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.  

Believers!

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




Sunday, 5 February 2017

From 'BOOM!' to BLESSING

As my family knows I will go the extra 100 miles to get to a firework display.  I LOVE the scale and the noise and the creativity.  Probably the best one I've seen was in Darwin around 2009.  It may have been because we hadn't seen one for some time but it was breathtaking.  I think that because the fireworks were on boats, they could safely launch bigger fireworks... a really memorable night.  What has this to do with the usual subjects of Theology - God / Jesus / the Bible etc?


Well, one of the more difficult things to articulate is the problem with Mega Church practices.  Constantly whining about them often lacks the content.  I often hear, "Whats wrong with 2000 people in a room around Christianity?" It is a very good question!  There are aspects of corporate worship and the feeling of being part of something big that just feels good.  The social element is also alluring as we can hang out with people who fit our demographic.  But, and here's the spoiler, none of this has to do with the core reason the Lord wanted believers to meet together.

Boom, pop, fizz!

The mega church model is more like a firework display.  It has creativity, scale, the breathtaking 'boom!' along with the Oohh's and the Aahh's.  Thousands will come to see the visual and audio event and then go home feeling they have been to a relevant church that appeals to the times.  Given enough resource, the display can be up-scaled thus bringing more people who want to see 'fireworks.' Let us not miss the fact that fireworks are manufactured and disappear in a puff of smoke! The problem with the firework-church scenario is that although it looks like a successful move of God, it needs to do what is the mandate for all Christians, to disciple.  No-one is called to make converts!

Smiles, stories, snacks...

A campfire involves the people gathering around a source that is consistent.  It is warm, you can make food on it and it reflects light on those who are gathered around it.  Spend enough time around a campfire and it inevitably leads to interaction between the people, often at a depth not normally encountered.  People share deeply around campfires.  I've never seen a firework display lead to heart level discussions! I'm as partial to pie and peas and the next person but it simply isn't the setting for deep fellowship.  We must all acknowledge that the body of Christ is supposed to be a family through whom the graces of God flow one to another?

Instructions from Jesus

Jesus put on big firework displays!  Many thousands came to follow after him.  As soon as the challenges and hard teachings came many walked away!  He taught on hillsides, lakes, did miracles, raised the dead, threw stuff around the Temple yet never said, 'This do...'  It was in the 'campfire' scenario when they gathered around food, relaxed, warmed by the intimacy of 'family' when Jesus said 'this do when you gather to remember me.'  Many are returning to the small home based gatherings around food / drink because of this command.  So it's not so much a disdain for the fireworks of contemporary corporate worship or the spectacle of high tech media devices that bother me.  It is God's children gathering around a Christian display that sells itself as authentic.  It isn't the real thing, and believers access a Christian construct  instead of experiencing the love of the Father.



I think it is a fair point to ask if both are possible.  Can a 'firework display' get the crowds and then have people access a 'campfire experience?'  I think the answer is 'yes' based on scripture.  Jesus did 'fireworks' and so did the Apostles!  They were also able to have this lead to 'campfires.'  So how could they do this?  The answer is by God issuing forth through them in signs and wonders!  The healing at the beautiful gate was 'Boom!' for that time.  That gets the crowd, but that crowd is not drawn by the works of Man.  If God shows up, the transition from 'BOOM!' to BLESSING is easy because you are about things that have been uniquely initiated and ratified by God.  There isn't a Man made program that draws on the senses.  Loud guitars, album sales, huge screens and big auditoriums isn't a miracle... its just stuff that brings a man-made 'Boom,' just like anyone who wants to draw a crowd!

Let's be about the 'campfire' so we can be well placed if God brings His 'Fireworks!'

Gary Ward





Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Million Popes!

In simple terms the Reformation was a time when God's word was given priority over the Pope.  It wasn't just Martin Luther, but he became the poster boy of the Reformation.  Like the others who championed this cause, it wasn't completed.  The elephant in the room being, that if we are returning to God's word then we must obey it.  If we obey it then it calls for all believers to rally under the risen Lord, not Men.   It was right to oppose the Roman systems but it seems it just fragmented into millions of sub systems. As I always say, we moved from one Pope to the present problem of having millions of them!

Have you ever had a disagreement with another believer from another church?  Its usually something petty.  There is the evidence that coming together for Theological discussion or even mutual encouragement is difficult when believers are closed to change.  It isn't long until a church gains some following then a whole set of distinctives are established.  These become the departure point for believers as we rally around our 'correct' practice or doctrine.   Behold! We have millions of believers separated by their own  membership criteria... sounds like the Roman church to me!

So what do we do?  Do we have a centralized Pope figure who will steady its global adherents into one (erroneous) doctrine or can any old idea become established thus producing a million Popes? Both flatly deny the purpose of God for 'ekklesia.'  So what is the intention for the gathering of God's people?  First we need to identify something that is not commonly agreed with.

