…with great patience

The signs of an apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works (2 Cor. 12:12).

Not sure Paul was an easy person to live with, and of course there were times when he got things ‘wrong’. But he has such incredible insight, this verse included. The Corinthians were easily impressed so it would seem, this pushed Paul into some ‘foolishness’ where he said he could compete with anyone they suggested, recounting one of the times he went to the ‘third heaven’, here though I think he moves right away from foolishness as he puts two aspects together as indicating what marks out a true apostolic calling. The miraculous, those immediate and tangible changes with a before and an after, and the overriding context of ‘great patience’. Not one without the other. The combination presents a challenge.

Patience… seems to have a connection to trials, tribulations and even suffering. If we see following Jesus at the level of ticket to somewhere a lot of difficulties make no sense, for all we should expect is a good life with troubles truly far away from us… if however alignment with Jesus, incorporation into his destiny (predestination – all to do with being caught up into Jesus’ destiny) then we are part of the body that is in partnership with heaven to see the transformation of the world. Hence, my little context, and my little responses are so important for the future of the world. If I can respond to God with a ‘yes’ (which will necessitate at some point a ‘no’ at the human level) I am making a contribution to the future. It is as if my life is connected to someone else’s – and I might have no idea who they are – and as I pull for the future and wonder why the resistance is there and think what is wrong with me… I need my eyes opened – you are pulling more than you realise.

Patience. Oh yes. I am asking for another 500 years (not for me personally… my delusions do have limits) so that we contribute now to what is coming; that we begin to see not simply the collapse of so much (that is on the way already) but the seeds sown for the growth of something different.

These next couple of decades will see a different world all around us, with a level of issues that will feel overwhelming. At some point there will be a series of major catastrophes and the continual growth of the world population will decrease quite dramatically (I have been seeing this for the past 8 or so months). Huge issues… and (if I ever got myself another tattoo it would read:

Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν· 

For all you linguists out there… of course it reads… but more importantly for all of us who claim to follow the Lamb who went to the lowest point for the redemption of the world:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth (meaning ‘a whole new creation’).

My context has changed, my activity has changed, my priorities at a day to day level have changed… but some things can never change. This is where we are headed. Patience… John the author of Revelation introduces himself with

I, John, your brother who share with you the persecution and the kingdom and the endurance in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Endurance / patience (same word as Paul’s in 2 Cor. 12:12).

That is so evident… Visions, conflicts, catastrophes… endurance evidenced that he is still there saying ‘AND I saw…’

I am convinced there is a new apostolic mantle waiting to be embraced – not by this apostle or that one, but by a collective people. It is not that we have entered a new ‘magic’ era and suddenly there is a ‘new move of God’ it is far more that old ways are exhausted so there can be a new beginning. All moves of God are from the past – a cross and an empty tomb – and from the future – a new creation.

I guess the jury is out, hence I am not looking personally for another 500 years, but am very focused on these next 16 or so years. And into this, indeed, signs, wonders and miracles.

Much more to be said!!

I believe in ‘glorious’ failure!

Let me start with a context. I am looking for transformation of our world. I believe that was what Paul was motivated by as he relentlessly travelled the Imperial world of Rome (an empire that contained maybe 20% of the entire world’s population). It was not as simple as ‘get people to put their hand up, announce they are born again’ and then look for that number to grow. He actually thought that the communities that did not ‘include many smart / rich / influential people’ were enough to see the world changed. If we could have popped in on his lectures in Ephesus over those 2 years the narrative of Jesus would have been central but the implications for all aspects of society would have been addressed.

I am sure into the chaos of decline God is speaking. We will have to see a greater decline yet in what we have given the label of ‘church’ to in order that ekklesia can rise: a move from a religious manifestation to a political one (not thinking political party!!). Into that situation ‘we’ hear the voice of God and repeat what we hear, but speak as a child (how we learn how to speak – took me almost 5 years to get there in my childhood). Childish talk (my ever so humble opinion) is what we hear with so much of ‘influence the world’ talk, the child is ego-centric, and the childish talk is of getting to the top of the mountain.

I hope we get beyond the childish talk, for to continue to talk as a child and there will be no change to our world.

