So that they might find God

Always interesting to read ancient literature (OK made me sound as if I am very well-read… I simply mean the Bible!!) and think about what world view is being expressed. Normally ancient world-views of (say) cosmology are not ‘corrected’ but the conclusions drawn about God are certainly not simply a mirror of the other contemporaneous cultures. Creation is like that… even more basic than a flat earth (thank God for the firmament (sky) that stops the water leaking through – not a 2023 weather forecast framework), but the God revealed is not the god(s) who has humans providing food for the gods… other way round. God is for us; we are not here to appease this God. Jumping forward we read that Paul in Athens gave some amazing perspectives:

From one ancestor he made all peoples to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps fumble about for him and find him—though indeed he 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.’ (Acts 17: 26-28).

One humanity: maybe Paul believed in a literal ‘Adam and Eve’, maybe he did and we don’t have to. If so it would not make us smarter than Paul, simply that we live in different eras. It is not what we know, it is how we live that is the measure. Whatever we believe about (scientific) origins, there is one humanity. Hence all war is civil war.

God is close to all, and even stronger than that, is that of the boundaries and times are not in place in order that God would not be found. ‘So that… find him’. We do not have to deny any insight (revelation?) about God in other faiths to affirm the uniqueness of Christ. Christ is final – Heb. 1 – and he is not simply the way to God but the way through which we know who this God is, that this God is in familiar relationship with us, for Jesus is ‘the way… to the Father‘.

Boundaries… Paul is clearly reflecting on a foundational understanding from Deuteronomy, where we read:

When the Most High apportioned the nations,
    when he divided humankind,
he fixed the boundaries of the peoples
    according to the number of the gods;
the Lord’s own portion was his people,
    Jacob his allotted share (Deut. 32:8,9).

We have 2 manuscript strands – according to the number of the ‘gods’ (sons of God: angelic) or sons of Israel. The former seems stronger, but regardless we have God fixing the boundaries and this is clearly what Paul is acknowledging. However…

He speaks these words in the context of the Imperial rule of Rome. That which establishes its own boundaries (termed oikoumene) and one that ignored previous boundaries. Is Paul now acknowledging that Rome’s universal boundary is the one God has established and set in place, or is he suggesting that at the same time as the Empire sets its boundaries that we should be looking for the boundaries that people inhabit so that they might (stumble around – yes, but) find God?

We see artificial boundaries that have been set – Africa set by Europe; colonial rule drawing arbitrary boundaries in many places. I reflect back some 20+ years ago I was given a ceremonial arrow by a native American chief to give me safe travel in and out of ‘north America’. Those first-nations did not recognise the 49th parallel, knew their own territory, and sought to outwork what it meant that fellow-nations occupied other territory within the wider land (not trying to idealise the situation; am well aware that they did not all co-habit singing ‘kumbaya’ around a shared camp fire).

[I appreciate that there are various views about ‘Brexit’, but to use the Bible on ‘nations’ to suggest that God wants to give ‘sovereignty’ to the UK for example is to suggest that ‘nation’ and ‘nation-state’ are the same I think is to miss what is going on…]

I am playing with the idea that we have boundaries at two levels. Ones that are imposed… no problem working within those – Paul worked within the Empire and simply used the Roman names for the various territories where he travelled; and perhaps boundaries that are from the land – if from the land then more likely to be ‘from God’.

God is at work… and at work in structures that are far from perfect. Maybe the EU weakens the pull to arrogant sovereignty. Maybe it suggests we are one people.

Maybe the various pulls for independence – the breaking up of the UK – is an imperfect shadow of a God movement that emphasises there are boundaries that cannot be imposed through powers that say so elsewhere.

Maybe the future will be more based in the locality, in the city, in the regions. Maybe that might help uncover God-boundaries, that will align us more with ‘the sons of God’ and enable a greater amount of positive stumbling so that God might be found?

All very speculative, but I suspect something is going on. If so we should expect all kinds of disputes over boundaries.

