Saturday, 9 January 2021

Where are you Jesus?

A common issue with all true believers is seasons of feeling abandoned. This is common for everyone who has been called out to walk the Christian walk.  There are tough times that can lead to despair and many tears.  We know, somehow, that the Lord is near but we need that tangible sense of His presence... 'anything... just give me even a rebuke to know you are there.'  The reason this occurs is to draw us back to a place where deep cries out unto deep and we approach our Lord with renewed passion.  It is an act of love towards us who are so easily distracted and drawn away towards idols.

Still, its not an easy time. One thing I have done in times past is earnestly strive to connect with the Lord.  It's like an instinct.  "I have a lack.  Now do all you can to solve it!"  Seems logical to increase prayer times or read more scripture to somehow please the Lord into stepping out from behind the curtain.   It never seems to work.  After all a child doesn't have to perform to get Fathers attention.  So what do we do when the lights turn off and Jesus seems far far away?

The Lord's perceived absence is actually a form of discipline.   While this idea can send us into a tailspin, it is actually the best thing to underline our sonship.  The Lord disciplines the one he loves (Heb 12:6).  So as we press forward to strive, we would be better to sit back, rest and understand.  Us Westerners often think that giving us stuff is what a good parent does, but actually providing boundaries and discipline is good parenting.   The Lord is far more concerned for us then to spare us our feelings.

Is it tough?  It will be for a while.  But here is the true joy of our lives:   We are chosen out of this world as Sons.  The verification of this is feeling any emotion about God at all.  That we care is blessing! Those who are not Sons care little about what God is doing.  But our suffering underlines sonship and this can bring tears of joy where there are tears of sorrow.  Where are you Jesus?  He is where He always is:  Risen and Glorified on His Fathers throne working our lives out and fixing the bugs!

Gary Ward

Friday, 8 May 2020

God's 'yellow cake'

Back at school I was given a choice to study nuclear physics or car maintenance.  I chose nuclear physics.  Guess which I've needed most in life?  During my studies I learned that the amount of Uranium, for example, needed to make a nuclear weapon was multiple lorry loads!  The engineers then have to refine the Uranium until it is down to about 15 kg.  This refined uranium is ready for a nuclear trigger to be used and once detonated, you have a thermonuclear explosion.  The refined Uranium made from tons and tons of Uranium is called 'yellow cake.'   

In these last days we find many churches displaying the elements that say 'success.'  Large numbers, great venue, talented ministers, community outreach and growth.   If these elements are exponential you might even get a TV slot!  If we have these things emerging or you have arrived in these spaces it seems obvious God is at work.  After all, God wants to be visible to the unsaved public, right?  It seems like the bigger the platform we can achieve for the Lord, the more he has obviously gone before us.  This being the case, the person or people who began this work must be able to pass on the way this amazing thing happened?  Now where can I get the book? They must have something to offer!  Now a market is created.  

What if God doesn't operate this way? What if, there are another set of values that God uses and He is not budging on His ways, no matter how contemporary and relevant we be?   What if God is wanting 'yellow cake,' and there is no way any well resourced facility full of 'lean-mean praising machines' can achieve it?  This idea has burned within my bones for over 20 years and stopped me doing the 'done thing' for church.  In the UK I ran a business which got me in the hallowed halls of Westminster, the secretary of state's office.  During this time I found out all business needs three elements: finance, marketing and innovation.  Logically, if we have these in the area of church growth we will be successful.  The world is impressed by scale.  Big is always beautiful, size is always strength and let's face it, you can only write a book if you have solid answers, right!  But it appears none of this is God's biblical way. 

The characters of the bible were apprehended by God to do exploits.  Today we miss that crucial element and assume because the work is done, we now just need to get on with it.  But this is far from the truth.  God wants yellow cake!  He wants to have a people who are available to disconnect from the system and wait for Him to apprehend them.  No-one gets away with it.  Scripture can tell you a ballpark of God's will but only God Himself, right here, right now can apprehend and refine.  Look at the scriptures, we see everyone taken through a process of refinement.  David was a fugitive.  Moses  was a lowly shepherd.  Jesus was a carpenter and if we see anything about Jesus from the gospels he is opposing the system at large!  Jesus was ready to detonate all the time!  All of this is the process of preparation... refining into yellow cake.  When the time comes, God has something he can detonate and with the disciples we see the book of Acts... Boom!   So how do we line ourselves up for the possibility that God wants to refine us to produce yellow cake explosive potential?  