Babylon always starts with what is, starts from where we are, sees the ‘heaven’ and will build a tower that reaches there and a name will be made. We so easily fall into that trap. At the simple level of a celebrity coming to faith… we celebrate, but it is it for the sake of the world or to stroke our ego and confirm that we got it right. A certain athlete who would not perform on a Sunday because of his faith was celebrated; a video could be bought of his story… Later (and still now as far as I am aware) he abandonned his faith and claims to be on the atheist / agnostic wing. I would benefit enormously from watching a video of his journey that took him to his current position. I don’t think that will ever be made by a Christian film company. I need my faith challenged, I do not need a simplistic pat on the back. We love a name for ourselves – we are right!

In starting from where we are we draw up from what is below. It comes through in what is built… and never reaches the heaven though a reputation grows.

Jesus who was on high, went to the lowest point, and ascended on high – the result being he filled all things. Starts in heaven, goes to ‘hell’ and all things are filled… on behalf of the ekklesia.

One way in to the book of Revelation is to follow the four ‘in the Spirit’ markers. John sees the Ascended Jesus; he enters the throne room; he sees Babylon; he sees the New Jerusalem. He does not start from what is here. It is the same movement as Jesus… from heaven to the pit to the reward.

The pit… and I am not meaning literal ‘hell’ (and beyond this post I am glad that is on the scrap heap, literally!) is part of the journey. We set our face toward something and have prophetic words to pull on – wonderful. ‘Did you not understand that first the Son of Man must suffer’. We should never deify suffering, but to deny it as part of the journey is to miss the process.

Making it practical there are monsters (‘beasts’ in the words of Scripture) that are there to devour. A business that is making profit and is then generous into missions might indeed be a ‘Christian’ business… but unless it goes deeper it is not a ‘kingdom’ business. To make a dent into the buying and selling contractual trade system (heavily critiqued in Revelation as the antithesis of the Lamb slain) has to be present in a kingdom business, and practically ‘profit’ can not be the bottom line – not even profit to be generous.

Embark on a kingdom path and it is always possible to be part of the ‘first’. Did you not understand that first the movement will suffer, there will be ‘failures’, bankruptcies… and then later there will be glory, transformation to the whole world system.

Following Jesus is not a hobby! The kingdom of God is not a patch that is placed on a sick world and all is better. That kingdom is at hand and still calls for a total re-think.

Let’s re-define ‘failure. Some ‘successes’ will prove to be failures. And some ‘failures’ will prove to be the seeds to glory.

I am still a believer!

Yes I still believe we can shift powers from their place of domination and make space for people to find a freedom where God’s presence is more intimately experienced.

Let me first quote a recent report where a team went to Africa and were engaged in spiritual warfare against local spiritual powers- the result was of it proving too much for one person who was deeply adversely affected and 12 others being taken to hospital.

I have had such reports on numerous occasions recounted to me. All of which can lead to: don’t engage in anything involving ‘second heaven’ level conflict, it is forbidden and there is no protection. Maybe. But I still believe!

However (see a few posts ago I said all posts need a ‘however’)…

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it returns, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation (Matt. 12:43-45).

Certainly true of a person as is indicated in the opening sentence, but the final sentence indicates that this is not only true at a personal level but Jesus applies it to a generation, and probably in using the term ‘house’ in the middle there is a multi-levelled application indicated, for ‘house’ had an application to the house of ‘Israel’, or the particular tribe, or family… and I suggest at the forefront anyone listening in that context would have thought about the temple – the ‘house of God’. [On the latter we could expand this to the references of the house built on sand / rock; your house being left desolate; the so-called cleansing of the temple etc.]

We know how important it is for ‘repentance’, cleansing and filling when it comes to that of helping an individual to a place of freedom, and the principle is the same with a ‘generation’, a ‘house’, a location, a nation etc.

Knowing what the problem is very helpful. Let me make it simple / simplistic. We ‘discern’ a spirit of witchcraft is dominant in an area; research shows this to be a very real possibility. The question now is what do we do? Approach #1 we go to ‘warfare’, rebuke, bind, jump, fly, levitate and shout (some words were more biblical that others there, and not all were to be taken seriously!). Result… either a great exertion of energy but nothing shifts, or we end up in considerable trouble ourselves! Approach #2 is a process… a process of responding to God (called repentance) so that ‘we’ are clear of everything to do with witchcraft – control, manipulation and domination. In other words that which manifests in the society at the level of fruit has to be removed from us at the level of seed (anger –> murder; lust –> adultery; greed –> idolatry). And the process has to work its way on, for demonic powers find their attachment through history. Yes I believe a glorious day can come when an announcement can be made – your time is over! But probably not on the first day of arriving on the scene as the high and mighty ones.

