Lockdown – a few thoughts

Romans 12:2 English Standard Version

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This train of thought began while reading John 1 where “The Word” (Jesus) came to this world, stepped into our physical, corrupted environment and ‘became’ one of us.

Being in “Lockdown” has set me thinking. We are advised to not go out so as not to come into contact with anyone who, or anything that, could contaminate us.

The scripture tells us that we are to be in the world but not ‘of the world‘.

Right now when we go out we are careful how close we get to people. We avoid touching things. We use hand sanitizer. We perhaps even wipe the bar on the shopping trolley. Some of us may eve wear face masks in the hope that might trap the virus. When we get home we wash our hands thoroughly.

So much conscious effort not to be contaminated. Why? Because we might die!

As a Christian, how careful am I not to be contaminated by sin, by the world? Do I make any effort at all to avoid touching things I shouldn’t, to avoid going places unnecessarily, to keep my distance from potential infection?

What do I watch? Read? Listen to?

Then there’s what I talk about. Do I risk polluting others by my words and actions?

Lots to meditate on there.

Philippians 4:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Corona Virus

Facebook led me yesterday to a video of a Muslim Imam doing something of a rant about COVID 19 being a punishment from Allah for women not wearing the Burkha and displaying their ankles and necks in public (most of a woman’s body in stricter sects of Islam being considered to be “private parts“).

I got quite angry, if not amused at points, at the ridiculousness of his statements ……. but it set me thinking.

It is a very unpopular thought in the modern western world that God might have rules and be angry when we break them. It is even more unacceptable that he would punish human beings for their behaviour, even though we readily accept man-made laws and abide by them, most of the time!

In a scripture very well known to Jews and Christians alike God is very clear about the consequences of our behaviour. I quote the verses at the end in full but for now pull out these two elements:-

” At times I might ……. send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people ……. humble themselves and pray …….. I will hear …… forgive their sins and restore (heal) their land.”

Thus SIN in the Old Testament is clearly associated with punishment, even the sending of plagues.

The context of the scripture is where Solomon has finally had his father’s plans for a new temple completed and built and the first services have been held including masses of animal sacrifices for sin.

But note that God is saying that He* actually sends plagues as a punishment! It is not a popular thought, indeed many Christians reading this will disagree with me(!), that a “God of Love”, in an age where anything goes in the name of “love“, would send a virus to punish mankind? Is it possible? Well, I have news for you, a quick read through the book of Revelation might put you straight on that one. We have horrendous days ahead at some point in time that will make the Corona virus look like the hiccups!

*I should add that the reality may be that SIN let’s bad things happen. For instance, our abuse of the planet seems to have caused climatic changes which in turn have led to fire and flood. So it isn’t so much that God is sending as that we are bringing upon ourselves! One might similarly speculate around the Aids epidemic. That could have been stopped in its tracks by behavioural change, just as we see attempts to stop COVID 19.

It is amazing enough that a microscopic organism can kill a person but crazy that at the macro level in enough numbers it can close shops, shut everyone in their homes, ground aircraft and bring whole economies to their knees.

So I’m left wondering, does that Imam have a point. Not about naked ankles and necks, but about just how material and sensual our society has become, how saturated with casual attitudes to relationships, turning a virtue-signalling blind eye to the murder of babies, self-centered greed and consumerism at the expense of the very planet we live on and the enslavement of our fellow human beings.

Has God had enough?

One of the immediate effects of the virus is that people are seriously re-evaluating what life is all about. Whether with a faith or not, what do we want life to be like? How important are family and friends? And of course the age old question ….. who is my neighbour?

I started with some excerpts fro a passage in 2 Chronicles. Here’s the whole thing.

11 So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. 12 Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said,

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honoured forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.”

I’m an Atheist!

Over the years we have had many conversations with people, especially young people, who call themselves atheists. For someone who has “encountered God” such conversations are filled with a mixture of sadness (that the other hasn’t) and “anger” that the education system and society at large encourages a disbelief in God, to the point often of ridicule of “theists”.

From the outset the theist and atheist perceptions of what human beings are is totally at odds. The atheist is simply a brain and a body, an intellect with feelings. Bipartite if you will. The Christian is Tripartite (a Trinity), body, mind and spirit (or soul). The atheist has no afterlife to anticipate or be concerned about. The Christian knows that death is not the end, indeed that this life determines the nature of that afterlife.

Clearly a conversation is difficult from the outset! “How do you know?” “Prove it” “Where is God?”

Sadly, the world and the media daily reinforce that this is all we get, make the most of it, do what makes you happy, etc.

Way better and more qualified people have websites dealing with the logical reasons to believe. Suffice it to say for now that I would encourage anyone not get bogged down in the first few chapters of Genesis, but rather to examine the evidence for the existence of Jesus and the Resurrection. Once you are convinced that He really did die and rise again everything else will fall into place.

By way of a kind of post script I have found it very interesting that people on the autistic spectrum, who by nature are very logical in their thinking, tend to be atheist because God is outside the observable. HOWEVER I have met some whose logical mind has led them to absolutely believe that there has to be a God because of the observable creation.

Reinhard Bonnke

I was never privileged to hear Reinhard preach in real life, but his fame, especially in Africa, is phenomenal.

He once preached to a crowd and 1 million people responded to the call to give their lives to Christ. That is possibly unprecedented.

His secret? A close walk with the Holy Spirit and the faith that God would answer.

He was only 79 and to die so soon after Billy Graham it feels like God is clearing the ground for a new generation of evangelist to rise up. We are in desperate need of a massive in gathering, if not indeed the final harvest.

Rest in peace is a strange term to use when the next thing Reinhard will be aware of is an extravagant party in his honour as he takes his place in eternity.

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