one sent with the gospel of salvation.  

© 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.

 

Parable of the Man of God

man of godThere was a young man of God, and God said to Him  “Son, I want to show you some things that are on My heart.”  And so God took him and showed him the very house of God where God dwelt.  And God took him by the hand, for he was a son to Him, and led the man through His great house until they came to a certain room.  And God opened the door for the man to enter and he looked around the room with great wonder, for the room  was coloured in such brilliant hues of deep blue as the man had never before seen.  And God said to the man: “I am giving you this room to look after, because you are my son.  Please furnish this room and use it wisely for My glory, and remember who I am.”  The man was overjoyed at being trusted with such responsibility and set to work straight away to make it exactly as He thought God would want it. 

Before long, God came again to the man, took him by the hand and said: “Son, I want to show you something else also.” God led him to another, bigger room in His great house and opened the door. This time the man saw a glorious room coloured in deepest shades of gold.  And his heart began to think of all the ways in which he could make this room even more beautiful.  And God said “Son, I am giving you this room because I delight in you.  Keep this room for Me, furnish it to My glory, and remember who I am.”  So the man set to work straight away and soon he was happy working hard on both the brilliant blue room and the glorious gold room, arranging them exactly the way he thought God would want. 

And God came yet a third time to the man of God. Once more He took him by the hand and led him to another room in His great house, an even larger room than the first two.  God opened the door and the man saw that this room was coloured in the richest tones of deepest scarlet that he had ever seen.  Then God said, “Son, this room is special to Me, and I have been looking for someone I can trust to look after it and furnish it properly.  I am giving you this room because I love you.  Please decorate this room and keep it to My glory, and remember who I am.”   

And as the man looked on the beautiful scarlet room he began to think of how he would like it to look if it were in his own house.  And the thought came to this man that he must be a very responsible and clever person for God to entrust such important things to him.   

So now the man began running between the three different rooms, working hard to make each of them as perfect as he could.  When he was working in the brilliant blue room he thought there could not be a more beautiful place to work in all the world and his whole heart was consumed with making it better and better.  And when he worked in the glorious gold room, he thought “surely this is the finest place a man could ever have to work”, and the blue room faded into the back of his mind. When he was in the rich scarlet room he could think of nothing else but the importance of completing that most wonderful room. 

And the man worked very hard for many years on getting everything just right in all three rooms, but no matter how hard he worked somehow things never seemed to be completed to his satisfaction.  More and more the joy with which he had begun was replaced by frustration and weariness.   Still he kept running between each of the rooms, working even harder, because he had come to believe He had been given this responsibility because he was the only person who could perform it the way God wanted. 

But there came a day when the man had no strength left to apply himself to his tasks.  Casting his work tools away, he threw himself down on his face in great anguish, crying out to God:  “God, I know that you have given me these responsibilities in Your great house because of my gifts and my talents in being able to make things good and beautiful, but no matter how hard I work on these three rooms, I have never been satisfied.  There is always something I see that needs improvement and I cannot bring these rooms You gave me to completion as I wish to.   Why did you give me such a hard job to do for You? I don’t want it anymore. Let someone else do it. There must be something else You have for me!”   

And God came knowingly alongside the man who was lying on his face weeping.  And God said:  “Oh yes, my son, there is something else, something far greater, that I have wanted you to see all these years.  But You have been so consumed in proving how well you can perform for me that you have missed the very thing I wanted so badly for you to see.” Then God said to the man:  “Watch!”   

And He put His mighty Hand over the three beautiful rooms and merged them together, layer upon layer.  “What do you see?”  God said to the man.  At first the man answered bitterly: “I see nothing but the rooms I have been working on so hard for You for so long.”  He felt so sorry for himself that he could see only through his own tears.  Gently wiping the tears form the man’s eyes God said “Look closer”.   

And as the man began to truly want to see whatever it was God could see, the man caught glimpse of part of a mysterious face.  Gradually his spiritual eyes adjusted to take in the fullness of that which was being revealed to him. Before him the most amazing, glorious, lovely Face he had ever seen gazed back at him with eyes of deepest compassion and love.  Suddenly his heart leapt inside him as he realised he must be gazing into the  Face of Jesus.  And the Voice of God came again to the man, and he heard God say:  “Behold, my Beloved Son!”   

And as the man beheld the Face of Jesus, all the brilliance and the glory and the richness of the wonderfully coloured rooms faded into dullness.  And he whispered in humility and joy to God:  “Father, tell me how is it that I could have missed His glorious Face all these years?” 