There are big global powers that really do have a stronghold. War and blood lust; patriarchy; mammon, and others. The Gospel comes to set us free from the powers, after all they were openly displayed as stripped of their power; my passion (I think core passion) is to consider what it would mean for the glorious accomplishment of the cross to become a visible reality, and therefore what it means to live in a different way, to come at things from a different orientation to any of the above.

I once had the opportunity to address a gathering of prophetic streams outside of Europe. One of the two themes I took was to say that their government had never passed any legislation concerning abortion. I said that ‘you in this room passed the legislation’. If we are happy to endorse the killing of those that are visible, or even to pick up the computer console and fire away and kill those ‘bloody…’ (fill the gap in with whatever ethnic group is the current ‘enemy’) we should not be surprised that our society moves to being able to easily kill that which is not visible. We must make the connection. To shift issues of abortion we have to be ‘pro-life’ and pro-life is not a catch phrase, but a way of living, and has to embrace those who are visible… and in the Jesus-way embrace anyone who sets themselves as our ‘enemy’.

The Gospel is counter-cultural.

I still believe! Entering certain countries one is asked ‘have you ever sought to overthrow the government of this country’. Correct answer is ‘yes’ and every other government so that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ. I appreciate it is not quite the question they are asking.

Can we shift powers? Well Jesus descended to the lowest point, ascended to the highest point, fills all things… all on behalf of the ekklesia. I have no idea what will be done, hence I take a non-millennialist position but I still believe we are to follow where Christ has gone, and that will include a strong reminder to the powers that they will shift. Follow…a process.

I have lived in a location where invited in to shift a ‘presence’ in a home and afterwards the person saying, we used to live here years ago, now we have moved back and the area is different (in a positive sense). How was it changing? Through people loving the people and land, through a process, and probably through prayer, some of which might have been in an over-stretching way, but hopefully not in an arrogant and simplistic way of ‘and we bind you powers…’

Warfare is one of the story lines of Scripture, warfare between the ‘seed of the serpent’ and the ‘seed of the woman’. I still believe. And amidst crises I dream of changes where shalom comes.

I receive some daily / regular prayers that are written out. I received one recently where the prayer for the shalom of Jerusalem was quoted as a way to pray into the Gaza conflict (I use that term simply because that was the perspective in the email… I could only use such terms as ‘atrocity’). The peace / shalom of the middle east would be wonderful, but we have to run with Jeremiah, it is the peace / shalom of Babylon – which includes every Jerusalem. Shalom that does not come through the sword, but was established through the cross. Shalom, whatever we believe about powers, shalom in my life will always prove to be more of a threat to the powers than any of my activity.

I believe in jumping, raising my voice, expending my energy… I still believe… And Jesus still says to every storm, ‘peace be still.’ Shalom – that total re-ordering for me will affect those around me, will affect a wider circle, will bring us to a place where ‘what you bind on earth, will have been bound in heaven’. Hope I got a lot of years left as I would like to make a contribution to the ongoing possibilities becoming reality.

God is in need of you

A little outrageous

I have heard so many times ‘God can do this or that’ when they are talking about a situation. Of course so much of this talk depends on two aspects – a simplistic belief in a omnipotence in the sense of ‘God can do anything’. Take a big question of salvation… ‘[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4) and is ‘not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9)… desire + can do anything would lead to one possible conclusion that all therefore will be saved (not the strongest argument for universalism, simply one of the (for me) automatic results of such a view). But if God needs our response then we have a disconnect between the desire (of God) and the automatic power to do something. The disconnect would be down to our response… perhaps a little like a number of people find themselves in a dangerous situation such as fallen overboard from a ship, a life-line is thrown to them, some pull on it and others do not. Those who pull on it would say ‘thank you for saving me… I would have perished if it was not for you’. They would hardly go round proclaiming ‘I saved myself!!’ Of course I realise that I am biased on giving weight to free will, but I find it difficult to reconcile the aspect of God wanting something and not choosing it… wanting all to be ‘saved’ but only choosing a portion of humanity. Responding to salvation does not make us the saving agent, God is the one and only saving agent. [The above seems to highlight the difference between recognising love at the centre of the Godhead or power.]

God needs my / your response at a personal level, needs our cooperation.