And back to Paul… he spoke those words into the one-boundary scenario of the Roman Empire. No need to fear Imperial power; but the need to affirm God-boundaries without needing to impose them. They will be discovered, and I am sure there are many overlapping boundaries.

Video: standing against jealousy

A few days ago I made a video on an awareness how certain aspects can conspire to threaten our health. I did not make it in the sense of a ‘1 – 1’ relationship, but presented it as patterns to be considered. I had a number of responses asking me to expand some more, particularly how to respond.

I have centred in on the issue of ‘jealousy’, and I am centring in on Prov. 27:4

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
but who is able to stand before jealousy?

Jealousy attacks where and how we are standing.

Burnt up? NO WAY

Always toward a new creation

I am working my way through some former material on this site and realise that the podcasts on ‘eschatology’ I recorded some 14 years ago. I would still stand by what is in there but would modify some aspects and express other aspects differently. [A revision of those is a forthcoming project… now what date is indicated by the word ‘forthcoming’?]

In thinking about where I would take any revision I am re-visiting the passage in 2 Peter 3: 10-13:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and destroyed and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

The one passage in the NT that might be able to be read as the destruction of creation. There is much to comment on here, and most of that will wait the appointed time in a fresh podcast! However, here are a couple of comments:

The flood ‘destroyed’ the kosmos (3:6). That destruction was not what we would term a destruction, but is an appropriate ‘apocalyptic’ word to describe what happened. It destroyed the world as it was known and as it behaved. The language is over-stated (like our statement ‘you frightened the life out of me’ does not mean ‘please now bury this corpse’) but although literally overstating the situation, it is using language to inject meaning into the phrase.

In other words ‘destroy’ (apolluō) does not mean ‘destroy’ but is descriptive of a before and an after. Pre-flood the theology is of Adam and those who follow; post-flood Noah and those who follow. Hence the reference to ‘the world that then existed’ when Peter writes about the world pre-flood.

The current creation (3:7) is being kept for a different order of ‘destruction’ – one by fire. The ‘fire’ element is common to descriptions of the future; fire to purify with the imagery based in the work of the iron foundry where metal is purified through fire, all the ‘dross’ being removed, ‘burned up’ and what remains being pure.

The flood waters destroyed one order of creation… but only to a level and only temporarily. There is a different order to come. Paul uses the same imagery:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Testing of fire awaits one and all. Material that is appropriate for temple building (Paul’s context in those early chapters of 1 Corinthians) will survive the fire [‘temple building’ is another future podcast… as and when]. That material is related to the ‘work’ that has been done (2 categories of ‘work’: one that burns in the fire and does not come through the fire, and one that survives the fire).

Return to 2 Peter…

and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Old translations have ‘burnt up’ for that final word ‘disclosed’. The NIV (1970s) was the first version to move away from ‘burnt up’. ALL older manuscripts have the word (literally) ‘found’ as that final word. Only later manuscripts carry the alternative reading (‘burnt up’) – it is certainly wrong, and has (almost) clearly been changed because of a world-view. That world-view being one of earthly existence ceasing and we ‘all float off to the sweet by an by’ (a wonderful fulfilment of Greek hope and a total anathema to Hebraic hope!). Anyway, my point is that the final word is ‘found’ (same verb that we and the ancient Greeks used to shout out ‘I have found / discovered it’: Eureka!).

Further the text translated as ‘everything done on it’ (NRSVue) is literally… OK let me go back a little:

The heavens passing away, the ‘stoicheia’ will be burned up, with a loosing result that the earth and the works will be found!

A complicated verse to translate, but it seems to me that Peter is communicating a major shift of order (‘stoicheia’ is used to refer to principles that bring order / oppression and often seem to refer to heavenly powers – see my notes on Galatians); then the final part of the verse having the verb ‘to loose’ perhaps being connected to the last part of the sentence or to the whole shift of order… but whatever part it connects to, something is loosed.

