Here are some headline notes that outline my thoughts on boundaries / borders. On the macro scale related to ‘peoples’ the kairos times and the boundaries are connected: rather than take a ‘there is no revelation of God in other cultures (religions?)’ Paul seems to have a positive view of God in relationship to humanity, for God ‘gives to all mortals life and breath and all things’ (Acts 17:25); all of humanity are related as ‘offspring of God’ (v.29) hence all war (even ‘just’ war) is simply a version of civil war, intra-familiar war.
If ‘God-set’ boundaries are in place there are kairos opportunities to perhaps find God. If we insist that the only way to God is the ‘Christian’ way we are on the path of bringing faith in Jesus down to the level of another, but probably superior religion. Jesus is the way to know, and to know intimately, who this God is. The Jesus path is not a path to bring about a knowledge of God but to live within the conscious embrace of the God who made the world and all that is in it (v.24).
A major (and simple) way of obscuring God is to establish boundaries that are not those that are ‘God-set’. Hence wars, carving up whole aspects of lands and imposing boundaries that are not ‘natural’ but dictated to by imperial / colonial benefits and the like work against the finding of God.
Boundaries are groaning at this time, and alongside that are attempts to strengthen old boundaries (I appreciate that ‘securing our borders’ is a complex issue, but always there is a third way in God – a redemptive path). I anticipate that the next 6 years – the remainder of this decade will be filled with border conflicts and also some border resolutions.
Dropping down to the personal level: boundaries are vital. Internal boundaries where we do not allow ‘trespassers’ to encroach – a ‘no-one takes my life from me’ stance. That has to be matched by a ‘but I lay my life down’ response.
An establishment of internal boundaries then allows us to determine ‘our field / fields’. This is very much Pauline language – my field extends as far as you. He knew where he was to work and carried a responsibility for that; it was a work of enabling others to find their field so that he could move on and not crowd out the space. We will not operate at that level, but nevertheless we can determine what we carry responsibility for. As we do that we will create / hold space where there is a freedom for people to find God and not have their lives pressed in on by oppressive powers. I have seen where all-but daily blazing rows in homes dial right down so that after a few months such rows become rare.
Borders… so important; within them there is an inheritance; moving boundary markers comes with a warning… and maybe one final thought – we do not naively go beyond our boundaries. There are ‘powers’ that were defeated at the cross and made an open show of… this does not mean we spend out lives confronting them. They are to be confronted – but clarity that they are within our ‘field’ needs to be our conviction. A lot of declaring will not shift them, but will lead to something very uncomfortable or something worse for us.
God works at all levels – internally we will always be working on our boundaries, so it is not sort that out then the ‘next’ level… Each and every level, and ones I am not aware of, will be the focus throughout.
For some six months or so I have been focused on borders / markers. Personal boundaries are vital and we are to forgive those who ‘trespass’ across our boundaries; within the boundaries that God sets for us we have an inheritance; we can go beyond our boundaries and we will find ourselves in difficulties. Personal / internal boundaries are vital for if they are established in a greater way we can anticipate what ‘God does in us s/he will do through us’.
In this video I seek to push into boundaries that are beyond the personal. At this time there is a major groaning in the boundaries, and I consider that there needs to be the re-establishment of God-set boundaries. An enemy strategy is to set boundaries that are not God-boundaries. The key Scripture for me:
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 (Acts 17:26,27).
Below is a transcript – pretty close to what I said!!
In this short video I want to talk a little bit about boundaries and borders.
Something that has been on my heart and mind over the last, six months or so is that we are coming into a season – we’ve always been there of course – but we’re coming into a season where borders and boundaries are going to be challenged and need to be reestablished. Scripture is full of talk about boundaries and borders. You can go back to the inheritance of the 12 tribes and you have from this territory to that one, etc. You could even talk from Deuteronomy about the angels who come and who were numbered in order to shepherd the nations so there are borders there.
I want to focus on borders at that kind of level in a moment but there’s a lot in scripture about personal boundaries. I love it when Jesus said that He laid down His life for us. That’s why we have life in God today. But He also said nobody can take His life from Him. He knew where His borders were. He knew where the boundaries were. They were not trampled over. He laid down His life and as I understand it, that’s at the origin of things like: “Forgive us our trespasses where we trespass over somebody else’s boundaries or borders where we should not travel.” “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us – who cross our boundaries. So personal boundaries are absolutely vital and I think there has to be kind of a parallel movement in where we are.