And in bringing this whole world to her (him? its?) conclusion God needs us (‘us’ as humanity). I think it is very unhelpful when we are at the centre deciding who is in and who is out. Salvation is practical – it is a salvation from powers, particularly the power of sin and death, and an alignment with the redemptive purpose of heaven so that all things will be restored. Chosen for purpose… Israel as a priesthood for the nations, same as the collective Adam was for creation. The ‘crazy’ idea of God seems to be a choice of humanity as being important in the process, called as co-workers. And all of that so earthed, so mundane (might mean dull and boring to us, but it is from a root meaning ‘of this world’). Cups of cold water given in the name of Jesus (not necessarily knowingly… both groups say ‘when did we visit you in prison?’ according to Jesus) seem to make a contribution to the restoration of this world. We might add a ‘good morning’ said with a smile… a genuine day of interaction and work… All of this God needs.

I have two options. One requires a significant level of faith. That one is that we have a long way to go yet of saying ‘good morning’ so that there is enough that contribute toward transforming this world… the other takes less faith and is my fall back position. That is we just have not grasped what we are here for and have reduced our response to God to be all about getting a ticket to a sweet bye and bye that we will need a return visit of the TRULY human one to end the mess and bring us through to the coming age. Either way for those of who are ‘in’ the truly human one we could simply decide to up our mundane game and make the small contribution – what would that look like if we could really see ‘the multiplicity of the small’?

I probably need to do a post on the powers, the principalities and the darkness and how we overcome (a post where I make out that I really know!), but I would certainly need to include in such a post that if we could see the multiplicity of small ‘good mornings, have a cup of water’ then powers would be exposed as not having the power we attributed to them.

God needs us… s/he is not about to do everything for us… no more than a parent will do everything forever for their children. Feed a 1 year old, but feed a 5 year old. And did I mention in this post that there is a judgement based on works that is beyond death? Not comfortable theologically for those of us post-Reformation, but seems consistent in the book that is pulled on as per sola-Scriptura.

God needs us. Not to be perfect (last time I looked there was not a perfect world nor circumstances) but how we make our small mundane (heavenly responses in the mess) responses. Let’s not lean back into ‘God can do’ that raises all the questions when there is no action from heaven. Let’s do our part to grasp the life-lines, and connect others to whatever life-line they need. Then we will all be able to say ‘God has done this and we will rejoice’.

God loves the mistakes

My convictions and beliefs… all correct, of course, no mistakes within my writings. This conviction that the title suggests is probably my way of patting myself on the back and not beating myself up, although I think it is more than this. God actually loves the mistakes we make. So…

Humanity made in the image and likeness of God, in simple language we are somewhat like God, hence a truly authentic humanism can only be a good thing. To see, love, serve and uphold humanity is on a spectrum toward theism. At some level we might also be able to say God is a little bit like us, and in the ultimate human that likeness connected so deeply that Jesus was ‘the express image’ of God.

However (all posts need at least one ‘however’) there is an endowment to humanity that God does not embody, it is the gift of making mistakes (though there are a few ‘regrets’ in Scripture when God considers the mess we have made). Sin is a perversion of how we are to live, mistakes are the markers on my path to glory – or at least they can be. I know Paul wrote about ‘faith to faith’ and ‘glory to glory’ but I think maybe we should also write ‘mistake to mistake’. Mistakes are not the opposite of faith or of glory and I suspect that all three words are pretty closely related.

I debated putting into the title the word ‘honest’ as in ‘honest mistakes’ but I suspect God is considerably bigger than simply including the honest ones. Why a gift to make mistakes? Cos it is at the heart of learning. All learning involves mistakes. No Michelin star chef woke up one morning to stun the guests with her cuisine… a process of learning. Everyone surely can say ‘if I had my time over again I would do it differently’ or ‘I wouldn’t do it that way again’. Stupidity has an amazing ability to be incredibly personal, to manifest in the space that I inhabit. It becomes dangerous when it is over combined with regret. In the moments when inspiration breaks through into my space I realise that I am where I am today because of the path I have come along. If I had done things differently I would be in a different place… but where I am now is the one place I should be in order to go forward – that is a huge privilege.

When our mistakes – including our honest ones – affect others around us negatively regret, apology if possible is in order… but there are mistakes that are simply ours. By all means pause and reflect and positively learn but by more than all means(!) get over them. Move forward, and yes you might make the same mistake again – two or more opportunities to learn.

God gave us a gift, an ability to make mistakes, to get things wrong (some theologians seem to have developed this gift, so says this amateur). And I think God enjoys it when we make (honest) mistakes as we manifest what it is to be human, and if I could only manifest a little more humanness, I might just reflect a little more ‘Godness’.

