Ravi

Since we are not allowed to go anywhere for fun upon pain of being confronted by zealous inquisitors, and since the thought of an inquisition evokes the country of Spain, I’m reminded of this past week in Lock-down, day #40-something:

I had gathered some clips from the internet of people having recorded their tour of various places: Central Park, the Eiffel tower, the Bronx Zoo, Madame Tussauds in London. We did in a mini world tour over the weekend, transported thousands of miles by the wonders of television.

I saw the inside of the Vatican for the first time, and sat back to watch some Kiwi take the audience on a tour of Madrid. The tour of Madrid was actually the most interesting part of our travels. Old architecture, Moorish battles, Christian castles, restaurants that are hundreds of years old, authors being beheaded, and a visit to the presumed last resting place of Miguel de Cervantes. Presumed, because as the Kiwi guide mentioned many times, ‘we lose bodies in Madrid’.

I’d never read Cervantes’ most famous work: ‘Don Qixote de la Mancha’. According to a summary I read online, Don Qixote reads a surfeit of romantic books and gets the incredibly idealistic notion that he is a knight involved in a great quest.

The novel could have been called The Great Pretender. Except that the conceit is precisely that Don Qixote actually believes that he is a knight. His knightly exploits result in essentially nothing. The world isn’t changed, people aren’t rescued from situations, real or imagined. And Don Qixote is the recipient of regular beating as a result of sticking his nose in other peoples’ business.

In this lockdown, I have been far from my best. I imagine most of us are extremely uncomfortable. As my formative study years were involved with the idea that the press is the 4th estate, holding those in political power to account, I cannot help but enter the fray, with a few ideas and comments to counteract the banality of those who accept things as the way they are because they cannot be changed.

Like a pathetic Don Qixote, my knightly forays into social media and the Twitterverse stand at odds with the world the way it is, unmoved by my mountain of words. I have this idealistic notion that whether my words change a single thing or not, some things need to be said.

For the record.

My devotions have been infrequent. Prayer, which Scripture says changes things far more effectively than my words, has been a stranger to my cracked lips. Dry and underutilized in supplication.

I have not looked to Him to establish the proper order on His earth and hold the powerfully corrupt to account. He moves slower than I would like.

And then I hear the news that the great apologist Ravi Zacharias has succumbed to cancer. Snapped back to reality. I have not seen His hand for many days in this place. And then I see His hand in the life of Ravi.

Fire in the sky

I think of Moses with the flocks of Jethro that he led at the foot of Horeb, doing his regular work as a shepherd:

 

https://classic.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+3%3A1+-+5&version=NIV

 

Doing his thing, tending to the sheep of his father-in-law, probably taking them on a grazing circuit that was quite familiar, to the mountain and back, maybe in a loop, maybe in a figure-8 if the mood struck him.

 

In open terrain, flame is very apparent, so Moses investigated, and found that the signs of fire were there but the bush was not being consumed. The Lord got Moses’ attention:

 

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3, NIV)

In this desert of a lockdown, personally and constitutionally grieved at the God-given natural law that is being curtailed by temporal authorities, I looked at the life of Ravi, and the passing of Ravi, and I approached and found that God is even there in the place I was looking.

 

Holy ground. Because God is in this place.

 

His presence is in Lockdown Day #54. I hadn’t even noticed before.

God had called his servant Ravi home and was still on His throne.

Tent

Misty morning in May

Reading a Bible study recently (YouVersion: Christ > Corona by Mike Novotny), the author pointed to Psalms 90 and 91.

 

If you read Psalm 90 and then read Psalm 91 directly afterwards, the juxtaposition is very interesting and worth consideration in the times we are going through.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+90&version=NIV

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+91&version=NIV

 

In Psalm 90, the writer advises us to consider our mortality and realise that we have to return to dust, that God is fully aware of our moral debt and that we should ‘number our days’. The Psalmist asks God to have compassion.