For example, of Martin learning his personal boundaries and not overstepping them and not going into other territory. For example, not going into territory beyond where he’s anointed or territory beyond where he’s responsible, and not allowing anyone else to trample over his boundaries but he’s establishing them.
If I can establish internal boundaries then I’m sure that I can be used by God to help establish other boundaries. Now the scripture that really has been of interest to me in this last while is Acts 17:26 and onwards. “From one ancestor He made all peoples to inhabit the whole earth.” That’s one of the reasons why all war is ultimately “civil war”. It’s not simply “nation against nation.” We are all descended from one ancestor. It is a “family affair.” And that’s why all war ultimately has to be ended.
Going on: “He made all peoples inhabit the whole earth and He allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries (or borders) of the places where they would live.” The “times” of their existence is the Greek word “Kairos” so there’s something here about an opportunity. Borders for people are to give an opportunity. Opportunity for what? So that “they would search for God and perhaps fumble about for Him and find Him though He indeed 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.” We’re all children of God by creation. Yes, we have to come into redemption to find that real home in God as Father, but there’s this place where boundaries that are established – that God establishes – are places within which God can be found. Hence one of the areas of major attack is boundaries.
If the enemy can establish boundaries that are not God boundaries, then he absolutely removes that possibility of people “stumbling and finding God” or at least making God obscure to them. God wants to reveal His own life, His own personality and His own being to people. Ultimately, of course, that revelation is through Jesus at the Cross, but within God’s set boundaries that are a place for people to seek after, stumble, fumble along, BUT find God. Hence, I do believe what we’re seeing at the moment is a real “groaning” in the areas of boundaries.
Two illustrations in recent days (and these will be within a UK context):
· The sycamore tree on the old Hadrian Wall cut down (they don’t know quite how it happened) a landmark marking that boundary. In this time there’s a groaning at that boundary.
· At the same time the felling of an old yew tree in the area where the Battle of Hastings took place.
So, one boundary, the English-Scottish border defined by the Romans, and another, a marker where the Norman Invasion took place – issues of history – trees that have stood there marked time. That yew tree was a thousand years, probably plus, old, and perhaps originally saw that conflict and establishment of the Norman Conquest. So we see simply at an illustrative level there is a provocation with regard to boundaries.
The Ukraine boundaries and the Israel and the Gaza Strip boundaries – they’re under attack and they’re seeking to be reestablished. It tells me something. Even my homeland of Orkney, positing “could we leave Scotland” and maybe join as part of a Scandinavian country, Norway for example. There’s a groaning going on, and I think this is where somehow, we need to be involved now, maybe not the macro level but I think what we need to be involved in is saying, “God establish boundaries in me. Help me live within them.” Because whatever God does in us is what He will do through us so that we can establish boundaries.
I think one of the mistakes we make as believers is to get caught quickly into a political area: “Should there be independence for this country?” “Should a Brexit happen or not happen?” The real issue is the politics need to follow and serve the boundaries that are being set spiritually.
So where am I going with this?
I’d like to suggest that in this season God wants to really hone in on us personally – that’s Number One – with regard to our boundaries:
· that they cannot be crossed
· that we know where they are
· we know who we are
· that we begin to establish the boundaries that God has given us and defend them.
Because within those boundaries the psalmist says, “I have an inheritance.” They’ve “fallen in good places”, “beautiful situation” and inside that, there I have an inheritance.
I believe also in our geographies or among our people group or where we feel called that we begin, in the spirit, to establish boundaries. “This is in.” “This is out.” That, I think, actually to be honest with you, is the origin of the “binding and loosing” scriptures. It’s a Jewish idiom, or a way of speaking that the rabbis used, which was, what you bind is what you did not allow, and what you released is what you allowed. This is what is allowed within our jurisdiction (the community of God), this is what was not allowed. That’s the origins of binding and loosing, what you bind on Earth, what you loose on Earth, etc. It’s what is established there.
I want to encourage you, in a season when boundaries are being set – and we will see major, major, major shifts in political boundaries and alliances. I think if we can participate with God (think “Beyond The Four Walls” of Church, this is God’s world and everything in it) to begin to establish some boundaries, begin to ask God, “What is the boundary?”, and it might be incredibly small in our mind: it could be the boundary of a street where you live, or three or four houses. You know that’s one of the areas where I pray, where Gayle and I pray, is with regard to immediate neighbors, that within those boundaries because we live there, certain things can flourish and certain things cannot flourish.