The people of God can gather for a variety of reasons.  Today we tend to say that any old gathering of  believers is 'church.'  The wrong use of 'when two or three are gathered...'  is partly to blame.  It is contextually about church discipline yet many have this a s a mantra for 'everything is church!'  What is also misunderstood is Jesus instruction at the Last Supper.  Jesus told those sat around his to 'Do this' when meeting to remember Him.  It is a repeated message from me that 'this' was eating and drinking together.  What we have today as a cracker and sip token-gesture towards a full meal and lots of wine.  Many say the church has progressed and it is fine to sip and crunch a cracker - 'our hearts are right.'  But how can the heart be right when it doesn't want to obey Jesus?

One of the strongest evidences that church should be a family meal together is the disciples themselves.  Those sat around Jesus had no problem doing precisely what Jesus told them to do.  They set up gatherings that met to remember Jesus in homes with food and drink - eaten together.  To return to this way of meeting also asks questions about leadership and leaders.  Here is the problem. People don't want to change from being in charge to being just a brother.  The heart problem occurs when the command to meet simply around food and drink as equals is resisted by 'what will be lost' in the process.  Position, status and resource is at stake.  How precious do we hold that particular trinity of lust?  

Jesus simply wants us to do as he says.  In that, we would find a better and more functional relationship with Him as all the props, scaffold and theater fall away.  He only wants the best for us but we insist our ways must be God led.  Sadly the pages of the Prophets warn us that this was the folly of Israel, they felt God was leading them.  However it was the slippy slide towards idolatry what was really happening.  Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10 these things happened to warn us in our day!

Your leadership may not don the cloaks and hats and swing a fiery handbag through the hall.  But at its core the Roman Catholic Pope is just a man heading a movement that takes charge of the direction of subscribers.  When we go ahead ignoring the basic command to remember Jesus with a communal meal, like the Pope, we prefer to do it our way.  God's love for us is so immense that He wants us to be fully met spiritually while we walk our faith out.  This can only happen when we submit to His design, yield to his will and abandon to His ways.

Imagine what potential the Lord would have if we just did it His way?  Do we have a blueprint?  Is it in the book of Acts?

Gary Ward


Friday, 16 December 2016

My New E-Book

I've been busy finishing The first in the Cogs of the Kingdom Series "Taken for a Bride."

Click here for the Amazon Download



This can be read on any device by downloading the free kindle app


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Evidence of God's True Sending #1

Because of the way the church has been led by people more than Jesus, we have a problem.  The problem is that people have launched into ministries by their own momentum, or the momentum of a ministry who sends them.  Obviously this causes disagreement and outrage to think what they are doing 'for the Lord' is not the Lord's sending at all.  So that it's not just an opinion, let's look at the scriptures to explore the nature of God's sending.

When God does anything He always creates an empty void for Him to speak into. The first few verses of Genesis are no idle poetry!  It is information on how God creates.  When a person is truly sent by God, an empty void must be created.  'Tohu and Bohu' are the Hebrew words used and relay the idea of a 'desolate vacuum.'  A 'formless void'  is the KJV, we can get the idea of the necessary canvas that God works with.  I have met people who are convinced they are sent by God to do a work but there was never the formless void 'canvass' that God speaks into.  Where else do we find this 'formless void' in Scripture before God does His unique work?

In 2 Kings 3 we find the story of the kings joining together to fight the Moabites.  Elisha is somewhat reluctantly with them but when the come across difficulties they call upon Elisha.  The word of the Lord was to 'dig deep ditches.'  This is a physical way of creating a formless void for God to act. Then, God filled the ditches with water. He had them create a space for Him to then fill.  The water filled ditches became the means of the victory when we read on.  

How do these things translate into our walk as New Testament believers?  The general observation from the Bible is a Spirit-led period of 'waiting.'  The Disciples were asked to wait for the Holy Spirit.  Paul had 14 years before He was sent to the Gentiles (Gal 2:1).     When we look at Moses and his 40 years of shepherding before he was sent to Pharaoh, we must ask why are these great men of God required to wait?   God is creating a formless and empty void within them.  He is excavating the heart, digging deep ditches!  Paul or Moses saw need and probably had opportunities to meet them. but both had determined that they will not move until the Lord fills the void and forms the sending.  

For God to issue forth from a person He must destroy what fills the space in the heart of a man.  Secret ambition, lust for power, the chase for 'get and gain' are all standard resident heart attitudes of fallen man, to name but a few.  So often, when a person has self-sent themselves into a ministry these unchallenged heart attitudes come out.  A formless void was not created by God within their hearts. They were not sent by God.   There are those who have yielded to God's process of digging deep ditches and they have waited for His processes to be complete.  God is still speaking into these formless voids and creating a sending!  This is very good news as His power and grace can issue forth into this dark world causing wonderful works to be done.