Firstly we need to walk away from the un-apprehended masses, the ones practising a 'rote' kind of faith.   Jesus walked away from his religious peers via a cliff edge!  Second we must be part of a church that fits with scriptural dimensions.  This means meeting as Jesus directed, eat a meal together in a family home and share what is on your heart.  Thirdly we must stop all mission activity.  WHAT?  Yes, stop all the meeting needs that you see to be needs and wait for the Lord to clearly apprehend and send.   God wants people like this to meet together so he can refine and produce yellow cake.  You are made for an individual purpose, not the bog-standard firecracker-faith of historical church.     

Next time you look at a small group meeting simply without marketing, finance and innovation, remember, God may be doing a work you know nothing about.  This may be more authentic biblically than anything that seems to show the elements of 'success.'  These small home based groups are intending to reproduce ekklesia, the assemblies of the first century.  Logically, big platforms and resources look like they are winning.  But if God should choose to detonate a refined people we could see something we have not seen authentically since the first century.  Anyone can fake stuff and prevaricate over the truth.  Maybe He won't detonate our group?  Maybe he will?  None of this is the point.  The point is that we make ourselves available in thought, practice and purpose to allow the Lord to produce yellow cake amongst His people.  When we boil all of our Christian walk down, it is really to expend 'self' on Him.  Basic calibration to what is written sets us on the pathway to becoming empowered to cause a mushroom cloud wherever God has placed us.

It's less about vision and more about fission.  

Gary Ward

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Why would God want the Church in homes?

If God is in control, and He is, what is happening to churches during the Covid 19 lock-down?  For some reason God has allowed believers to not to be able to meet as usual.  As a result, believers are in their homes with their families.  In case you didn't know, the church began in homes.  When Jesus said, 'this do unto my remembrance,' those sat listening to him went and did what they were doing in that home.  They met in homes and ate food together.  This was called 'ekklesia.'  Jesus gave no other instructions about what to 'do.'  None of the disciples asked for clarity and Paul was given the same instructions to do it until the Lord comes.  Because of the pandemic the church has returned home.  My hope is that people take a step back from historical church and begin to see that biblical church is the way forward.  Maybe this is what God is doing?  Why would God want believers to gather in homes?

We don't need special buildings
The point of the New Covenant was that Christ will really be able to inhabit the life of a believer.  Because of this shift from the Temple to people, there is no need for the scaffolding of ritual or a 'special place' to meet because God is inhabiting people.  As the scripture tells us, we are living stones.  So without the need of all the trappings that went with God being in a building, we don't need the Temple style building to meet in.  That era is long gone.  Why have a high maintenance hall when you have homes? It costs a lot to maintain, it could be mistaken for being 'God's house' and as soon as persecution comes you are toast!

We can do what families do
All of the Old Testament was speaking one thing to Israel: 'Messiah is coming.'  But we are on the side where Messiah has been.  This changes everything.  It means people can really be forgiven because Jesus paid the price for our sin.  But the intention is that we are adopted as God's children.  Meaning we are really brothers and sisters.  So instead of a meet up around things that anticipate Messiah, we can do what families do, meet and eat in homes, now we have the completed work of Messiah that has made us a real family.  Think about your church meetings.  Do families do those things when they meet? Do you stand up, sit down, chip in to the mortgage, eat a small cracker and sip some juice?  Of course not... The Lord wants his family to be... family!

We can let Jesus lead us
Many in the past have agreed that the New Testament does have the church meet in homes but it is much more that a change of address.  It's easy to have the same sort of practices simply moved into a house.  Most cell groups do this. Moving into a biblical house church like the first century requires leaders and everyone to give Jesus his church back. This means stepping down from the priest-like function and letting Jesus be who He is, our great high priest.  Every believer has equal access to Jesus.  But don't house churches have leaders?  Yes, but in a local ekklesia they are only ever called Elders in the New Testament.  And they are elected by the people who gather together in the house.  The whole point of Jesus being given all power authority and dominion is so that he can be in charge.  This is frustrated by the institutes of men that work towards Man stepping on the Lord's toes.  See 1 Sam Ch 8 for this being a problem mankind has.  Then read 1 Corinthians... it's what we do without the Lord.

