Tag Archives: Avatar

I See You

How do you see people?

The lasting impression the movie Avatar made on me last month was the way in which the Na’vi people from the planet Pandora greeted each other. Instead of greeting each other with a “hi” or a “hello,” they said “I see you.”

By addressing each other in this manner, they were saying, “You’re more than a face. You’re  a person whom I value. I see you.”

I wish we could integrate the same ideal into our culture.

Every week, I talk to tens, sometimes hundreds, of people. In my heart of hearts, I confess that my greeting is often a “hi” or “hello” rather than an “I see you.”

“How are you?” doesn’t necessarily mean I really want to know how a person is doing. It’s simply a shallow way of acknowledging another person’s existence.

Jesus didn’t live this way. He saw people as they really were—and was moved with compassion. Then he demonstrated his love by touching them, even if it meant getting his hands dirty.

Please join me in today’s study…

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 39:1-40:38
Mark 1:1-28
Psalm 35:1-16
Proverbs 9:11-12

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Leviticus 1. The title of this book comes from the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament which means “relating to the Levites.” The focus of the book is the worship in the tabernacle, which was conducted by the priests and the rest of the tribe of Levi.

Leviticus 1:3. The Bible Background Commentary offers an interesting observation about the reasoning behind male sacrificial animals: “Male animals were both more valuable and more expendable. A herd could be sustained with only a few males in proportion to the many females needed to bear the young. This would mean that a large percentage of the males that were born could be used for food or sacrifice.”

Leviticus 2:11-13. When bringing grain offerings to God, Israel was prohibited from using yeast, but they were told to include salt. Yeast, which is often likened to sin in Scripture, changed the composition of the dough through a fermentation process. Salt, on the other hand, acted as a preservative. The same theme runs throughout Scripture. Jesus warned his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) but also told them, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Interestingly enough, salt prevents the effects of leaven.

Mark 1:35-39. Just as Jesus was gaining in popularity through his healing ministry, he contradicted conventional wisdom and snuck away to be alone with his heavenly Father. Then when his disciples finally found him, he told them they were going “somewhere else”—where he would preach and cast out demons.

Mark 2:1-12. This story of the paralytic is really the story of the paralytic’s friends. They loved their friend so much they were willing to do anything to bring him to Jesus, even if it meant digging a hole through a roof. Even if it meant looking foolish or over-exuberant. Even if it meant paying for the repairs to the owner’s roof.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

When reading the gospel of Mark, I must constantly remind myself to pay attention to the details—including the actions of the players involved in the stories. Although this is true of every book in the Bible, it’s especially true in Mark.

Today we read about a man who begged Jesus to heal him of his leprosy. Then Mark describes what happens next: “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”

If I spent every day preaching and healing people, I think it would be easy for me to see every person as the same. But Jesus didn’t. He saw the man and was filled with compassion.

Then Jesus violated a cultural norm: he touched the leper. By touching the leper, he willingly made himself unclean. This inconvenience meant he was forbidden to touch anyone else and had to endure a ritual cleansing process that could last the rest of the day and perhaps extend into the next day.

Every day we brush shoulders with modern-day lepers. They may not suffer from a skin ailment, but they exist as society’s untouchables. Perhaps they exhibit traits of mental illness or they just irritate us. Maybe they act uncool or dress in embarrassing clothes. Or maybe they just fail to share anything in common with us. These people require much more work: longer conversations, greater patience, perhaps they even cost us our hard-earned money.

Regardless, to us they’re lepers.

When I encounter people like this, I remind myself, You’re looking into the eyes of Jesus. Not long ago we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

But most importantly, this is how Jesus responds to us. Our sin makes us unclean. Nevertheless, filled with compassion, he reaches out his hand to us, touches us, and heals us of our sin-laden condition.

Then he sends us out as his ambassadors to a broken world, to see the lepers around us, to reach out and touch them, and to get our hands dirty.

That’s what it means to follow Jesus.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does it mean for you to get your hands dirty?
  3. How has Jesus touched you and delivered you of your leprosy?

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www.bibleconversation.com

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

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Better Than Avatar At The Imax In 3D

Last Monday, the movie Avatar crossed the threshold of highest grossing film of all time. After only six weeks, the movie has rung up $1.859 billion (1,979,833,948.05 CAD; 14,135,817,410 ZAR; and 2,074,404,997.96 AUD for our foreign friends) in sales compared to now-second place “Titanic’s” $1.843 billion.