One huge error in the church is the idea that the primary mission of the church is to do works.  Someone hires a hall, gets a crowd then states the purpose.  Its been done for years and years but we need to think differently.  Works are the other side of the 'faith' coin but it is strictly the issuing forth of God's works, not ours.  So is everyone sent, is everyone a potential Apostle?  No.  But to be part of a genuine Apostolic work is something the Lord leads people in.  

Give yourself to the Lord and allow him to excavate your heart.  Resist filling the space with the stuff of earth.  Allow God to send you in His way, His time and His purpose.

Gary Ward

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Insatiable Jesus!

My tent-making role for some time has been youth work.  This has taken various forms from sports development (some years ago!) to teaching and now a housing role.   All of the sectors have a common factor - young people who have experienced challenging circumstances that have left them needing support.  One of the great privileges of my present role is that I can talk openly about Jesus Christ and share the good news of Gods rescue plan through Him.

We are doing two baptisms this coming Friday and this led to a young person, not saved, coming to the weekly Bible Study.  Previously I had chatted with her about Jesus but she is resistant to the message.  As she sat in the Bible Study she started to tell me why she didn't want to follow God. Take note that she has, in her admission, accepted that 'God' as a concept is perfectly fine.  Her problem lay in another area that was amazing to watch.

Un-yeilded

'God,' and the concept that He has come to rescue mankind wasn't a point of resistance, but that He has standards, was.  She doesn't like the idea that God would 'reject' certain lifestyles where she would accept them.  "I cannot accept God's opinion over my own," was the conclusion.  The conversation continued.  I relayed the important detail that we becoming a Christian is not the acceptance of a rule-book but the bowing before the Almighty Lord and King of the Universe.  Then it struck me!  The girl has not had Jesus, risen and glorified, revealed to her yet.  She has retained information over time but the Lord was still just a concept, an idea.  This wasn't something that was entirely new information to me, but in the conversation it was illuminated to me there and then.  No-one can truly drag their flailing hearts before the Lord unless they have been given a glimpse of His risen glory!

Just a glimpse!

It's been nearly 27 years since I experienced the insatiable draw, that consuming sense of... Him!  The chat reminded me that within the comings and goings of our lives, wondering how we fit and walking out 'today' with sometimes scant information, it's really all about Him... just Him!  That Jesus was revealed to me, and I was made able to perceive, was the grace that everyone calls amazing... and that it is!  The Father drew me to the Lord and at the right time showed me a glimpse of Him.  Let's not forget that whatever your own walk entails today, the Father saw it in his choosing to show you the risen Lord!   Good for us huh?  But what about the girl?

During the conversation, what I just explained, sort of... emerged into my heart / mind... spirit? So I just stopped talking.  I realised something I knew well, but needed a nudge about:  God can reveal Himself to her (and anyone) at His chosen time.  Our interaction with her was a strengthening of the portrait being painted of Jesus in her head.  What God can do, and I believe will do, is drag that picture into her heart and make it explode into a three dimensional reality that Jesus is alive, risen and glorified as her King and Lord of all.  When that happens she cannot and will not resist.  He is truly insatiable! 

Take heart!

This is also real for all those family members, friends and those in your scope of influence (you?). We often think that God is watching for a criteria where He will offer grace to a lost person.  The truth is that you and I did nothing to earn the glimpse of Jesus.  God did it at the right time.  Right now you can afford to cease the doubting, that gnawing worry that *-----------*  will never accept Jesus.  As we pray for them we can be assured that when God reveals the Lord to them they will be as knocked off their feet as you was!  They cannot resist... it's just a matter of time.  It is right to keep praying, not as if we are twisting God's arm to get on with it, but that we become calibrated towards His will and purposes.  Pray, trust and walk well.  

Gary Ward 

14/2/17  Update.  The girl received Jesus as her Lord and Saviour a couple of weeks ago.  Praise the lord for His grace and mercy.  

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

An 'Issachar Alert'

How can we know for certain what we should do in response to our times?  1 Chronicles 12:32 has been used to justify any old plan for years.  But is there a way of being sure we are tracking with the will and purpose of God accurately?

32 from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

Let's just begin by saying believers aren't 'Israel.'  Yet this verse can apply to God's beloved, chosen people.  So as a believer the challenge is to ask  'do you understand these times and know what believers should do?'  I want to offer an observation about the political year we have all witnessed.  And keep in mind the last 5 to 7 years of political revolt worldwide which has some wars still raging.  

