Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Living Large Like George And Meryl

Who’s your favorite celebrity?

Mulling over last Sunday’s Academy Awards program, I began asking myself, Why are the Academy Awards such a big deal?

First of all, they’re a big deal because the movie industry wants it that way. It’s all about self-perpetuating themselves so they can keep movies popular and continue making money. The Oscars  are really just a bunch of people in the movie industry throwing a party for themselves and congratulating each other on a job well done. Gratuitous self-promotion. That doesn’t bother me. It is what it is.

Secondly, I realized this week that the Oscar awards celebrate the best story-tellers. Apart from documentaries–which garner minimal coverage–movies are primarily tales of fiction. The most insightful, innovative producers, directors, writers, and performers who tell a good story usually walk away with the winnings.

But thirdly, I also realized this week that celebrities serve as our heroes. We may not be able to live like George Clooney or Meryl Streep, but we can live vicariously through them. When they walk the red carpet, in some ways, we walk too. By golly, if you purchased a ticket to one of their movies, then you played a part in making them famous. And when a movie you saw wins an award, you win an award, too.

At some level, all of us live vicariously through others. Sometimes it’s okay. But other times it adversely affects us.

Please join me as we explore this further.


Numbers 16:41-18:32
Mark 16:1-20
Psalm 55:1-23
Proverbs 11:7


Numbers 17. With people throughout the camp complaining and questioning his authority, God now takes the offensive with the Israelites. By causing Aaron’s rod to bud, he was giving Israel a permanent reminder of who was in charge—Aaron, but also God.

Numbers 18:1-7. In the last chapter, the Israelites were distraught because they couldn’t share an intimate relationship with God like the priests, upon threat of being struck dead. But in this chapter, God instructs the priests how he wants them to worship him, upon threat of being struck dead, too.

Numbers 18:8-32. Notice that God called all Israel to give the firstfruits of the land to the priests and Levites. Until this point, Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the Levites maintained regular responsibilities like everyone else—in addition to laboring in and around the tabernacle. Now they were freed to focus on their calling. Of course, once they entered the Promised Land, they wouldn’t own any land because God was their inheritance. Priests and Levites were never intended to get rich from their calling.

Mark 16. You may notice that your Bible treats verses 9-20 differently than verses 1-8. The New Bible Commentary explains why: “Mark’s account of the resurrection breaks off rather suddenly at v 8…Vs 9–19 may be a later attempt to write a fuller ending to the gospel. They are not found in the best manuscripts, which is why the niv prints them separately.”

True to Mark, he gets right to the point in his gospel and at times ends things rather abruptly, which is why early church leaders tried to offer an ending to his gospel without leaving the reader hanging. Verses 9-18, then, are loosely based on John’s gospel.

The fact that the two Marys showed up at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning with burial spices proves they weren’t expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. None of Jesus’ disciples’ expected this either, which makes the resurrection even more believable.

Consider, as well, the stone that was rolled away. The two Marys were the last ones at the tomb, and saw it intact—but when they arrived Easter morning, it had moved. It was physically impossible for the two women to move the stone.

Psalm 55. In this psalm, David writes about being betrayed by a close friend. The psalmist offers great advice for times that we feel stressed: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

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The end of Numbers 17 is quite disconcerting. After realizing that only Aaron and Moses were able experience a close, intimate relationship with God, the Israelites were distraught. “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!” they cried. “Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

It seems to me that part of their rebellion was centered in their desire to enjoy God like their leaders. But God pushed them away because his holiness couldn’t be stained by the sins of everyday people. This showed everyone their need for a mediator between them and God, which Jesus later provided on our behalf.

In my experience, many believers still follow this Old Testament mindset toward their relationship with God. They live vicariously through their pastor’s walk with God, believing—even subconsciously—that they could never experience a similar, or even better, relationship.

Yesterday we read in Mark that the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Since that moment, no pastor or priest has any more right to an intimate relationship with Jesus than anyone else.

When I started out in pastoral ministry, I assumed that I needed to be the strongest Christian in my church. As a youth pastor in a congregation of 2-3000 people, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. I thought I needed to read my Bible more, pray more, and be really, really nice to everyone.

But over time, I’ve learned that God places pastors in their position not according to spiritual maturity, but according to their spiritual gifts. Obviously, pastors need an intimate relationship with Jesus, but they don’t have an inside track on God. My self-imposed competition for being the best Christian in my congregation has officially been called off.

If you attend a church, your pastor may have spent a good amount of time studying the Bible. But that doesn’t imply that a secret budded rod is concealed in his or her briefcase.

God calls all of us into an intimate relationship with him—a relationship that only Moses, Aaron, and the high priests of old enjoyed.

Don’t miss out on your opportunity!


