After a couple of detours to look at other views, I’m back in the Psalms and today’s was Psalm 122. It is a Psalm I normally skip over as of no interest to me but today I meditated on it a bit longer.
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:1-2 NIV)
I thought of myself being invited by a group of friends to go on an exciting trip with them, to Jerusalem, to the temple. I felt included. “Let us…” I also felt accepted. There was a tacit understanding that I would be welcome in the house of the LORD.
It was also exciting. “Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.” I might take a selfie of myself and my group with the gates. It’s like boasting on social media -“I am at the Taj Mahal, or the Red Square or Big Ben.”
Verses 3 – 5 describe Jerusalem almost like a travel brochure – what it looks like, some of its history and tourist attractions.
The remaining verses exhort us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It’s like going to Cape Town and being asked to save water.
So, as a tourist to Jerusalem, I will pray for its peace and prosperity.
I read an interesting piece on our church’s website this morning called the Plague of Plagues by Michael Philips. It is quite long but thought provoking and very biblical and it turned my thoughts once more in the direction of viruses and sin.
I am a microbiologist by training and I learned a bit of virology, as well as a bit of bacteriology, mycology, immunology, biochemistry and assorted other -ologies. I have often linked in my mind sin to some kind of infection so let’s play and pretend sin is a virus. Unlike earthly viruses, this one infects the soul as well as the body.
Patients zero were Adam and Eve. The virus quickly spread through mother to child transmission as well as contact with other infected people and now everybody has got it.
The symptoms are obvious. Paul gives a list in 1 Cor 6:9-10. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? He then goes on to list some of the symptoms:- sexual immorality, idolatory, adultery, theft, greed, slander. There are other symptoms and they all fall into the category of ignoring God, His commands, His gifts, His love. Instead people want to do things their own way making themselves into gods.
Society down the ages has done their best to treat the symptoms, just like we might take decongestants for our cold. It will not cure us, only take away the symptoms. The Ten Commandments were a set of laws designed to treat the symptoms in society and model what cured people might look like. Other societies have laws and customs that do the same. With varying degrees of success they try to limit murder, theft, and antisocial behaviour with punishments which deter many from giving in to the tendencies which are symptomatic of the infection.
There is a cure. Think of it as a blood transfusion. …and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7b NIV)
If we get a blood transfusion with blood that contains antibodies to the virus, we will slowly get better as the virus is neutralised. It doesn’t happen overnight, but slowly we get better. This is a once off treatment. However, to be totally clear of the virus and to prevent re-infection, we need our bodies to make more antibodies. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to enable this process. We become sanctified. Again, it is a slow process and some of the symptoms take a long time to disappear because of damage that they have caused to our bodies and spirits.
John goes on to say in verses 8 and 9, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Imagine if, at the time of your blood transfusion, the doctor gave you a certificate saying you were no longer infectious, even though you might still have a symptom or two. This certificate could give you access to places you could not normally enter as an infected person. You could go through the screening processes with impunity. You could even have access to the Kingdom of Heaven which has a very strict anti-infection policy.
I’m sure trained ministers and pastors would pick holes in my analogy, but I had fun. Hope you did too.
An encouraging verse to leave you with as we all think about viruses, infections, quarantines, lockdowns, prohibitions, economic collapse and the like.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)
Our daily devotion this morning was Jesus’ claim, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV)
He said to me, “I am the way, walk in it. I am the truth, believe it. I am the life, live it.”
For some reason the song,Cause me to come to thy river, O Lord, came to my mind. I thought, I cannot do this, only God can cause me to come, to walk in the way, to believe the truth, to live the life.
Cause me to come to Thy river O Lord Cause me to come to Thy river O Lord Cause me to come to Thy river O Lord Cause me to come Cause me to drink Cause me to live.
Cause me to drink from Thy river O Lord Cause me to drink from Thy river O Lord Cause me to drink from Thy river O Lord Cause me to come Cause me to drink Cause me to live.
Cause me to live by Thy river O Lord Cause me to live by Thy river O Lord Cause me to live by Thy river O Lord Cause me to come Cause me to drink Cause me to live.
The first verse spoke to me of the way, the way to the river of life. Christ is the way, there is no other path. Drinking the pure water talks to me of truth. The water is not polluted by this world’s lies and distortions. The third verse speaks of life, of living.
I have my own cause me prayers.
Lord, cause me to know Your will and to follow it. Cause me to hear Your voice and obey it. Cause me to know Your love and rest in it. Amen.
Philippians 4:13 is a favourite verse of many Christians, me included.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (NLT)
However this verse is often used out of context. Paul is thanking the Philippian church for their gift. He says,
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil.4:11-15 NIV)
The “All things” we like to refer to is actually the ability to be content in any circumstance. I need this strength at this time. After last night’s address by the president I felt depressed because it looks like a long time before life in South Africa is going to get any better, and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to go back to how things used to be.
Can I be content if we don’t go to the South Coast in our motor-home in July as we have planned and booked? Can I brave the worst of the winter in Jo’burg doing the same old lockdown nothing?
Can I be content if we don’t fly to Port Elizabeth at the end of August for my mother’s birthday?
Can I be content if we don’t get to go to New Zealand in December to visit our children and grandchildren.
When my plans are arbitrarily foiled and cancelled can I be content?
This is what we are all called to do – keep going for the long haul, keep trusting God in all circumstances and be content in the process. This is when we need all the strength that Christ can give us so we can say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
A new theme has been tugging at the corners of my mind lately. In a series by Max Lucado called “You will get through this,” we learned last night that one thing that helped Joseph get through betrayal, a trip down to Egypt as a captive, slavery, unjust accusations and a prison term, was the destiny God had planted in his heart at a young age. Because of his dreams, he knew God had a plan for him, a destiny.
Then on Sunday the kids talk looked at things made for a purpose. We looked at a huge beach ball which was made for fun. When it gets popped, however, it can no longer fulfill its purpose. In the same way, God made us for a purpose. Sin breaks us in a way that we can no longer fulfill God’s purpose. However, Christ’s victory over sin can reverse this process and make us new.
I have a blouse that I love and that I’ve had for at least five years. It contains my favourite colours, I like the style, it matches most of my clothes and it doesn’t make me look fat. Recently, however, the elastic at the neck has become so feeble, I can no longer wear my blouse without constantly being aware that it is getting too low. Yesterday I started the arduous task of unpicking the elastic with the intention of inserting brand new elastic so my blouse can once again fulfill the purpose for which it was created.
In the same way, once we have been saved, God’s grace works renewal in us. We have to put off some of our old ways, habits and thoughts and put on new ones. God’s destiny for us is from grace to glory.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11 – 14 NIV)
We have a God-given destiny. Christ has redeemed us to be His people and to do what is good (some translations say good works.) This knowledge strengthens us to be able to get through what the world throws at us, be it betrayal, injustice, loss, or anything the devil uses to interfere with our achieving our true purpose.
I’ve been thinking a lot about light and sunshine and energy lately. Today’s devotional from our church fitted right into that theme.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
That’s quite a promise! I am a follower of Jesus. The promise is for me. I will never walk in darkness. I got to meditating on how I can bring that light to others.
How can I bring:-
The light of knowledge to those stuck in the darkness of ignorance? The light of hope to those in the darkness of despair? The light of freedom to those enslaved by the darkness of addiction? The light of peace to those battling dark coils of anxiety? The light of love to those in the darkness of rejection and abandonment? The light of joy to those in the darkness of disillusion? The light of guidance to those in the darkness of the lost? The light of life to those perishing in the utter darkness?
Lord, please show me how to be your torch bearer so that others may not walk in darkness. Amen.