The Man Upstairs in the Lego Movie

the_lego_movieLast week my husband and I went to the cinema and watched the Lego movie. And everything was awesome…

To be honest it ticked all of my inner geek boxes. With references from star trek, wars, gate and lord of the rings to super heroes and super nobodies. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much.

*Some spoiler alerts ahead*

But I was equally interested about the portrayal of the “man upstairs”. The one who gives the rules and enters into the Lego world as President Business. There are two types of people in the Lego world, the ones who follow President Business and live under his rules. They are boring, uncreative, unimaginative and stuck.Then there are other Lego people who don’t follow the rules and they are creative, wonderful and superheroes trying to escape and be free from the rules of president Business.

We meet Emmett. He is a rule keeper, who follows the instructions very closely and lives life in the system. It isn’t until he meets some super creative people, that at some point in the movie he realises that he needs to stop following the instructions and start believing in himself.

As Mariah Carey belts out:

“Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”

Emmett just needs to believe in himself. And the man upstairs needs to recognise that people need creative freedom and not rules. And he doesn’t have to be such a control freak!

PresidentBusinessThe temptation at this point, for the Christian, is to try to defend this rule giving God. Saying, even though this rule giving God gives out instructions – they are for our good and they don’t trample on our creativity but they free us…

Except we know that being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules or even following instructions. If we do, we enslave ourselves and become a curse. (Galatians 3:10).The rules don’t free us or enable us to have creativity. Instead they bind us and stick us to the floor so we can’t move for fear of displeasing this rule giving god. The rules (law) given to the Israelites were good instructions but they were never going to free or save them. Furthermore those laws were for a specific time, people and purpose.

We are right to reject President Business and the man upstairs with his rule book. And the Lego movie is right – following rules and instructions to find purpose and meaning in life will just destroy us. And so Emmett needs to be free from the rule-giving man upstairs. But how?

Well the problem is, Emmett believes the lie that he needs to look inside himself to find the truth. That somewhere in his inner being, he just needs to believe in himself. (Queue Mariah Carey).

The mantra in our society is to believe in yourself. To look within and find meaning, truth and hope.That if you are a boring nobody, you just need more belief so you can be a somebody.

coffeeandlegomovieBut the reality is, there is nothing in you that can help you. You can’t help yourself. Our hearts are corrupt and following after desires that aren’t good for us.

Instead the answer is outside of ourselves. To someone who gives life, who bore the curse of the law so you don’t have to, who accepts you even if you are an ordinary person or a superhero.

True Freedom and life is only ever found in Jesus.

This is true for Emmett and for us. It cannot be found in following the instructions nor can it be found inside of ourselves.

The man upstairs, our Father, is not standing there with a glue gun ready to paralyse us under his instructions. Instead he is a Father who sends his Son into the world, to give us life and freedom because he knows that we can’t keep the rules and we can’t find freedom within ourselves and we can’t solve this mess we are in, only he can. The man upstairs, is nothing like the one in Lego Movie, he is far better.

The Truman Show: Freedom Outside the Cage

TrumanshowRecently I watched the Truman show on Film 4 and I was struck by how much it was telling me about their view of the Creator.

The God role of Christof (Christ?!) the creator has a booming voice from the sky and he has Truman in a giant dome of ignorance while he watches and even controls him. On top of that the film makes us ask the question: “what is true reality and what is true freedom”? And can we get any of that with God or without Him?

As Christof says, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”

Those growing up in religion or those believing in God simply accept the reality they are presented and they never question it. We may feel that God is just like Christof who keeps Truman in a cage through lies and watches his every move like Big Brother. And this cage is the safe place, outside the cage is the sickness;

“I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.”

At the end of the film, the Creator speaks to Truman from the Moon. He is cold and distant and Truman decides he has had enough and wants to go on an adventure outside of the Truman bubble. He seeks truth and reality away from his creator.

And the Creator loses his star and the whole of the Truman show collapses. Once the truth is discovered there is now freedom and no need to live in a cage and no need for the Creator. But the question is still there:

The_Truman_Show2Will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

It is interesting that they portray this view of God. And I think many people can resonate with Truman. They see God as an old man in the sky. With a white flowing beard and wearing a glowing robe. He has a booming yet distant voice. He hides in the sky, far away and shouts commands to his creation.

And often Christians see God like this, a cold and distant being hiding in the clouds.

