Thursday, 15 March 2018

Understanding 'contending for the faith'

Jude's letter was clear about the dangers facing Christians, especially in the last days.  That there would be those who 'slip in among you' and masquerade as believers was a problem then but now denominations are based on this calamity.  The issue here is that the practices and false doctrines of these impostors are adopted by believers and we see it every day in churches.  It is my responsibility to firstly walk out the faith in obedience but then to discern where the rot has set in. Then I will make all those I am walking this out with aware of the error.  In this way I am again doing what Scripture teaches: 1 Timothy 4...

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
If however the 'pointing out' or 'making aware' is actually a cover for bitterness or revenge then it is a whole other matter.  I would have to examine my own heart (see, you don't have to!) for motives in calling out an individual or a church et al.  I have personally been part of churches that have publicly lied to their congregations, mismanaged money, built a 'kingdom' for themselves etc.  All these things are explicitly reasons for repentance.  Where repentance is not evident the person or church are in danger.  God gives churches or individuals over to 'it,' whatever 'it' is for that group.  We see this in verse two above and in Romans chapter 1 just as two off the cuff examples. 
Over the last year or two I have seen people I know lie to my face about the lies they told to their church.  I didn't expose this beyond some trusted friends to whom I have some accountability. Recently a church was on national UK TV because of a scandal involving the head of that organisation.  One of the reasons aspiring mega churches pat themselves on the back is because of the social action they get involved in.  The un-biblical practices they employ to get people in, and get their money, is always justified by 'helping the helpless.'  Got to say... if you have a load of people doing anything... helping the helpless is a good thing!  But if the helpless become subject to the same business-like tactics as everyone else we have a problem.  Control, megalomania and the such like are ugly in every context.  Its no problem for me to let my church family know that this is wrong and can never be right.  Biblically, I'm doing my job.    
My concern is for the believers who have fallen into the cult of personality.  Some people can do anything and the followers wont see it as sin.  This is concerning because it shows the word of God is coming second to the vision of the movement.  Believers buy into the proposals of the leaders and if they happen to violate the word of God... who cares!  As long as the movement is moving and I'm part of it... let's not tip up the apple cart!  This is exactly what Israel were castigated for... the widespread acceptance of sin as being all well and good because "WE ARE GODS CHOSEN."  
What could go wrong... turns out everything!
This is not a shock to anyone who has read the Prophets and takes the Apostles seriously.  The growing problem is acceptance of this unrepentant behaviour.  The VAST majority are taken in by the key performance indicators of 'what works' church wise.  As long as they are a part of the hive, all is well.
It isn't well.  It is everything the Apostles and Prophets warned about.   

Gary Ward 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Managing appetites...

Paul to Timothy:

1Tim 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

How do we know what is the demonic teaching and which is Godly?  Paul offers two examples of what demonic teaching does.  The underlying theme is restriction.  But the devastating other side to this coin is the works associated with it.  They forbid people to marry when marriage is the very core of God's plan that is patterned through the Bible.  The true church is a bride!  They also forbid certain foods.  Food is a blessing!  God loves feasts!  What are the demons trying to do in being behind such teachings and practices? 

When people become Christians having been implicated by the rescue plan of God, they enter more freedoms than restrictions.  This is not what people think about Christianity but it is actually true.  Paul goes on:  

4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  

When someone brings about extra rules and regulations that God has not sanctioned they create a false religion.  This misrepresents God and people get an impression of God that is not accurate.  As a younger man I HATED being misrepresented.  It has happened so much that I've seen it as God's hollowing out process.  I have also seen more clearly the reason people do it.  Nevertheless God is misrepresented.  That is not a great idea but it is devastating to the people led into the doctrines of demons.  Central to our growth, maturity and even salvation is seeing God for who He really is.  

The whole problem with all of God's dealing with Israel was misrepresentation.  This led to carving Idols and in the same way, creating restrictions is also Idolatry.  This has been clearly said by the Holy Spirit!  The big question has to be whether Paul's observations have taken form.  I mean if you claim the Holy Spirit is clearly saying something you'd better be right, right?