 

In Psalm 91, the writer seeks God’s protection during a time of danger. The Psalmist mentions poisonous snakes, presumably hungry and angry lions and plague with ten thousand falling into death’s sigh. Basically a pandemic.

 

“9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.” (Psalm 91, NIV)

 

It would be superficial to suggest that God will never let His people suffer from snakes, lions, pandemics or any other danger.

 

Psalm 90 is as true as Psalm 91. We should number our days and seek His protection.

 

The promise that no harm will befall the Believer is not a blanket promise of no death from pandemic, however that the child of God is habitually delivered from such dangers.

 

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-91/

 

This is inspired poetry and when the Psalmist writes that no disaster will come near the tent of the Believer, I think of Paul the apostle.

 

Paul, a tent-maker by profession, using what he knows – his day job – to illustrate the frailty of flesh, and in the midst of that the hope of the Christian.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+5%3A1+-+10&version=NIV

 

Our bodies are temporary dwellings. The older we get the more we realise this. There’s only so much you can patch a tent, but what I do take from Psalm 91 is that God is intimately concerned with our welfare and the best thing we can do, in danger or not, is to seek Him.

The year that was April

I’ve stopped counting the days in the lockdown. It was fun for 3 weeks but then it just got ridiculous. The novelty wore off.

Another numberless morning

Anecdotally, I’ve seen more South African flags on display: on a table in a living room when driving past, on a flag pole three doors down from us. Presumably, people are seeing themselves as part of something bigger, a national effort to pull in one direction and be good citizens.

Braai without fresh rugby is sad

Personally, I think the national honeymoon is about at an end. It was never going to last longer than a month. As someone who has a libertarian orientation when it comes to civil rights, it’s been difficult to read about some of the things going on.

‘Tjop’ with no ‘dop’

There’s been a basic struggle going on in the street that has nothing to do with us human beings. Crows versus squirrels. The collective noun for squirrels is apparently a dray or a colony, or alternatively a scurry.

Scrat on the lookout for yet more pecan nuts

I like that. It’s been a scurry of squirrels versus a murder of crows. Moves and countermoves. The squirrels have been thorough in  collecting the pecan nuts from the tree next door and avoiding the crows. The crows got one of them this past fortnight (or week; I’m not sure as I’ve totally lost track of the accurate passage of time). They ate up the kill really fast.

 

At least two are left that we’ve been able to count: one with a truncated tail we call ‘Stumpy’ and another I call ‘Scrat’.

 

Social media (Twitter) is a dumpster fire of emotion and vitriol and you can see where people’s heads are at. It’s not pretty but at times perversely entertaining. We are not in our right minds.

Something something electrons

It feels strange not to get in the vehicle and go to work or church. I actually started a Bible study on YouVersion one morning recently, and it actually felt like an occasion. My normal day is work, leisure screen time, eating and sleeping; doing things to pass the time but without real enjoyment.

Lekker slaai

 

Daily bread

I need to get stuck into that Bible study again. I’ll tell you about it sometime. I have the time but the motivation is still in first gear.

Numbers

Days of lockdown: 24

Days until lockdown ends (theoretically): 12

 

That means that we’re 66.67% of the way there.

 

Tests conducted: 108,021

Positive cases: 3,034

Deaths: 52

 

That’s a mortality rate of 0.017%.

 

There’s a calculus to this pandemic and the way the authorities are handling it. It’s a numbers game.

 

Random numbers, random patterns, fun and games

 

The data plotted on a graph with ‘x’ and ‘y’ axes amounts to a curve. The curve must be flattened by social distancing. Not necessarily to save lives, but to save available hospital beds and medical care.

 

We all know these things.

 

The great Albert Einstein was credited with saying that ‘not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’

 

Craving fresh fruit

 

People are caring for one another. But equally, people are snitching on one another and using the pandemic as a pretext to settle social justice scores. That’s something you can’t plot on a graph or quantify with numbers.