It’s odd because not even in the Old Testament is God like this. Straight away the Lord in Genesis 3 is walking in the garden. He eats and talks with Abraham (Genesis 18) he speaks to Hagar (Genesis 21), he speaks to Moses face to face (Exodus 33) etc..

Ed Harris The Truman ShowWhat’s more, there is no solitary being alone in the clouds, but there is a unity of three. Father, Son and Spirit who dance together and who interact with their creation in a personal way right from the start.

Most importantly, the Son becomes flesh and walks among us. He walks around in the world, the “sick place” as Christof calls it, and he touches, talks to, eats with, heals, forgives and loves the sick people. The Trinity is no distant God.

The Sent One walks in and among the sickness of the world and brings hope, healing and salvation.

We are right to reject Christof as a portrayal of the Christian God. If you disliked him and the world he created, if you yearn for finding truth outside the cage, then I agree with you.

But the cage isn’t the world of the Trinity, or the life in the Son. The cage is always outside of Christ, a place of darkness and sin. Christ beckons us to find Truth and reality in Him, not outside of Him. He allures us to find life and love in him, not anywhere else. And he doesn’t call us from a distant far off cloud, he calls us by walking with us in our darkness and shame and he carries us and shines a light in the darkness.

There is no life in the creator Christof, there is only a cage that this one person creator can offer Truman. A cage of rules and camera’s and lies and control. That is not a place we want to be and thankfully our God offers ever-lasting life in the Son and in Him is freedom.

1998_the_truman_showSo will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

A resounding yes to this question, but only if he turns to Christ. If he turns to the world and the idols of the world then he will find himself in another cage with an idol that is perhaps more destroying then the first.

And so if you find you are feeling a bit like Truman, like you are in a cage and your view of God is like that of Christof. Then run to Christ. Don’t run to the world, it wont offer you what you heart truly needs.

You need to run to Christ and find freedom outside the cage.

The Desire for Beauty

think_different_apple-wide (1)Apple is celebrating 30 years of making Apple products, from Macs to ipods, iphones and Ipads. The video of this is worth watching. Apple prides itself on creativity, thinking differently and changing the world. Their products are not just easy to use but beautiful. They understand the importance of image and desire. It isn’t just about function, but its about design and wrapping people up in that image, unleashing their creative potential.

I am currently reading a book called iGods by Craig Detweiler where he explains the history behind Apple and the vision that Steve Jobs had. Apple was, where computers were concerned, the first to tap into the human need to create and to be creative. It rides against the idea of simply putting your nose to the grindstone, work continuously in environments of dullness and spreadsheets which will eventually strip the soul bare and suffocate our creativeness.

Apple to is showing us something here, which is at the heart of all of us.

Humanity desires beauty.

It needs a space to create. It desires to be creative. Now I don’t think Apple is the only one doing this now and this isn’t some strange promotion of Apple products. But I have been thinking about the human desire to create, to fill the earth and subdue it. To wonder at beauty and enjoy things for enjoyment sake.

truth&beauty

There is something very Genesis 1&2 about it. We are children copying our Father who delights in creating things with His Son.

It starts off in the Garden with the beauty of Eden and then the beauty of mankind. It trickles through to the tabernacle and the temple. The Lord anoints men and women to be artists and craftsmen.

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” Exodus 31v2-4

And even when the Lord takes on flesh, he enters the world to take up a creative trade before his years of preaching ministry. In iGods, Craig says:

“Jesus was a craftsman by trade. Having built the universe, it seems fitting that, as a human being, he would turn to building houses or furniture”

Beauty and creativity isn’t something that should be kicked out of Christianity. In our art, our designs, our poetry, story telling, video games, films, fliers and books we reflect our creative Trinity. I know we distort it too. Genesis 3 did happen.

But Christianity shouldn’t be about dullness. But sometimes it is. Our fliers, book covers, music and sermons can sometimes drip with dullness that sucks away life.

falmouthCU

The world doesn’t want to look into greyness. It needs to look into a world of beauty, colours, design and aesthetics which are not shallow or simply consumed. They must reflect the beauty of the most beautiful one, Jesus Christ, who allures us in. It’s a hard balance, either we are tempted to strip beauty bare and settle with the world of grey or we slap on fluorescent colour and neon lights which are as empty as what they find in the world.