I'm sure there are other examples but two huge examples remain of restricting foods and marriage.  Firstly it is the Roman Catholics that forbid their priests to marry.  This has serious repercussions in society.  Roman Catholics re-enact Jesus' sacrifice at mass, denying the Lord's once and for all sacrifice.  Secondly there is the devastating error of returning to Law.  This proclaims the work of the cross as being ineffectual and sets the person partaking into observing prescriptive Law.  Practically it means restrictions in what is eaten as Mosaic Law banned certain foods.  Interestingly, Judaisers and the Roman Catholics have this in common: Ignoring the completed work of the cross.  

Jesus fulfilled the Law for us so that we can have access to God by believing on Him.  Once truly following Jesus by faith we are not required to tick boxes or refrain from what God has given as pleasurable blessings.  Although these blessings can be abused, doing or not doing something to help God fix us is not required.  When the Apostles wrote to the gentile believers at Antioch, the main areas they advised to be aware of was managing food and their sexual practices.  In no way did they says stop eating and enjoying intimacy in marriage.  Our appetites are God given and to be met with thanks within the holy boundaries of God's graces.  

Gary Ward

Friday, 12 January 2018

Song for the struggling

Another day, another way, to limp out this walk
Identified as God's light, but struggling with the dark
Fighting with my go-to's, this much determined flesh,
Heart bowed low confession, to straighten out this mess

Who turned out the light? Scraping for a prayer
Voices to accuse me, lies from everywhere!
I handed ammunition to the hater of my soul
Half truths leave me numb, and now they feel like whole

My tears fall onto the ground in a self inflicted rain
A voice says, 'time and time and time and time again!'
'These fractures are not healing', 'a son who can't do good'
'God must now reject me, I know for sure I would!'

But what is this, a memory of a boy who lost his way?
Took the contents of the safe and partied every day?
Ventured back to his home but someway down the path
His Father came to meet him and he expected wrath

The Father's joy was beaming, the son taken aback
Dad wrapped his arms around him not one word of his lack
Robes and ring, the best food, a very noisy celebration
Father goes the extra mile to mark this restoration

How can it be that I receive that which I do not merit?
While what I'm owed is judgement, but I just don't get it?
Can it be that all my wrongs are totally outshone
By Fathers unrelenting love and joy at His returning son?

This story is the truth for all who wholly trust
That Jesus took all God's wrath, for me He said He must
So when I fall and fail and choose me above my King
The Father wants me to come to him and tell him everything

With love and joy my Father cancels out my debt
This act of going to Him is how His plan was set
'Lost sons returning home' is the genius intent
To rescue me from me and why His own Son was sent

I'm not planning sinful ways but I know they will be true
The thing to understand is Father knows it too!
I'm starting out again with eyes on things above
My failings overshadowed by my Father's boundless love. 

Gary Ward

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Rage against the age?

Its been about 6 months since I posted a blog.  It's not that I haven't written them, its just trying to articulate the blindingly obvious and finding a post-able compelling angle. Anyone following these ranting attempts at sanity would hopefully detect an out-of-the-box-ness.  Sometimes they are out of the room that the box is in!  Well its a new year... lets hope things get better.

So many issues occurred in 2017 that it was hard to meaningfully write about.  By far the scariest thing that came to be the thing was 'indifference.'  Many political, social and theological issues were raised but underneath the narrative was a devastating sub-text.  When people don't care about their own lives and society, we have an issue.  But when people actively move to change society to accommodate moral and ethical dysfunction, it spells disaster.  Often overlooked, Genesis 6:5 tells us that the reason God Judged mankind was because the people were utterly corrupt:

  And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.   (Italics mine.)