We can be changed
The central point of meeting as family is so that genuine love and fellowship can take place.  This brings change in a believers life to know that in meeting they are met at heart level. When the distractions and diversions of the old school type of meeting are eliminated, what we have is the Lord building the body together.  Mainstream church can see some of this but the Lord's work is interrupted by the leaders who do things they think are good for 'growth' or 'building God's Kingdom.'  Jesus said who would build His Church?  Only Jesus can build His church, His way.

It can change the world
What happens when people throw off  history's version of church?  God can work at the core of the persons being and bring authentic transformation.  And you know what that means?  Unbelievers see a believer who has been met by the Fathers love both through scripture and the family of believers they meet with.  This brings a whole new level of 'different' and therefore brings more curiosity about believers.  Our lives are supposed to be a witness to God's love, mercy and grace.  So to return to the biblical home church set up directly affects evangelism.  The more biblical house churches you have, the more ability to not just be in the same street as your neighbours who aren't believers.  Authentic, Christ-led transformation plus lost unbeliever equals witness in abundance!

The power of environment
Winston Churchill said, ' We shape the buildings, thereafter the buildings shape us.'  Jesus wanted believers to be particularly in homes so they would remain free from the shaping power of a building.  Mainstream churches tend to shape people into being 'do-ers.'  Homes promote 'family' and this is more about relationship - 'being.'  This is the core of what Jesus wanted the Church to be like. In industry lots of 'doing' needs to be done to get the product out the door.  Church is not like that... it's a family where we are valuing the human BEINGS around us.  Homes and family and food are at the core of what God wants to produce on earth: genuine love for one another.  That is attractive to lost hopeless people.  Of course there's some doing to be done by the church but it comes AFTER a life has been touched by authentic fellowship and God's power.

Is mainstream church 'wrong?'
To answer that question I would ask if the 5 days of creation was 'wrong' until it was complete?  The answer is no, they were not wrong.  But they were incomplete.  God called the progress of Creation 'good' even though it is not where God wanted it to be. So the historical / mainstream churches of today are in a process of the Lord trying to get in amongst the people to show them we are the completed product in Christ so we don't need an incomplete way to practice our faith.  A family home is fine!  And smaller groups because of that works even better!

The only real reason we need to be biblical in our church practice is because Jesus told us to.  I think that's a possible reason everyone's been forced home to reflect on what they do.  Please share this to anyone who may be reflecting on 'church' since Covid 19 hit the normal routine of life. 

Gary Ward

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Covid 19 one step closer...

When asked about the end of days Jesus said quite a few things.  These things can be found in Matthew Chapters 24 to most of 25.  Mark 13 and Luke 21 also record this.  Since Covid 19 has been around for a while now, we can observe the response from the nations of the earth to the Pandemic.  Jesus told us these things will happen.  The signs of the things that come before the end are: nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, famines, pestilences, earthquakes and persecution of believers including death.  All of this has been increasing for years but not directly in my backyard.

Now just one aspect is in our backyards:  Pestilence. What is the meaning of all this?

I suppose that's the big question right now and many are now observing some shift in thinking.  I saw  a police helicopter go past a landmark my wife and I were visiting just this morning.  I gave them a thumbs up because they are monitoring the beaches for groups ignoring Covid 19 social distancing.  I'm genuinely proud of the front-line workers right now... Bravo! I then stopped myself short.  I am approving the government monitoring of people!  I don't want this pandemic to spread so I want to cops to stop non-thinking people from spreading the virus.  So here's the scenario: an external factor has got me to approve of the authorities tracking people (me).  Hmmm.  Let's upscale this.

Central to the end time will be an Antichrist figure, someone who heads the whole world up.  Without doing a massive study on the Antichrist, suffice to say he is somehow able to deceive the whole world into buying into a scheme where you can't buy or sell without a mark of some kind.  Again, lets stay away for now about what that mark is.  The point here is how can massive amounts of people be herded into a mentality to give a thumbs up to government monitoring or tracking.

Just as World War 2 was an example of how a man could bring a whole nation to thumbs up attacking the entire world, so Covid 19 is a step closer to people seeing government tracking and monitoring as a good thing.  Some nations have told people to stay indoors and only leave with urgent trips.  There is mass compliance, willingly!   Some have installed a police state and if there are any riots because of this I have not heard of them.  People are compliant.  It's a good thing to be compliant, we must cut the legs off this virus!  Where could this go?

