Grieving In Zion

adobestock_73052125

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.

Fire And Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved, we have been through fire and through water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side

When men rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us alive,

When their anger was kindled against us;

Then the waters would have engulfed us,

The stream would have swept over our soul;

Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.

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

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

The snare is broken and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 124)

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

Psalm 66 concludes like this:

Come and hear, all who fear God,

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

I cried to Him with my mouth,

And He was extolled with my tongue.

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

But certainly God has heard;

He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,

Who has not turned away my prayer

Nor His lovingkindness from me.

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

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

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

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

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

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

 

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.

A Day In The Life Of……

Single pink rose on a calender resting next to Valentine's Day

I’m not on top of things today Lord. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m sure you’ve noticed. So many things weighing me down and distracting me. It’s not where I want to be, you know? There’s so much to be thankful for….and I am. It’s so selfish of me not to be living that thankfulness out more joyfully. Instead, here I am letting the world and its problems affect me. Forgive me, I should be demonstrating a victorious life to everyone I come in contact with. I wish I knew how to do that better. I must be the world’s worst example of an overcomer. I know you are changing me into your image, but, sometimes I wish the process could be quicker, you know?

You are all fair my love, and there is no spot in you!

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Oh wow, I just stuffed up big time, didn’t I Lord? I am so sorry! How do you put up with me? Seems every time I take a step forward, I take two backwards trying to live this Christianity thing properly.   I should have seen that temptation coming….but I fell for it again, didn’t I? When will I learn? God, why don’t you just give up on me? But I know you don’t ‘cause that’s not who you are. At least I’ve learned that much. And that makes me feel even more, well, disappointed in myself. I should be sooo much better at following you by now. You’ve shown me nothing but unconditional love. God, l let you down – again! I’m nothing but a big time loser, you know?

Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

God, please help me. I’m so scared I’m not gonna make it. I try so hard to keep your rules, just like I was taught. But I’m so weak. Even if it looks to everyone else like I’m doing everything right, still in my heart I’m envious, I get angry at people, and OK I’ll say it, at times I’m even tempted by lust. I love You Lord but why did you make it so hard to be your disciple? I’m almost at the end of my rope with it and I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. I heard someone teaching that we don’t need to live under Old Testament commandments any more, but that’s so far from the idea of Christianity I’ve been taught, I’m almost too terrified to consider it. God, I shouldn’t be struggling like this, should I? Shouldn’t I be strong and secure in my faith like other people I know who don’t seem to be wrestling with such things. You know?

How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! How much better than wine is your love, and the scent of your perfumes than all spices!

♦♦♦♦♦♦

How long O Lord? Have you deserted me? I know what Your Word says, that nothing can separate me from your love. But these heavy chains are making my flesh raw and it’s hard to think of anything else but my pain and misery. I’m not sure any more when day ends and night begins in this dark cell. I miss my family and my home, I miss my friends, I miss sunlight and fresh air and the freedom to walk where I want to walk. How long will I be here? I try to remind myself about your own sufferings and remember that they hate me because they hated you. But the darkness presses in on me and I wonder how long I can stay faithful to you in here Lord. I should be strong and fearless but I’m not. I don’t know what they’re going to do to me from one day to the next. People outside think I’m some kind of hero but the truth is I’m not anything like you. I’m scared I’ll die here away from everyone I love. I feel like a coward. Do you know what I’m sayin’ Lord?

You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes, with one link of your necklace.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

How could you do that to me God? How could you let that happen? You gave me something so beautiful, and now you’ve taken it away. I thought marriage was supposed to be for life. At least I thought mine would be. I thought I was safe. Why did you let me think like that when you knew it was all going to fall apart like it did? I thought I’d found your will for me and nothing could alter that. I thought I could trust, but now I feel like I’ll never trust again….not even you. My friends keep telling me you’re in control and you love me. But do you? I’m not nearly as sure as I used to be. Oh God, where are you? This hurts God, this hurts so bad. I don’t understand, I just don’t understand. You know?

Your lips, O my spouse, drip as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under your tongue; and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon!

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Lord, we’ve covered some miles together, haven’t we? These old eyes have seen a lot. And I’m tired Lord, more tired than I ever knew someone could be. When you took me under your wing I was young, confident, hopeful. And little by little you began to draw my eyes away from myself and what was mine to you and all that is yours. There have been many valleys, and not a few mountaintops Lord. But now? Well, now, I don’t want to see anything more on this planet. I am weary. My bones hurt and my soul aches to be gone from here. It aches for this life to be over and the next to be started. Can I go now, Lord? Will you draw the curtains and let me depart? I am old and useless. I am not afraid of death Lord, but I am weary, oh so weary. You know?