Jesus tells us that 'as in the days of Noah, so shall the end times be.'  When people turn towards combative and hostile reasoning to make society into moral depravity we see Genesis 6:5 outplayed.  Working towards making ungodliness the norm indicates an indifference that should shake believers to the core.  That we don't see that with many believers is another issue for another time.  However, we need to take note of the times and prayerfully seek the Lord for strategies.  For the main part my own stance is to see it as the signs of the end times.  Another part of me wants to rage against the age.  What do I do?

I often overlook the way my intrinsic self is already pushing against the rot.  Before I have even got out of bed I am pushing back the spirit of the age.  Paul tells us this is the spirit of Antichrist and the restrainer, the Holy Spirit within,  is holding back evil.  Of course, my own evil and wicked leanings falter and fail, but I am not seeking to make my failings the norm in society.  Believer, before you even think of protesting, the fact that you are not advancing the cause of moral and ethical decay is of high value to the Lord.  It matters that we stand in a Godly way!  Making a stand to not be like the societies we live in is an amazing testimony as the lure of the flesh beckons us to another dark cul-de-sac.  It's not finding ourselves scratching around the mud and the mire that screams 'failure!'  It's when we stop getting up, brushing ourselves off and picking up our crosses.  A lifestyle of repentance is faithfulness, and I for one commit myself to walk well in 2018.  

Maybe this intent before God can see Him issue forth through us into this world?  

Gary Ward

Friday, 28 July 2017

The 'gateway drug' to false teaching?

If you work in the welfare sector you will be faced with the drug issue in our fallen world.  People try to find escape through substances as the high offers temporary escape from their nightmare.  The nightmare is always associated with no hope, no peace and no security.  It manifests in different ways but a human life disconnected to its Creator is always at the centre of the problem.  The enemy is having a field day locking people in prisons of addiction.   On the way to hard addiction a person will engage 'gateway drugs.'  These are seemingly less dangerous yet can lead to the life consuming 'top-shelf' drugs.  Drugs alter the senses while slowly killing the core of the person.  We have a problem and the answer is Jesus.

I was recently challenged on my firm stance to not tolerate even a hint of false teaching.   It is largely based on Jesus' instruction, 'do not be deceived.'  I have a Red / Amber / Green system for the teachers that are visible in our media.  Red is obviously danger, and there are a lot of bible Teachers in there.  Amber is where there is a nudge of caution and Green is where the differences are minor and they generally have a good articulation of the Whole Council of God.  There are plenty of people in Green so there's no reason to have anything to do with the Red or Amber designations.  Too harsh a system?  I have to stand alongside the writers of the Prophets and Apostles who, in the name of God, slammed false teachers and all kinds of falseness.  With this in view, I'd like to outline something that is occurring spiritually all over the world.

It seems to be a distinctive that every Mega Church organisation has a music ministry aspiration.  It also seems that those who, like us, are wanting a pure declaration of God's word, see no (need for?) big music ministry.    It could just be that the aspiring Mega Church outfit wants to gain more resource by selling albums and see it as a business model.   But I see something that looks like the drug problem in society.  The Churches that are peddling false teaching tend to have a music ministry that is very organised, highly produced and distributed widely. It looks good, sounds good and draws people to a close walk, when it isn't worshipping worship, that is.  Can it be that the music is a sensual hook that is being used to have people lock into a certain church?  Could it be that once people are seduced by the worship they won't question the teaching?  I mean, 'how can something so beautiful and Jesus-orientated be false teaching?'  But this happens all the time!  Is this music the 'gateway drug for false teaching?'

We have come across people who are worship addicts.  They stay in churches who falsely teach because they can't do without the worship experience.  They seem to lift the experience of worship over the Lord Jesus Christ.  When it is pointed out there is false teaching they weigh it against the worship experience or kudos with being part of 'what's working.'  The New Testament teaches that the last days would be an increase and concentration of people living off natural instincts, sensuality, and not living in step with the Spirit of God.   Music is just a vehicle by which a heart of worship can express itself.  For many years we have rightly called out Christian music for its style. Now, I believe, we need to call it out for its production that is aiming to be 'of this world.'  For some time people have asked me what I think of 'such-a-body.'  This is a comment on style and production.  The truth is I don't think about them.

