Saturday, November 27, 2010

What’s Your M.V.P: Your Most Valuable Possession?

Last week was the release of James Cameron’s newest box office hit Avatar: The Extended Edition. In preparation for the event, my church decided to have a movie night dedicated to the film. We would watch the movie then have a discussion based on some of the biblical themes drawn from the film. The film itself is stunning with special effects and graphics that had me struggling to keep my chin off the floor the first time I saw it. Aside from the special effects, one of the central themes to the movie is the story of Sam Worthington’s character, Jake Sully.

One of the first things we learn about Jake is that he’s a paralytic marine. But Jake’s paralysis doesn’t disqualify him from active duty. His heart and determination are displayed by his desire to keep pace with his fellow marines, despite his lack of mobility.

Shortly after his arrival to the army base, Jake learns his paralysis may only be a temporary thing. In a private meeting with his commander, the resilient soldier learns he could undergo a procedure to regain the use of his legs. All Jake has to do is obey the Colonel’s orders, and in return the Colonel will pull the strings to make sure Jake receives full use of his legs once again.

This proves to be a source of struggle for Jake once he starts using his Avatar body. Introduced to the Na’vi people as a fellow warrior, Jake learns how the Na’vi people live. Throughout the movie, we see him learning essential skills like how to hunt and kill his prey. He becomes a skilled archer, learns how to mount a horse and tame a wild Pterodactyl-like creature. On this learning curve, Jake learns about Eywa – The deity and life source for all things on Pandora. Eywa is the one thing from which all living things originated; and the ultimate goal of the Na’vi is to become one with Eywa. Increasingly attuned to the life of the Na’vi, Jake is strangely attracted to this harmonious lifestyle. He soon finds himself torn between the Colonel’s promise and becoming one with Eywa. This resonates with the apostle Paul.

Before meeting Jesus, Paul was one of the Pharisees; a religious group in the New Testament that meticulously followed all of the Jewish laws in addition to a series of their own laws. Because he was a Pharisee, Paul took great pride in the things that made him a Pharisee. Things like being circumcised as a child. Having been born with a lineage that traces back to the Tribe of Benjamin gave him s sense of entitlement that others did not have. And in Phil 3:6 he says he was the strictest Pharisee ever known. That is, until he met Christ. After his encounter with Jesus (see Acts 9:1-19), he writes in Philippians 3:8 that all he once held dear is now considered worthless. Nothing can compare to knowing Christ. Now, Paul’s top priority is seeking unity with the father and becoming one with Christ.

In the beginning of Avatar we learn Jake longs to regain the use of his legs. As the movie progresses, we see that Jake desires change. Like the apostle Paul, Jake now craves the life he lives on Pandora and yearns to become one with Eywa. Consequently Jake begins to question the true value and worth of his mobility.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for you by telling you how it ends. But I wonder how many of us are like Paul, hanging on to something we ought to give up. How many of us have an MVP; a Most Valuable Possession? Paul’s Most Valuable Possession was his identity. These are things that made him a Jew; his circumcision, his heritage and reputation as the most devout Pharisee around. When he met Jesus, Paul was told to give it all up and follow Christ; to become one with Christ and seek unity with the Heavenly Father.

Are we any different? How many of us have MVP’s? What might be an example of a most valuable possession today? Think about your own life. Is there something you consider to be an MVP? If someone asked you to give it up, could you? Would you?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Humble Conundrum

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Because I'll never hold the picture
Of the whole horizon in my view
Because I'll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I recently heard a story about a man trapped in the Arctic Circle. The man had been a seasoned explorer but the harsh climate and blinding snow storm proved to be beyond his experience. With the looming fear of frostbite and death, the man cried out to God seeking intervention. To save himself from death, the man uttered the following words: “God, I don’t know if you’re real, but if you are come and save me.” A few minutes later an Eskimo found him and nursed him back to health. When asked about the intervention, the man gave credit to the Eskimo for saving his life adding that God never showed up to rescue him.

Make fun, and disagree with me all you want, but if I was in the situation I would view the Eskimo as God’s agent in answering that prayer instilling a sense of belief in a living God, and opening the door to a groeing and active faith. I don’t know if you agree with me or not, but suppose for a second I am right. Upon hearing that prayer, God directs an Eskimo my way to rescue and aid me back to health. Afterwards I go on living my life as if that experience didn’t change me; still denying the existence of God, the same as I was before the arctic rescue.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of God’s reaction to situations like this. The bible speaks of God‘s jealousy. I wonder if God gets jealous when He intervenes and doesn’t get credit for it. What does He do? Does He sit around all grumpy pouting over the fact that He intervened and someone else takes the credit?

Or does He review the incident and shrug it off, then its back to business as usual? Personally the answer is neither here nor there, but isn’t it fun to wonder sometimes?