But for some of you, it’s going to be wider and some of you are going to be “walking boundaries.” It might not be the boundary that is stated by politics it might be ancient boundaries some of which need to be reestablished some of which really need to be uprooted and changed. So, it’s not about finding political community boundaries, things set by a local council, local government or a national government or European government or whatever. It might or might not be that but it’s what are the boundaries that God is giving. Because if we can really see in the spirit, boundaries established, what we will find is, angels appear at boundary areas. That’s where Jacob met the angels. As he left one territory to enter another, he met angels ascending and descending at that point. Heaven and Earth were touching there.
And if we can just begin to establish boundaries, and many of them will overlap with what other people are doing, I do believe we’re going to begin to see a situation whereby people understand, “this is a Kairos moment.” The boundaries have been set by God, not by demonic forces, not simply by politics, not by big business, but they’ve been set by God. Something that both might include nations, transcend nations, be smaller than nations, be bigger than Nations. Boundaries that God has set and within it, yeah maybe fumbling along, maybe stumbling, but in order that they might find God. That is the Kairos moment I believe we’re coming into. And I think one of the things that we’re called to do in this season is to set boundaries that are “God boundaries”.
So, in closing, think about your own internal boundaries, where they’ve been crossed. Forgive us where we’ve crossed boundaries of others. Help us establish our own boundaries as we forgive those who have crossed boundaries and hemmed us in. And also, to be aware not to overstretch. There are areas of anointing that we have and there are areas, to be honest, where we’re not anointed or gifted, but have character and have been trained in order to cross over. But there are boundaries, beyond ourselves, that I believe God wants to give us in order that we can establish boundaries for others. This, I believe, is one of the mandates that God is giving us over these next, I would suggest, six years, that God is giving to us to begin to establish. if we can do that, I do expect that we can see, where boundaries are being threatened, as we see in issues of war, we can see peace come to those. Reconciliation at the at the crossing points. And we can see something reversed of the horrendous things that we’re witnessing at this time.
So, I commit this to you I submit it to you and if it resonates, go back to scripture see what you see there and let’s journey forward together.
Not that I have the last word on anything – nor do I suspect does anyone else… There are words that won’t pass away but as for the rest of what we say and write???
Anyway I am still working on boundaries / borders, so this will not be my last word on this, and once it is my last word there will be much more to say!
My entry to this is stimulated by Paul’s hugely optimistic and ‘wideness in the mercy of God’ approach where he positively quotes a poet that we (all) are God’s offspring and that in God we all move, live and have our being, and he relates this back to God setting for the people the boundaries and times (kairos) where they live with the purpose / hope that God might be found. A very positive view of ‘God-set boundaries’… So the converse – we are in a war zone (spiritual) – would be that if boundaries are brought in that are not ‘God boundaries’ the ‘stumbling so that they might find God’ would be resisted. Then loads of stuff in Scripture about boundaries…
War – Ukraine currently – re-drawing boundaries… colonialism likewise.
In a forthcoming biography on Mitt Romney the author describes how:
Romney has become obsessed with a large map, printed in 1931 by Rand McNally, charting the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful civilizations. “But what struck Romney most about the map was how thoroughly it was dominated by tyrants of some kind—pharaohs, emperors, kaisers, kings. ‘A man gets some people around him and begins to oppress and dominate others,'” Romney told his interviewer. “It’s a testosterone-related phenomenon, perhaps. I don’t know. But in the history of the world, that’s what happens.”
Surprisingly I do not have a downer on the male gender (I wonder why?) but I do believe there is an underlying critique of patriarchy / so called male ‘headship’ throughout Scripture that culminates in God in male form submitting the Incarnation to the cross – to bring about a new humanity that does not have the Genesis narrative to categorise it as ‘male and female’. As Romney puts above the grab and take (moving ancient boundary stones in biblical language) lies at the door of the male gender (a generalisation that is all-but an absolute).
So in this season – and this is an indication of where my thoughts are headed:
I expect boundaries to be challenged. In a few days time I will with family – 3 generations – visit Orkney. Might seem far fetched that there could be a push for Orkney to align with Norway, but it is a sign. The earth yields signs. I expect conflictual pressure with respect to national / regional boundaries. Alongside boundary challenges, new alignments that indicate partnership and travelling together – so watch trade agreements, and (as indicated at the beginning of the year) currency alignments. Not all of these will establish new ‘God boundaries’ but some of us need to be alert enough to help with the new distribution.