A Vote Against Rote 

Yesterday Donald Trump became the next President of the United States.  He won the race by outing the political system and offering what it turns out to be what more people want:  freedom from the constraints and containment of a self serving government.  Like all systems, eventually the 'tail wags the dog' and invisible institutional forces and tradition rules the way it carries out its business.  Of course, believers know there are more invisible forces than these elements, but for now lets focus on what is actually happening before our eyes.  It is significant that not many months ago Britain voted to exit the European Union for much the same reasons.  So two massive nations have voted to not be part of their respective governing bodies, both citing corruption in the core constitutional practices. The people were tired of the 'machine' that churns out the same 'biscuits' no matter whose operating it.


When something happens twice we should take notice. 


God's Hand in History...


When Nebuchadnezzar  invaded Jerusalem it was something everyone who was listening knew would happen.  Through Jeremiah, God had warned his people to turn from their idols and practice what had been instructed.  They didn't so God raised up Nebuchadnezzar to make Judah a vassal nation. Subsequently Jehoakim did not understand the times and did not know what Israel should do.  He rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and thus against the will of God.  Jehoachin also died doing this and over the rubble of Jerusalem, Zedekiah is led away blinded, to die in Babylon yet not ever seeing it - as predicted.     


The Pattern Disrupted...


For someone who witnessed the three sieges of Jerusalem, it was an act of God being executed before their eyes.  In the same way we must discern what God is doing today.  We must understand the times and know what God's beloved people must do.  What is supposed to happen is that everyone votes to keep their own lives secure, safe and prosperous.  In both cases the people have voted for change even if there may be personal cost involved.  When we witness the UK and USA have 'other-than' events occur politically, it can be observed that the Lord may be speaking.  What we are observing is true in the spiritual realm as it is in the natural realm.  When the people of the most powerful and influential countries vote to reject the corruption of governing bodies what can we say is the spiritual meaning?  Simply:  It's the same thing!


The Growing Remnant...


The Prophets told Israel / Judah that they are playing fast and loose with God's judgement.  The Priests and leaders were sternly warned to get their act in order or... *insert details of the judgement.* Now we have had years of warning to the leaders of the church and I see that the Lord is going to give His people clarity of sight to identify corrupt systems and structures in church and vote 'out.' Who has been doing this warning?  The Prophets themselves!  The Apostles!  And now those who are relaying their words to this generation!  Just as the people have voted to opt out of overbearing government systems, so God's people will increasingly walk from the man-led churches.  Now... a warning.  


Is This a Leading?

When someone connects something like I have above it can be handled wrongly.  For all the wrong reasons people leave their churches.  For some people, the system / structured church is right for them because their faith is fragile and they would never survive outside of it.  Someone once used the lyric, 'before you can swim you've got to be ok to sink.' If a believer is going to opt out of the system in MUST be God's leading or they risk injury to themselves and their families.  I have seen believers opt out of the church, even because they see the corruption, but then are decimated by the enemy and the lure of this world.  The reaction to a bad system and corrupt leadership is NOT a green light to 'go it alone.'  I stayed in a very corrupt system for some years before it was time to be led out by God.  Daniel was LED INTO a corrupt and evil regime by God, so seeing corruption is not God's leading by default.  I cannot emphasise enough that we respond to God's leading and must resist reacting to the problems.  That said, I do think the gap between people seeing the corruption of man-led church and God leading them out will shorten.  Anyone sensing God's leading to seek Biblical ekklesia should take it very seriously.

What God Will Lead You To

Just so you know I'm not sat here with a hotline to God!  I'm only taking what the Prophets said and applying it to our time.  Peter told us this leads to 'wholesome thinking ( 2 pet 3:1).'  In 1998 while on a trip to the east coast of Australia the Lord began accelerating my awareness that the church (and myself partying to it) was not right.  I left in 2000 and was led to start a small group in homes.  We simply met around a covenant meal and equal sharing as in 1 Cor 14:26.  It was a re-calibration towards what 'ekklesia' was intended to be according to the New Testament.  This is what the Lord will lead you to start or become part of.  In doing so, man's leadership of God's people diminishes and Jesus can be the head and leader as it should be.  Be ready for a time of significant transition because as I found, I was not immune to being system-ised.  God is still schooling me in certain areas where the system imprinted onto my mind.   I have to try hard in some areas to think freely.  However, the joy and freedom of gathering with family to remember Jesus far outweighs the struggle.  


And Most Important...

There are those who get so wrapped up in these issues that they take their eyes off Jesus.  We can be assured that with our gaze on the risen glorified Lord, no matter what comes our way He will have His will be done and His Kingdom come.   In Daniel 2 the rock not formed by human hands comes and smashes the iron and clay.  This causes the collapse of every influence that the previous empires have had on this world and Jesus, the rock, will rule and reign the entire earth.  Keeping our eyes on King Jesus is today's focus.  Let Him lead you to understand the times and know what you should do.
Gary Ward
10/11/16