And as far as the earth is concerned. It is found and the ‘works‘ (literally: ‘and the earth and the works within it’). Now we can see the link to Paul – the works will be ‘revealed’ by fire.

The earth – burnt up? No way. It will be found – the real earth, not the one we have polluted and oppressed. (Another podcast? The comparison of humanity to Pharaoh; Pharaoh oppressed Israel; humanity oppressed creation; Israel cried out groaning; the earth groans for release / redemption…)

So, the one passage, the ONE passage, that could be construed to be a burning up of creation does not stack up. It only indicates a burning up if we first come at it with a belief that that is the future (a Greek world-view); that we do not allow the word ‘found’ to be the correct word in the manuscripts of the text; and if we disconnect ‘fire’ both from the ‘water’ reference within the same text and the wider use of ‘fire’ in the New Testament of the future; and that we twist apocalyptic language / imagery to be literal.

And if in doubt Peter goes on to say

But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

A new creation (using the adjective ‘kainos’, not the adjective ‘neos’: kainos being ‘renewed’, ‘neos’ being ‘something that was not there before’).

That is the one hope that is consistent in Scripture. A ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ hope, of which all statements that ‘I have a dream’ points to. ‘Let your kingdom come’.


Back in 2010 I had a dream of the façades opening up with all the institutions that have shaped the public square being represented as buildings and in a moment the fronts of the buildings opened up, swinging forward and then up. The insides could be seen. In that dream the shocking element was that in the public square there were enough believers to join in a (Christian) song that was started by someone with the result that the façades closed again – as quickly as they had opened. An audible voice spoke to me;

It is the familiar that brings things back to where they were, that restores the status quo.

The familiar… and the desire to resort (as Christians) to the encouraging songs / statements that ‘God is in control’ is probably more dangerous than the familiar in another context.

I believe that we – who claim to be ‘followers of the Lamb wherever he goes’ – have both a responsibility and an authority to bring about change, hence if we simply go with ‘leave things as they are’ we are exercising that authority – and now looking back on the dream I understand why what was taking place (opening of façades) resulted in the return to normal (normal!!!) button being pushed.

Further we have to ask what on earth do we mean by ‘God is in control’. Very clearly Jesus taught us to pray in a certain way because God was not in control – OK a bit of a paraphrase of ‘let your will be done on earth’. The will of God is not being done on the earth in many settings, and as God is working toward an end, that of the renewal of all creation (new heaven and new earth), it seems clear that s/he is not working toward that through some exercise of power (the age old objection of a moral, loving God has the power to do xyz and does not do it). If we talk of the rule of God we must not think of ‘rule’ as if there is a powerful force that God exerts. LOVE does not control, and how frustrating that must be!! Perhaps equally frustrating is that we don’t easily co-operate with God’s seasons. An extended version of Ecclesiastes could be ‘there is a time to sing, and a time to refrain from singing; there is a time for the facades to open… and a time for all the Christians to say, stay open and let all be revealed’. OK the canon is closed and I didn’t get my contribution accepted.

Now we are headed into unknown territory but I think the precursors of 2010 and that decade are not simply being repeated. Now for some even deeper paths.

I consider that we are witnessing not simply façades opening up but some very fixed points collapsing. Collapse brings us to chaos. Chaos is a tough place to be but it also marked the beginning of all of creation. Chaos was responded to with ‘shape’ to answer the issue of ‘without form’ and then shape was responded to with ‘filling’ to answer the issue of ’emptiness’.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

If using the term ‘collapse’ is close to being accurate there are numerous responses that can be made:

  • the old uncertainty is shored up by a restating and re-establishing of what was (and I consider that at the forefront of such a response will be the underlining of patriarchy).
  • the old shape is not changed but filled with something we think is new – Jesus warned against this with the wine / wineskin illustration (and here we can watch the ‘currency’ issues that are everywhere this year – and beyond).
  • we live uncomfortably with hope that if enough of us can live in that insecure place that we will be aligning with the Spirit who hovers over the deep (the chaos).

