The Way Forward

Rural signboard with two signs saying - Forward - Backward - pointing in opposite directions with the sign saying Backward scribbled through and an arrow pointing to the route forwards to success.

So we’re off and running, or so it would seem.  2017 looms large and beckoning before us, promising all kinds of ‘newness’. Christmas pudding and tinsel are already so yesterday.  The tree is back in storage until needed for its brief seasonal appearance in around 350 more sleeps.  Before we know it we’ll be shedding those kilos, quitting those unwanted habits, mending that relationship, taking that course, or whatever other thing we’ve vowed to ourselves under the guise of ‘new year’ and ‘resolution’.  Let’s go!

We’re not getting stuck in the same old same old, no way.  Let those with their heads in the sand stay there.  We’re taking off into this fresh new year with new ideas, new hope, new plans, new commitment to do newer and bigger things for God.  You won’t catch us being like those stodgy old Pharisees, entrenched in their religious comfort, unable to see the forest for the trees.   Jesus told them things had changed, but they refused to believe Him.  ‘The Law and the Prophets were until John’ He told them.  ‘Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached and everyone is pressing their way into it.’¹

What did they want to know about this so-called new Kingdom – they with their ornate robes, phylacteries, and solid commitment to tradition and the old ways?  They were the heirs of Abraham.  They would vehemently resist this upstart Galilean and His blasphemous talk of some new Kingdom, whatever it took.  What did He mean the Law and the Prophets ‘were’?  The Law and the Prophets had been good enough for their fathers and their fathers before them, and they would continue to be the way forward thankyou!  Anything else was unthinkable.

No, we’re not like that, stuck in the ‘were’ of the past.  We are like Jesus disciples, following hard on His heels, running with this new way of life He kept talking about, determined to shake off all that’s been holding us back.  We are the ones pressing in, the people of the ‘will be’, the ‘now generation’.  Let the ‘were’ crowd cling to their past glories.  We’re moving forward and nothing can stop us, right?  2017 here we come and this time things are going to change!

But wait.

Therefore when they had come together they asked Him saying ‘Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’² 

Um, it appears the ‘now’ disciples were a little confused.  What kingdom are they talking about?  Could it be that all along they thought they understood ‘new’ but didn’t?  Surely not!

But here they are asking Jesus, Who is about to leave them in the capable hands of the Holy Spirit, when He’s going to ‘restore the kingdom’.  He’s been talking God’s Kingdom, while they’ve been thinking David’s Kingdom!  And now it’s crunch time and they’re a little nervous.  They’ve invested everything in this new kingdom, but where is it, and when exactly will He proclaim Himself King, kick out the Roman overlords, and make Israel great again, with each of them at His Kingly side?

Hmmm.  It seems the ‘now ‘people were really ‘were’ people all along and didn’t know it.

And maybe that’s the problem with trying to change our lives according to times and seasons as we understand them. ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.³  The world shouts at us : ‘everything’s new, you can make a fresh start!’, and to prove it throws some mesmerizing lights up into the heavens.  The calendar shouts: ‘ it’s time for new resolutions!’, and once again we get busy vowing to make things happen. By the time those bright new year fireworks light up the skies again life will be very different. Well that’s the plan anyway – and this time we’ll make it work!

Jesus stands before us outside time, above the realm of man-made festivities and timetables.  He is the “I AM” who IS and WAS and IS TO COME.  The ‘Is’  of God stood in human flesh before the Pharisees, offering His Kingdom, offering His Lordship, offering His timeless Presence, and they chose the ‘were’ of the Law and the Prophets.  The manifest ‘Is to come’ of God sat with His followers inviting them into the imminent newness of His Kingdom, and they were blind and deaf, longing for a glory era that had long since faded.

The Pharisees preferred their religious tradition and top-down hierarchy (with them at the top of course!)  Their lives were thoroughly established on what ‘had been’ but was already passing away. The disciples wanted something different but their expectations of newness were firmly rooted in how they believed things ‘should be’ in the future.

One way was old.  One way was a false new. Neither was the way forward.

Hope is good, if that hope is founded in Christ and His Love for us. Change is profoundly possible, if the source of that change is Christ and His redemptive Life in us.  But expectations of forward motion and positive change can be based on false hope, which is not really any better than being stuck in the past.