  1. How did God speak to you in today’s reading?
  2. Thus far in our Old Testament readings, God is very specific about how he wants to be worshiped. In what ways today do you think we stray away from worshiping God as he wants to be worshiped?
  3. In what ways do you think you have strayed from worshiping God as he wants to be worshiped?
  4. To what extent have you tried living vicariously through someone else’s walk with God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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And The Oscar For Best Performance Goes To…

Last night, millions of people around the globe watched as the Academy Awards were presented for outstanding work in the movie industry.

As the celebrities stepped out of their limousines and cameras flashed in the background like twinkling stars in the sky, I couldn’t help thinking about the adoring crowds. We live vicariously through the glamorous personalities we watch on the movie screen.

While acting ability impresses me like any other person, I need to remind myself that the person I see in the movies is just acting. I may think Sandra Bullock is a down-to-earth person, but I really don’t know.

In our culture, performance means everything. It can win a person an Oscar for Best Performance.

But to God, performance means little.

Please join me as we explore this further.


Numbers 10:1-11:23
Mark 14:1-21
Psalm 51:1-19
Proverbs 10:31-32


Numbers 10:1-10. In battle, the trumpeter blew a series of long and short blasts to communicate messages to the troops. If the trumpeter was killed, the troops were unable to hear instructions from their leader.

Numbers 11. At this point, as the people began complaining, Israel had lived in the wilderness for one year.

In verse 4, the “rabble” complain about not having meat. Nuances in the word “rabble” indicate the complainers were  Gentiles who had joined the Israel (most likely Egyptians). Like a cancer, their complaints soon spread throughout Israel. And actually, they had herds of cattle and sheep in the wilderness—but even in Egypt, they ate meat like this only on occasion. Because they lived by the Nile River, fish was a staple in their diet.

As I read about the complaints, I must ask myself, If I had spent a year in the desert eating only manna, would I complain too? I probably would.

Verses 10-15 are interesting. Previously, Moses had interceded to God on behalf of Israel. This time, God was interceding to Moses on behalf of Israel. But you can tell Moses was pretty worked up.

Here’s an interesting aside: complaining or grumbling are not mentioned very common in Scripture. But we do find it in the book of John for a specific situation. In John 6, Jesus described himself as the bread of life, which came down from heaven and was far superior to manna. So how did his listeners respond? They grumbled. Obviously, John was referring to this account in Numbers.

Mark 14:1-9. The disciples probably stayed in Bethany rather than Jerusalem partly out of concern for their safety and partly because Jerusalem was overcrowded during Passover.

In Jewish tradition, every king was anointed before his coronation. Jesus, however, chose to be anointed by a woman in the home of a leper (presumably one he healed). But his coronation ceremony would take place on a cross and the anointing was also preparation for his burial.

The Bible Background Commentary provides some additional insights into the woman who gave sacrificially to Jesus:

Whatever her economic status, this perfume (an oil from a root probably imported from India or South Arabia) was worth a year of a common laborer’s wages; her family had probably kept it as a status symbol. Its fragrance was preserved by sealing it in alabaster (the favored container for perfume), and once the flask was broken its contents had to be used immediately. Her anointing of Jesus represents a major sacrifice and indicates the depth of her love, but given the great numbers of landless or tenant-farming peasants, some people present think the worth of the perfume could have been put to better use.

Mark 14:12-21. Women normally carried jars of water, so seeing a man carry a jar of water would be quite noticeable (verse 13).

Psalm 51. I used to know a man who made his sons read this psalm whenever they got in trouble.

You can read the context of this psalm in 2 Samuel 11-12, which tells the story of the time when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had Bathsheba’s husband killed to cover his tracks.

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What speaks to me most deeply in Psalm 51 is the way David owns his sin. He acknowledges his tendency toward sin (“Surely I was sinful at birth” verse 5) but he doesn’t use it as an excuse for his actions. He also owns the damage his sin inflicted on his relationship with God. In verse 4, he writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned.”

The heart of his prayer forms a beautiful song that all of us can join him and sing:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Finally he concludes by honing in on what God is looking for: a “broken and contrite heart” (verse 17).

This is one more example we find in Scripture in the importance of humility.

Yesterday in Psalm 50 we read that God is looking for gratefulness, follow-through in our commitment to him, and he wants us to cry out to him when we’re in trouble. Today we read God wants a broken and contrite heart.

These things have little to do with performance. Essentially, we can’t offer anything to God. God is much more impressed by who we are than what we do.

And that requires real work.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what areas of your life do you find it easy to complain? How does God respond to your complaints?
  3. Do you find it easy to apologize? Why or why not? Do you find it easier to apologize to the person you hurt or to God? Why?
  4. Why do you think God is more impressed by who we are than what we do? Which one impresses you more about other people?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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