onethessthree8

'For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord….'

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Joseph…quite a guy! (Part 3)

Part 3 (Gen 41)

A dreamy chapter indeed!  Read it for yourself…….

Here are some lessons :

~   Joseph went from jail, straight into Pharaoh’s presence.  Circumstances can change for us so quickly, often without warning.  Are you ready for life changing events?  It wasn’t Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret them – it was his knowledge of God.  Digging into God will help you call on Him when opportunities come your way.

~   Give the credit to God.  Joseph knew that it was God who had given him the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams – and he was quick to point out that God should get the credit!

~   After interpreting the dreams, he provided a practical blueprint for the nations survival against famine.  Don’t despise the planner!  Planning is a gift (administration / strategy) from God, and a huge responsibility.  Take the time to translate God’s plan for you into practical action.

~   Pharaoh was able to see that Joseph was under the favour of God and his ‘divine spirit’ (vs 38) was on show for all to see.  You might not interpret dreams in your life but allowing other to see God ‘in you’ is a worthy goal.  Do your family, friends, work colleagues see the spirit of God in you?

~   Joseph went from the ‘pit to the palace’!  Whatever his lot, he considered it as training for a greater good.  What an attitude!  Whatever your situation, consider it part of God’s commitment to you to make you more like His son and able to use you  greatly.

Over the Atlantic to you Jon for Part 4…   (http://lyndons.wordpress.com)

Why is Easter important?

In our increasingly secular society, here are some ‘surveyed’ implications of this annual down-time season :

~ time off from the routine of work (unless double-bubble is on offer!)

~ chocolate in abundance (which can make your clothes shrink!)

~ it’s when Jesus layed an egg or something, right?

~ an excuse to stuff one’s face with food (since Christmas)

~ a DIY opportunity to mess up over 4 days

Depressed yet?  Actually, I Wiki’d the question, ‘Why is Easter important?’ and remarkably there were none of the usual pat answers (see above) that leave the average Christian rolling their eyes, but it said ‘Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead’.

So this Easter, try to answer the following questions (answers in the bible):

~ Who was (is) Jesus Christ?

~ Why did He have to die and who killed Him?

~ How did He rise from the dead?

~ Is He still alive?

Having performed this simple exercise, thank God for Jesus this Easter…….

Three trees at Christmas…

Tis the season to be jolly!  That’s the mood being pressed upon us by the culture at this time of year, and I guess you can look at it in a number of ways.  From a secular standpoint it’s any old excuse for a jolly (alcohol-induced, mind-numbing, drown-your-sorrows-away kinda jolly), especially in depressed economic conditions where finances are not only tight, but uncertain.  This type of ‘jolly’ is characterised by denial and hopelessness.  Charming!

Or there’s the ‘three trees’ perspective:

Tree Number One – In the perfection of Eden there was a tree (of knowledge of good & evil).  ‘Enjoy everything else but don’t touch this tree’ was God’s command.  But Eve was deceived, and ate. There stood Adam, passively watching, abdicating all responsibility, and eventually also partaking.  This tree produced death.

Tree of Knowledge

Tree Number Two – Then there was a tree which, upon face value, looked like death again.  But the life of the God-man who was nailed to this tree was perfect (unlike the first Adam) and pleasing to God.  His death on a tree of His own substituted for ours.  It’s death we deserve, but He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin for us that in Him (Jesus), we might become the righteousness of God.  An amazing tree!

Jesus' tree

Tree Number Three – It’s the one in my living room.  Isn’t it weird that we should bring a tree into the house!  Apparently there is some argument about whether it was 16th Century Scandanavian pagans or Christians who first adorned their trees and brought them into their homes.  But I’m not worried about the origins of the tradition (pagan or otherwise), because for me the gifts around the tree always remind me of tree number two where the ultimate gift was given.  Jesus’ gift of life.

Christmas tree

So, is it the season to be jolly?  It certainly is……delighted for the gift of Jesus.

Things my Dad taught me…

I really enjoyed Amy Loizides post on ‘things her dad taught her’, so thought I’d do the same.  Difference between my scenario and hers is that it took me till about my mid-30’s to finally appreciate what my Dad taught me. Doh!  Also, her Dad (Lex – here’s his blog) is only about 3 years older than me……so that’s a bit weird!

Dad and I, circa 1970

Anyway, we (Amy & I) were chatting the other day and we agreed that there’s not enough parent-honouring going on these days.  My Dad has taught me a lot of things, so here are a few (not in any particular order)…….some profound, some practical, but all shaping and significant:

Dad, you taught me….

The value of money – it wasn’t thrown at me as a kid, and I had to earn some of it.  Dont get me wrong, Dad is incredibly generous with cash, but this helped me appreciate that hard work has its rewards.  There were caveats too.  ‘The more you have of it, the more problems you’ll have’  I seem to remember him saying.  Having a great attitude to cash (ie. it not being your God) is the way to go.  You can’t serve both God and money!  It’s true.