Beauty needs to have depth. It needs Gospel truth and gazing at the beautiful one.

For example beautiful fliers, like the ones Falmouth CU do, capture the audience and displays to the world that we are reflecting a creator God and we would like you to meet Him.

Even in our suffering there can be beauty. In the depths of despair, Jesus who encapsulates all beauty is with us and walks with us.

Waste_Land-posterEven out of the Wastelands, beauty and art can be formed. From the rubbish tip we see the waste of the world, the rubbish that stinks and no one thinks any good can come out of it. Yet it’s turned and transformed into something beautiful. Likewise as Jesus takes the Bride who is dirty and full of shame  he transforms her into something beautiful:

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5v25 -27

Humanity yearns for true beauty. Not stick thin stuff or glossy magazine covers. But rich, in-depth beauty that takes the broken and the hurting and shows them the One who can clothe them in Splendour.

And so…It is good to enjoy art and film. It is good to enjoy books and video games. It is good to enjoy design and a product. It is good to enjoy music and dance. Not for them to become idols we consume to complete us. But to be objects that we enjoy because we are in the image of a creator God and because someone else who is in His image has created something to be enjoyed and interacted with.

And because beauty isn’t bad and those things we create are simply reflecting what’s happening on a bigger scale; A creative bridegroom who is making us more and more beautiful everyday.

The Glory of God

gloryflowerI just want to give glory to God” – this is often an honest and heart-felt statement from Christians. It’s coming from a place of surrender and desire to please God and do his will. Yet I often wonder what giving Glory to God means. I wonder what Glory means. I was looking on the Desiring God website and found a little snippet on what Glory means and they said:

“So God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections.”

You have to ask yourself – who (rather than what?) is the radiance of his holiness? who is the radiance of his manifold, worthy perfections? Well Colossians 1v15 and Hebrews 1v3 says

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
(Colossians 1:15 ESV)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3)

It seems that the radiance of Gods holiness and glory is Jesus. Jesus is the glory of the Father and the Father pours his love by his spirit into his son. It feels less abstract. Jesus is the Father’s Glory.

It’s really easy to see Glory as something of strength and power. It’s something of greatness and worth. When we say we want to give God glory I know that to mean – I want to be the best I can for God, I want to be strong for God and to give the best talk and be the best evangelist and work the hardest and serve the longest and in that I want to give all praise to Him. It feels like Glory is power and might and its something I must display to give God glory.

When I think about how Jesus glorifies the Father it actually happens at a place of weakness and hopelessness. It’s at a place of feebleness, pain and death. Jesus glorifies the Father at the cross – displaying to all the earth the Fathers love for his children and yet he displays it in utter weakness. Utter powerlessness. The stench of death fills the room, hope hangs and dies. Does that feel like glory to you? Is that what you had in  mind when you said “I want to glorify God?” Probably not.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Jesus goes to the weak, the poor and needy instead of the rich, powerful and pious . I don’t think that it’s an accident that throughout the history of the bible the Lord chooses men and women who are weak, messed up, stumble with their words and not the most clever of the bunch to lead others and share his good news instead of using the most clever, the most eloquent of speakers, the most popular and good-looking. Glory seems to come through weakness.

If you were to say to the Lord “I just want to glorify you” and then something happens in your life – you get cancer, you are housebound, you have depression, you are seriously ill and you are weak and you are helpless and needy. Would you still feel like you can glorify God? Or were you thinking that this glory was more about your abilities, strength and “best ofs”? What if God says that through your suffering you will glorify me more – would you believe Him?

It’s hard. It’s hard because the world says we should be the best and the strongest. The christian organisations say they want the best leaders and best evangelists.

But it seems that the Lord works his glory through suffering and weakness. He showed it on the cross most of all. The Glory of the Lord was broken, weak and bleeding but yet He shone out through that the love and beauty of the Father. I often find that those christians who are most suffering, who are most struggling and just clinging on in weakness taking each day at a time, they are the ones who most show me Gods glory. They are the ones who most show me Jesus.

Glory is about weakness not strength. So when you say, “I just want to glorify God” you may want to recognise that God may take you through a place of suffering and weakness for that to happen. Because it’s in that place that you will most likely be surrendering all to him and give him praise. Glory isn’t about power and might. Glory is Jesus, dying on the cross.