To make a resolution is to “come to a definite or earnest decision about something” and “to determine to do something”.   A resolution is totally dependent on you and I being the primary agent of change.  Depending on our willpower it may or may not work….for a while.  It will not provide the healing we need to move forward into a life that is authentically new and different.

Jesus was clear about His resolution:  I have come that they may have Life, and that they may have it more abundantly⁵.   And He promised He, not we, would fulfil that resolution: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

There is a way forward from our old lives, but it involves surrender – surrender of identity, past and future.   Our self-perceived identities have too often been built around either what was or what we think should be.  If our identity has been based on family life, our ideal of a perfect future will depend on family being the way we expect they should be.  If our identity has been built on ministry, our future plans will be dependent on the continued expansion and fulfilment of our ministry.  If career is where we have found our identity, we will anchor our future into whatever a successful career could build for us.  And so on.

Letting go of our personal history isn’t easy.  Letting go of how we think things should be in the future is just as difficult.  But the freedom Jesus would lead us into can only be fully grasped with empty hands.  He alone is the Is and Was and Is To Come and only He can handle all three of those at the same time.  Trust me, I’ve spent Christmas and New Year re-learning this truth at a deeper level than ever before.

We don’t have to wait for a New Year to make deals with ourselves and start fresh.   In Christ all things have already been made new for us.  He is able to provide the grace to let go both the past and the future and He is only too ready to walk with us through that process. He is our ever-present, eternal Now, every moment, every breath, every step.

I AM waits. He has a new name to reveal to each of us, a name we have never before heard or seen, a new identity⁷.  Or we can settle for some coloured lights in the sky that promise us brilliance and fizzle out in a few seconds.  Choose Life!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Cor. 5:17

¹Luke 16:16

²Acts 1:6

³Acts 1:7

Dictionary.com

John 10:10

Matt. 11:28

Rev. 2:17

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2017 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.

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.

Until Christ Is Formed

Abstract triangle mosaic gradient colorful background

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.

From The Archives: Of His Flesh and Of His Bones: A Mystery

wedding favors and wedding ring on on colored background

One of the things I like about some more historic versions of the Bible is their poetic language. I know not everyone will agree and some struggle to understand the older translations, so this is purely an individual observation. Modern language translations and paraphrases also have an important place and personally I enjoy consulting a variety of Bible versions, old and new, to catch the full panorama of what the writers were trying to convey.

A certain phrase that always draws me in the New King James Version is found in Ephesians 5:30, describing our mysterious relationship with Christ as our Bridegroom:

‘For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.’

In many more recent Bible versions this phrase has been omitted on the grounds it doesn’t appear in some of the oldest manuscripts. I’ll leave the ongoing ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ for its inclusion in Ephesians to the translators, while still choosing to meditate on the beautiful implications of the words in revealing the depths of Christ’s passion for us. (For a list of some Bible versions that do include this phrase see my footnote at the end.)

In the preceding verses Paul is writing to the church primarily about relationships, with God and with others. He begins to speak about the marriage relationship and in the middle of his statements seems to catch hold of a revelation of Christ and His Bride. (Now I’m not going to divert into the varied viewpoints on Christian marriage in this post, but in case you’re interested in that topic you may find this useful.)

The phrase Paul uses to convey his revelation takes us back to Genesis 2:23 and Adam’s announcement: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.’ The first bride, Ishshah (woman), was formed by God from the very physical substance of the first man. (Ishshah was not called Eve until after the Fall.) She was not a separate creation to the man, as many believe. The Hebrew word used to describe her formation by God is ‘banah’, meaning to build, rebuild or establish, and implies a continuation of something already begun (Gen. 2:22). It is not the same word used for humanity’s creation in Genesis 2:7, which is ‘yatsar’.

An enduring truth we learn from the New Testament is that God reveals spiritual revelations first through natural circumstances (1 Cor. 15:46). Jesus is the second Man and the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45-47). Just as the first bride was formed of natural substance from the opened side of the first Adam, so was Christ’s Bride brought forth from His spiritual substance when blood and water flowed from His pierced side at Calvary (John 19:34).

Genetically you can’t get any closer to a person than being their flesh and blood. In using the phrase ‘of His flesh and of His bones’ I believe Paul wanted to bring the church to the realisation that Jesus looks on His Bride not as separate to Himself but as an essential part of Himself, more intimately connected to Him than anything else in all of creation.

