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Inventions and the Fire of God

by David Jordan

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the
dawn …
(Hosea 6:3).


The history of inventions is a fascinating study filled with discrepancies. For instance, though widely thought, the first steam engine was notinvented in the eighteenth century by James Watt.[1]Rather, it was a Roman playing with fire and water. Like many inventors, this Roman likely stumbled on the additional energy fire could create. In essence, the Romans first discovered that, by boiling water, steam was generated, and keeping the steam enclosed created pressure that could make things move.[2]

So, too, is the history and understanding of certain Bible stories open to reinterpretation and new understanding. Hosea assured his people that the Lord’s appearance was as sure as the dawn. Similarly, the early church experienced a dawning, an awakening to God’s presence. It was a movement, a form of new and sacred energy at a time of the Jewish year called Pentecost. As Luke explains in the New Testament book The Acts of the Apostles,“…divided tongues as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (Acts 2:3). Luke describes this scene in metaphorical fashion and yet depicts God’s spirit clearly, in a way most could understand. There was something new and exciting, unpredictable and powerful, transformative and unifying.

From all over the world and speaking a multiplicity of languages, those gathered heard—each in his or her native tongue. Thus, from this small and insignificant group whose leader had just been executed as a traitor, begins a movement that would change the course of history.

If, for some reason, you are feeling discouraged or insignificant today, take heart. Know that, from this very kind of dynamic, the reshaping of history begins—all with a little fire and the presence of God in your life. Like fire and water and steam, there is a good chance something just might start to move. Be open and ready; be prepared to receive whatever is in store for you today by the surprising, transforming fire of God, for his appearance is as sure as the dawn.


Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire (Pierre Teilhard de Cardin).


[1]James Watt, in the eighteenth century, merely improved and perfected ideas that two other British inventors developed in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Romans predated them all by about 1500 years.

[2]Interestingly, the Romans never used steam for anything other than their Roman baths, as a child’s toy, and possibly a musical instrument similar to our pipe organ. Rather, the Romans relied on the abundance of slave labor. They were concerned that any potential labor-saving device could create unemployment and discontent among those needing to be kept busy with manual labor.

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