The irony is that much of the mainstream worship music celebrates being triumphant over this world while leading a person to dependency.  Once that happens, a person will reduce the importance of sound doctrine to get a 'fix.'  Of course there are people who are fixing their eyes on Jesus and are aware of the sensuality and potential seduction in world around them.  The corruption of music and messages coming from churches are well known to them.  I would just caution that the gateway drugs to false teaching are subtle and crafted by that serpent, the deceiver.  Be discerning.

Gary Ward

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Is Rev ch's 2 and 3 the church age?

The seven churches of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 are real churches that were on earth at the time of John's exile.  A fascinating study is to examine whether they are a chronological overview of the church age from Pentecost to the harpazo, or 'rapture.'  An examination of each church corresponds to seven distinctives of church history we can look back on.  It is really compelling data, but what seals the whole deal and say's 'this IS a chronological overview of church history given before it happened?'
Firstly, the seven churches correspond to real eras in the near 2000 years of church history.  Some have outlined how freakishly accurate the journey of the church has been whilst tracking the seven churches in their order of appearance in Revelation 2 and 3.  It isn't so surprising though, seeing as the book of Daniel outlined the great empires of the gentile world history, including our times of fragmented unions and incompatible politics.  If Daniel is the heralding of the first coming of Jesus it stands to reason that God would unveil the events around the second coming of Jesus.

Secondly, in Daniel chapter 4,  The Babylonian king has a dream interpreted where it appears to tell the story of a tree that gets cut down, leaves stripped and fruit scattered.  This seems to be a 'remez,' or a hint of something else that is being said.  The tree is locked down for seven seasons and after is restored.    In a few places the journey of Israel is outlined and emerges through something that is not associated at first glance.  The Jews are scattered through out the world only to be restored eventually.  The King represents that state of unbelievers in a time when grace has been extended.  After 7 years he turns to God-an instruction for all who are in rebellion against Him.   What is important here is the use of seven seasons or 'times.'  Let's not forget that this is contextually a gentile history, very significant!

Thirdly,  Jesus outlines what we are supposed to do with the text.  In Chapter 1 verse 19 John is told to write what he has seen.  So John writes about the risen and glorified Jesus in Chapter 1.  The he is told to write 'what is.'  What is, at the time of writing was the church age.  With this in view he writes to the seven churches.  At the beginning of chapter 4 he writes 'what must come after these things.'  If the only intent was to deliver the writing to the seven churches that existed then logically the things from chapter 4 onwards should have occurred on delivery of the letters. They obviously didn't, so we must ask what the 'after these things' actually means.  Revelation goes on to describe the seven lamp stands (churches) being in heaven, having previously been on earth.  So 'after these things' the churches are in heaven... snatched away as the Bible teaches.

Lastly, we have to examine the way the seven churches are written.  The last 4 churches have a slight adjustment in how they sign off.  It is easy to dismiss this, but if we assume the seven churches are times of church history, we find something interesting.  Thyatira seems to be the journey of the Roman Catholic church, Sardis the protestant reformation churches, Philadelphia - the non affiliated faithful church and Laodicea the prosperity gospel church.  All 4 of these have some reference to the Lord's return meaning they are all on the earth at His return.  This is what we see on earth today!

There is another amazing structure in the way the last four churches were written.  In Thyatira and Sardis Jesus instructs them to wait for his coming, indicating it isn't for a while.  In Philadelphia the Lord is 'coming soon!' When we see Laodicea we have to deal with a word 'idou' in greek.  This word has a few renderings because it is hard to articulate in English.  It carries the idea of, 'something needs to get your attention because it is special.'  So we see 'behold!' We also have, 'see!' or 'listen!'  In Revelation 3:20 we find idou and the Hebrew Bible have paired it with the Hebrew word 'hineni' which means 'here I am!'  The NIV also does this with 'idou.'

