Focus 1 (of 4)-Revisioning Perspective

Focus 1|Revisioning Perspective

You can only see what you see, but God sees all, sees you, and says you’re beautiful.
Consider this ice breaker question to get started.
What do you put on top of your burgers?

See what this Spotlight—and series— is focused on.
Tap on the words "Focus 1" in the image below to read this Spotlight's summary.
Let’s talk about perspective.
Listen to this audio clip when you’re ready to begin today’s Spotlight.
(And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)

Complete this fun quiz about the humble pixel.
(Once you click “start” in the frame below to begin taking the quiz, you can submit your response by clicking on the appropriate answer to each question in the lower right-hand corner of each “slide.”)

Share your own experiences with those in your group.

If you’re doing this Spotlight with a group, share a time when you realized the world/universe was bigger than you’d thought.

Read through this text to see how this all applies to God and our lives.
There is an ancient, Christian statement of faith that opens with these words:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
The Nicene Creed

(“…of all that is seen and unseen.”)

The cameras that are being developed for space exploration are amazing, but these words “seen and unseen” show how very limited—and even small—they really are. Even if scientists developed a camera that could capture everything that is visible, they’d only have the half of it—the unseen would remain.

It is vital to begin this Spotlight by attempting to fathom just how significantly different your limits are compared to God’s unlimited-ness. However you’re picturing that difference, double it a thousand times, and you’ll still be underestimating it.

The clearer you get on this difference, the more you’ll be able to appreciate a passage like this:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 1:14–19
Welcome Perspective
The biggest picture you can comprehend is one pixel to God.
Pray and worship along with this song.
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise is a classic hymn by Scottish writer Walter C. Smith. As you listen/sing/vaguely hum along with this version of it, note the ways in which praise is given to God for his role at the beginning of time in creation.

Lyrics from Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise arr. by Jaron and Katherine Kamin

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might,
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life thou givest, to both great and small.
In all life thou livest, the true life of all.
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father all light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.
Find ways to describe God.
In trying to describe God for all that he is and can do, it’s common to speak in terms of him being the one who begins and ends everything else. Jesus himself uses this kind of terminology in the closing scene of the whole Bible.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22:13

This is a good way to describe God, but it’s also human-centric because it focuses on the human experience of the universe, with its beginnings and endings. A more God-centric description was given by God himself to Moses when God met him through a bush that would not burn up (physical proof that the moment was a human-centered moment).

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
Exodus 3:13–15

God calling himself “I AM” is the same as God calling himself “everything.” “I AM” is a limitless idea, and “I am not” (the opposite) is a limited idea. Historically, theologians have used three terms to talk about God’s limitlessness: 

Pray about God’s attributes using the following video.
In this prayer, you’ll be thanking God for the ways he is the “I AM.” You’ll do this by contemplating three of God’s attributes that make him particularly different from human beings.

Get encouragement from God’s reality.
If the attributes of God are real, then his experience of the universe, and what he says about it, is probably helpful to anyone whose experience is more limited than his. This song suggests as much by comparing God to something as objectively practical and helpful as an outdoor thermometer.

The idea here is that a God like this can ground you, giving you something against which to measure what is “real” when it’s hard to tell (and if you’re human, it’s always hard to tell.) This can feel too good to be true, and many grapple with it.

Read this quote to see what we mean.
“The last one hundred years of research suggest that you, and everyone else, still believe in a form of naïve realism. You still believe that although your inputs may not be perfect, once you get to thinking and feeling, those thoughts and feelings are reliable and predictable. We now know that there is no way you can ever know an “objective” reality, and we know that you can never know how much of subjective reality is a fabrication, because you never experience anything other than the output of your mind. Everything that’s ever happened to you has happened inside your skull.”
David McRaney, You Are Now Less Dumb

Everything about this quote can be true, and God can still be a good thing—something different from you. The song you’re about to listen to acknowledges the troublesome nature of subjectivity and looks to an objective other, in this case, God, for grounding.

But the songwriter finds more than just a valuable reality-check As you listen, watch for the one thing about God (which this songwriter notes) that doesn’t seem as objective or as cooly calculated—that doesn’t seem to reflect reality—as his omni-related qualities.