The movie’s success can be credited to a number of factors: the compelling storyline, realistic graphics, cutting edge special effects, serviceable acting, and the otherworldly mystique of Pandora.

But there was one overriding factor that made a difference to me. If I was going to see the movie, I decided I wanted the full “Avatar experience,” which meant paying a little extra to watch it at an IMAX theater in 3-D.

Although I’m not a fiction aficionado (I like facts!), the movie mesmerized me. Throughout the film, the 8 year old kid sitting next to me kept reaching out to touch the characters or the foliage. I wanted to do the same thing, but I refrained…because I’m an adult. (Actually, I did reach out for a low-lying branch one time—but don’t tell anyone!). The whole time, my friend Mike and I kept shaking our heads, looking at each other, and saying, “This is soooo cool!”

After seeing the movie in 3-D, I can’t imagine seeing it a second time on a regular screen in 2-D. Really, 2-D isn’t two dimensions, it’s just one dimension, with the flat characters and flat backgrounds appearing on a flat screen. 3-D makes all the difference because it gives us a fuller perspective of the movie.

You know, we can perceive God in 2-D or 3-D. We can see him from one perspective or from a fuller perspective, which makes him all the more real.

In today’s reading, we’re going to take a closer look at our three dimensional God.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 5:22-7:25
Matthew 18:21-19:12
Psalm 23:1-6
Proverbs 5:22-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Exodus 6:6-8. Notice how many times God says, “I am the Lord” or “I will be your God.”

Exodus 6:12. In spite of God speaking to him, Moses remains unconvinced that God’s promise will come true.

Exodus 7:1. I love this verse! God was basically telling Moses, “You’re Pharaoh’s daddy!

Exodus 7:8-13. The serpent symbolized the power and authority. When Aaron’s serpent swallowed Pharaoh’s serpent, it communicated to Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews was more powerful than him or his gods.

Exodus 7:14-24. God began by striking the lifeblood of Egypt—the Nile River. It gave the Egyptians access to water for drinking and water for their fields, not to mention the fish they could eat for food.

Matthew 18:22-35. The basic premise of this parable is, if we want God to forgive us (and we really need forgiveness), then we must be willing to forgive others. Through the years, I’ve seen numerous people try to neutralize this parable to justify their unforgiveness. But the question remains: How can I ask God to forgive me if I refuse to forgive others?

Matthew 18:35. When someone has offended us, he doesn’t want us to act nice while we’re simmering inside. He wants us to forgive from our heart. No one knows the true state of our heart except us…and God.

Psalm 23. The Bible Background Commentary sheds some light on the role of the shepherd and the sheep: “In contrast to goats, who are quite independent, sheep depend on the shepherd to find pasture and water for them. Shepherds also provide shelter, medication and aid in birthing.”

Psalm 23:4. The rod was more like a billy club that was worn around the belt.

Proverbs 5:23. The word for discipline means literally, “bond” or “band,” giving the idea of restraint. Although we may not like restraints, they’re good for us and prevent us from destroying our lives, and the lives of others.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Exodus 6:3 is an astounding verse. God told Moses that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as “God Almighty.” But beginning with Moses, he began revealing himself as the Lord. The Hebrew language renders God Almighty as El Shaddai, whereas Lord is rendered as Yahweh. As we briefly studied in a recent post, Yahweh means “I am.”

So what’s the difference between the two? God is both sovereign and personal. Powerful and tender. Holy and love.

All too often, I view God through one lens. He’s either God Almighty, who punishes my enemy but also hates my sin. Or I view him as Yahweh, who fills my every need and meets me in the tender places (like we read in Psalm 23).

But he’s both. A holy God and a God of love. A God who hates my sin and forgives my sin (which we read in Matthew 18:22-35).

To live as if God were only one of these two attributes is like watching Avatar in 2-D. He’s still God, but we lack the perspective that makes him who he really is.

So let’s give him what is due. He’s God in 3-D.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Why do you think God kept saying to Moses, “I am the Lord” or “I am your God”? In what areas of your life do you need him to repeat this to you? What prevents you from hearing it? (see Exodus 6:9).
  3. What’s the difference in the way that we respond to God if we only see him as El Shaddai or Yahweh? What’s your tendency?
  4. Do you find it difficult to forgive? How does Jesus’ parable about forgiveness help you move forward? Do you also find it hard to accept God’s forgiveness? If so, why?
  5. In your relationship with God, do you act more like a sheep or a goat (see “Insights and Explanations” on Psalm 23)?

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www.bibleconversation.com

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

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