Butterfly Paradise

The return to good rainfall after a couple of years of drought has certainly inspired the local butterflies to get breeding. It is like being in one of those tropical butterfly farms in our garden.

Although the white ones are most prolific at the moment there are others as well. At one stage I found myself in a swarm of maybe 100 butterflies all fluttering by me.

Ephesians 2:3

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 2:3. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 2:3

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath.

We were all sinners before we were saved. We also lived among them, that is, sins and transgressions. We were not born innocent, but had what theologians used to call “original sin.” We were born sinful from the start.

Our lives have all been different in many ways, but every person has this tendency to sin. Paul calls this the “sinful nature” or in some translations” flesh.” In some people this is seen in obvious acts of immorality and criminality. In others the sinful nature operates in more respectable ways. However, it is all sin.

Flesh or sinful nature is not related to our bodily make up. Is a concise expression for the part of our nature which always tends towards sin or rebellion against God,

We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There is no exception apart from Jesus.

Pleasing the sinful nature is the default setting for humanity. Unless we consciously intervene, we will inevitably sin.

A car with its wheels incorrectly aligned will drift to the left or the right unless the driver constantly steers the vehicle the opposite way. An intervention from the driver, and ultimately a mechanic, is necessary.

We all veer towards sin unless we choose not to. But even our thoughts and desires are tainted by sin so that we cannot always make the right choice. We need to be made over by God.

So until we come to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to adjust our thinking we are doomed to sin, even if we try to do what is right.

Before we were saved we were living in sin and transgressions, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.

It is not hard to work out what these cravings of the flesh nature might be. In fact psychologists define a hierarchy of needs which is, in fact, a guide to the fleshly nature.

We have a physical needs such as food, water, shelter, sex and so on. The need for food easily changes to gluttony as we feed the body as much as possible when food is available. The drive for sex turns to last when it is unrestrained.

Then there are issues that relate to safety. but our self-directed sinful nature demands that need his meeting ways that are harmful to others.

As we go up the hierarchy of needs we discover that, although these are God-given drives that exist in all of us, they so easily lead us to sinning if we live independently of God. This is particularly true of the higher order needs of self- esteem and self- actualisation. These are driven by self- a code word for flesh.

We were once in that place of being led by the flesh, the sinful nature, that lives independently of God. We once lived in rebellion against God.

Because we are born with this sinful nature, and therefore default to sin, before we were Christians satan had very little to do to secure our destruction. We were left to our own devices, and as we lived in sin, we would have died in sin, and ultimately we would go to hell. It should not be a surprise that it is after we are saved we become subjects of satan’s attacks . These take the form of temptation, persecution, and so on.

Before we are saved, while we are still under the dominion of the flesh, we are “objects of wrath.” This refers to God’s wrath.

We think of wrath as being anger that is out of control, rage on steroids.

Gods wrath is rightly understood as judicial fury against sin. God is not angry with people. In fact He loves people. He loves sinners, but he is furious about sin and the deeds of the flesh.

Sin separates us from God. It is no wonder that He has wrath towards it and towards its practitioners. He has determined that all who rebelled against him and continue to rebel will be punished. This is justice- a forensic form of wrath.

When cases are brought to court that are notoriously evil or depraved, we expect that the perpetrators are rightly punished. Our anger at the awfulness of the crime demands it.

God sees the awfulness of sin and how it alienates us from him and results in us hurting one another. As long as we continue to sin we are objects of wrath, candidates for great punishment .

There can be no more fearful punishment for sin then total removal from God’s presence. This is what Hell is like. It is a place of total separation from God and from everything that makes life enjoyable. Hell is the place where sin reaps its ultimate harvest .

God will give us all a chance to repent, an opportunity to turn to Him and receive His forgiveness. But all who refuse his grace remain under his wrath.