Do not flatter yourself

Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” sounds like a sermon to avoid. But if I was to encourage you to read or listen to a sermon that will grip you, shock you, warm your heart and bring you to your knees, I would suggest reading this sermon. This is surely not for the faint hearted but if any Christian was to read this sermon by Jonathan Edwards and come away feeling anger towards Edwards and bitterness towards God then they come away not understanding the sermon at all. I really believe that this sermon was designed to arouse the heart to the acknowledgement that we have a very loving God that is angry at sin and angry at how we prostitute ourselves to idols and yet He is a very gracious God for not allowing us all to perish right at this very moment, but wooes us to himself.

Edwards says –

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatter himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do”

Edwards wasn’t just preaching to the non Christian here, but also the Christian. Do we flatter ourselves in thinking that our works get us out of hell? That God owes us grace and freedom because of what we are doing right now? Edwards warns us against this and warns us to repent of this because – “God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell for one moment…till he believes in Christ.”

It is only in Christ that we have any promise of eternal life with God. It can only rest in Christ and nothing more. If we think for one moment that its our doing and God owes us, we will be in for a shock. Read this amazing sermon and let your heart see how gracious God is over your life and repent and start relying on Christ for your salvation instead of who you are and what you are doing. Read it here.

The infinite Artist

“What is the world? What is it for? It is art. It is the best of all possible art, a finite picture of the infinite. Assess it like prose, like poetry, like architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, delta blues, opera, tragedy, comedy, romance, epic.

Assess it like you would a Fabergé egg, like a gunfight, like a musical, like a snowflake, like a death, a birth, a triumph, a love story, a tornado, a smile, a heartbreak, a sweater, a hunger pain, a desire, a fulfillment, a desert, a dessert, an ocean, a leap, a quest, a fall, a climb, a tree, a waterfall, a song, a race, a frog, a play, a marriage, a consummation, a thirst quenched.

Assess it like that. And when you’re done, find an ant and have him assess the cathedrals of Europe. This painting is by an infinite Artist. It is a reflection of Himself (could there be a better subject?), worked out in colors, lives, and constellations, in a universe that to us seems endless but is to Him a mere frame, a small space, a confining challenge for His artistry.

The temporal narrative of reality is every Art– invented and collected and woven into one cosmic, finite portrait of the infinite.”

–N.D. Wilson, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl

There is a God, but which one?

I mentioned in my other post that if there is no God then we are at a loss with our self-worth and identity. But then when you add God to the picture we may be thinking that this doesn’t work either –

God is silent and that I cannot possibly deny – everything in me calls for God and that I cannot forget… -– Jean-Paul Sartre

Either God is silent or he is a tyrant. A mean-spirited man in the clouds that rains wrath and cancer on people.

Or possibly a God that takes away our freedom, causes his followers to kill people and restricts our fun. And you look at religion and in some cases this can be true. I don’t want to worship or follow a silent, angry, tyrant god…And so Sartre may call out to God, but if he is silent how can we expect any answer?

Therefore how you view god is really important, Christian or not. When people start to say they don’t believe in a god that is… and then list lots of things, I wonder how many of those we can say match up to the god we believe in. Peter Mead writes:

In recent weeks I have had numerous conversations with people about this “which God?” subject. It has implications in how we evangelize those of different faiths.  It has implications in how we interact in our churches.  It really does make a difference which God we are speaking about.  Is it right to feel positive about a vague montheism involving a God defined in His substance apart from the Trinity?

A god that is not trinity cannot solve the problem of our self-worth and identity because the only identity he can give you is a slave and that adds nothing different to what the world is doing. And therefore we can turn around and say I don’t like this god and do not want this god. But the god I want is the god that will give me worth, a secure identity, call me a son or daughter and place me in his care.

Are we not craving for this? Douglas Coupland says:

Now – here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

I am telling you that you wont find this is in any other god than the trinity. Why is this? Because within the wonderful dance of the trinity we have the Father loving and caring for his Son through the Spirit and we have the Son loving and obeying the Father through the Spirit. This then is reflected to us, as we are hidden and caught up in the Son, the Father calls us Sons and Brides of the Son. He lavishes his grace and calls us a treasured people. We are not slaves but sons and we are not prostitutes or widows but we are brides. And thus through Jesus we begin to regain our identity, our ability to love, give, be kind because the Father loves us first, gave to us first and has been kind/gracious to us most of all.