Genesis 2 continues: ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (v.24). This blueprint for human marriage, which is an imperfect shadow of Christ and His Bride, was reaffirmed by Jesus under questioning from the Pharisees in Matthew 19:3-6.

The perfect ‘one flesh’ unity experienced by the first man and woman is something that was lost to humanity at the Fall. Between them there was no shame, fear, contention, suspicion, envy, or striving to control or rule the other – just a wondrous sense of being ‘one flesh’ in everything. The flesh referred to here is more than just a physical union. The Biblical concept of flesh encompasses the entire earthly nature of man: body and soul, which includes our minds, emotions, wills and thought lives. The very essence of the man, the physical framework as well as the ability to function as a fully individual, intelligent personality, was the material with which the newly fashioned woman was formed. Her breath of life, the spirit, however, was from God (Gen. 2:7). And this ‘new creation’ of womankind had been there, hidden inside the male, from the beginning (Gen. 1:27)

It is not the first Adam and his bride that I want to focus on in this post, but reviewing some of the events in Eden is helpful in understanding our own role as Christ’s Bride. The story of Adam and his bride Ishshah is only a foreshadowing of the more perfect and wondrous oneness that Jesus intends to establish between Himself and His perfected Bride.

Jesus, as the last Adam, left “His father and His mother” – God. (And yes, God is both Father and Mother in the sense that He encompasses what we ourselves have neatly divided into male and female qualities). Jesus, like the first Adam, experienced a deep sleep in the tomb and while His human body slept God was busy building another body: the spiritual Body of Christ we call the church. God specialises in bringing form out of chaos. Amid all the confusion, fear and despair of those hours between the death and resurrection of Christ, the young church, having come forth from the opened wound on His side, was being formed.

Jesus came not only to offer salvation but to ‘be joined to His wife’. This phrase “be joined” does not accurately convey, in the English, the true depth of its ancient meaning. It means to be stuck together like glue, cemented, or to be fastened to one another as two oxen were yoked with the same yoke. Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when He told us His yoke was easy (Matt. 11:29-30).

‘This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’, proclaimed Adam. But in Christ, the last Adam, the order has been reversed: we are of His flesh and of His bones. Bearing in mind that the natural comes before the spiritual, in the first Adam’s statement bone came before flesh. Bones are the rigid inner structure of the body, representing the Old Covenant with its inflexible framework of law inscribed on hard and impersonal stone tablets. The flesh nature, the part of us that houses the heart and the individual personality, characteristics and disposition, is mentioned second, symbolizing the New Covenant relationship of grace instituted by the second Adam, Christ. The law of the Spirit is now written on our fleshly hearts and fulfilled in us by Christ Himself. That is why in Christ, the order has been reversed and we have become ‘of His flesh and of His bones’.

This ‘flesh and bone’ Bride was hidden in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:24; Eph. 1:4), even before the creation of Adam and Ishshah.   She is being made ‘one flesh’ with Him, not through natural means but through His Spirit. We acknowledge this every time we partake of the bread and wine that symbolically represent our Bridegroom’s flesh.

The place Christ has reserved for His Bride could not be any closer or any more intimately connected to Him. He has prepared her a royal table and calls her to sit with Him there, even in the thwarted presence of her defeated spiritual enemies. At that table He pours out His Spirit abundantly upon her, in an unending anointing of His own divine essence. He clothes her richly in His own righteousness and gracious mercy, and provides her a dwelling place with Him into an eternity which God has ordained they will cohabit (Psalm 23:5-6).   Once and for all, two shall be one, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

Yes, it is a mystery, but a glorious mystery being unfolded in and upon us, even now. Selah!

Footnote: King James Version, New King James Version, 21st Century King James Version, Youngs Literal Translation, Wycliffe Bible, World English Bible, Jubilee Bible, International Standard Version, Geneva Bible, Darby Translation

© 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.

The Word

The WordIn the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

The beginning.  Not the beginning of God, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit, for indeed God knows no beginning.  From everlasting to everlasting He is, and was, and ever will be.  But the beginning of this creation, the beginning of our history, the beginning of you and me.

In that beginning was the Word, fully present, fully functional, fully sovereign.  This is the Word, the Logos, of the God Who is One yet Three-In-One. Living Word, Creative Word, Holy Word, issuing forth from the unfathomable mind of the Eternal One True God.

