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Following the Firstborn – a multi-layered panorama that leads us towards the Celestial City

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – In this most unusual of years, where we have all spent a lot more time at home and in isolation than usual, Jim Ward found that he finally had the time to stop and review his creative writing folder, which contained a number of poems that he had written over the last fifty years.

As Jim reread them together as a whole – perhaps for the very first time – it suddenly became clear that there was a definite sequence of faith challenges embedded in the verse. Thinking that his collection may be of assistance to others, especially those starting their journey of faith, or just considering what it is like to walk alongside Jesus, Jim then made the final revisions of a small ‘ten steps of faith’ anthology and has now published his first book, Following the Firstborn.

“Poetry is not read widely these days, but because it can be performed, like the Psalms, it is a wonderful medium for conveying memorable thoughts and deep emotions,” Jim said. “The connotations of well-chosen words are very powerful. As I edited the poems, I became very conscious of God’s guiding Spirit helping me to get the language working well to focus on our great need to have Jesus as our friend and find that He can release us from the anxiety of the woes of the world – even in a year of debilitating Pandemic virus.”

Getting excited at the prospect of seeing 50 years of hard work start to come to fruition, Jim had the idea of using some of his travel photographs to pick up and expand the symbolism of the poetry so that it would appeal to as wide a range of readers as possible. Following this came the thought of adding a reflection guide for both individuals and groups to use. This focuses on crucial questions and starter resources to take every reader much further in considering and preparing for the great challenge of a lifetime “pilgrim’s progress”.

“The photograph essays connected to each poem establish vibrant symbols that reinforce the powerful life challenges of the poems,” Jim continued. “Wisdom, which perhaps is only glimpsed enticingly in the poetry, is brought into satisfying focus that provokes deep personal thought and application. This is both confronting and exciting. The book pinpoints and illuminates ten key questions about our faith and life following the Firstborn – Jesus.

“The audience is not left to flounder in the wake of daunting questions, however. A detailed reflection guide underlines disparate aspects of the questions to explore further. Together with some starter “backpack resources” for this great heavenly hike, the tribulations facing every pilgrim can be prepared for and overcome.

“Another refreshing feature of this work is its lifetime panorama, derived from its contextual origins in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The poetry and questions build a rhythm of life towards eternity and present a big picture framework with which to put our journey into perspective. This makes good sense of our toils and troubles and builds hope and resilience.”

Jim Ward was born to missionary parents in Hong Kong in 1953 and a few weeks later, settled with them in East Malaysia, where the Sandakan death march ended just 8 years earlier, with only 6 survivors out of 1787 Australians. He told me that he has always been thankful that he was not born into that generation and has been challenged constantly not to waste his chance at life that these people never had.

On his family’s return to reside in Australia, they moved to the southern city of Melbourne, then settling in Townsville, Northern Queensland as his father became the inaugural Professor of Physics at James Cook University. Jim also ended up working in education and after a long career, he took up a deputy position at the new Thomas Hassall Anglican College in the western suburbs of Sydney, where he continues to work today.

Jim’s lifetime of work has a key mission for its readers: to tune in to the key faith navigation way points that are essential if we are going to complete our ‘mission impossible’ and experience the joy that the ‘Firstborn from the dead’ has prepared for His wonderful family.

“And so God has blessed this little book and thankfully moved the Ark House publishing company to produce it tastefully and get it printed in a convenient format,” Jim stated. “I believe that, although the concept of this book is unusual and multi-modal, that God will use it to lead others to faith in Him. Hopefully many will be encouraged on the great mission that is quite possible – that of Following the Firstborn home to an eternity of joy and secure peace, from which all evil has been banished forever.

“Much contemporary Christian literature is so issues-based that it must fixate on the treacherous track of the moment, as it traverses the enemy occupied territory of a world bent out of its beautiful shape by evil. Alert for every dangerous slip or slide in the mud, our eyes, quite rightfully, focus invariably on our boots. Following the Firstborn gives us some luxurious rest from this, so that we can look at the view of crucial route waypoints behind and ahead and check our progress. Our soul is fed and we can rise above the mire as an eagle soaring home by faith.”

Following the Firstborn is now available globally.