More time, please

Beliefs evolve, I guess they adapt and I am sure mine are no different. In this post I am jumping to the end. Yes to the big one the ‘eschaton’, but I want to do it in a way that pulls back into the here and now, into our context.

I believe in the ultimate transformation of what we term creation. Will it look the same – solar system, sun, earth, moon and all that makes up what we might term creation? I guess there will be similarities and dissimilarities, as the body of Jesus is the pattern. Recognisable (visible wounds, eats, talks) and not simply with dissimilarities such as appearing and disappearing but as I hold he(?) is no longer male some big dissimilarities (OK dropped that in so that you hope the rest of the post will be worth reading). A material creation – ‘resurrection’ (as symbol and reality) and such words as ‘regeneration’ can hardly suggest something different. Some of the final words in Revelation of seeing a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ with God making ‘all things new’ – not making all new things – are strong words indeed. Strong words that can almost mock us when we read that every day in the past 12 months has seen the ocean temperature at the highest on record. Can creation survive? Time is not on our side to give a positive answer to that one.

There are (for me) two options. Either Jesus returns and bales us out, the ultimate rescue mission for this creation… or… And I hope for the ‘or’ possibility.

I hope for the ‘or’ option cos I consider that the work of Christ is finished as far as redemption is concerned, and redemption involves the whole of creation; I hope for the ‘or’ because I consider Jesus is worthy of more than being called on to rescue us; I hope for the ‘or’ because creation is looking to the ‘sons and daughters of God’ for its liberation.

The work of Christ is finished… the work of the ekklesia is not finished. My belief in the ‘end’ means I have to examine other beliefs too. Yes from the obvious of ‘do we go to heaven when we die?’ to ‘is the centre about a narrow view of salvation or is it about cosmic transformation?’ The latter gets my vote. If so it calls for a major shift in how we understand the ekklesia, discussions on deconstruction move into a whole different arena. To be clear ‘church’ takes many forms, not simply as we have it with diverse manifestations and denominations, but it serves in many ways – not surprisingly as the heart of it consists of those who have found personal reconciliation to the God of all creation. Training, healing, restorative, catalysing koinonia… but also as the channel through which the transformation of all things touches our world – yes the door through which the qualities of the new age enter this age. For that to take place there has to be a deconstruction of our theology and an impact on our practices.

The so-called ‘new church movement’ is what shaped my thinking, a restorationist movement that was shaped by a belief that there needed to be a partnership with God so that the church could be restored and as a result the ‘world’ would be impacted (‘want to join’ is probably what it really meant). I am sure there is some of that that still influences me, but I have made a shift from ‘restoring the church’ to a restoration of the world as the desire of heaven, and I am agnostic as to what we will see happen, but remain adamant that we are here to pray, and act in ways that the focus of a new world might become visible among us. That has to include the big ones of a new economy that does not reward those who comply (‘buy and sell’) but who are working in a way that humanises one and all; it includes that of creation care; it includes the smallest act that faintly mirrors the age when there will be no more tears.

Maybe Jesus returns and there is a millennial age when a model of true governance takes place (I really don’t go there, but accept that there is a historic pre-millennial view that has been around for centuries, nothing like the pre-millennial view of the ‘left behind’ hijackers of the term)… Maybe a lot of things… but my hope, which might be my belief, is that we are given a whole lot of more time to get out of our narrow mindedness and into the big mindedness of God and give our best shot (and a very small one that will be) at contributing toward the restoration of all things, with at the heart of it showing at some small way tiny elements of the coming age.

Practically, for scripture is very practical, if we have any sense of the time we live in, we have something around 15(with a very small ‘+’) years… could we see something happen that means we will not need to be baled out? I hope so, hence I know that we have entered through the door of the great unravelling.

[I am continuing – too slowly for my liking to write on eschatology… the next pdf I will get out will be on the direction of movement – hence a quick rebuttal of ‘the rapture’, a brief look at the history of Dispensationalism, and the final part will be on the consistent end of renewal being when the ‘trees clap their hands.]

Disappointments – included

I lean ever so heavily on the side of ‘pray for a shift’ when it comes to issues that are not aligned. I am also aware that we don’t pray once ‘your will be done’ and then that sorts everything – well not every time. So we pray again… and then I am aware that there are outcomes that are simply not what we want, and as far as one can tell do not align with ‘the good, perfect and acceptable will of God’. There are so many factors in situations, factors that often go beyond our comprehension – guess what even for the smartest person there are things we just can’t figure out!