The reason I would be flagging up these things is because I am a believer in Jesus Christ and his completed atoning sacrifice.  Because the Bible tells us about the end times, I am watching with balance and rational thinking about what is happening in the world.  In centuries gone by, parts of the bible make no sense but now we are seeing a convergence of technologies, geo-political treaties and catastrophes just as Jesus said.  A virus with, at present, nothing like the annual death rate of flu has us all cooped up in our homes.  I'm not a sheep, I'm happily complying with the directives.  But it would be no surprise in the future if people en-mass followed a one world leader because safety and peace is offered. 

One chilling thought.  In the last decade Christian values have been attacked and the last 100 years has seen the biggest cull of Christian believers in history.  In China Christians are routinely chased down and are killed or imprisoned while the cross emblem is removed from all non government approved buildings.  Let's not get started on Muslim countries!

A day is coming when a one world government will be headed by one very impressive leader who offers peace and security.  This present Covid 19 issue has shown that we will willingly comply with directives that offer safety, peace and security.  We will even suffer for it!  My suspicion for these coming times are that Christians themselves will be made to be the virus.  Portrayed as a non compliant entity that will be seen to be working against the peace, security and safety of the world by not joining the 'club' intended to fix things.   In smaller ways Christians avoid certain 'clubs' now, and suffer social martyrdom, persecution or characterisation stigma.  It is moving towards a bigger and much more deadly stage and Covid 19 is a massive step towards the end time scenario.

Let's not forget that as the darkness increases it is leading to the rapture of the Bride and the return of Jesus Christ who will destroy the Antichrist and his global empire.  Brothers and Sisters, we win!  But along the way let's keep vigilant in trying to articulate the times and enduring the sorrows that will come upon the earth before the end.

Since writing the main body of this blog three or so days ago the Prime minister of Australia has spoken today of a 'technology' that will track where everyone has been to tackle the spread of the virus.  Its probably an app for now.  We all know where this is going...

Gary Ward

Monday, 23 March 2020

System Failure? Covid 19

Anyone who lives in the Western context lives in a system. This is the way governments work to have a nation be safe, productive and healthy.  Government parties wrestle over these very issues.  If there is a glitch in any one of these there is a general unease / unrest.  The Covid 19 Pandemic has the potential to hit all three of these in combination and as a 'pandemic' underlines, it's global.  To be more peaceful and calm need to ask ourselves, 'is the system failing?' 

Firstly, systems have rules.  Those who keep the system going can break the rules.  For example, in some cases, mortgage payments have been frozen.  That is an enormous rule change that means money may be lost by financial institutions.  Other rules have also been broken.  People are being locked down in their homes, social distancing making people safe from one another.  We are controlling the system!  Maybe the President / King / Prime minister is making the decisions, but you and I can control the system by bringing it to a halt.  The UK came to a halt last night, lockdown! Australia has not done this yet.  But as the system grinds to a halt it is people IN CONTROL of the system.

Much fear and anxiety is because many feel everything is out of control.  It isn't. 

But isn't Corona Virus out of control?  In some places who didn't control their system, yes.  But the vast majority are now grinding the system to a halt, something  Covid 19 cannot work with.  A system shutdown will have an effect on the economy, jobs, incomes etc but when the system starts up again, we are still in control.  I have things to lose in all this but money can't get sick!  Every time we practice social distancing, lockdown, basically doing as told at this time, we control the system and therefore halt Covid 19 in its tracks. 

The unemployed will get work.  The sick can recover.  Finance doesn't have mysterious forces controlling it.  Exhale, take some deep breaths (a distance from anyone else) and begin to envisage a world in recovery and the part you are playing by simply doing what's right.  You are IN CONTROL! 

Gary Ward

Monday, 26 November 2018

'Wood for the trees' 1 'Your heart is wrong?'

John 8:43  Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.

If your calling is to speak out about certain things in the Church it is good to clarify some points.  Sometimes people can't see the wood for the trees.  When this happens people label and compartmentalise based on a broad assumption.  It happened to Jesus.  I've been on John 8 for a while now because it is remarkable how the Lord dealt with his detractors.  The Pharisees could only hear 'this man is insulting us' when actually He was telling them they are not actually saved and need to change their parenthood.  They missed what was being said because it was a higher priority to be seen to be a rock star for God than actually hearing truth.  Anything that came to challenge their rock star status among the people is therefore obviously error.

In my own calling and sending I have to challenge the church system.  There is a version of this going around that is against the system but cannot articulate why except for a few stories where the leaders did this or that.  They don't like the system because they have a few scars.  All that issues forth from this is 'anti' this or that.   I get lumped into this crowd by people who have not heard the biblical position that I come from.  It is the same one Jesus came from when confronting the man made version of God's truth... this I call 'the system.'