The importance of respect – if you learn this one early on, you will ‘earn favour with God AND man’.  True also.  As a youngster, just watching how Dad accepted folk for who they were spoke volumes.  Reminds me of someone else!

To hit a nail straight – there’s a knack to this!  When I was a kid, I proclaimed to my parents that I would be ‘getting a man in’ to do the DIY.  How wrong I was!  (although Dad, you have been that man a lot!).  I’ve hit a load of nails since then, and technique is king.  Hitting them squarely isn’t enough.  You have to strike with a slight push, and be ready to adjust mid-swing for a really true connection.  Geek!

Who Jesus is – quite important this one!  Modelling a life that follows the God-Man is what Dad has done.  Not perfectly, but very well.  The good-news-made-flesh is our model, and watching Dad live his life in response to the God-Man’s commitment to him is tremendously releasing and encouraging.

How to love my wife – the best form of security a child can wish for is to be raised in a secure context of married parents that visibly love each other.  Hard work?  You bet.  But seeing how my Dad has led our family, loving mum and meeting her needs, has been unquestionably shaping for me.  Great job!

How to make wise choices – made a good number of dumb one’s over the years.  Even after hearing priceless advice, it’s no guarantee against making poor choices.  Always look at a scenario from different angles, work through the implications, make a decision.

To listen twice as much as I speak – God gave me two ears and one mouth, so he must have meant something by that!  I’m still learning this one, but appreciating the value of healthy communication on all sorts of levels.

To just whistle when annoyed – Dad always whistles when he’s a bit frustrated!  I found myself doing this recently too………chip off the old block!

Dad, thanks for all those things.  I’m beginning to appreciate you and them at last!

David, a man flawed…

In 1501, 25 year old Michelangelo began working on his colossal masterpiece, the 17 foot tall marble ‘David’.  From a huge block of marble that had been abandoned decades earlier by another sculptor, Michelangelo took on the challenge of David, portrayed in the Bible as the young shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath, and went on to become the valiant, just and God-appointed Hebrew King.

Michaelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo was painter, sculptor, and architect.  In his era, all three forms of art were thought to be based on an artistic discipline built on knowledge of the male human form.  Sculpture was considered the finest of art forms, because it mimics divine creation; the sculptural image found within the block of stone, much as the human soul is found within the physical body.

The ‘David’ is considered a masterpiece, an ideal male form combining heroic strength and human uncertainty.  It was erected in 1504 in the public plaza of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria.

All a bit high brow, granted.  But the story of how Michelangelo sourced the block of marble is fascinating.  As an up and coming sculptor, renowned for remarkable skill, the quarry owners were falling over themselves to supply him with the purest marble block for the commissioned project.

But the artist was looking for something special, something that really did suggest human soul and human uncertainty.  A pure white block was not what he wanted, but he set about seeking a block that was flawed in some way, cast aside and abandoned, deemed unfit purpose.

And this is what he did.  He sourced a block that has been cut decades before but never used because of its percieved low quality.  But Michelangelo’s understanding of the bible David (his triumphs & failures) had to be represented in the sculpture.  The block was flawed.  It had numerous discolourations and was far from pure.  Just like the man David, just as Michelangelo saw him, magnificent yet flawed.  A noble ruin.

I have no idea of where Michelangelo’s understanding of the gospel or bible truth lay, but when you hear a story like that, it’s gets you chomping at the bit to include it in a preach!  It’s possible that he came to understand David (from boy to King) as he studied his character and life in preparation to sculpt him.  Seeing him in his triumphs and failures, under the hand of God’s mercy and favour, perhaps caused the artist to think.

Michaelangelo, self-portrait

Michelangelo, self-portrait

Here’s the deal.  We are image bearers of creator God (noble, and very good), yet fallen in rebellion (ruin).  David was a great leader, example and King, yet ruined by error (ie. adultery & murder).  Not much hope, eh?

But Jesus came to put right every flaw, every error, all that ever ruined us.  He was flawed for us, took them upon himself, that we might regain nobility.  Perhaps Michelangelo knew this and put real soul and uncertainty into his David for that very reason.

Mood food…

One of my favourite ways of relaxing is watching cooking programmes, and then having a go at reproducing something on the plate.  Some of the most entertaining  and inspiring TV programmes are ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen’, ‘Masterchef’ and ‘Nigel Slaters Simple Suppers’.

There have been a few successes over the years (which are oft-repeated!), and I like to think I can give most dishes a bash.  When I say success, I mean the kind of food that you can toss together pretty quickly, chuck in a few spices and hey presto!  Something like this, which is a hot favourite in the Davis household.

Jamie's chilli prawns!

Jamie's chilli prawns!

More recently I’ve been watching Nigel Slater’s offerings on the BBC.  Aside from the gorgeous photography, his slick patter and smart kitchen (ridiculously oversized & minimalist), the food combo’s are really equisite.

