A Refashioned god

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.’”

  • Exodus 3:14

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you, and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

  • Job 38:1-7

“… the refashioned god.  One who looks nice but does little.  God as…
A genie in a bottle.  Convenient.  Congenial.  Need a parking place, date, field goal made or missed?  All you do is rub the bottle, and poof – it’s yours.  And, what’s even better, this god goes back into the bottle after he’s done.
A sweet grandpa.  So soft hearted.  So wise.  So kind.  But very, very, very old.  Grandpas are great when they are awake, but they tend to doze off when you need them.
A busy dad.  Leaves on Mondays, returns on Saturdays.  Lots of road trips and business meetings.  He’ll show up on Sunday, so clean up and look spiritual.  On Monday, be yourself again.  He’ll never know.”

“Ever held these views of God?  If so, you know the problems they cause.  A busy dad does not have time for your questions.  A kind grandpa is too weak to carry your load.  And if your god is a genie in a bottle, you are greater than he is.  He comes and goes at your command.

“A god who looks nice but does little.”

  • Max Lucado, Traveling Light

“At this time in my life, if someone had asked if I believed in God, I would have said yes.  But it was a God of my own making – a touchy-feely God whose job it was to make me feel good.  Come to think of it, I looked at God as a kind of cosmic recreational vehicle rather than a living, loving person.  In this wilderness we call the world, I figured it was God’s job to make everything comfortable, like the New Yorker’s state-of-the-art RV.

“But God … warns us that life isn’t always easy and comfortable and that we need to observe a few rules if we want to survive.  I wasn’t listening, however.  I told God ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ and did whatever I pleased.  I didn’t want to be subservient to anyone, including the Creator of the universe.  I wanted a God who never demanded anything from me.

“…

“Little did I know that things were changing for me in these first wilderness years in Alaska.  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I finally gave up my pride and asked God to be Lord of my life.  It was a gradual course correction, like turning a huge ocean liner that had been going in the wrong direction.  But if I had to pick one moment, I suppose it would have been the day I went out to the edge of a small pier on Bird Creek Campground and had a silent conversation with God.  I made it official at a nearby church, answering an altar call and deciding to give it all up – the alcohol, the foul language, the whole lifestyle, kit and caboodle.  But more importantly than these outward expressions, I gave up the pride that kept me foolishly thinking I could get by on my own.”

  • Torry Martin, Of Moose and Men – Lost and Found in Alaska

In the past, I have written about how most people who call themselves Christians fall prey to creating their own version of God, the one that they can control – kind of like Lucado’s genie.  Born-again Christians can fall into the same trap, due to a variety of reasons.  But then, I read a few pages in the Lucado book, followed by a lot of pages in the Martin book.  …  To explain the difference in number of pages, I was taking a slow start to the Lucado book to absorb as much as possible – taking notes, but while I thought that I could speed read the Torry Martin book, I found myself slowing down.  First, to laugh at someone who was totally ill-prepared to survive in a wilderness setting.  Then, to tug at my heart strings as each wilderness encounter revealed something about himself (Torry, but in a way, all of us) and revealing something about God and sometimes something about this “wilderness we call the world.”

But why combine the two quotes in one post?  Simple.  I read both on the same day, and I figured that God was talking, again.  Some of you may not need this message today, but then God knows who does.

To add some back story to the odd references in the Martin quote, he and his friend Rob had gotten jobs as floating camp hosts at Alaska state park campgrounds.  They signed people in and roamed the campgrounds to find violations of camp rules, as Martin explains with less authority than a mall cop.  They were ‘floating’ in that they filled in when the usual camp hosts took vacations, etc.  He had just told a story about how a New Yorker in a luxury RV (roughing it?  No way!) was cleaning fish outside his RV door, instead of down by the creek – a camp rule.  He also left hamburger buns on the picnic table – another violation.  When Torry politely reminded him about the bears, the man said, ‘fuhgeddaboudit.’  That night, the bear ate what he could outside and then slashed through the outer metal shell of the luxury RV.  The bear then rocked the RV like someone rocking a vending machine when the bag of chips doesn’t drop.  The next morning, the New Yorker told Martin that he was going to sue the Alaskan state parks system, because they should teach their bears better manners.

Martin always thought he was a Christian, but he was one of those who worshipped a Christ of his own making.  Even having a cabin in view of Mount McKinley (now Denali), seeing the Northern Lights, learning firsthand about the delicate balance of the wilderness…  None of that convinced him of the greatness of God, until he found himself needing someone who could make sense out of this world, someone who had been guiding him to this decision for a long time.

Which god have you created?  Is he the genie, or grandpa, or the busy dad?  Is he the touchy-feely guy who makes you feel good?  Don’t think that I am on some high pedestal pointing fingers.  No, I have been guilty.  I have half-heartedly worshipped God, trying, on my own strength, to follow God’s Law, in a way, a Legalist – sticking to the rules that I felt that I could follow.  Then when I got into trouble, I called for the genie, grandpa, and dear old dad all at once.

How dare we do that, but it is so easy to do.  As soon as we think we have it all worked out, that is the time it becomes easiest to start carving a new idol in our minds.  God is infinite and our minds are not.  We can only dream of conceiving a small fraction of God.  We must not settle for that fraction, however.  God is God.  And I am not.

God said to tell them “I AM” has sent you (Moses).  God is infinite in all things.

But am I talking to someone who has never, as Torry Martin explained, set aside his pride to accept Jesus into his heart, or am I talking to someone who has accepted Jesus, maybe long ago, who has been defeated by the sin in their lives (forgiven by God, but holding to the guilt) or simply defeated by the burden of wrong theology?  The wrong theology can spread out in many ways, but in this context – a theology that does not ask the questions that God asks Job in the Scripture above – a theology that limits God within our world and worldview.

What are our motivations for creating a god that is not God?  The people after the genie want to control God, have the ease and comfort and be answerable to no one.  The people after grandpa are kind of like the Torry Martin touchy-feely god, warmth and comfort – when needed.  And the busy dad can be ignored – but be at church on time.  None of these concepts develop a relationship with the God who created everything.

But maybe part of the problem is that we do not read the Bible and learn about this being that wants to have a close relationship with us. 

Why do we not do that?  Let’s take a famous personality who wants to move into the house next door.  You find out in advance and go buy the person’s biography, better yet, the autobiography.  That shows this famous person that you are interested in them, personally.  But the real learning of this famous person is when you sit down to dinner at your kitchen table and simply talk.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20

Jesus wants an intimate meal at your house.  He’s knocking, but should you wipe your hands before you open the door?  After all He created everything.  Hmmm.  He created the dirt, and I think He has had dirty hands Himself.  Swallow the pride.  Better yet, give it to Him, and just open the door.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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