We’ve all heard God described as “The Big Guy Upstairs.” People may use this phrase lightly, but Rob Strong, pastor in the least-churched state of Massachusetts, believes that many today do indeed have a skewed view of who God is. In addition to “God is the faceless and uncaring Big Guy Upstairs,” we may believe one or all of the following:
God is angry.
God is far away.
God doesn’t care about us or the little things in our lives.
God is an unfair and revengeful judge.
God is just waiting for me to fail.
Strong proposes that although these things may be widely believed, they simply are not true. He then addresses some of the reasons why we tend to have an unbiblical picture of God, and goes on to take a look at just who God really is and how He is more intentional, active and closer than we realize. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Strong has an engaging teaching style. Using stories from his own life, he inserts laugh-out-loud humor and practical wisdom to get his point across.
"There are so many brilliant insights within the pages of THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS, numerous 'Aha' moments that spark new concepts in the way we think about God. Many scriptures are picked apart, offering a fresh and possibly new perspective to chew on."
In the first chapter, Strong tells about finding a peach tree. Not only was he shocked to find it on the edge of his property north of Boston, but this delicious fruit tree was thriving, even as it was practically hidden by weeds, thorns and thistles. How long had this gem been available to him and his family without even knowing it? The peach tree is compared to God --- a wonderful and delightful treasure, just waiting to be discovered.
The second chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book. Strong lightly shares how people react upon hearing what he does for a living. He tells how he was at a party, enjoying the company, drinking a glass of wine and fitting in when someone asked the infamous question: “So what do you do?” And, of course, after revealing that he was a pastor, the crickets started chirping. He noticed the worried looks on people’s faces. The wheels turning in their heads, they try to remember everything they had said so far. Had they used bad language? Told a raunchy joke? Some people walked away, putting distance between themselves and “the man of God.” But then there were those who stayed. They had a few questions for the pastor --- not simple and mundane questions, but challenging and thoughtful ones about God. Among them:
What is the point of life?
What does God want with us?
Does God get angry with me?
How do I know God is listening?
What am I supposed to do if there is a God?
And that’s how this book was born. Strong realized how desperate people are to connect with God, yet are unable to do so because of their misunderstood ideas and concepts about who God really is. His purpose for this book is to relay the message of God’s presence and His relevance today.
There are so many brilliant insights within the pages of THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS, numerous “Aha” moments that spark new concepts in the way we think about God. Many scriptures are picked apart, offering a fresh and possibly new perspective to chew on. The author not only engages our thoughts and makes us laugh, he also moves our hearts as he shares tender and personal stories from his own life: stories of pain and rejection, and also of Holy Spirit nudges and incredible miracles.
THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS is a book to recommend to your friends, both the churched and the unchurched alike. No, it doesn’t answer every question, but as Strong sums up in the final chapter, “We can experience God as personal and close. We can walk in harmony with him. We can know that we are his treasure and that his power reaches beyond here and into the beyond. And we can embrace his desire for us not to become more religious, but to live in his kingdom today.”
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on August 15, 2013