And God the Father replied:  “I gave you special places in my heart, not because you deserved them but because I love you.  But you became so consumed with  your own importance, you failed to find the greater thing I was revealing to you.   The one vision that is greater than any other vision, ministry or calling I  give those I love is the revelation of My Son.  It was always My desire for you to behold His Face above all else, but you did not, because you forgot who I am. I have been waiting for you to come to where you are now so I could show you My greater perspective.”

At last the man of God understood and he wept bitter tears because of all the years he had wasted working at the details while missing the greater picture.  And then he wept tears of joy because for the first time in all those years he was deeply satisfied.  All that he had been yearning and searching for was complete and perfect right there in the lovely Face of Jesus.  And the man of God sighed a great sigh of contentment as his thirsty eyes drank in the glories of God’s Son.   Finally he had found rest. 

“Yes, Lord,” he whispered, sinking deeply into the embrace of Christ, “You were right.  It is indeed finished.”  

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

2 Corinthians 4:6 

© 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.

Gadarene

April is Bread for the Bride’s one year anniversary,  and to celebrate I am reblogging some of the posts from the last year.  The story of the Gadarene (Luke 8:26-39) never fails to move me.  This prophetic poem was posted in June 2012.

gadarene

Among the tombs I made my home

And wild and naked did I roam

As day turned night and back again

No difference did I know

 

They chained me but I broke their chains

They shackled me and ran away

But he that lived inside of me

Could never be contained

 

The chains cut deep and bruised my flesh

I cut myself with stones and bled

And none could come to ease my pain

As Legion laughed inside my head

 

My days were lost in living hell

The things I saw no man should tell

And in my torment I’d cry out

But all would fear to bring me help

 

Then came a day like none before

With raging wind and sea that roared

And as the tempest died away

A fishing boat sailed into shore

 

And from the boat I saw Him step

And on my face His eyes did set

A distant scream rose in my throat

And terror’s fingers gripped my chest

 

Then running, falling at his feet,

I begged “What will you do with me? “

“What is your name?” I heard Him ask

And Legion’s voice rose trembling, weak:

 

“Legion”, my jailer’s swift reply,

“Do not torment me before my time!”

Then fading to a helpless wail:

“You are the Son of God Most High!”

 

What happened then I cannot say

I don’t remember to this day

I only know the Stranger spoke

And I and Legion parted ways

 

I’m told he went into the swine

That fled and plunged into the brine

But little care I of his fate

The Stranger gave me back my mind

 

They placed a robe to cover me

As I sat at the Stranger’s feet

They tended to my awful wounds

And offered me some food to eat

 

But I could not remove my gaze

Nor could I be drawn away

From the Stranger’s tender eyes

Or the peace upon His Face

 

For the first time in so long a time

I heard a voice I knew was mine

I begged Him “Let me stay with You,”

But sadly He looked in my eyes:

 

“My friend, the road I now must take

Will lead Me to a Roman stake,

And those who travel by my side

Will scatter from me, far and wide”

 

Then drawing me close to His breast

“You have suffered long,” He said

“And I would spare you any more”

Then placed a kiss upon my head

 

“But I have a task to trust you with

For all the days that you will live

Everywhere that you may go

Tell them truly what God did”

 

Then tearfully He held me close

A sob rose in my throat and choked

We locked our eyes and then I knew

That I must stay, and He must go

 

I left Him then to go my way

And looking back I saw Him wave

He smiled a smile to warm my soul

That said “We’ll meet again some day”

 

And now my life is set apart

To journey always, near and far,

To tell about the Son of God

Who saved my mind but stole my heart

 

I am the Gadarene you see

And for this world He ruined me

That day He sailed across the sea

To set this wretched captive free  

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride  2012

The Gift

thegift

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

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

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

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

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

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The greatest thing most of us lose as we grow to ‘adulthood’ is the ability to receive innocently. I came to Christ and was born again in my early teenage years, but even by then the circumstances of my life had robbed me of the ability to receive.  One can embrace the free gift of salvation then spend the rest of life trying to pay for it.  It was not until many years later the Lord confronted me with the penetrating question:  “Why do you not receive My love freely?”  Why indeed!  Forget about having an answer; I wasn’t even aware the question had existed!  That day my life changed as I asked the Lord to show me how to freely receive His love in childlike innocence.  He hasn’t let me down.

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

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

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

Copyright Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013