He was there with Father God and Holy Spirit God when creation was but a thought, a desire, as yet unspoken. He was there in that beginning as God, partaking in the unbroken, perfect, equal Community of the Three-In-One Who is One. He was there in the fullness of His unique divinity: God the Word.  He was there when the Breath of God brooded over the deep darkness.  He was the very Utterance of Creation.

All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.

All things that form the foundations of this earth and the heavens beyond and around this earth, all things that make created life sustainable and renewable and good – light and darkness, sky, land and water, vegetation, sun, moon and planets, every living creature.  And finally – humankind.  All things.  Created by the Word, through the Word, and for the Word.

The mind of Elohim, threefold God – Father, Son and Spirit God – who is eternally One, imagined creation and uttered forth His desire through the agency of The Logos, The Word, the Utterance of God.  And God spoke as One, with one mind, one purpose and one voice.

The Father, Perfect Love, willed;

The Spirit, Perfect Authority, travailed;

The Word, Perfect Truth, manifested.

Love desired, the Breath empowered and the Word created.

He is The Word, the ‘let there be’ of God, who manifested the Life of Elohim into matter.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

In Him:  The Word Who carried the seed of original, absolute, unlimited Life; The Word whose very sound is Spirit-Life; The Word whose very touch creates Life where death, disease and decay encroach.  This Word, this Life-Bearer, this Creator, invaded the darkness of humanity’s fallen environment.

Let there be Light’ burst into humanity’s darkened territory and ‘there was Light’.   And the great deep darkness had no defence or power in the presence of this Life who emanated untainted Light.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 

The True Light.  Not the false lights of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes or the pride of fallen life, for these lights are nothing more than different shades of darkness.  The Word came, the Word manifested.  Into the darkness of a creation trapped in false light “let there be light” broke through to offer true Light to every human being.

The Word who is divine Life shone Truth into every heart He encountered. He Who is Truth exposed the lies of darkness for one does not know they are in darkness until one has seen light.  The Life who is Light shone, not upon this world, but in it; not from the heavens but from a human body of flesh and blood.

He came to light the way back to Life – not biological or psychological life as we in our darkness perceive life, but the abundant, uncreated fullness of the God-Life that is without end, without beginning and without boundary.

The Word came to us, clothed in human flesh, personally delivering His God-Life into a race trapped in darkness and death.  The Word came to us: that humanity may recognise and possess the abundant God-Life that created all things….in the beginning.

And humanity loved the darkness more than the Light.

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

BUT:

As many as received Him:  there were those who, perceiving the Light and in turn their own darkness, reached out to receive the God-Life.  The Word imparted to these the Life for which they had originally been created.  He still does.

Those who had once been born of blood (in the image of Adam), or of wilful flesh (the desire for progeny), or the will of men (male dominion), would be born a second time by the perfect will of God.  They would believe in the name of The Word who is Truth.  That Name is known among humankind as Jesus the Christ, the only name by which human beings may be saved from the darkness of eternal death.

The Word and The Breath once again would provide the agency for that which the mind of God, the mind of Perfect Love imagines, bringing many children into glory, born not of the corruptible seed of the first Adam but of the incorruptible spiritual seed of God. These would become new creations in the image of the last Adam who is The Word – in the image of Life.

The Father, Perfect Love, wills;

The Spirit, Perfect Authority, travails;

The Word, Perfect Truth, manifests.

Love desires, the Breath empowers and the Word creates.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

The Word, the Creator, the Life, the Light, immersed Himself, willingly and wholeheartedly, in fallen human flesh.  He embraced death and left it cowed and beaten.

The darkness has a vanquisher whose Name is Light.

Death has a Master whose Name is Life.

He is The Word, who is the Beginning and the End, the Author and the Finisher, the Yes and Amen.

…and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

But human flesh and blood could not conceal the glory that is The Word.  John said he beheld that Glorious One, and others also beheld.  There are those walking this earth even now whose privilege it is to always behold the glory of The Word, to walk in the Light of His grace and His truth.

Many children have come to the glory, many continue to come. There are a multitude of children, born of God, but only One begotten of the Father.  He was in the beginning. He was God and He was with God. He is The Word.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Of His abundance of endless Life, we who believe in and follow The Word have willingly taken, and we have received and continue to receive grace without limit.  And we have found no place on this earth where the darkness can overcome His Light.  And we have found no experience for which His grace is not sufficient.

