In the classic scene from The Wizard of Oz, the green curtain is pulled back to Toto to reveal that it wasn’t actually a “great and mighty Oz, but something far less powerful and potent. Sometimes there’s a green curtain that needs to be pulled back to reveal our god. (link to blog here)
In his book, Free of Charge, Miroslav Volf describes the little man who is sometimes behind the green curtain of our theology. It’s either the Great Negotiator, or Santa Claus.
The Great Negotiator is the God we try to bargain with.
“I’ll do this [insert your favorite “favor” you offer God here] for you, God,
if you’ll do that [insert whatever it is you need from God at the moment here] for me.”
The main problem is that we have nothing to offer God that he needs. So it’s not really a negotiation. “God, I’ll give you something you already have and you’ll give me something I need.” Besides, if God doesn’t uphold his end of the deal, there’s no way to enforce it.
The Santa Claus God is the one who gives indiscriminately to everyone with no expectation or strings attached. The main problem with this is that God seems to have expectations. “Do this, or don’t do that.”
As Volf points out, “God generously gives, so God is not a negotiator of absolute dimensions. God demands, so God not an infinite Santa Claus… [A] Santa Claus God gives simply so we can have and enjoy things; the true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers. God the giver has made us to be givers and obliges us therefore to give.”
We’re tempted to follow the Great Negotiator, or Santa Claus. But a better choice is the picture that emerges from the pages of the Bible. God is the Creator who creates and gives good gifts, and also the Redeemer who steps in when we fail to meet the demands of living as image bearers of our generous God.
Who’s behind your green curtain?
Whenever a disaster strikes, we’re prompted to ask, “How can we help.” May I suggest the following?
First, we are part of an association of 1200 churches that is mobilizing not only financial resources, but actual “on the ground” teams to help with the arduous task of restoring and rebuilding homes and lives. We participated together during the aftermath of Katrina, and this is another opportunity to work together to make a difference.
If you’d like to make a financial donation to assist with the needs, you can click here. As the details and opportunities become clearer in the coming days, we’ll keep you informed about opportunities for teams of volunteers to assist in other ways, such as collecting needed goods, and/or sending teams to the affected areas.
The second opportunity is not about people in Texas, but people right here in Maryland. I’m referring to our Rooted Experience which starts again on September 12th. You may have already heard about it. If not, it’s a 10-week experience designed to help you connect with God, connect with the church, and connect with your purpose. And boy oh boy, it will do that and more! Listen to the comments of some of the hundreds of people at Seneca Creek who’ve already taken this step:
I struggled all my life with depression and being afraid. Fear would take me into a vicious cycle of depression that would be hard to escape. I have been on so many medications trying to find the right one that would agree with me. Being stuck in that dark hole was overwhelming and seemingly never ending. But I hid it well so others wouldn’t know and hold it against me.
Rooted changed me and it changed my outlook on God… Rooted helped me learn some very important truths about the God who loves me and what His purpose is for me…
I didn’t want to attend Rooted. I thought it was only for people who were new Christians or new to the church or needed a little extra help in their walk with the Lord. I was afraid it would be a waste of my time. Pride, I guess… Rooted was more than learning the basics about Christianity, faith, and God. It helped me connect with other women in the church, break strongholds and shame from my past, and gave me the confidence and clarity to pursue my calling. I started the group not having any connections in the church. I felt like if I didn’t show up one week, no one would even notice. Even though I had been attending the church for over three years, I just wasn’t connected. Rooted changed that. Today, I am still very close to the women in that group. We pray, share and eat together. They are my sisters, and I know that they would drop everything and pray for me (and I for them).
God used these women to help me break strongholds and a pattern of shame from my past… I really felt God’s Spirit set me free from negative patterns I had struggled with for years. Without…Rooted, I’m not sure how much longer I would have been stuck in pain, shame, and darkness. I am so much freer, happier, and confident now… I can genuinely say my life was changed.
Rooted left me feeling empowered the most. I know that seems like an odd word to use, but the reason is because before Rooted I was still a very, very new Christian. I didn’t know too much but I did know that I was a believer. I have learned so much in Rooted about myself, other people in my group, and most importantly I learned more about God.
Before Rooted…I was a believer but still had trouble sharing that with some people because although not proud, I used to refer to people that were believers as, ” Holy Rollers, and Bible Pushers” because I was ignorant. And because of the person I was, I was scared to tell people I believed in Jesus and the Christian life.
Rooted made me be proud to tell people about my faith and took the fear of being made fun of for it away! For that reason… I used the word EMPOWERED.
I thought it would be a great way to move deeper into my relationship with Jesus Christ and at the same time for me to get to know others in the church beyond the weekly “meet and greet” handshake… Rooted was just what I needed at the time. A safe place to share concerns, worries and blessings with others who also were working through their journeys as well… I loved going every week-and I was sad when it ended. I still feel fellowship and friendship with the individuals in my group and have moved into small group ministries with several of them.
Rooted is a place where true friendship and bonding are fostered more effortlessly. Some of my most profound relationships began in Rooted. It kept me connected, energized and emboldened. I look forward to more experiences like Rooted.
You have an opportunity to start writing your own Rooted story. Click here now to register for this life-changing experience! You will not regret it.