Old categories that simply circumscribe ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ will be increasingly challenged. There will be a pushing to escape! The Spanish football team (the women) recently won the world cup on the field and beyond the final they are engaged in exposing male abuse of power… Spain has a long way to go; the world has a long way to go, but Paul said if we are in Christ the old categories no longer should be drawn on, for there is ‘new creation’. This is more than a new world, it is more than re-ordering the kosmos, it is about seeing that there is a new creation (ktisis) that can be seen. That new creation will appear to be ‘feminine’ not because it is, but because it will be in contrast to the kosmos we have created from the first ktsis (creation).
I suspect there is a close relationship between gender and land… for land to be free there has to be something to follow (land follows people), so that then land releases its gift for the freedom of people. People and land are like two legs – one moves, the other follows, then the other moves. Hence I see a people / land relationship that Paul draws on in Romans 8 as being parallel to the Israel / Egypt relationship (or maybe we put it in more up to date terms church / world). Shelter and protection became oppression and bondage so that there might be liberation with a resultant shelter and protection – I know that is a bit obscure, but it is a work in progress – so we see it in the life of Jesus: down to Egypt, release from Egypt so that there might be salvation for ‘Egypt’.
A time to see boundaries expand… and shrink.
And I guess when I do write about boundaries I might need to put something in there about our internal boundaries… if they are in good shape that will help us find God. And part of finding God will be that with healthier internal boundaries we might cease to see others in the artificial categories we create – and maybe if we see them… we might just see God (a little clearer)?
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.
A number of years ago I was in Sacramento, maybe some 20 years ago and I was with a group of people who were looking at the ‘Church beyond the congregation’ (Thank you Mr. Jim T). At one point the person hosting asked someone to share her story. She worked in a Credit Union and was part of the department that had to follow through with people whose debt was a significant problem, making contact by phone. The sharp end for some unpleasant conversations. She explained that she began to realise that she could not view being in work as simply so that she could earn some money. After all God was her Provider. She then came across Ps. 16:6,
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage (NRSV).
The boundary line so have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (NIV)
The clear implication is that within the boundary lines there is an inheritance. She began to thank God for her boundary lines at work, and began to ask for the inheritance within those boundaries. She went on to explain (humbly) that recently they had had in-house training for her department, and at the end of the session the trainer said, ‘But if truth be out, and you really want to work well here, talk to Rose (not her real name) for we have so many commendations from our clients about her work.’
She had called people as they were planning their suicide and averted that giving them hope, she had contacted people and had been able to share wisdom that had saved them from yet more debt; the bank had received calls and letters saying what a credit she was to them and how much she had helped them.
That story has stuck with me. First, a move to acknowledge the boundary as coming from heaven, then seeking to uncover the inheritance there, that inheritance always will involve what we can be for someone else, how we can at some level become a ‘life-giving spirit’.
Our boundaries will always be challenged. I suggest two of the main ways is through jealousy or through intimidation. Jealousy will always seek to displace us, to dislocate us (and one of the reasons why a percentage of joint issues are rooted in jealousy that has been unleashed against us, Proverbs informing us that though anger is cruel, jealousy is at another level and asks if we can even stand against it). Jealousy results in an encroachement on our boundaries, that piece of land that is indeed ours. This encroachement is warned against:
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up (Prov 22:28).
Do not remove an ancient landmark or encroach on the fields of orphans, for their redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you (Prov 23:10,11).
You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess (Deut. 19:14).
Cursed be anyone who moves a neighbor’s boundary marker.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deut 27:17).
The princes of Judah have become like those who remove the landmark; on them I will pour out my wrath like water (Hos. 5:10).
God does not take too kindly to it when we get involved in boundary moving and seek to encroach on another’s sphere. It was there in the original plan for the land, and thankfully even when there was bad stewardship the boundaries were to be restored in the year of Jubilee.
Jealousy and also intimidation to push someone back from their allotted place.
We can stand, even if Proverbs says ‘who can stand’. And stand we must, being the one central instruction in the ‘spiritual warfare’ (for this read ‘life’) passage. When the day of evil comes, stand, stand firm, withstand… That is important as the demonic (opposition in life) has a limitation on it location / territorial wise and time-wise. If we hold our boundaries then we restrict the location aspect and if we hold in the time frame will change.
In the middle of the passage on Gideon’s army we come across a statement that, ‘While each person held their position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled’. Their position. No comparison, no competition, no jealousy, no intimidation, no inordinate fear of inadequacy, no seeking to comply to someone else’s view of us, etc… Just here are my boundaries (one day they might increase) and in them I am something for someone else as I have an inheritance here.