Friday, May 23, 2014

Honey, I shrunk the God! And now I really need a crash helmet.

A funny thing happens to God on the way to the movies. Or TV. Or into our lives.

He gets shrunk.

This big and small screen deity is often adorable, warm, cute, clever, funny, offbeat, clumsy, ornery -- pretty much un-God-like.

Instead of the Creator of the Universe, he might be portrayed as a crusty old sailor named Stumpy who thumps from bar to bar spouting off salty and questionable wisdom based on his thorny life experiences.

Well, glory be.

Or, as in many sci-fi movies and shows, the “god” character is always oppressive or mean or demanding or controlling -- all things that seem to annoy the humanoids, whether earthlings or Time Lords, who stumble onto this “god” creature. Instead of the God to be embraced and worshiped, he is a “god” to be exterminated, contained, or pitied.

Or, on talk shows, “god” is a burlesque act, portrayed by Regis Philbin with Jimmy Kimmel taking some “humorous” jabs at the real God made irrelevant after science claims to validate the big bang theory:

Frankly, I have no problem with God creating the universe with a big bang -- I can just imagine Him snapping his fingers and, Bam! there it is, stars and sprites forever.

It takes a big God to make a vast universe.

Regardless of whether he is shown as warm and fuzzy, vicious and malevolent, or hilariously clueless, these representations of “god” all have one thing in common: they diminish God, shrinking him down to fit the sketch or storyline needs.

So do we.

Our personal “god” is often made after our own image. You know, someone more relatable and cool.

Or, maybe a jolly, giving Santa Claus in the sky.

Or, maybe you prefer a different order of “god.”

Just make mine small, to go

Many of us love our coffee.

We take it in various formulations depending on our mood or needs at the moment.

If we’re tired, we order a venti, strong, with a shot or two. Maybe tamed with some cream and sugar.

If we want something tasty, we may order a caramel latte with whip, or a pumpkin spice with a dash of cinnamon.

Whatever our state of mind, whatever our moment’s desire, there’s a coffee creation for that.

Sadly, we view God in a similar fashion.

Drew Dyck, in the opening pages of his excellent new book, Yawning at tigers: You can't tame God, so stop trying, states:
“People are starving for the awe of God. Most don’t know it, of course. They think they’re starving for success or money or excitement or acceptance -- you name it. But here’s the problem. Even those fortunate enough to satisfy these cravings find they are still hungry. Hungrier even. Why? because they’ve left untouched the most ancient and aching need, the one stitched into the fabric of their souls: to know and love a transcendent God.”


That’s a big word. It means “surpassing, preeminent, supreme, beyond the ordinary range of perception.”

A transcendent God is the opposite of what we often try to settle for: a de-capped lowercase “god,” diminished and dismissible; a small cup of weak decaf coffee to go, made to order.

The little useless god in our pocket

We love to talk and sing about the big, big, gigantic love of God. It’s comforting to envision our Big Daddy in the sky.

Or maybe, he’s more like a rabbit’s foot or a talisman we keep in our pocket; a good-luck charm to bring out when we feel the need. Give it a little rub for luck then tuck it away.

But, while God is loving, he’s more. Dyck opines:
“Rarely do we hear about God’s mystery and majesty, let alone whisper a word about his wrath. This one-sided portrayal diminishes our experience of God. We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.”
Okay, grace, mystery, and majesty are all good. We’ve got hymns for those.

But, Oh, the precious wrath of God?

Doesn’t seem like a good song title. But it is the truth.

As Dyck explains, “The truth is that God is radically different from us, in degree and kind. He is ontologically dissimilar, wholly other, dangerous, alien, holy, wild.”

It’s easy to yawn in the presence of a saccharinely sweet lovey-dovey, de-fanged “god.” But this is not the God of the Bible.

As Dyck laments, “We’ve forgotten how big God is.”

Dyck carefully exposes the fault in our starry-eyed, small view of God, or our substituting fake gods for the real deal, stating:
“We may fear a dangerous, transcendent God, but we need him. Desperately. Other deities may suffice for a season. As long as things are going well, smaller and safer gods may keep us happy by promising never to rock the boat. But the moment we encounter evil, when our lives are overturned by injustice, that’s when we need the dangerous God.”
When times get tough, a god in our pocket is pointless.

Dyck’s book does an excellent job of reminding us of Who it is we, as Christians, claim to serve, and for others, reveals the dangerous God being snubbed.

Read and hang on tight

Yawning at tigers: You can't tame God, so stop trying is reminiscent of J.B. Phillip’s little classic, You’re God is too small. Dyck tackles similar themes found in Phillip’s book in a fresh, contemporary, and accessible manner.

Drew Dyck, the author and managing editor of Leadership Journal, has given us an excellent, well-written, yawn-stifling book that deserves a wide audience.

It’s broken out into two parts with six chapters per part.

To help us reclaim a true sense of the God who is there, Dyck first leads us through the “Tiger Territory” of the more ignored aspects of His wrath, holiness, and face-planting awesomeness.

Then, we are brought back to God’s “Divine Embrace” as we re-learn the tenacious, lion-like tenderness of God.

There’s an included discussion guide that makes the book very useful for small group study. The notes section points to additional resource material for those who want to dive deeper.

But hang on as you read.

Dyck quotes Annie Dillard who warns, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? ... [In church] we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”

After reading Dyck’s book, I’m thinking crash helmets and life preservers should be standard issue for all of us as we stand, live, and worship in the presence of a great, holy, and all-loving tiger-fierce God.

NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

In his book Dyck says, “Ultimately, when it comes to God, we’re like ants crawling across an iPad: in touch with something we only faintly understand.” Do you agree? Disagree? How do you experience God in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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