Oh my love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners!

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Jesus, here I am again. Feeling that old familiar ….well, you know, that ‘yuk’ feeling. I know I’m washed in your blood and I’m clean, but sometimes those old memories come flooding back. Things I’ve done to people, things people have done to me. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to be looking back there. I’ve been told often enough I’m a new creation and you’ve made all things new for me. And I do believe that Lord. But then that flood of memories from my past hits me, and I’m trapped in that old shame again and I lose sight of all you’ve done for me. Will I ever get past that shame? I mean, that old life shouldn’t have any effect on me anymore, should it? God, help me, I feel like I’m drowning here, you know?

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely!

♦♦♦♦♦♦

A day in the life of the Bride…..depends on your vantage point.

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved— and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did.

(Eph. 2:4-6 TLB)

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

 

Burning Questions

A red question mark in the dark lit by a single, yellow spotlight.

There were two burning questions on Jesus’ mind concerning those who followed Him. The first was uttered on the Road to Caesarea Philippi: ‘Who do you say I am?’ The second came not long after, on a day when many would-be disciples turned back from Him: ‘Do you also want to go away?’

Interestingly, both questions were indirectly related to that most basic of human needs – bread. And miracles. And human reason.

In the first instance the Pharisees, in usual form, were demanding a supernatural sign, custom made just for them. Jesus was not pleased. In the meantime His closest friends, having so recently witnessed Jesus multiply bread, were worrying about where their next meal would come from. Again, Jesus was not pleased.

‘Why are you reasoning?….how is it you think I’m talking about temporary, earthly things when I’m speaking about spiritual things?’ He remonstrates (paraphrase mine). Then, after asking them what other people are saying about Him He confronts them suddenly with the million dollar question: ‘But who do you say I am?’ (Matt. 16:1-16, Mark 8:11-29).

The second burning question came a day later. Those who had witnessed the bread being multiplied, and had eaten it, wanted more. Here was a Man who had powers to feed them and their families indefinitely. With such fringe benefits following Him would be a breeze. Once again, Jesus was on another page altogether.

‘I am the Bread of Life’ He tells them, ‘the Living Bread. The Bread I give you is My flesh.’

‘What? Yesterday He was handing out good solid, belly filling bread, but today He’s telling us to eat His flesh?’ they reason. This weird kind of talk wasn’t what they’d signed up for. ‘Who can understand what He’s saying?’ they muttered as they walked away.

Watching, Jesus turns to those closest to Him and asks ‘Do you also want to go away?’ The path He was offering was not going to be either easy or popular. (Jn. 6:22-67)

The capacity humans have for reasoning things out is useful and necessary. Without it we could not solve everyday problems, administer our justice systems, or fly to the moon, for instance. But human reason is fallen and corrupt, like every other facet of human life. It’s something Jesus consistently confronted and opposed (Matt. 22:25; Mark 2:8; 12:28; Luke 5:21). When human reason rules our world, our hearts become hardened (Mark 8:17 NKJV).

But it seems we humans have a tendency to vacillate between reason and an obsessional desire for self-gratifying signs and wonders (Mark 8:11). Jesus walked a balanced line between the two. To those who demanded more and more signs He pointed out that He was their greatest sign (Mark 12:39,40). And to those who filtered everything through the lens of human reason He demonstrated a radically different way of doing life with Him, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, saying:

‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.’ Jn. 6:63

These two vital questions have not faded in relevance since Jesus walked among us. They are still the two most important, confronting, soul searching questions we disciples of Jesus Christ can be asked.

Who do we say He is? And if we say it, do we believe it? And if we believe it, does our testimony that He is the Christ, that He is God, bear out as truth in our dealings with the world around us? Unless we are learning how to walk this earth as newly created spiritual beings in the likeness and image of Jesus Christ, unless our very ordinary lives bear witness to the extraordinary truth that He rose and He lives, what we say means nothing.

Shall we also go away? When the path gets narrower, when the journey gets lonelier, when those who have walked a way with us decide to go no further, will we too have second thoughts? Unless we are learning what it is to feed on the Bread that came down from Heaven, unless we are beginning to understand what it means for His flesh to be our true food, and His blood to be our true drink, we will not know the sustenance this journey requires. Imperceptibly, little by little, we will find ourselves feeding and drinking elsewhere until we discover that what we are following is no longer Christ.

Two burning questions.

One emphatic answer.