Key points in this verse

  • We were all sinners before we were saved by faith in Christ
  • The sinful nature always defaults to sin unless there is an intervention
  • Gratifying the fleshly nature results in sin, even when all we are doing is trying to meet our needs
  • All who are living in sin are objects of God’s wrath

Reflection on Acts 8:1-17

Scripture

The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Observation

Following the stoning of Stephen, a great wave of persecution breaks out, scattering the believers everywhere. Saul is a part of this persecution.

The scattered believers take the gospel, preaching about Jesus wherever they go.

Philip goes to Samaria, and many people receive Jesus there, including a man named Simon who had previously performed many acts of magic.

The apostles send Peter and John to find out what is happening in Samaria. They discover that the people had not received the Holy Spirit because they had only been baptised into the name of Jesus. When Peter and John lay hands on them they receive the Holy Spirit.

Application

A great revival is taking place in Samaria. Even people practising the occult are hearing the gospel and being saved.

In all the happy chaos, people are receiving a baptism that is not quite right, with the result that they do not receive the Holy Spirit when they are baptised.

It is hard to fathom this. We tend to think that words and liturgy don’t matter that much because God looks at our heart.

But clearly the Lord thought there was something lacking in the practice so that He withheld the baptism in the Holy Spirit from the new believers. They came up out of the water without speaking in tongues.

Fortunately, there are a remedy available- Peter and John laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

So our words matter. If we only baptise in the name of the Lord Jesus and not of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) then our practice lacks something. The person may not receive all that God wants for them. This is not to say that God is limited by our words, but it may be that our words limit our ability to receive.

The Lord is not reluctant to bless us, often we just have to ask with an expectant heart.

Prayer

Father God, pour out your Holy Spirit on me. Baptise me, fill me, overshadow me, anoint me. Please pour out every grace into my spirit so that I can more readily honour you and point people to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Reflection on Acts 7:39-60

Scripture

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand.

Observation

Stephen continues his narration of the history of Israel.

Moses was rejected by the people who wanted to return to Egypt. Stephen says they carried pagan idols as well as the Ark of the Covenant through the wilderness.

He goes on to say their ancestors rejected all the prophets, and now the Jewish leaders have also rejected the Messiah the prophets has foretold.

The leaders are infuriated by Stephen’s message, and they drag him outside to kill him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, has a vision of Jesus in heaven.

Application

Stephen, throughout this show trial, was focused on God. At the beginning of his speech, we are told his face was as bright as an angel’s. Now, at the end, facing imminent death, he is full of the Holy Spirit and seeing Jesus at God’s right hand.

When we are most under pressure, facing opposition for our faith, it is then that the Holy Spirit fills us and enables us to speak for God or pray in faith, or whatever the need is at the time.

Many christians who have been imprisoned or tortured for Christ have reported that in their moments of greatest suffering, Jesus has been particularly real to them.

Stephen sees Jesus in heaven standing at the right hand side of the Father’s throne. What an amazing vision to have right at the moment of his death! It’s as if Jesus is cheering him on, “Come on Stephen! Just a few minutes and you will be here with me!”

Those momentary visions of heaven or of Jesus should be life- changing for us. It was a vision of Jesus that led to my salvation. The same vision has given me strength to continue walking with Him when tempted to give up. How could I turn my back on the one I had seen with my own eyes?

Not everyone has a literal vision of Jesus, but as we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we see Jesus more clearly and follow Him more closely.

Prayer

Lord, as I stand firm in you there will be opposition, even persecution. Grant that I may gain a clearer vision of you and grace to persevere no matter what the cost. Amen.

Reflection on Acts 7:20-38

Scripture

“Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people’”

Observation

Stephen continues his defence of charges of blasphemy that have been brought against him.

He now tells the story of Moses, how he was chosen by God but rejected by the people and forced into the desert for forty years. God spoke to him in the burning bush and commissioned him to be their ruler and saviour.

Application

Jesus was the prophet whom Moses had foretold. Moses was the greatest leader that Israel ever had, and he was closer to the Lord than anyone in history.

To say that God would raise up another prophet like him, Moses was looking forward to Jesus who was constantly in close relationship with His Father.