If there were enough believers in the public square to join together to see the façades close back up again, maybe there are enough present to see a great shift toward a ‘new heaven and new earth’; enough to corporately to say ‘we have a dream; a dream that one day…’

Last words

A not so subtle last word in Acts

Luke begins his Gospel with a report of the past, as to what started this movement that he is a part of, referring to eyewitnesses of what had taken place; so as a careful historian he sets out his account of what took place in ‘an orderly fashion’ (Lk. 1:1-3). In Acts he bridges into his second volume, placing the Gospel he had written as a record of all that Jesus began to do and to teach, covering right up to the Ascension – and it seems clear that Luke wants Theophilus (and us) to understand that if that was what he began that Jesus is still doing and teaching. The mode of doing and teaching has changed, no longer in an Incarnated singular body but in and through a corporate body. (There might be no significance in the ‘doing’ coming before the ‘teaching’ in the description but what remains significant is that ‘doing’ is as essential as the teaching.)

Then we come to Acts 28, and an unfinished story. There are parallels between the life of Jesus and the life of Paul. Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem, for without the a) separation of religion from b) Imperial power there can be no freedom, hence ‘no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem’ (Lk. 13:33); Paul sets his face toward Rome and Caesar as the implication of the death of Jesus in Jerusalem is the transformation of the oikoumene (the civilised world of Rome’s rule). Paul knows that there is no longer any need for death to be in Jerusalem – that work is over. Paul dies in Rome – but this is not recorded for Paul’s death alone is not that which will transform the world. [There are other parallels such as the use of the law and the prophets to teach on the kingdom of God (Lk. 24:44-47; Acts 1:3 – parallel with the teaching of Paul in Acts 28:23.]

And finally to the last word in Acts 28. It is often said that we are in Acts 29 and this seems to be implied with the unfinished nature of the book. It ends with one word, pregnant with meaning:


The only time it occurs in Scripture, and is the opposite of the verb ‘to prevent’. A good translation would be ‘unhindered’ or if we want to go a little stronger maybe ‘un-preventable’. A good word to end an unfinished work:

proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31).

An orderly account… volume 1… a continuation in volume 2 as something was released from Jerusalem that has to continue but in a global setting… and a good final word as we live in what was unlocked in Rome. In the heart of the Empire (basileia) was released the doing and teaching about the kingdom (basileia) of God. From that place there is a continuance – no hindrances; all systems that would seek to prevent it – gone!

Now either we come to volume 3, or the continuance of volume 2. Either way doing the works of the kingdom and teaching the values and ways of the kingdom continue (and it is hard not to understand that this kingdom is an alternative way of society being shaped… we cannot really reduce it something internal).

In these days of collapse be encouraged. There is an akōlutōs around us.

Another date change

Next 'open' zoom

The next of the ‘open zoom’ evenings is now scheduled for Monday April 3rd, 7.30pm UK time. (NB: the change of date to MONDAY APRIL 3RD).

This evening we will have Spencer Thompson with us and the input he will bring will be both stimulating and practical. We have been focused on a ‘Kingdom Economics’ and at the time of writing this already two banks these past few days (with a third I am sure right on the heals of those two) have been suspended, making issues of economics highly visible.

Spencer lives in Edinburgh where he works as an economist in the Scottish Government. He’s currently on secondment at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation where he does analysis aimed at solving poverty in the UK. He also has an interest in theology and writes on the intersection between theology and economics.

Spencer will be introducing some of his emerging thoughts on the theology of counting. Counting appears to be inherent to the universe and innate to human beings, yet it is loaded with historical, philosophical, and theological baggage which needs to be unpacked. Particularly in the modern world, which is increasingly ruled by numbers, we are often blind to the ways that our thoughts and actions are shaped by this apparently neutral act.

Rosie Benjamin was with us last time and notes from what she shared with us to provoke discussion, with insight on both micro- and macro-economics, can be found here.