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

The very best that fallen humanity can bring forth is the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, called Law.  Even with the best of intentions, humanity must produce law to live before God and live with one another.

But The Word who is Grace and Truth, the divine grace and truth that created all life, sent forth from the will of God, has come to replace the best humanity can produce.

In Jesus the Christ, God and humanity converged. A new race has emerged, the church of the firstborn, who God has chosen to make His dwelling place. The Word is their Life and their King. Grace and truth are the pillars of His Kingdom.  His Kingdom is without end. His Kingdom is Life.

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The Word, Divine Personality and equal member of the tri-une Godhead, was manifested in the flesh in human personhood, dwelling among humanity.

And yet The Word remains still within the very heart of the Father, in timeless intention, always being uttered forth declaring to creation the nature, purpose, love and Life of the Living God.

Jesus Christ, The Word, the declarer of God.

Jesus Christ, the only declaration of God.

Selah.

© 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.

What’s Mine is Yours

rings-182980_960_720pixabayTwo friends did everything together. The greatest happiness for each of them was to be in the other’s company. Day and night, whatever they were doing, they sought to be doing it in the companionship of the other one. Hours were spent talking, laughing, confiding, sharing, trusting one another. For each of them this rare and treasured friendship was precious beyond words and its nurture was their greatest priority. The woman held this friendship above all other relationships and was only ever fully alive, fully free, when in the company of her friend. The easy flowing freedom they found with one another, the deep and abiding companionship that bound them regardless of whatever else may be happening, was for her a constant source of joy and refuge in a rapidly changing and unstable world.

Then came a day when, feeling her friend’s eyes gazing at her, she looked up and suddenly became conscious of some deeper longing within him she had not previously perceived. Almost at the same instant she knew, for the first time, that the same intense yearning she saw in him also lived in her.

In that moment ‘friendship’ became too limited a word for the magnitude of what was now being unveiled between them. As beautiful as their friendship was, something even deeper was evolving. What was now beckoning was a complete, unhindered belonging – one to the other. She his, and he hers, an unlimited communion where the over-riding identity would not be I and he, or he and I, but We.

He was inviting her into a perfect oneness* with him beyond anything they had previously known. Surprising herself, she found she too desired this with all her being. A great sigh of relief, as of one who has stepped across the threshold of a long-sought home, escaped from her being. With a sense of total restfulness, she moved towards him so that she may lay her head down softly on his breast.

And at that moment everything took an unexpected turn. A familiar fear took hold of her. Drawing closer her gaze became fixed on the pure whiteness of his silk shirt, its exquisite fabric and its pristine condition, more immaculate and spotless than anything she had ever seen. ‘But how can I think of laying my head on such perfection?’ she asked herself. ‘What if my hair is not clean enough? What if I crease that beautiful pure white silk? That unsullied fabric is too good for me to just sink myself into. He deserves to wear such a fine garment, but I will spoil it if I touch it.’ And she hesitated and then stopped herself abruptly, holding herself back just inches from his chest. There she remained in her doubt and misgivings, while he waited, heartbroken at her reluctance.

What I have just related is a powerful prophetic dream I had very recently. It was one of those dreams that leaves its impact for many hours after waking. From past experience I knew the Lord was sharing something precious and important for which He wanted me to seek His meaning.

What can I say? As the dream’s message unfolded I was allowed to taste in just a small way the strength of His longing for a Bride who will grasp all He yearns to share with her in its fullness. This ‘belonging’ – we to Him and He to us – is something we, for the most part, simply do not get. And yet He longs for us to get it with an intensity that is staggering and almost impossible to convey here.

In John 15:15 Jesus surprises His disciples by telling them they are more than His servants, they are His friends. This was not what Jewish disciples were used to hearing from their rabbis. But Jesus wanted them to understand He was no normal rabbi and they were no normal disciples. They were proving their willingness to be His servants by doing what He was commanding. Obedience was the proof of their servanthood. But their willingness to share His Kingdom plans and purposes with Him would be the proof of something beyond servanthood. It would be proof of their friendship. His desire was for them to see themselves as more than servants – as friends.