In this, what do I believe, here is a little area (sometimes a bigger area, and much bigger than we would like) that has to be included. Disappointments will come. How we handle those depends on our personality, our experience of God, and state of mind at the time! The forever optimist (I know a few) will tend to reframe and move on; the ‘never take no for an answer’ will tend to beat themselves up as they failed somewhere (I do know one or two like this), and the mature… (don’t know if I know anyone!).

That would be a novelty – becoming mature!!

The resurrection. The cross with no resurrection is half a narrative, and actually as far as faith is concerned a failed narrative. Crucified as an insurrectionist (albeit a non-violent one) by Rome, and as a blasphemer by the Jews one or both of those claims would be the analysis of what went on… from a religious point of view yet another failed Messiah.

But raised from the dead, declared to be ‘Son of God’; raised from the dead as firstborn of all creation. And Paul is pretty strong when he writes ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins’. More than ‘life after death’ (what does ‘life’ mean in that statement?) there is a physicality, a substance to the future. This means that ‘every cup of cold water given’ has value.

All the ‘let your will be done’ (and ‘on earth’ is so key) and we come out the other side with ‘did not work out’ is not lost. It is sown into the tomb, then we discover the tomb is empty. Every tear is wiped away – just not now, but in the context of ‘I saw the future – I saw a new heaven and a new earth’. I don’t know how… but it will happen, then.

If I push this post into a bit of ‘theology’ then I kinda think that God is very patient with regard to us. And very compassionate. If the ‘end’ were to happen now what kind of age to come would we have? The ‘ingredients’ for the age to come are mined from this age… God will put together what we give. Not only will tears be wiped away but there will be a lot of laughter as we see the difference that our insignificant contributions made. That surely is the context for Paul’s instructions to be careful how we build, as to what material is used. The easily available of wood, hay and stubble… or the harder to find, the gold, silver and precious stones.

Disappointments and laughter.

God can be found in…

Seven Spirits of God… so John writes about, some suggest that this represents the seven archangels that come up in some Jewish literature, however I take it to be a way of speaking about the full manifestation of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. In Jewish monotheism the Spirit was a way of speaking about the presence and activity of the one true God, into Christian theology the Spirit became personal, with the Spirit being God, but distinct from the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’.

Irenaeus (130-200AD approx, bishop in Lyon) is the probable originator of the term ‘the two hands of God’: the Spirit being the universal ‘hand’ that was present everywhere and the Son being the particular hand that brought people to the Father. Thus we have the presence of God everywhere and yet it is through the Son that people come to the Father. The Spirit is present everywhere and it is that Spirit that believers receive, at which point we can name that one Spirit ‘the Spirit of Jesus’.

‘Universalism’ refers to a belief that ‘all will be saved’ but there certainly is a Universalism that relates to God in and through all things. Paul wonderfully affirms this (in a pagan context of idols to many gods)

[God] is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we, too, are his offspring.’

Paul’s suggests the unique claim for what he was proclaiming (call it the Christian faith) was that ‘What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.’ If I update his words, he did not say that ‘Christians know God’, but that they know who this one God is, that there is a relationship, an ‘I-Thou’ relationship. This was what set Jesus apart, and also set him apart from Judaism, he was the way not to God, but to the Father, to a familial relationship to the one true God. That is an astounding claim! To seek to make an image of this God is futile as it holds that we can draw lines around God and present God… maybe some of our theology does just that? The invitation from Jesus means we expand, with all our ignorance, into the knowledge of God. Idolatry does just the opposite… maybe why Paul was (strangely) non-confrontational in Athens is that at least one of their altars seemed to represent that God was beyond their knowledge (‘the unknown god’).

I am going somewhere in this post!!

‘Saved from their sins’. That was according to Matthew what Jesus was going to do for the Jewish people. Not ‘saved from hell’. I think we focus too much on what we consider will happen ‘then’ rather than what is promised ‘now’. There is some talk of ‘wrath to come’ but some (most?) of it seems to historically fit with a context of earthly trouble… the real issue is being set free from the slavery and bondage of ‘sin’ which is represented as a dominating power (alongside its partner ‘death’).

Not a very full post this one, but when it comes to beliefs, I do not believe we are justified in ‘God is not present in…’ and we can fill in the blank. Maybe making it more concrete, if we ask the question is ‘Allah God?’ we can’t (OK, I can’t) come back with an automatic ‘yes / no’ answer. Let me go a roundabout path first – ‘is the Christian God God?’ That depends what you mean by the word ‘Christian’. Or to make it very personal – ‘is Martin’s God God?’ The answer has to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The grace of God / that universalistic hand means even for Martin God is present, and the particular hand of God (through Jesus) there should be some evidence of a growing into the intimate knowledge of God in my life.