As followers of Jesus, we must also seek to walk closely with the Father. We do this through things like prayer, Bible reading, corporate worship, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and so on.

What I have noticed is that many of us reach a place of discipleship where we are comfortable. We might have a routine of prayer and Bible reading, a ministry in the church. We reach a place of ease so that there is no challenge to move higher.

But God is constantly calling us higher.

God’s aim is for intimacy with us, that close relationship that Jesus shared with the Father. That means stripping away everything that gets in the way.

Some of these things are not necessarily bad things. Sin obviously blocks our relationship with God. Sometimes it is things that are not of themselves sinful, but they do distract us from the main goal. They take time and energy that we should be devoting to the Lord.

What is the focal point of my life? Where does my attention go to?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the Prophet Moses foretold, but even more so. Please help me to yield to you all that stands in the way of a truly surrendered relationship. Amen.

Export the Disease, Sabotage the Cure

The Chinese Government (not the Chinese people, not being racist) is criminally culpable in so many ways in this corona scare.

First they export the disease, then they cover it up, then they export dodgy protection equipment that could kill people. Do they care?

From the ABC via Michael Smith 

Australian Border Force seizes dodgy Chinese Coronavirus face-masks & other faulty equipment sold to us by China

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 1.50.05 pm

Authorities have begun seizing Chinese-made faulty face masks and other protective clothing that is being exported to Australia to help halt the spread of coronavirus.

Key points:

  • An official has dubbed some of the intercepted Chinese personal protective equipment “dodgy”
  • Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands have rejected Chinese-made protective equipment
  • Australia has banned face masks, gloves, gowns, goggles, alcohol wipes and hand sanitiser exports

The ABC has learnt that in recent weeks, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers have intercepted several deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) that have been found to be counterfeit or otherwise faulty.

One law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, estimated the ABF had already seized 800,000 masks with a combined value of more than $1.2 million on the Australian market.

“We started seeing this stuff arriving roughly three weeks ago when news of the pandemic was really taking off,” the official told the ABC.

“The dodgy material is coming via air cargo because there is a backlog of sea freight at Australian ports.”

The ABC has approached the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister for Home Affairs for comment.

The Department refused to comment and the ABC is yet to receive a response from the Minister’s office.

The Federal Government today officially banned the exporting of protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns from Australia during the coronavirus outbreak.

It foreshadowed the plan last week, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Health Minister Greg Hunt have now signed off on the new regulations.

New rules are also stopping people buying up supplies of protective equipment to then resell locally at an inflated price.

It has also sought to boost supply by opening up the nation’s emergency medical stockpile and increasing domestic production.

In Victoria, Army personnel have been deployed to manufacturer Med-Con to help double the factory’s production of face masks.

Several European governments have rejected Chinese-made equipment designed to combat the coronavirus outbreak in recent days.

Thousands of testing kits and medical masks are below standard or defective, according to authorities in Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands.

The Dutch health ministry announced it had recalled 600,000 face masks on March 28.

The equipment arrived from a Chinese manufacturer on March 21 and had already been distributed to frontline medical teams.

Dutch officials said the masks did not fit and their filters did not work as intended, even though they had a quality certificate.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has rejected suggestions the country’s exports were faulty.

“A large number of Chinese manufacturers are working around the clock to help other countries save lives,” she said yesterday.

Sweden- The Control Country To Test Pandemic Control

While nearly every nation has mandated panic measures such as lockdowns and economic shutdown, Sweden has used a more relaxed, voluntary approach with guidelines rather than regulation. They even encourage people to go outside and <shock> have fun together.

By doing this they have effectively set themselves up as the “control case” i.e. the business as normal situaiton against which other cases can be compared.

From the BBC:

Lockdown, what lockdown? Sweden’s unusual response to coronavirus

 
Media captionSocialisers in Sweden: “I think we should be out for as long as we can”

While swathes of Europe’s population endure lockdown conditions in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, one country stands almost alone in allowing life to go on much closer to normal.

