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.  

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



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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