Listen to this song about God’s reality.
Lyrics from Your Reality by Sara Groves

You, like a thermometer right outside;
I can see from the kitchen window
what is real, what it’s really like.

You, when the mirrors stretch and wave,
when the image is dark and crazy and it’s all I can see:

Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are and who I am.
Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are
and who I am.

You, you find me in the playback room
playing back everything I’ve said,
every little thing I’ve said.

You, when I cannot trust myself,
when the soundings are deep and lonely
and I seem to have lost my way.

Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are and who I am.
Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are
and who I am.

The only part of this that throws me off
is you’re too good to be true.

Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are and who I am.
Your reality is my good medicine.
Tell me who we are
and who I am.
Worship Perspective
God sees all because he's omni-everything, and you need him that way.
Consider God’s role as the “ender.”

You already noticed how God’s role as “beginner” or “source” makes him special, but his place on the other end of our timeline is also significant. God’s role as the ender of all things gives him a unique perspective on the endpoints of earthly existence, what those endpoints mean, and how life on earth shifts in view of those endpoints. And no one knows the endpoint more accurately than the Father.

Read through these passages to dive even deeper into this.
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Matthew 24:36

You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”  A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:3–4

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 3:12–15

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:3–8

Discuss God’s roles as ender using the following questions. (If you aren’t in a group to discuss these with, simply think through each of them yourself.)

  1. First, looking at those passages you just read, what themes or ideas pop out to you?
  2. How does God’s awareness of what happens at the end give him confidence in what he sets in motion or how he works through human lives?
  3. How does God’s awareness of the ending help him be patient with the good and bad decisions he watches people make? 
  4. How does God’s awareness of the fact that there is a clear endpoint give him an understanding of the value of every individual?
Accept scripture’s invitation to infinity.
Though you are limited, God has invited you into the infinite. How has he done that?

Click the audio bar below to listen to and read along with the following paragraphs. This was written by Illume’s lead researcher, Zach Gebert, and was just so good it had to make its way into this Spotlight.
“Perspective” is a subjective point of view. Is it possible to perceive life through any lens except the subjective? If an individual is forced to only be able to see life through a certain perspective, then they cannot rely on that perspective for an objective and accurate view of life.

Consequently, the 21st century “enlightened” individual is the one who is best able to recognize that there are as many perspectives as there are humans on the earth, and no one perspective is more valid than another. They are even able to divorce themselves from their own perspective and adopt almost an aloof view of life.

This “enlightened” perspective, however, is really nothing more than settling. It’s recognizing the reality of only having subjective perspectives and not having a better option. It’s a worldview that comes from being realistic about limitations but not having a plan to overcome those limitations.

The rules change then when a perspective becomes accessible that isn’t confined to an individual’s subjective experience. Such a perspective can exist only if it originates from a viewpoint that’s outside the sphere of individual experience and that’s bigger and more comprehensive than the sum of every possible experience a human can have. Different religions try to guess at that transcendent perspective, but they create it from a human perspective, so it’s still only ever going to be earthbound. God reveals his perspective to humans so that they don’t have to guess at it. He manifests his perspective in a being, Jesus, and articulates it in writing, the Bible. Because the work and life of Jesus and the text of the Bible (which align) originate from outside of the human experience, they are reliable, accurate, and governing as a perspective.

Therefore, the truly “enlightened” perspective is the one that is able to study God’s perspective and make that perspective their own. The more a person can see and perceive life by God’s light, the more objectively and accurately they’ll be able to see and experience life.

Listen to this song reframing this.
But first, some poetry from the ancient prophet Isaiah:

A voice says, “Cry!”
 And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
 and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
 when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
 surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
 but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40:6–8

The point is this: God is big and infinite and you are not, but God’s not going to let that mean you’re not essential to infinity. He’s invited you into his eternal conversation because, to him, it would be incomplete without you. 