Christ our Bridegroom King is both Friend and Beloved (Song of Songs 5.16). As Friend He shares His plans, eternal purposes and desires with us. As Beloved He elevates us to a place beyond even friendship, a place where all that He is, all that He has and all that He wills becomes as much ours as His, because this is what He has chosen. We belong to Him, but the greater mystery is that He and all He is – His Kingdom, His righteousness, His authority, His divine nature, His Oneness with the Father and the Spirit – also belong to us, along with our share in the fellowship of His sufferings.

But. We. Don’t. Get. It.

When the woman in my dream identified her beloved’s unsullied garment as his, not theirs, she was unable to step forward into the oneness he longed for.

We draw so close, then pull back with niggling doubts about being good enough, clean enough, gifted enough, while all the time He hungers for nothing more than a Bride who no longer questions her right to stand with Him.

We tell ourselves it’s not about us, it’s all about Him – then make it all about us by judging ourselves not quite up to scratch.

We tritely remind each other that we are ‘joint heirs’ and ‘partakers in Christ’, then nibble at crumbs and leave the feast on His table untouched.

This Oneness that the Bridegroom King craves for us to embrace, this mutual belonging to one another, is without limitation. We miss the point when we focus on how much we don’t deserve what He’s offering instead of how much He deserves to have His greatest desire responded to without hesitation or question.

Listen, this is important. The fullness of our healing from who we have been, where we have walked, what we have seen and experienced, lies in our ability to lay our heads down upon Him without hesitation, fear of judgment or questioning of our right to do so.

He knows it, and He is aching for us to know it.

In the midst of this unfolding revelation one riveting statement was whispered quietly like thunder into my spirit:

What’s Mine. Is yours.’

I don’t mind admitting I am still unravelling the implications of that simple but profound utterance and will be for a long time to come. And the implications are as overwhelming as they are astounding.

Within that statement are innumerable yes’s and immeasurable amens, but no exceptions.

And should anyone be wondering, this is not about prosperity in this present world. Jesus did not promise us temporal things that are passing away. He bestowed on us an eternal, unshakeable Kingdom (Luke 22:29).

What’s Yours is mine? All of it? And this is what you want us to move forward into Lord, no more questioning, no more hesitating, no more one step forward, two steps back?

Yep, I know right?

But this is what it means to belong to our Beloved. And this is what it means for Our Beloved to belong to us. We need to start ‘getting it’. We need to start seeking to walk in the fullness of our oneness with Christ. It’s our final frontier, and our only true destination.

It is what He desires. And that’s enough for us to desire it too.

*To clarify my use of the word ‘oneness’, I am not referring to the ‘oneness’ with creation, the universe, a higher power or unspecified supreme being promoted by New Age belief systems. I am also not referring to the oneness espoused by certain Christian denominations who do not believe in the tri-une nature of the Christian God, (i.e. Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three divine personalities in One God), commonly known as the Oneness Movement or ‘Jesus Only’ doctrine.

I believe in the Trinity and I believe that the God of the Bible is One (Deut. 6:4). Unfortunately the concept of oneness, or perfect unity, has become associated with cults and heresies and many believers have become afraid of the concept as a result.

Jesus spoke of being one with His Father and prayed for His disciples to become one with each other and with Him and the Father (Jn. 10:30; 17:21). Spiritual oneness is a sound Biblical concept taught in both the Old and New Testaments. It is to this Biblical oneness between God and humanity that I am referring in this article.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 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.

ALTAR, TEMPLE, KINGDOM Part Three

temple

Dear friends of Bread for the Bride:

I am currently away taking a short break. Thankyou for your continued support for the Bread for the Bride blogsite since I started it in April 2012.  And if you are a new subscriber, welcome!  There are 193 articles and poetry for you to explore while I am away and I encourage you to take this opportunity to read and absorb some of the earlier Bread for the Bride posts that you may have missed.

In the meantime the subject that continues to burn in my heart at this time is The Kingdom of God.  I’ve scheduled the three part series Alter, Temple, Kingdom to be posted in my absence.   I believe the message shared in these specific posts is important and relevant to the Bride of Christ more than at any time in history.  I hope you will read or re-read Alter, Temple, Kingdom and share these articles among those who hunger for God.

It is still possible to comment, but comments will not appear or be responded to until my return.

I expect to be back posting again around the middle of July. Until then, keep shining.

Cheryl McGrath


For a fuller understanding of this article please first read Altar, Temple, Kingdom Part One and Altar, Temple, Kingdom Part Two.