 

Frequent coffee

 

Too many people killed by over-officious and zealous police and soldiers.

 

Human beings excluded from financial help because of their race.

 

The psychological cost of social isolation creeping unawares on ordinary people locked in their homes with the threat of fines and arrest.

 

The anxiety of people facing an abrupt halt to their ability to provide for their families.

 

The sun going down on Day 20, wishing it would go down on the lock-down

 

The virus is a numbers game but what the human condition means is that we bring to it the same ingredients that were there before, the stuff that is already baked into the cake. And the human condition (including my own) means that there are glimpses of things to be positive about, but truck loads of things to be negative about.

 

The family kettle getting a work-out

 

Only God’s working causes the equation to balance for the good.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A28&version=NIV

A very different Easter

Hulk Hogan, former wrestling personality, cheesy ‘actor’ and handlebar moustache aficionado.

 

Yeah, that guy.

 

He wrote (in part) the following, about the whole pandemic:

 

“God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. ”

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-o-YE_jgvU/

 

While referencing the plagues of Egypt out of context, Hogan is correct that this Corona virus pandemic is depriving us of things we’ve taken for granted, and possibly even things we worship in place of God. He writes that with our distractions removed from us that we should put our focus on Christ.

 

Profound for a lowly wrestler. His salient point is that in the midst of all that is going on, and all that isn’t going on, that we should fix our eyes on Christ and our relationship to Him.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+12%3A1+-+3&version=NIV

 

I can’t even think about two weeks from now.

A reminder of the sacrifice

It’s Good Friday and Sunday’s on the way.

The suffering servant

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53%3A3+-+6&version=NIV

Made for each other

Lockdown week 2

Literally counting the days
I’ve not been as reflective of the lockdown as this swimming pool is of the moon, just counting days.
Night falls
Cackle-berries
Communion with cyber-church
Sometimes, it’s really good to be a South African
Two days of rain, reflective of His common grace…he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous
Serene morning…coffee and a view
Evening, then morning. The circadian rhythm persists as He established and His creation experiences it

Lockdown

Braai time
Castle by the casa
Raak vir my rustig
Seeing more of the garden than usual
Foxes have holes and birds have nests…
A bug’s life
No reason change out of PJ’s
Essential equipment for dealing with the lock-down
Birthday cake
A strange juxtaposition…what would it taste like? And would the wine be rendered rainbow-coloured?
Never fails to get a laugh
Did you also see the toilet rolls in the shot? Topical in the time of Covid-19

Murphy

A tradition that has emerged every St Paddy’s day is for the wife to buy me a pack of Kilkenny Irish cream ale, to celebrate my Celtic heritage.

 

It’s a supposition mind you. I’ve no chain of birth certificates and so on to prove I’m part Irish, but I do find Riverdance irresistible.

 

It’s been a muted St Paddy’s this year. Kilkenny sold out, but that is the least of our problems. The time between St Paddy’s day and Easter has become all about Covid-19.

 

A lot of people on social media are apologising to 2019 for all the things they said about it when considering what 2020 is shaping up to be.

 

At the moment, the year 2020 seems to fit hand-in-glove with the maxim of Murphy’s law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Put more gently, and in another way, you will never find a lost article until you buy a replacement.

 

Or, matter will be damaged in direct proportion to it’s value. Or, you’ll never stub your toes, but the day you hurt one, you will continue to stub it even if you try to be careful.

 

Murphy’s law is more tongue-in-cheek than anything, however there are recognisable laws that operate consistently because of human nature.

 

Parkinson’s law holds that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. So, essentially no matter what an employer does to implement a process or system to get work done faster, that improved process or system creates more work to handle. That’s why there’s always so much work to do without enough time.

 

Student syndrome identifies a human behaviour where people leave things to the last minute. Seen most acutely in students who become experts at cramming right before an exam or assignment. This is apparently also true in the business world where tasks are deliberately not assigned too far in advance of a deadline. Productive panic is evidently better than procrastination.

