No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Tag Archives: Old Testament

Forget the Technicolor Dream Coat… What do we REALLY learn from Joseph?


If you’ve ever been to Sunday school or if you’re an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, you are probably familiar with the Old Testament story of Joseph… You know, the favorite

Just a musical? Think again

son of Jacob, who at age 17 flaunted that he’d dreamed that his family would bow down to him one day. The one with the awesome (Technicolor) tunic… The one who had brothers that wanted to kill, but sold him into slavery to Egypt instead.  And when he got to Egypt, his master found out that he was quite a good administrator (because he was favored by God)… BUT he was thrown into prison because he rejected his master’s wife’s “advances” and she lied about who assaulted who… Then in prison, his administrative skills shine through again and he is placed in charge of the whole facility and then, one day, interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and butler (one with good news – the other with bad), only to be forgotten by his new-found “friend”.  But when Pharaoh dreamed a couple of “funky” dreams, Joseph is called upon to interpret them… The news:  That the region was going to have 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of devastating famine and that Pharaoh needed to get ready… Well, Pharaoh did get ready by placing Joseph in charge of the preparations and making him second in command over all of Egypt.  When the famine hit they were able to sustain the lives of everyone around including the treacherous brothers who came calling for food, but didn’t recognize their dear bro, Joe… Well, after a series of tests Joseph reveals himself to his family, reunites with them (including dear old dad) and sets them up for prosperity for the foreseeable future, by getting them jobs and homes in the lushest part of the land…

If you are unfamiliar with the story, let me encourage you to watch the musical (one of my personal favorites), or better yet read all about it in Genesis 37, 39-50.

But simply recounting the story isn’t my goal here (nor was it my goal when I preached on this yesterday).  Instead, let’s briefly look at what can be learned from this amazing story.

The way I (and others before me) see it, there are three basic over-arching lessons we can learn from the life of Joseph… Depending on their particular theological bent (Calvinist or Arminian), most protestants will find themselves gravitating toward either the first or the third of these lessons… But I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extreme positions and it is the second lesson that brings balance to the issue… I think it’s so cool how God has chosen to demonstrate this truth at the very beginning of the Bible – I wish more of us would recognize that and bring more balance to our theological grids and be more gracious and loving and cooperative with each other (but that, perhaps, is an argument for another day).

The first lesson we see in Joseph’s life is that God is in Control – at ALL Times & in ALL Circumstances (cf. Genesis 45:5 and 50:20). This is true even when things make little to no sense to us… When you’re brothers beat you up and sell you into slavery… When you’re boss’ wife makes passes at you and then cries “rape” when you reject her advances… When you are forgotten and rejected by the one to whom you did that huge favor… When you don’t know how you’re going to take care of your family… When you’re company down sizes… When you have to tolerate a boss that is unreasonable… When you unexpectedly lose a loved one… When disease strikes your family… When the national and global economy seems to be swirling down the drain… When you’re surfing and get your left arm bitten off by a shark!!! 100% of the time God is in control, He is sovereign. His ultimate plans will not be overthrown – He already is the victor over sin, death, Satan and demons and anything else that would dare to rebel against Him.  What’s awesome about this is that if we are His child then we too have been made more than conquerors with Him!

Why are we able to share in His victory and rest in His sovereignty?  Because of the second and most pivotal lesson:  He really does Love us – and always will no matter what it looks like (cf. John 3:16, 1 John 3:1 and Romans 8:37-39).  God cares for us not only as friends, but as His children… and He is NOT a dead-beat dad or disengaged father! He loves us immeasurably and perfectly and wants what’s best for us (even if that creates a great amount of pain and anguish for a season).  He wants to see us grow and He wants us to reflect His glory and share in His Kingdom, but to do that, we’ve got to be with Him in the fight!

That brings us to our third lesson: Our Choices Matter – Because God wants to use us (cf. Joshua 24:15; Romans 12:1-2). Because of the personal cost, many don’t want to join with God or be a part of His family, others who are on His team try to stay on the side-lines as much as they can… They’d rather bop along doing their own thing while giving deference and “worship” to Him once a week (or less) and the rest of their lives they act as if there is no God… This is much the same as was the case with Joseph’s family and this path has devastating consequences.  I told my church yesterday that because of God’s love and faithfulness, He was going to get Joseph (or someone else) down to Egypt to preserve the family (so that He could keep His promise to Abraham), but because of the horrible choices on everybody’s part (Joseph’s early arrogance, the brother’s jealousy and deceitfulness, Jacob’s favoritism, Potiphar’s wife’s lust, Potiphar’s indiscretion and lack of justice, etc.) Joseph was forced to travel just about the most painful road possible to save many lives and preserve God’s promise.  There are several points in the story where Joseph’s suffering could have been short-circuited had someone made a better choice, but they never did until the end.

You might be thinking, well, that stinks for Joseph, and those are nice lessons, but how do I apply them today?  First and foremost, we must Love Him and Trust Him with our whole lives (Past, Present and Future – Heart, Mind,  Body, Soul) (cf. Mark 12:30 and Proverbs 3:5-6)! Much like Bethany Hamilton did when faced with horrific tragedy (her wonderful story of faith and purpose is retold in the new movie Soul Surfer).

We then demonstrate our Love for Him through making right choices (unlike much of Joseph’s family and “friends”).  Of course, the first right choice, after we have trusted Jesus with our lives, is to choose to obey Him (cf. 1 John 5:2-4)! The next choice is also a matter of obedience to Him and that is to love other people (even the ones who are hard to love) (cf. Mark 12:29-31 & 1 John 4:7-8, 20-21)… and part of loving them is to forgive them when they fail you (even if that has massively painful consequences for you – cf. Colossians 3:13) – We see this played out beautifully in Joseph’s life when he forgave his brothers and chose to continue to walk in that forgiveness even after their father had died… I know that is no easy task.  In fact, CS Lewis once said “There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy… For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offense and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one.

It’s never easy, but desperately needed because when we get on board with God’s program things far more amazing than a Technicolor Dream Coat happen!  Like, He will work out all circumstances for our good and for His Glory (cf. Romans 8:28)! Also, our hearts will start to change from unfulfilling selfishness to a life that overflows with our hearts’ desires… IF what we most love is Him and what we most desire is what He loves and desires (cf. 1 John 3:21-24)!

So, I guess what both stories (Joseph and Bethany Hamilton) boil down to is this: Because of His sovereignty and love, God is worthy of our trust and our Praise and our adoration, even when things don’t make any sense, and we get to choose to give it to Him!

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U2’s Bono interview about Christ


Okay….so I am always on the lookout for how celebrities describe their faith.  I find it interesting.  9 times out of 10 they end up creating a God that does not exist in the Bible.  Then along comes this excerpt from a book where Bono from U2 is being interviewed about his faith.  Actually the interview is from September 2010…but never the less it is an incredible read.  The following excerpt is from the poached egg and can be found at this link.

Christians in a rock band?

 

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

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