In 2009, Pocket God was released for Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad. Since then, it’s been one of their top-selling video game applications. Here’s the game description found on iTunes:
What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.
Deep down, all of us would like to try our hand at being God—or at least creating a god in our own image. We want a god we can see, a god we can feel, a god we can name. Worshiping a nameless, invisible God doesn’t seem so sexy…but is that what we really want? Really?
Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Hebrews 13:1-25. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (verses 1-2). Years ago, Kelley and I asked an artist to paint this Scripture passage on the walls surrounding our kitchen. By entertaining strangers, we may at times be entertaining angels. But doing so, we’re always serving Jesus.
In verses 11-13, the writer explains to his readers that the carcasses of sin offerings were burned outside Jerusalem. In the same way, Jesus suffered on the cross on Golgotha, which was located outside the gate of the holy city. Then the writer says, “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
What does this mean?
In my experience, local churches treat their building and worshipping community as a fortress from the outside world. But the writer of Hebrews is calling us to venture outside of our safe and secure comfort zones to represent Jesus to a dying world.
Eugene Peterson in The Message paraphrased it the last phrase like this: “So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is.”
Proverbs 27:21. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Notice that a crucible is compared to praise. A crucible is a container that holds gold or silver and placed over the fire to bring the impurities to the surface. Although not nearly as painful, praise works in the same way. I’m learning to offer a sincere “thank you” when people compliment me. Anything more does nothing but feed the beast.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
The Israelites were seen as peculiar by the surrounding nations because they worshiped a nameless, invisible God. The name God used for himself was Yahweh (or Jehovah), which means “I Am” in Hebrew. But while the surrounding nations worshiped gods they could touch and whom they could call by name, the Israelites’ God was neither.
So what are the benefits of worshiping a nameless, invisible God?
Idols are confined to one location. What you see is what you get. Sure, you can take Pocket God with you, but because he lives in a finite world, he cannot read your thoughts or the intent of your heart.
God isn’t limited by time or space. He exists everywhere at the same time, and he knows our thoughts and the intent of our hearts. The God of the Bible is personal.
Idols can be controlled. By knowing the name of their idol, people in ancient times believed they could control it. But also, anyone could pick up an idol, throw it, or manipulate it to give them what they want by chanting incantations and offering it sacrifices.
God exists beyond our control. We don’t even know his name and because he doesn’t dwell in an object, we can’t control or manipulate him. The God of the Bible is greater than us.
Idols exist for the benefit of their worshipers. People carved an idol into an image of their choosing according to their wants or desires. The idol’s identity was determined by the whims of its owner. The same applies to your Pocket God. Ultimately, he exists for you.
We exist for God. God created us in his image and we exist for him. Our identity, value, and worth come from him.
Idols can be discarded. As the needs or personal taste of the owner changes, you can delete your Pocket God from your iPhone, and exchange it for a new, more exciting god.
God is eternal. Because he owns us and isn’t limited by time or space, he cannot be discarded not deleted. Trends and tastes may change over time, but our God is faithful, eternal, consistent—a rock that cannot be moved. When we turn our backs on him, he still remains near to us.
The psalmist in Psalm 15 assesses the difference between an everyday idol and their God, and then cries out to the reader:
O house of Israel, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.
The temptation is to place our trust in a god of our own choosing. We want to believe in a god who reflects our tastes, desires and values. But a god like that resembles an idol more than the God of the Bible.
What are the benefits of worshiping a nameless, invisible God? We knows us and nothing on earth can limit him.
Which means we can trust him.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- In what ways do you carry a Pocket God with you?
- Where does your Pocket God fall short?
- To what extent can you trust the God of the Bible?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.