In every single case it is the church system I am stating is wrong, not the hearts of the people in it.  I am in no position to judge a persons motives.  If, however, they do things that show their hearts are focused on other things like 'rock star' status, money, church growth etc, then I am instructed to call this out to those whom the Lord has entrusted me.  So to be clear:  If you are in a man made church whose practices are born of history rather than the scriptures, you are simply going to the wrong church.  No matter how blessed you feel or how good the preaching / attendance / fiscal / worship is, if it's not the practice that Jesus instructed the Apostles to do, it is simply un-biblical.  Basically, good people are going to un-biblical churches.  And that's it! God does things in these churches because a Father has to apply more care to babies.  There's the first ouch!

If, however, you understand and see that your church practice is un-biblical then you want to stay in knowing it is un-biblical, you are wilfully ignoring God's will and purpose.  You don't need me or anyone to show that this is a heart problem.  The Pharisees' problem was that they assumed they were squarely in God's will and purpose and now some bearded miracle worker is tipping up the apple cart!  Jesus had reason to be like the other anti-system people who had a tough journey with leaders.  They tried to throw him off a cliff.  I've experienced social martyrdom and excommunication from a denomination but never been dragged to a cliff yet!  My experiences are a spring board for God setting me apart to articulate the problem.

Most cannot see the wood for the trees and label me in the angry / hurt / resentful / bitter / rebellious / box, completely missing the plea to be biblical.  It's not my problem.  Myself and others like me have a task:  pour the salt into the unproductive waters (2 Kings 2).  Those hearing can be healed and become biblically productive.  But many are opting for the easy road.  Many want to be part of the shiny church that offers much in width but not much depth. 

In short, my point is not that your heart is wrong, but your church probably is, biblically. 

Lets talk.

Gary Ward

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Was Jesus always 'nice?'

When we think of the ways of our Lord Jesus we see outrageous love, mercy and grace.  These poured out from Jesus as he healed, forgave and demonstrated who he was before Israel.  Believers should be aspiring to these qualities, not by an act of theatre, but by the transformation of the core self as we submit, yield and abandon to Jesus, risen and glorified.   We are given an overview of our fruitfulness and hopefully we desire to have love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, self control and faithfulness in wonderful abundance.  I'm sure we all admit we are a work in progress.

The gospels record Jesus as the perfect model of divine attributes but then he confronts a particular bunch of people.  These were the religious establishment of the time.  Jesus' tact changed and we see love mercy and grace expressed in an entirely different way.  The best example is John 8 when he is taken on by the Pharisees.  Jesus wipes the floor with them, delivering truth straight from the hip.  The motive behind this was love, grace and mercy but we should not miss the fact that he did not shy away from the hostility of the Pharisees. 

Today it is frowned upon to stand up for truth or even engage anyone in what appears to be an argument.  The overarching idea about Jesus is that He is a wet blanket, just being nice all the time.  He called them liars! To tell someone their father is the devil and they wanted to carry out their fathers desires is not nice!  But it is truth!  To engage anyone in the way Jesus confronted the Pharisees is considered lacking in grace or missing the 'Jesus mark' somehow. 

We must be careful that we are not in fear of being perceived lacking in grace or missing the mark just because we confront issues.  BUT we must also make sure our motive for confrontation is love, mercy and grace.  Often we confront out of poor motives and that is not good.  But to slam confrontation itself as un-christian or graceless is error.  Being like Jesus involves standing up for truth even when the society, culture or Pharisaical ministry fraternity don't like it.

The Pharisees were part of the corruption that misrepresented Gods word and therefore God.  When we come across this today we may be expected to flag things up.  This is being like Jesus.  The Pharisees didn't take too kindly to Jesus because he scrambled their own self importance, status and rank.  They valued their own profile as supposed 'men of God' in their community. Jesus' message did not prop up these self appointed popes and they plotted his murder because of it.

We don't see crucifixion in our societies but we do see social martyrdom where leaders with something to protect hate truth being issued forth.  They shut out and exclude those who want to walk in all of Jesus' ways.  They hate their words and actions and try to call them out on them like they did Jesus.  Any attempt to address these Pharisaical claims is branded 'graceless' or failing to be 'nice.'  We all want to be like Jesus unless it threatens our status among our peers.  'Truth' and 'nice' never really get on well in the arena of walking out God's truth.

Gary Ward