Christ Jesus. Sustainer, Grace-giver, Life.


Who do we say You are?

You are Lord and Lover

Song and Singer

King and Brother

Gift and Giver

 

Who once we held apart

Passing proudly by, faces averted,

Lest You should heal our weary hearts

But now seeing with newly born eyes

Our tongues stumbling to confess

That which, once spoken, can never be unsaid

 

Who do we say You are?

You are Laughter and Light

Story and Storyteller

Fountain of Life

Glorious and Glory-dweller

 

Costly, this journey, for which

There is no way back

Once tightly held dreams

Discarded like redundant wrapping paper

Pretty then, now drab;

Companions, once inseparable

Nowhere to be seen

Their voices, distant now, beckon us back

To what we only thought we had

 

But we can’t go back, can we?

We have become as those estranged

Shedding this world like a tired cocoon

No longer at home in its deathly embrace

We have, like You, nowhere to lay our heads

No place of rest or refuge

Except upon Your breast

 

Will we leave You?

Is there another who speaks

And we, not knowing we were dead

Find ourselves alive?

Is there some other one

Whose every utterance

Infuses us with His Life?

To whom then shall we go

If we should leave Your side?

 

And if we should seek to go back

To that place You found us

Who would then receive our testimony

That You are who we say you are?

If having known this Love for which to die

Who would believe our report

If we were such sad fools

To trade it for what we left behind?

 

© 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.

From The Archives: Not For The Feinthearted

Cross silhouette at the beautiful sunset over the sea with cloudy sky.

.

“What do you seek?” It was a loaded question and one that would dramatically change their lives….forever. Unnerved at the abruptness of the question and the penetrating stare of the Teacher, the two men did not at first know how to respond. One of them blurted out brashly “Teacher, where do you dwell?” “Come and see” answered the Teacher, eyes smiling with unspoken pleasure at their response.   And so they did.*

It was Andrew and (many believe) John who followed Jesus that day, most probably staying with him overnight and into the next day. We know this because it was 4 p.m., the tenth hour of a Jewish day when they followed. A Jewish day begins and ends at 6 p.m. and for them to remain with Him ‘that day” could well imply a full 24 hour period. So, with one critical question began their discipleship.

What do you seek, what do you want of Me, or similar, was a question Jesus asked others also, even when their need seemed obvious to anyone observing. On the road to Jericho He asked of two blind men: “What do you want me to do for you?” Likewise to the man disabled for thirty eight years waiting for a miracle at the Pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to be made well?” And to a woman seeking favour for her two sons: “What do you wish?”

Jesus knows we come to Him with agendas. It wasn’t that He didn’t understand the blind men wanted to see, or the disabled man wanted to walk, or even that the mother wanted something special for her sons. (A woman’s status was directly related to the status of her male children, as she had none of her own.) The purpose of His question was to uncover their own hearts to those He engaged with. As the living Word of God His conversation had the power to expose the thoughts and intents of every human heart (Heb. 4:12).

Even John and Andrew had an agenda when they first came to Jesus. They were looking for a Messiah who would set Israel free from the yoke of Roman rule and establish their nation under His kingship. But Jesus can handle our agendas. “Come as you are” He says “and we’ll sort it out on the way!” He knows our end will be far different from our beginning and that all that is self-serving will be stripped away on the journey. The question really is, can we handle His agenda?

We know little of Andrew’s life except that the gospels reveal Him as one who was instrumental in bringing people to Jesus (John 6:8,9; 12:21,22). It is believed after preaching the gospel throughout Asia Minor he was martyred by crucifixion around 69 A.D., preaching Christ to those looking on until his last breath.

John is well known as the disciple who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the last supper and the only one of the twelve to be present at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 13:25; John 19:26). He suffered greatly as a Roman prisoner on the island of Patmos and was the instrument God used to give us the book of Revelation.

And it all started with that one question: What do you seek?

There was something passionate and single-eyed in John and Andrew’s response to Jesus that day, a passion that endured all their lives long after thoughts of setting up an earthly kingdom had been dealt with. That kind of abiding, Christ-directed passion will be absolutely vital in the challenging days ahead of us if we are not to be derailed from following the Lamb wherever He goes. But where is it? Where is the unabashed, shameless passion that cries out: Lord, where do you dwell?

This is what I believe Jesus saw in the hearts of the two disciples that day they first met:

 Master, we have heard from the lips of John the Baptiser that You are the Lamb of God. Teacher, we do not know, we do not understand even what that means or where you are going.

But it is enough for us!

It is enough to make us hunger and thirst to be in Your Presence!