After a long winter, it’s just become warm enough to sit outside in the Swedish capital and people are making the most of it.

Families are tucking into ice creams beneath a giant statue of the Viking God Thor in Mariatorget square. Young people are enjoying happy-hour bubbles from pavement seating further down the street.

Elsewhere in the city, nightclubs have been open this week, but gatherings for more than 50 people will be banned from Sunday.

Compare that to neighbouring Denmark, which has restricted meetings to 10 people, or the UK where you’re no longer supposed to meet anyone outside your household.

‘Each person has a heavy responsibility’

On the roads in Sweden, things are noticeably quieter than usual. Stockholm’s public transport company SL says it saw passenger numbers fall by 50% on subway and commuter trains last week.

Polls also suggest almost half of Stockholmers are remote working.

Banner image reading 'coronavirus information'
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Stockholm Business Region, a state-funded company that supports the city’s global business community, estimates that rises to at least 90% in the capital’s largest firms, thanks to a tech-savvy workforce and a business culture that has long promoted flexible and remote working practices.

“Every company that has the possibility to do this, they are doing it, and it works,” says its CEO Staffan Ingvarsson.

His words cut to the heart of the government’s strategy here: self-responsibility. Public health authorities and politicians are still hoping to slow down the spread of the virus without the need for draconian measures.

There are more guidelines than strict rules, with a focus on staying home if you’re sick or elderly, washing your hands, and avoiding any non-essential travel, as well as working from home.

Sweden has so far reported nearly 3,500 cases of the virus and 105 deaths.

Families enjoy the fresh air in a Stockholm park
Image captionFamilies are able to enjoy the fresh air in a Stockholm park without any restrictions

“We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said in a televised address to the nation last weekend.

“No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility.”

High level of trust

A majority of Swedes watched and approved of his speech, according to a nationwide survey for Novus, a major polling company.

Meanwhile, there is a high level of trust in public authorities in Sweden, which many believe is driving locals to adhere to voluntary guidelines.

Demography may also be a relevant factor in the country’s approach. In contrast to the multi-generational homes in Mediterranean countries, more than half of Swedish households are made up of one person, which cuts the risk of the virus spreading within families.

Young women drink and socialise in an outdoor seating area of a bar
Image captionThe government has not issued strict instructions on how to behave in public places

Meanwhile, Swedes love the outdoors and officials have said that keeping people physically and mentally healthy is another reason they’re keen to avoid rules that would keep people cooped up at home.

“We have to combine looking at minimising the health effects of the virus outbreak and the economic impacts of this health crisis,” says Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, CEO at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

“The business community here really thinks that the Swedish government and the Swedish approach is more sensible than in many other countries.”

‘History will be the judge’

But as Swedes watch the rest of Europe grind to a halt, others are starting to question their country’s unique approach.

“I think people are prone to listen to the recommendations, but in this kind of critical situation, I am not sure that it’s enough,” says Dr Emma Frans, an epidemiologist based at Swedish medical university The Karolinska Institute.

She’s calling for “clearer instructions” for people on how they should interact in public places such as shops and gyms.

Honest Al's barber shop
Image captionHonest Al’s barber shop is struggling as customer numbers fall

And while business is ticking over for some, others are struggling. Around the corner from Mariatorget’s busy bars, popular hipster barber shop Honest Al’s has seen customer numbers plummet, despite efforts to improve safety by staggering staffing and appointments.

“My wife is also having her own company, so we pretty much depend on ourselves. Business is bad. I still have bills to pay. We’re gonna have to call the banks,” says owner Al Mocika.

He’s putting his money on Sweden switching tactics and imposing a lockdown, something officials haven’t ruled out doing in the future.

Dr Emma Frans says history will be the judge of which politicians and scientists around Europe have made the best calls so far.

“Nobody really knows what measurements will be the most effective,” she says. “I’m quite glad that I’m not the one making these decisions”.