Now, listen to this song about being a part of it.
While you listen, you can…
  • follow along with the lyrics posted below the video player.
  • identify all the ways that this song finds comfort in the fact that God has made us part of something bigger than even the timeline of the universe.
  • name the movie referenced near the end (bonus points).
Lyrics from Part of It by Relient K

I’ve been working with adhesives—
chains and locks and ropes and knots to tether—
but nothing’s sticking to the pieces.
I can’t seem to hold it all together.

But you should know,
’cause that explains why it all just fell apart.

It’s not the end of the world,
just you and me.
We’re a part of it, everyone—
we’re a part of it, everything.
And if a nightmare ever does unfold,
perspective is a lovely hand to hold.

Well, I’ve been trying to ingest this
but everything to me just seems like nonsense.
And I was sure if I can get it,
I guess it’s time for me to grow a conscience
to combat the lapse
that explains why all of this simply collapsed.

It’s not the end of the world,
just you and me.
We’re a part of it, everyone—
we’re a part of it, everything.
And if a nightmare ever does unfold,
perspective is a lovely hand to hold.

It’s been forever since I’ve gone
but I’m the Cusack on the lawn of your heart.
May be forever ‘til I go
but before then you should know
that I could tear that place apart—
I could tear that place apart.

I swear this to you:
I wish that this was not the truth
but it’s something that you fell into,
and crawling out is hard on you.
I’m not sure it’s what you want to do—
not convinced it’s what you want to do.

It’s just the weight of the world
giving out under the string,
and we’re a part of it, everyone—
and we’re a part of it, everything.
And when a nightmare finally does unfold,
the nightmare finally shows:
it’s not the end of the world,
just a calamity,
And we’re a part of it, everyone—
and we’re a part of it, everything.
And when a nightmare finally does unfold,
perspective is a lovely hand to hold.
Learn Perspective
This infinite God made you indispensable to infinity.
Get into the shoes of someone handling this kind of God. 
Everyone has their own subjective perspective. They’re all different from each other and they’re all different from God’s. This can make it really hard to serve and connect with people who are seeing things differently from you. 

Let’s try describing some extremes ourselves.

Using the topics below, try to describe the extreme positions in each and what it looks like to meet someone in the middle. (Depending on time, try to do at least three.)

Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.

Serve Perspective
You can’t see through another’s eyes, so see them through yours.
See God in everything.
This song has a unique and encouraging take on what it looks like to recognize the omni’s of God in everything around you.
Lyrics from Everything by Toby Mac

I’m captivated, I’ll say it.
I’m on a whole new intrigue—
my space: invaded, upgraded.
I hear you talking to me—
it’s in the boom of the thunder, it’s in the cool of the rain—
and I’ll say: I don’t ever want to get away.

Tonight is beautiful—
it’s got my mind on you,
and everywhere I turn is a reminder.

I see you in everything, all day,
and every beat of my heart keeps reminding me:
I see you in every little thing, all day.
No matter where I go, I know your love is finding me.
I see you in everything—
you’re all up in everything.

My soul’s awaken.
I’m taken by all the beauty you bring.
You got it blarin’, I’m starin’—
love watching you do your thing.
There’s no mistakin’ your style,
no mistakin’ your touch.
I see the grand, I see the subtle of your love.

I see you in everything, all day,
and every beat of my heart keeps reminding me:
I see you in every little thing, all day.
No matter where I go, I know your love is finding me.
It’s finding me in everything, all day,
and every beat of my heart keeps reminding me:
I see you in every little thing, all day.
No matter where I go, I know your love is finding me.

Tonight is beautiful—
it’s got my mind on you,
and everywhere I turn is a reminder.
From the sparkle in her eyes to the starlit open skies,
you bring my heart to life, fill me with wonder.

I see you in everything, all day,
and every beat of my heart keeps reminding me:
I see you in every little thing, all day.
No matter where I go, I know your love is finding me.
I see you in everything—
you’re all up in everything.

Oh, I can see your love—your love in everything—
and that’s why you’ll always be my everything.
Yeah, I can see your love—your love in everything,
and that’s why you’ll always be my everything.
Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.
Farewell Perspective
There’s no need to fear the infinite—God’s got it, just like he’s got you
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