This time of year, with the days shortening (quickly it seems), what we need is ‘mood food’ apparently, and this pithy statement got me thinking.  Food is comforting, satisfying  and mood-changing.  There is a lot to be said for a lamb hotpot with steaming dumplings and a side of savoy cabbage on your plate on a wet and windy Sunday lunchtime!  No?  That’s just me then!  Of course, this needs to be acompanied by a large glass of claret and a 20 minute nap for it’s true effectiveness to to be fully enjoyed.

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Am I pandering to the ‘mood’ thing?  Has the season (Autumn to Winter) got the better of me?  Is it sending me into a spiral of depression that can only be asuaged by culinary skill and adventure?  Yes, if Nigel Slater is to be believed, and his offerings aim to lift the mood.  To a certain degree, I have to concur.  A hearty dish of something tasty really helps.

Feeding the flesh is really only part of the story though.  What actually brings real radical change to my attitude to life is the genuine ‘mood food’………bible truth in all it’s variety.  Completely satisfying, meaty, sometimes spicy, in every way transforming.  It defys all seasons, times and places.  It never fails to fulfil completely.

Jesus taught that He is the bread of life.  The original ‘mood food’….  He was talking about spiritual matters of course.  ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…’ (John 6:54).  Many of His followers didn’t understand, because they were thinking too much about their physical needs.  He was actually teaching that believing and obeying His words would give them eternal life.

From that day forward, many went away from Jesus.  But Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (John 6:68-69).   It was pretty clear to Peter that the food Jesus had on offer was of ultimate sustenance.

Want to lift you mood in this season of shorter and cooler days?  By all means enjoy the seasonal fare (hot pot, roasts, hearty soup etc.), but dont ignore the real stuff……. the ‘mood food’ that Jesus offers, which He invites us to feast upon.

Lying…

On a recent day off, Ali and I decided to go and see Ricky Gervais’ latest cinematic offering, ‘The Invention of Lying’.  Oh dear.  I cant lie to you……..whilst it had it’s moments (amusing & poignant), it was generally low quality viewing.

For fans of Gervais’ wry humour (famously the Office & Extras), it certainly had the cleverness of wit and observational comedy throughout, but the plot line was pretty weak.  As one critic puts it, ‘the film deserves high marks for cleverness, but low ones for humanity and warmth’.  And that is about right.

But more interestingly for me, as a Christian I was challenged on all sorts of levels.  Some of the content was unnecessarily crass (as is quite a lot of Gervais’ humour!), and this guts me because he doesnt need to be.

A few years ago, the standup comedian Frank Skinner decided to do all his shows without one blasphemas utterance or profanity, and was acclaimed for it!  I dont want to come across as a freakish ascetic but some of it is really not necessary.  I’m often stunned at the certificates awarded by the BBFC, and for this to be a 12A did surprise me a bit (or did it?  Uh oh, I’m sounding old!).

But the moments of offence were counteracted by some observationally funny ones, and I found myself laughing out loud in the darkened room (cinema).  However, the power of the film (of what there is of it) comes from staring plain in the face the desperation and futility of the human condition without God.  But of course, I’m observing it from my gospel world-view, seeing how Jesus and the cross are the remedy for all these failings.

The premise of the film is this.  Nobody tells lies – everyone must tell the truth.  One day, Mark (the Gervais character), tells a lie and finds that he is believed without question!  It becomes an incredible power which he uses to his personal gain.

But things come to a head when he visits his mother on her deathbed and, in an attempt to console her fears of passing on into a void of eternal nothingness, he tells her of the beautiful afterlife awaiting her that he claims to have been told of by an otherworldly presence that he refers to as ‘the Man in the Sky’.  However, word of his story gets out and suddenly the entire world is eagerly lapping up his every utterance, even the seemingly contradictory ones, about the afterlife, morality and why the person responsible for such much happiness in the next world can also be responsible for so much misery in this one.

Mark (Ricky) lies to his dying mum

Mark (Ricky) lies to his dying mum

Most folks understanding of Christianity in our culture, is a misunderstanding.   And Gervais’ understanding of gospel truth is certainly that.  He has a terrific grasp of worthless religion though, and his swipe at it (having initially made my blood boil) is spot on.  What a terrible existence it must be, to feel you must earn points with creator God and be tossed into hell for not performing to the standards of ‘the Man in the Sky’ (as He is dubbed in the film).

Funny that.  A film about lying, and there is Gervais perpetuating the big lie that we must earn favour with God to have any hope of ‘a mansion in heaven’.

I discovered that Gervais studied philosophy as a younger man, and is a fierce atheist.  He is actually an Honorary Associate of the Secular Society.  He self-confesses his atheism in a ‘5 mins with…’ interview which you can watch here, and of course it’s his blatant swipe at religion that makes this film interesting if you hold a gospel world-view.

My conclusion?  Possibly worth seeing on DVD, but dont rush to rent it.  But thanks are due…….

Thanks God that I’m free from the chains of religion.  Thanks Ricky for reminding me.  Thanks Jesus for pleasing ‘the Man in the Sky’ for me….