 

The law of fibre … eat some, or you’ll know about it

 

I last wrote about Paul’s book of Romans back in November 2019. A lot has happened since then, and for the last few days – apart from this global pandemic – I’ve been thinking about the two laws that Paul writes about in Romans.

 

The law of sin and death.

 

And the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

 

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-deadly-team-of-sin-and-law

 

In Romans 7, Paul is writing to remind us of the law of marriage. It is binding on the relationship between the husband and wife ‘until death…do part’.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+7%3A+1+-+4&version=ESV

 

“Death ends all obligations and contracts. A wife is no longer bound to her husband if he dies because death ends that contract. If her husband dies, she is free from that law.” In the same way, a Believer is freed from trying to please God through the law because he is – in a way – dead to it.

 

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-7/

 

Paul writes that the law is good and it points to the standard of how we ought to live. But we could never abide by it. The law of sin and death basically boils down to the law being vulnerable to sin using it.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+7%3A+7+-+13&version=NIV

 

Paul writes that he once was ‘innocent’ of coveting (enviously desiring what someone else had) but when he was exposed to the law that said not to covet, that sinful desire used the law to channel sin into that forbidden activity.

 

Its not that Paul had never coveted before, but when he became aware of the law against coveting, his sinful nature amplified the desire for the forbidden. It is sinful to break the law of God. It’s doubly sinful of sin to use God’s law to break God’s law.

 

You may be able to imagine Paul becoming aware of his sinfulness in the light of the law with the same blushing realisation of Adam and Eve realising what they had done. But that realisation didn’t change Adam or Paul. Their desire for the forbidden became more acute.

 

The law of sin and death.

 

The law was intended to be good, and it is good, however the flaw is not in the commandment but in man’s sinful nature.  It’s entirely perverse that sin could use something good (the law) and use it to stimulate rebellion. The Greek word Paul uses when describing sin seizing the opportunity evokes the idea of sin establishing a beachhead on our territory, using it as a fulcrum from which to launch ever bolder attacks.

 

The law of sin and death is that we could never follow God’s law. We tripped up. Every time. Sin leads to death. Paul writes that Christians should no longer live that way.

 

The law can give us the standard to follow, but it could never empower our flesh to be changed and follow it.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A+1+-+2&version=NIV

 

The law of the Spirit who gives life (in Christ Jesus) has set us free from the law of sin and death.

 

This is what Paul was talking about when he described Believers who have ‘died to the law through the body of Christ’ and ‘now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit’ (Romans 7: 4, 6).

 

The key is ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Not living by the flesh, but by the Spirit. It is a mystical and spiritual union between Believers and Christ:

 

Christ in Believers by his Holy Spirit.

 

Believers in Christ by faith.

 

I have discovered through experience that Paul’s description of the human being who tries to live by the law is accurate and frustrating. But I’m also relieved that being ‘in Christ’ isn’t a metric that I need to attain on a graph but a position I enjoy.

Clickbait versus prayer

Once upon a time, there was the steady, authoritative voice of Walter Cronkite, the most trusted name in America. A newsman trusted to be straight with the public.

 

How far we’ve fallen. With a business model that is obsessed with clickbait, disaster is great for the news biz. Hype, opening monologues dripping with hyperbole and emotion, punditry in place of detached reporting, a 24 hour cycle that looks for a breaking disaster at the top of every hour, there are few trusted names in news.

 

And the media just love the whole corona virus saga.

 

I’ve been guilty of letting them feed the paranoia and fear straight into my consciousness.

 

http://theconversation.com/coronavirus-how-media-coverage-of-epidemics-often-stokes-fear-and-panic-131844

 

Not today. For the first time in perhaps a week, I prayed on the commute to work, lamenting the time not spent in Scripture. I currently have a streak of 54 in the YouVersion app.