God can be present where we do not think any ‘decent God’ (one in my image!) should travel. This does not mean that ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ is found there. Truth is in the final analysis, and always will be, personal not propositional.

God is present with those who are not ‘believers’ (to what extent?) but I wish that there is a fullness, a knowing the unknown God that is on offer to them, a true being saved from their sins. The proclamation of the Gospel is a proclamation of freedom from captivity and an invitation to an adventure with the God of Israel and the Father of our Lord Jesus through the One Spirit.

Random but not…

Beliefs, non-beliefs, just a random set of posts, but never controversial and never, ever wrong! It is amazing the diversity of Christian belief all claimed to be based on Scripture. That should tell us something about what God is looking for, and it does not seem to be ‘correctness’. The law and the prophets hung on two commandments, and I suspect the newer covenant likewise. It would be easier at one level if it all hung on right beliefs, but I guess given the huge amount of disagreement we might all come a cropper. And centring everything in on love for God and for those close and those far just highlights that I do not need greater understanding simply a bigger space for yieldedness to the Holy Spirit.

So randomly let me jump to the new heaven and new earth. ‘In the beginning (when) God created…’ I love that chapter with its major opposition to similar creation myths from the surrounding cultures. In it certain aspects of science might not be ‘corrected’ but deviant views of the divine certainly are. The whole of creation as a Temple, a place where God dwells and the image not made of wood or stone but of the very dust of the earth that is inbreathed by God. So profound – earthly creatures, image of God.

Those two elements are intrinsic to humanity and when we lose either it seems to me that we fall short of the glory of God – when we lose either or treat people as less than either we ‘sin’: miss the mark of being human. The wonder of the encounter with Jesus is that we no longer see anyone according to previous culture-shaped categories. Of the earth – super-spirituality is not something to be admired nor intimidated by, and we see in Paul a hesitation to talk about experiences that were clearly ‘other worldly’. We are of the earth and have a wonderful calling to be access points for heaven to touch this world. We are inbreathed by the Spirit to become resources for anyone that comes across our path (I am thinking currently about ‘presence’ being a better way to describe our calling rather than ‘power’).

It is strange that many people have this belief of the future is some sort of disembodied life in heaven without the physicality of either body or creation. Such a view suggests God began something and then seems to give up on the conclusion of that ‘project’. [Heaven and earth is a ‘merism’ for the whole of creation. A merism is something that takes the extremes and includes everything in between – I searched ‘high and low’ does not mean I did not search in the ‘middle’!] ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ (and with the sense of ‘re-newed’: kainos not neos being the adjective). We pray for the coming of the ‘kingdom’ to earth… Jesus prayed that God would not take us out of here… we hope for the regeneration of all things… Jesus is the firstborn of all creation…even the trees of the fields will clap their hands – a sign of true liberation from the bondage that creation has been subjected to.

‘Going to heaven’ is not a biblical hope, but one day that every tear will be wiped away, death will be no more, and God will dwell with us (if we think of a move it is not from ‘here’ to ‘there’ but from ‘there’ to ‘here’). To live in a way that fits with that hope is surely the first step in being ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us? [An Aside: there is one NT passage – with a bad translation, actually with a Greek verb that was changed in a later strand of manuscripts, from the ‘works in the earth being found / disclosed’ to the ‘works being destroyed’. Changed because with a view that came into Christianity of the devaluation of creation, it made no sense to have ‘works being found’… even some manuscripts don’t change the verb but add ‘not’ in front of it (‘not found’)!! Bad translation, change of verb by a scribe aside… Peter has already said that the former world was destroyed by water (the flood) and at the final judgement creation will be totally ‘destroyed’ by fire in the sense of totally and completely purified in a way the flood could not achieve.]

I don’t intend to pick up a course on harp playing so that I might get a starring role in the heavenly world, I personally would like a long life here as it seems that being here is the place of leverage to contribute to change (to the works that will on that day be disclosed). The transition from this age to that age does not appear to be an evolution for the new Jerusalem (a symbol both for the people of God and the whole of the new creation) has to come down, not rise up – there has always been a rival city that seeks to rise up – but if the works that come through the fire are the building blocks for the future surely there has to be some measure of random evolution in our world. To contribute to that future would be wonderful. To have the hope of going to heaven when I die would be a little less than a response to the opening verses of Scripture.