If we are rendering the seven churches as a historical overview of the church age, the last four churches exist on earth before the Lord's appearing.  So if we detach 'idou' from the next statement we find the Lord saying of the last 4 churches:

 '1) hold on... 2) hold on... 3) Im coming soon... 4) HERE I AM!

As we can all see, there is a church on Earth that is Laodicean.  It teaches that God wants to bless people with worldly things despite Jesus saying He does not give as the world gives.  Wealth and material things are valued as evidence for God's authentication of a person, church or movement.  The letter to Laodicea exposes this as error and calls for repentance.  This church we can see is the one where Jesus says, 'Here I Am!'  Even if we place 'idou' with 'I stand at the door and knock' and dismiss it as in indicator of His return, we are still at the last stage of this chronology so we can rejoice.

How amazing is it that we are at the very end of 'the things that are' and could very well be involved in the snatching away of the church from the earth.  Come Lord Jesus!

Gary Ward

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Where does God live?

I very recently heard a sermon that said the church where Christians gathered was God's house.  It was useful to get people who were there to take responsibility for where they gather.  However, it was not what the Bible teaches.  It turns out God has moved house through biblical history.  God lives in his house right now!  So where does God live?

Temple, Tabernacle

During the Old Covenant it was the Temple. Jesus points this out when he flips the tables in the outer courts of the Temple.  "My house shall be a house of prayer..." was the cry as coins flew through the air and livestock made way for the Prince of Righteousness.  God's house was the temple and his presence was in the Holy of Holies.   Previous to this God went camping with the travelling desert dwellers.  God's desire however has not been to dwell in buildings that are constructed by men.  


An easy way to answer this is to simply say that God lives in heaven.  That would be a right answer but not right in totality.  In the New Covenant God lives in a believer.  1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Peter 2:5 are clear that since Jesus finished work at Calvary God dwells in Believers!  So, if a number of believers meet together in a physical building, does that building collectively become God's house?  Ephesians 2:22 tells us we are being built together as a dwelling place in the spirit.  So the building is the people and is never the bricks and mortar, even when meeting together.  

The greek word that has been translated 'church' is 'ekklesia.'  This described 'the called out assembly' is the common understanding.  So the people are exclusively God's house, one He is building together.  People have often said to me, a house-church advocate, that it doesn't matter where people meet, the house of God is being built.  The whole idea of people meeting in homes rather than auditoriums is not to define where God lives, but to rather define the nature of the building.  We obviously don't stack on top of each other like bricks so what does it mean when God is 'building' His house?

The nature of the building

If I designed a house it would be to my specific requirements.  It would have elements that I see as being useful for my purposes.  The same is true of God.  He is building in the sense that he is making His people the way He wants them.   Firstly believers are being built up in the Fathers love.  This creates belonging and a deep sense of son-ship.  Secondly, God wants to have us issue forth into this world and be salt and light.  My own house would have rooms for my family because I want it to be a house where love resides.  Then I would be looking at 'function.'  God is building believers together to firstly be a people who love and are loved.  Then a people who are inwardly met can go and meet the needs in this dark world.  

The building site

The process of believers basking in the Fathers love and becoming fulfilled in this way rises and falls on the nature of the gathering.  If the gathering is all about serving and saving then it greatly neglects the foundation of God's unconditional love forwarded to our hearts.  Knowing that He loves you is not not the same as walking in the reality of the love, and that is where many gatherings of believers miss.  God has instructed that the family is the place where we can experience the love of the Father as agenda-less people come together is a place where families meet:  the home.  Auditoriums, halls, cathedrals start off on an institutional / fraternity footing and more often than not bypass the relational flow of authentic family.   

God's genius in living in each believer is clear.  Only together can we be build up to fulfill the plans and purposes of God.  I'm a brick and so are you!  Let's facilitate the building of God's house by clearing the way for the foundations and walking with the plan to be bound together with cords that cannot be broken.

Gary Ward