I just joined FaceBook. A couple of people invited me quite awhile ago but I always hesitated to bring myself into the 21st century (my two son-in-laws teased me a few months ago when I said I needed to get batteries for my Walkman…”that’s so last century” was their response). Our computer at the house is just connected to the internet via dial-up so needless to say it sometimes takes a few minutes to motor around and download or upload stuff, have pillow fights, give and accept hugs, view photo albums and generally just do “stuff.” Maybe we are the Dialup-Dinosaurs-of-Duluth; am guessing there are a few more of us out there, but we are definitely becoming extinct.
Anyway when I signed up I came to the Pink Floyd, excuse me, I mean the Wall, and noticed a friend had posted this fill-in the blank statement: God is ______________. A few people commented and someone had filled in the blank by posting this comment “…Good!”
Now my theological education and 25 plus years of pastoral experience kicked in and I wanted to put something rather profound on there. So after I thought for awhile (well ok, so it was only 3 seconds), I came up with “God is…a Toaster!” I knew that would sort of stir things up a little and my friends would wonder what had happened to their Dutchman preacher friend:
“Has he been reading the wrong version of the Bible again?”
“Has he been a Viking fan too long?”
“Have all the cloudy & cold days in Duluth caused his brain to mold over?”
But I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. This was my FIRST day on FaceBook and I didn’t want a couple of missionaries who had approved me as a friend to like, you know, call the district superintendent or something. “Hey that preacher guy Vander Ark up in Duluth thinks God is a toaster. I don’t think that’s one of the 16 Fundamental Truths!”
But to a lot of people (and in all practicality) God IS no more than a toaster.
Think about it:
1. A toaster sits on the counter or in the cupboard and stays pretty much out of the way until needed.
2. A toaster is pretty manageable in size and we can control it: we take it out, we plug it in, we set the buttons, we put in the bread, and when we are done, we put it away.
3. We put in something and we expect something in return; we put in fresh bread slices; set the shade of darkness we want and expect it to produce a perfect slice of toast.
4. If the toaster doesn’t produce or doesn’t work right and it burns the bread we get upset and throw it out and buy a new one.
1. We sometimes want a god that will just sit on the counter and pretty much stay out of our way and not upset our lives or disturb our sleep or make any demands upon us until he is needed. We certainly don’t want a god that will ask us to bring cookies to our neighbor that just mowed over our flowers or ask us to forgive someone that has hurt us very deeply. We just want a god for funerals and job losses or severe illnesses and similar life-is-tough situations. In other words, we want a convenient god.
2. And we want a manageable god. We want a god whose theology we have figured out and packed away in our nice little theological box. And we want to be able to unplug our god and put him back in the cupboard when we don’t need him or if he should start to bother us.
3. And if we give something to our god, we certainly expect some sort of return on our investment. It’s only fair. “I gave my tithes, how come I am still struggling financially?” “I read my Bible today, how come I am having a difficult time at work?” “I go to church regularly, how come my wife now has cancer?” “I memorize and study Scripture, why am I depressed?” I put the toast in, why did it burn?
4. Finally, if God does not work things out like we think he should (my relationship fell apart, that job promotion didn’t come through, I am still battling this chronic illness – i.e. he burned our toast), we get in a huff and look for another church or another god or another theology. Or even a non-theology.
Wilbur Rees penned this very biting poem (I am not sure when it was written and it may not be politically correct in this day and age; but it speaks to our innate desire to obtain just enough of a theology to soothe our conscience):
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please.”
God is Eternal and defies description. When we have been in heaven for 10,000 X’s 10,000 years, we will still only have just begun to know the depths of His love and His beauty. We will only have just begun to touch the fringes of His ways. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe and the One Who holds the oceans in the palm of His hand. The nations are a speck of dust on His scales. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is worthy of all of my time, all of my energy, all of my talents, and all of my life. Were He to never answer one single prayer of yours or mine, He would still be good and holy and just in everything that He does. (But He does answer prayer, just try it!). Were I to lose everything, He would still be The Faithful One. And He has such an intense love for people that He sent His only Son to die an excruciatingly painful death on Calvary for us.
Even though you may not think so or believe so, God has an incredible love for you as an individual and cares deeply about you and the struggles you face and the questions you have. At times we do unfortunately treat Him like our toaster – we tuck Him away in the cupboard and ignore Him until we are hurt or in trouble. But He is abundantly ready to forgive our wrong concept of Him and our wrong attitudes toward Him. To find out how to know more about His purpose and plan and love for you, read the last chapter on www.ourdogtbone.com (The Face of the Master).
Dan Vander Ark
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