My hope is ‘he comes’ not ‘I go’. That we all together see a ‘new heaven and a new earth’. Between then and now? A contribution, maybe a tiny one, to a new creation and a new humanity.

A random set of ‘nots’

What do I believe, well here is a set of random ‘I do not believe’. And on each point I could be wrong!

I do not believe God is outside of time. Contrary to what is often said… in my humble opinion not shaped by a Jewish approach to time. Time is not primarily a scientific measurement but a necessary element ‘attached’ to personality. God awaits the future! With great anticipation.

I do not believe in ‘everlasting punishment / burning in a lake filled with sulphur’. I propose that the imagery used is of the burning up of Sodom and Gomorrah, imagery of total destruction with the smoke of its torment rising up. The destruction was ‘eternal’ – not open to change. So I land on ‘eternal punishment’ not ‘eternal punishing’.

I do not believe in predestination in the sense that it is often used, i.e. predestined to salvation. Every redemptive result is in Christ. Jesus is the ‘eternal elect one’ – anyone who is in Jesus is therefore elect from all eternity. My destiny… if in Christ then his destiny is mine (predestined).

I do not believe in God punished Jesus on the cross. I certainly have more work to do in my understanding of the cross, but there is no appeasement taking place there. God does not need to the cross in order to be able to forgive; we need the cross in order to find the path to forgiveness, and I think we need to back away from simply projecting what human forgiveness looks like on to God. The cross brings freedom from the powers, and that includes sin and death as a power (maybe the two centrally and united powers?).

I do not believe that salvation is a ‘ticket to heaven’. It certainly means finding a home in God at a familial level and becoming another means by which that wonderful era of the new creation can manifest to a level here.

I do not believe that God is male. This should be obvious, sadly not at a practical level. If God is not male we need to rethink so much. And what if (and this I believe) Jesus post Ascension is no longer male… OK I know I was supposed to be writing on what I don’t believe and I am in danger of straying just a tad, so will stop this one there.

I do not believe in a 6 day creation with a resulting young earth. Wonderful myth. Powerful myth. Deeply profound myth. World-changing myth. I think we should read it as (my opinion) intended so that it comes to us powerfully.

I do not believe that God instructed wholesale destruction. OH my this one challenges me and my reading of Scripture.

I do not believe the future is fixed in the sense of a set of events. A God of power could indeed do that… but a God whose very being is love (and all other attributes defined by what love, true love means) will always work with all possibilities to the one goal that we know as the ‘restoration of all things’. Yes, I do not dot all the ‘i’s’ and cross all the ‘t’s’ when it comes to omnipotence and omniscience. For me takes a ‘bigger’ God to act as I suggest. A more knowing God!! And if I am to image this God at any level down goes control and up goes love… and patience without losing hope.

I do not believe that the opposite of ‘election’ (church / those in Christ) automatically means damnation for others.

I do not believe every prayer is answered as we would like. Too many other factors involved! I do not elevate suffering, but how we respond to the setbacks becomes a great help to undoing the slavery that resulted to our sin (the whole of creation is groaning… God works all things together for good with those who love God and flow in God’s purposes). We do not exalt suffering… but it is the path to glory.

I do not believe in a millennial rule on earth, all too symbolic for me in a wonderful book of ‘cartoons’ (nearest genre we have to apocalyptic literature). One day the restoration of all creation withe fullness of God’s three-in-one presence with us. A permanent home for us… and for God.

I do not believe all of this is to burn up and I hope that we don’t simply limp out of here rescued by God. The last part expresses a hope that we can see some evidence of ‘new creation’ realities manifest around us. [And added to the last point, I am not post-millennialist either… just focused on ‘on earth as in heaven’.]

I do not believe that all those ‘outside of Christ’ are therefore devoid of the Spirit. The Spirit manifests in many ways, we who have responded to Jesus at a personal level are to manifest the Spirit as ‘the Spirit of Jesus’.

I do not believe that everything outside of the Christian faith is meaningless, simply that in Jesus is the ‘fullness’.

I could go on. And I could be wrong. This is why I have not signed a ‘statement of faith’. The Christian faith has a core to it – how could it not as it is centred on a Person? Outside of the core the variations are enormous. And I am supposed to find Scripture ‘useful’ and instructive, and to guide me to the Centre.

I hope you enjoyed the cursory run through. Please resist sending me a statement of faith – I am not smart enough to critique or agree with it!

Perspectives