From the Bishop

Bishop Andrew’s Book-of-the-Month: March 2020

Brennan Manning’s, “The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out.”

What would your life look like if your identity truly rested upon God’s relentless, tender, compassionate love for you? The apostle John reminds us, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…Beloved, we are God’s children now.” 1 John 3: 1-2 (ESV). What if YOU were the beloved?

My attention was recently snagged by a few verses in John’s Gospel. It is a tiny detail really, a footnote if you will; you easily push past it. And yet John deliberately includes it, “The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus…He leaned back on Jesus’ breast.” John 13:23-25

This is an extraordinary revelation. A Jewish young man, hardly a man in the rags of his twenty-something years resting in this incredibly intimate, personal way with His head against the breast of the one of whom it is written, He is, “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…” (1 Colossians 1 15-16 and 19). John lays His head upon the heart of Jesus, God incarnate, so personally, so intimately that he could have heard Jesus’ heartbeat. And what John’s testimony?  What was the message that John came away with?  John’s conclusion was profound and yet so simple, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16)

Perhaps we know this in theory. Perhaps we hope that this is true and yet life’s experiences, losses, what we were taught growing up, the religion we inherited leaves us, at times, struggling with a very different set of beliefs. Did John hear wrong?

For any of us who have ever wondered if God was far from us, for any of us that are inclined to fall into the trap of constructing the image of God from our circumstances and therefore decide that He must be the angry tyrant and the legalist. For any of us that have ever quietly believed that God must be really disappointed with us, Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out is for you.

Brennan Manning wrestled with his own demons. For me, this has always made his writing more compelling and not less. Here was a man who really knew what grace was. Here was a man who, in all his brokenness and unhealed-ness, could only throw himself upon the mercy of God. And yet such a man could write,  “God created us for union with Himself: this is the original purpose of our lives. And as God is defined as love, living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which our lives were designed to revolve. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence. It is the name by which God knows us and the way He relates us to us.”

If we were to ask the apostle John, “What is your primary identity, your most coherent sense of yourself?” He would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, and an evangelist!” His testimony is altogether much more profound. His answer is simply, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

I would urge you to read this book at least once a year. Read it with humility. Don’t read it with someone else in mind. Read it with your heart truly open to a new, wider, deeper, fuller, higher revelation of the fullness of the Father’s love for you and the depths of His mercy in Christ Jesus.

Again, I have 5 free copies for the first 5 Watchword subscribers who request it.

 

In His great love,

Bishop Andrew

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