More off grid podcasts

Noel Richards and I will be the guests for Martin Purnell next Friday 17th… I will get details here later. In the meantime there are two podcasts from Off Grid Christianity with a focus on St Patrick (his ‘day’ is actually the 17th).

To celebrate St. Patrick, Martin interviews Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly – 2 parts the first is live now and explores where Patrick first came ashore as a missionary and they visit the site of his first church. This episode explains more about who Patrick was and how he went about his role in bringing Christianity to the emerald isle.

Martina Purdy was the former BBC Northern Ireland Political Correspondent; Elaine Kelly an ex-barrister. Go back a few podcasts (Episode 28) and get their story of why they became nuns and how they started the St Patrick Walks around Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

And if looking for a great former podcast check out Wayne Jacobson:

Very personal, honest and open… a great few sentences in there about the abuse of ‘forgiveness’ as a means to cover injustice and to move on with nothing changing. And Wayne and I have mutual friends, and… Wayne listened to the podcast I did to get a sense of what the whole off grid Christianity was about… so I do need to recommend it!!!

And an easy access to the podcast series:

Planning ahead

I have hosted a number of Zooms that (more or less) work through one of the books and I, at least, have really enjoyed those and benefited from them. A group have just finished with book #3 ‘A Subversive Movement’, and I will look for a date that will work for them to go through the next book ‘The LifeLine’. So…

If anyone would like to join us for book #4 ‘The LifeLine’ let me know. Maybe you want to go through it again (who wouldn’t!!), maybe you have not gone through any of the books (I would give you a short session on the flow that sits behind book #4 to bring you up to speed). The fourth book seeks to draw threads together and dig into the ‘Pauline Gospel’; the final chapter looks at the cross – God not needing the cross to forgive, hence we have to find another understanding – flowing with where we started that sin is a failure to be truly human… So the process of salvation is to re-humanise us, with the purpose being…

If anyone would like to join us for book #4 ‘The LifeLine’ let me know. Maybe you want to go through it again (who wouldn’t!!), maybe you have not gone through any of the books (I would give you a short session on the flow that sits behind book #4 to bring you up to speed). The fourth book seeks to draw threads together and dig into the ‘Pauline Gospel’; the final chapter looks at the cross – God not needing the cross to forgive, hence we have to find another understanding – flowing with where we started that sin is a failure to be truly human… So the process of salvation is to re-humanise us, with the purpose being…

Drop a comment if you think you might wish to connect on ‘The LifeLine’. I expect the starting date would be the end of April and we would likely run for 4-5 sessions.

Needless casualties

Prophets are vulnerable

Over the past few years I have been focused on where those with prophetic calling are dealing with issues of persistent or life threatening sickness. I also know of a number who have passed away. A few weeks back I was on a Zoom with a group of people who carry prophetic anointing and we looked at those issues there. This video is a response from that evening.

I also noted that a few days ago Cindy Jacobs put out a call to pray and fast to protect those who are called as prophets:

There have been many instances of sickness hitting the prophets recently. Therefore, we are calling for a 40-day fast to protect the prophets.

Beyond the scope of this video we could be add that in the current scenario there is a vulnerability that is directed against women and in particular those of a rising generation (maybe another video to be done suggesting that the current collapse – societal, governmental, economic and in particular ecological – is in danger of being filled in a wrong way…). So an even greater awareness of the potential difficulties that can affect health if the person is both female and a prophet.

Needless casualties – maybe later a video on this – I don’t go the whole way with the contents of the book that opens this up, but the theme of ‘needless casualties’ is something we should seek to avoid.

No answers in the video; certainly no attempt to connect with straight lines, but I seek to cover:

  • The foundation of attacks from within the body of Christ is the biggest source of the issues (1 Cor. 11:30 being foundational).
  • Attacks rooted in jealousy.
  • Memory / trauma locked in the body with a 6 month – 2 year incubation period.
  • Life taken from us rather than life being given from us.
  • Getting out of the land of anointing.