It is enough to make us want to sit at Your feet and learn of You!

It is enough to make us want to gaze on Your Face always!

It is enough to make us forsake all we have previously known and belong only to You!

It is enough to make us desire You above all else, even to the dying to all our own plans and agendas!

And Lamb of God It is enough to make us desperate to know:

WHERE DO YOU DWELL!

You know, Jesus longs for burning hearts, can even tolerate cold hearts, but a lukewarm heart He will not abide (Rev. 3:16)   Following Him in this day and hour is not for the fainthearted. It is for those with undivided hearts, burning hearts, passionate hearts, enduring hearts, who will not look back. We are deluded if we believe we are following Jesus while we’re half-hearted about it or distracted from giving Him pre-eminence in all things.

So, what do we seek? Will we settle for a ticket to Heaven, a healing, a petition granted, a desperate need met? Or is there more on offer? Where is this passionate Bride for whom only Christ in all His fullness will be enough, regardless the cost?

What do you seek?

*John 1:35-39

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 and beyond.   All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From The Archives: Destination Christ

  A Road Through Autumn

The Bride’s journey is not a journey to somewhere.  It’s a journey into Someone.  Her goal is communion with the Father, by means of the Spirit, through oneness with Christ the Bridegroom.  Her destination is nothing less than Christ’s fullness (Eph. 4:13).

This is the very thing Jesus prayed for in his final hours of life: “that they may also be one in Us”  (John 17:21)

What is it Jesus is seeking from His Bride at this crucial time in human history?   What is it He passionately desires to find deep in her heart?

It is faithfulness. And faithfulness may not be what we have thought it is. 

King David is often referred to as a ‘man after God’s own heart”. So how was David a man after God’s own heart?  He reflected God’s own faithfulness.  Faithfulness is intrinsic to the Lord’s character; He cannot be otherwise (Is. 11:5; 2 Tim 2:13).

But David was far from perfect.  He failed spectacularly when he committed adultery with a married woman who was in no position to refuse His royal advances.  He failed also in his family relationships.  Despite these failings, God saw fit to call him a ‘man after My own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).   

Moses too was commended by God as “faithful in all My house”, but he also had some serious character flaws.  He feared to go before Pharaoh unless God sent someone else with him.  He lost the right to lead Israel into the Promised Land through a fit of temper. But more than these things, Moses is remembered as one God called ‘faithful’ (Num: 12:7).

So, contrary to popular opinion, faithfulness is not moral perfection.  It can’t be learned by studying and it can’t be practised by following a rigid set of rules. 

Faithfulness is not regularly attending church, tithing, caring for the poor, or reading the Bible. 

We can choose to do any of those things rigidly, yet still be found by God to be without faithfulness, because faithfulness is not about doing – it is about an attitude of heart. 

Faithfulness is also not necessarily the same as faith.  There is a certain kind of faith we can exercise yet still be lacking in faithfulness (Matt. 7:22, 23

Faithfulness, however, cannot be found apart from active, living faith. 

It seems to me faithfulness is steadfast pursuit of God in the face of intense pressure.  It is being so in love with the Bridegroom that nothing, not even our own failures, can keep us from running after Him with all our strength.  It is to have the eyes of our hearts set firmly on Him simply because we have found Him matchless. 

Taking spiritual inventory of ourselves from time to time, (only in partnership with the Holy Spirit) can be useful.  But those who walk in faithfulness will not allow their failures, weaknesses or sins to become their focus. They may fall, but ultimately their shortcomings cannot overcome them.  The desire to follow hard after the Beloved compels them onward in His pursuit.

Faithfulness is born when somewhere along our spiritual journey we are granted a glimpse of the Beloved up ahead of us, and we are forever ruined for anything less. 

Unable to look away, we are, as Paul described it, ‘laid hold of’ by Christ: …”I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:8-12).  

The phrase means “to seize upon” and “to take possession of”.  Elsewhere it is translated ‘apprehended’.  These are deeply powerful descriptions of someone who is no longer free to follow his/her own way but has been overcome by another. 

To press on also means so much more than dawdling along like a small child behind its parent, distracted by the butterflies and flowers along the way.  To press on has intensity about it, a determined objective.  To press on is to run with abandon in eager pursuit of the goal.  And the Bride’s goal is to be found in Christ, not behind Him, not beside Him, but in Him. 

I believe faithfulness is the single most desirable thing the Lord is seeking from His Bride right now.  When I asked Him how that faithfulness looks, this was His reply:

“She does not have wandering eyes.” 

Selah!

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 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.

 Related articles