As Jesus related parable after parable to demonstrate kingdom life He presented to His hearers a Kingdom not to be imagined in a distant future but freely available in the present, or ‘at hand’. The Kingdom is not separated from its King. It is present wherever Jesus Christ reigns. As the manifest presence of the King is the very atmosphere of the Kingdom, to receive the undisputed reign of Christ is to receive His Kingdom.

Receiving the Kingdom

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”(Jn. 18:33-37 NASB)

Pilate’s cross examination was two pronged. First he wanted to establish the geographical boundaries of Jesus’ claim to kingship. “Are you the King of the Jews?” If he could keep this matter as an internal dispute among the Jews he could dispose of it quickly. Secondly, if this Jesus was claiming only to be King of the Jews, the might of Rome was not threatened and this Galilean rabbi, (who looked anything but a king), and His bedraggled followers presented no military or political threat to Rome. Pilate’s career prospects would be safe.

But Jesus refused to meet Pilate on His own ground. Unlike the kingdoms of the world His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Nor can it be defined by political or geographical boundaries. Frustrated, Pilate tried once more to have Jesus state the location of his kingdom. “So You are a King?”Yes”, says Jesus, “but if you want to speak of My Kingdom then we will speak in terms of its attributes, not of its boundaries. I have come to this world to represent My Kingdom which, unlike yours, is founded on truth. Anyone who loves truth will recognize me. Apparently you do not.” (see Psalm 45:3,4).  However,  truth was something Pilate evidently did not care to discuss that day.

The fact is Jesus is King of the Jews, as He is King of all tribes and nations. Ironically, though Jesus Kingship was rejected by the Jewish leaders, it was proclaimed both at his birth and his death by Gentiles (Mat. 2:1,2; Luke 23:38; Jn 19:21,22). Jewish prophets including Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah had foretold the coming King (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Is. 9:6,7; 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5,6, Zech. 6:12,13). Jewish ears heard these prophecies read out regularly in the synagogues. Jewish tongues repeated them in prayer and in times of despair. Jewish eyes witnessed the signs and wonders that testified that here was the One the prophets and the scriptures had spoken of (Jn. 5:36; 10:25). Yet, bound to its temple system, Israel as a nation ultimately failed to receive their King and His Kingdom.

Herein lies a sober warning for today’s church. The contemporary temple system, built as it has been on church centrality, hierarchy, and law keeping, cannot contain the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The lesser must give way to the greater. The temple made and maintained by human hands was only ever a shadow of the spiritual temple of living stones formed and honed by the Spirit of God. Something greater than the church/temple system is breaking through here and now that will not be held back. The choice to receive or reject it is before us, but the choice is not optional.

And what of the man-made temple system we have clung to so tenaciously? Shall the temple disappear altogether? No, God’s temple is an essential component of His Kingdom, but He has ordained that His people are to be His temple (1 Peter 2:5). We have glorified our own denominations, traditions, and religious buildings to the extent they have become the object of our worship rather than the God they are meant to represent. We have exalted a vast hierarchy of human personalities as our mediators, priests and kings, in place of the King Himself. Masses of us have convinced ourselves we need ‘covering’ from pseudo apostles and prophets who are busy building their own kingdoms rather than preaching the true Kingdom. We are the people of God – from who or what do we need other covering?

Our Season of the Temple is passing away and God will not be found among its ruins. God chooses to dwell within a thriving spiritual house of living, human stones being molded into the image of His Son. His priesthood is a nation of Kingdom dwellers, sold out disciples without regard for class, race or gender. I love the name penned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for such ones – the “fellowship of the crucified”.

Receiving our Kingdom Season will require a willingness on our part to relinquish the security of what has formerly passed as normal “church life”, with its atmosphere of tradition, programs and predictability.  It will require us to ‘leave our nets” and follow King Jesus unconditionally. It will require us to love Christ more than the temple. For some, this will mean loss of income, loss of friends and family, loss of ministry and loss of reputation. For many, the price will be too much. The flock receiving the Kingdom is, after all, ‘little” (Luke 12:32).

The Kingdom is bestowed, not built (Luke 22:29); the Kingdom is earnestly sought, not wished for (Matt. 6:33); and the Kingdom must be received or else it is rejected (Matt. 11:12; Heb. 12:28).