 

As I prayed, an image emerged of a hungry Christian dipping his finger to the dinner plate for just a taste of Scripture, when a meal is ready for the eating. I’ve been feeding on a meal replacement diet of media generated hysteria and I feel sick of it.

 

Thinking of food, I remembered how prayer is like a fragrance in His nostrils. I like how the author of this article uses the morning aroma of coffee to introduce the idea of God’s children praying to him:

 

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-aromas-god-loves-most

 

“like [my] coffee, it wasn’t simply the fragrance itself that pleased God, but what it represented: the constant prayers of his people.”

 

Coffee with a hand sanitizer chaser…for these Corona virus times

 

This morning my prayer was in part for dependence on Him, seeking peace in these crazy times, and salvation for those who don’t yet know Him.

 

A glance through social as well as mainstream media shows people looking out for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with prepping, but it’s too easy to skip town and skip past God.

 

I’m thinking of the poor people of Italy who have been so hard hit, and I’m thinking of Samaritan’s purse. While everyone is running to ground, these Christians are not drawing back from those in need. They’re going into the hot zone, having evaluated the risk, made a plan to minimize it and trusting the Father for the rest.

 

https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/samaritans-purse-airlifts-field-hospital-to-italy/

 

I can’t do what these folk are doing. They’re doctors and specialist, real life-savers. Perhaps we can all yet be His hands and feet to those who must surely be in need at this time.

 

Certainly, I need to pray more. It smells great.

Weary minds playing 4D chess

Watching my way through a classic James Bond film recently, something stuck out at me: The chess master Kronsteen thinks he has conceived of every possible variable in the plan to set up and finally kill the ultimate gentleman spy (From Russia with love).

 

Kronsteen misses the possibility that the Russian femme used to pull James Bond into the plot may in fact fall in love with the English spy, and it is this wrinkle in his plan that causes his abrupt and unforgiving termination from SPECTRE via a poison-barbed boot.

 

I noticed the same temptation in me: to try out-think every problem and scenario until I have a solution, even if I’m powerless to implement the solution.

 

This is a deeply ingrained habit of my thinking, moulded by reductionism and the belief that every problem, like every physical artefact or system can be reduced to its components, analysed and conquered through the application of logic.

 

Reductionism is useful and technically competent, however it has shortcomings when looking at the world through the eyes of faith.

 

Recently I’ve been reading through a series on YouVersion: Get out of your head (reading plan from Jennie Allen). She starts off by pointing to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and the idea of taking every thought captive.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+10%3A4+-+5&version=NIV

 

You could put that in other words as gaining control over your thoughts.

 

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/prayer/take-your-thoughts-captive-509888.html

 

As Christians it’s easy to think incorrectly. John Piper provides a more comprehensive theological perspective, framing thinking as a battle. Paul uses combat and siege imagery: Destroying arguments, taking thoughts captive. However this refers to the thoughts of those who oppose God in the context of the passage.

 

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-take-my-thoughts-captive

 

What does that have to do with the Christian? Plenty. The Christian often comes out of an unregenerate mode of thinking and old habits can attempt to re-emerge. To say nothing of the idea that sin can corrupt our thinking. If Adam – with all the advantages of being innocent up until that point – could reason his way into original sin, then we can fall short as well. And do.

 

Piper summarizes it in a way that makes it easy to understand. The Christian should submit their thinking to Biblical scrutiny and ask the Holy Spirit to work in their thought life.

 

This is not a strength of mine. Often I don’t consult Scripture and opt instead for the counsel of Google and other online forums. I look at the problems in front of me: ill health, Bernie Sanders and the prospect of a socialist juggernaut in America, the South African economy in its second year of recession. You name the problem and I war-game it. Multiple angles, looking for solutions, using everything except perspective.

 

A peaceful scene from an anxious place

 

Like breathing in anxiety and breathing our panic.

 

Biblical perspective is what I need. What we all need.

 

A weary mind playing 4D chess, but needing Biblical perspective. Less news. More truth.