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.