Kingdom life is life in the realm of the Spirit where the will of God prevails and the reign of Christ is undisputed. In the Kingdom our lives are increasingly lived in the tangible Presence of God even as we physically walk in this world. We are becoming more conscious of the realities of the Kingdom than the passing environment of the world. “Oh, you mean more spiritually minded than earthly good?” I hear some ask. Yes, because no lasting good can be done on earth unless one is spiritually minded.

Above all, the Kingdom is spontaneous, breaking through and manifesting in the atmosphere of the earth at the will of the King. Kingdom dwellers must be so readily available and so in tune with the King that at any moment of His choosing they become conductors of His Kingdom into whatever earthly situation they find themselves. Think of Peter stepping out of a boat into a raging sea. Think of Philip overtaking a moving chariot. Think of Stephen praying for his murderers even as they stoned him to death. These and many other scriptural examples are the Kingdom breaking through spontaneously and powerfully into the world’s realm.  

The Essence of the Kingdom

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colosse exhorting them to not be moved away from the ‘hope of the gospel which you heard’ (Col. 1:23). This gospel, which they had heard form his own lips, was the gospel of the Kingdom for it is the only gospel Paul preached (Acts 20:25, 28:23). He goes on to state that He had been given a particular ministry by God for the sake of the church. This ministry was the stewardship of a great mystery hidden throughout ages (Col. 1:24-27).  The mystery is “Christ in you”. “It is Him we preach”, says Paul (Col. 1:28) as if to differentiate from any other version of Christ they may have heard.

This Christ, this Christ in us, His people, is the very essence of Kingdom life. Whenever we see the title “Christ” in scripture we should recognize that now we are beholding Christ Jesus the almighty and supreme King. This Christ, this King, is so much more than the “Jesus, come into my life” I encountered at the Altar Season, and so much more than the “Jesus who strengthens me to do all things” of the Temple Season. It is Christ Jesus, Eternal King of Heaven and Earth, IN us, in all His glory, all His power and all His majesty, doing all.

If you have read this far, just stop and consider that for a moment. This is a profound mystery, not able to be imagined by human minds without the indwelling Spirit of revelation. Astonishingly, it is a mystery in which we are being invited to participate. We need to make room in ourselves to receive this mysterious, sovereign, risen Christ the King, the One who fills all in all, who is greater than any picture of Him we have previously held. We cannot do that while clinging to what is fading away.

The Kingdom of God is not demonstrated in word alone, but backed up by power (1 Cor. 4:20). The power of the Kingdom is the power of Christ the King’s endless, dynamic, supernatural Life, which He chooses to make manifest in mortal human vessels solely through the Spirit of the Living God (Heb. 7:15,16). This is a mystery the world cannot receive and the church has barely begun to grasp.  

Christ in us reaching out to the world as Reconciler; Christ in us interceding as Great High Priest; Christ in us restoring the sick and the suffering as Healer; Christ in us, Fulfiller of the Law; Christ in us as Living Word; Christ in us as Apostle; Christ in us as Prophet; Christ in us as Evangelist, Teacher and Shepherd. And over all, Christ reigning in us as King of all Kings!

This quickly advancing Kingdom Season is not about the Kingdom of God moving into world institutions and transforming them, as some are teaching in these days. The Kingdom and the world do not mix for the Kingdom has nothing to do with this world and its myriad systems (Jn. 18:36). The world is not going to receive the Kingdom at this time. On the contrary: the world, as it always has done, is going to persecute the bearers of the Kingdom and those who cling to the fading temple system will join it, believing they do God a favor (Jn. 16:2).

Nevertheless nothing will hold back the increase of this Kingdom. The invasion of God’s Kingdom on earth took place with the incarnation of Christ. The Kingdom has steadily been advancing since, mostly unnoticed (Lk. 17:20). We are on the dawn of an hour like no other in earthly history when Christ shall manifest His Kingdom through a crucified, resurrected people who love Him more than they love their own lives. These are those who, having caught sight of “something greater” cannot turn back towards the passing comfort of the man-made, man-controlled temple system. Unseen by the world, disregarded by institutional religion, they are becoming the true dwelling place of God on earth.

The prayer repeated by every generation of Christ’s disciples since His ascension to the Father is being fulfilled, “Let Your Kingdom come”. The Kingdom, though costly, is coming in those who are willing and eager to receive it.  

© 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.