Cafeteria-Style God

God of different views

Virtually every spiritual problem can be traced back to our view of God.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A.W. Tozer)

Church culture has various forms that present God in different ways. Some present God as a comforter, provider, and fulfiller of dreams. While others present God as the all-powerful judge, whose anger burns against sin and who calls us to a life of self-denial. Often the problem lies in elevating a particular divine attribute at the expense of another. The danger is that in so doing, we risk creating a God of our own making.

Pastor Timothy Keller states…

“The only way to avoid the true God is to fabricate a false god that’s controllable.”

We have formulated a cafeteria concept of God, taking qualities that we choose, and rejecting those that we disdain. A church with a low view of God is also likely to have a high view of culture, and will have consciously or subconsciously absorbed its values. A church with a cold view of God will have a low view of grace, while having disdain for those in sin. The only remedy for a church that has gotten off track is to return to a more complete understanding of God.

Jesus our homeboy?

The answer to revitalizing the Church is not better music nor more fear-evoking sermons. We need to rediscover the fullness of who God is—not just the palatable parts nor the attributes that neatly align with culture—but the view of Him as the all-powerful king of the universe, who invites us to approach His throne of grace.

We assume that since Jesus is all loving and abounding in grace, and since he already died for sin, we can live and let live and tell the holy homeboy to put any slip ups on our tab. Yes, Jesus is our friend, and yes he abounds in grace, but he is also our authority—the one we answer to, the one we obey, the one we surrender before—and to abuse his grace by using it as a license to sin is to cheapen it and miss the big picture all together.

His kindness leads us to repentance, not to exploitation. He is not only our friend, He is our King!

Not A Spectator

Heaven is our model

Jesus lived by only doing what He saw His Father doing. Learning to recognize the Holy Spirit’s power and following His lead enables us to do what Jesus did. These kind of operations of God’s Spirit are not limited to church meetings. We must learn how to take this anointing to our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods and expect similar results. Healing, deliverance, and spiritual breakthroughs become options we offer people wherever we go. Whatever the point of need a person has, God wants to move.

When you have an encounter with God, your hunger for the presence of the Lord increases and miracles are a by-product. God will meet you, change you in your encounter with Him, and as you change the impact on the world around you changes.

You are not just spectator

God’s presence is given to us that we might know Him, while His power is given that others might know him through us. The presence of God is for you, his power is for someone else through you. God’s presence stills you, God’s power stirs you.

Encounters with God are for everyone and everywhere. He is looking for those who will listen and those He can trust. God looks at the heart and reveals Himself to those who love Him. There is no need to strive anymore. Working from God’s presence is more effective than working for His presence, but looking for the move of God’s power is never passive.

Signs and wonders are a practical means to display the love and power of God. The love of God does not omit the miraculous. The most important objective of miracles is to reveal the love of God.

Evangelism can become very clinical, and unfortunately it isn’t very effective. But the person who stays open to the power of the Holy Spirit and loves people offers a different option to people, and will see a natural outflow of miracles and salvations.

Fighting Position

Get ready

Whether it’s a professional sports activity, or a friendly round of golf, or even some simple chores around the house, virtually all activities can benefit from being in what is called the “athletic position.” In this position, the weight is centered over the base of support and distributed equally on both feet. The waist is bent and the core is engaged. Legs are also slightly bent, while the hands and arms are extended from the waist. The body is ready to be put into motion with a quick shift.

Some coaches refer to it as the “ready position,” as it is indicative of what the person is preparing to do. In the ready position you are preparing yourself for some action; exactly which action is as yet, unknown. Thus, this position should prepare a person for movement in any direction.

Spiritually alert

Activity for a follower of Jesus goes beyond physical movements. It is spiritual. We live and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). We also do warfare by the spirit (Eph. 6:12). These spiritual activities require us to be in a “ready position” also.

Be well balanced and always alert, because your enemy, the devil, roams around incessantly, like a roaring lion looking for its prey to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, TPT)

Being in a spiritually ready position makes you aware of the enemy’s whereabouts, strategies, and attacks. But even more being in a spiritually ready position puts you in a position to fight back, where you can block the fiery darts of accusation and condemnation. You can also send the forces of darkness running with the command of God’s word.

Your spiritual ready position is a fighting position. You don’t have to put up with lies, guilt, shame, fear, confusion, disease, sickness, debt, hopelessness, etc. You have at your confession all the promises of God!



Death and Good Theology

When a Christian dies

This week our church family received the news that one of our dearest brothers passed away. This leads us to some important questions. Should we rejoice or weep when a brother or sister in Christ dies? Is a Christian memorial service a celebration or time for mourning? The answer is found in a right understanding of a Christian’s death.

Often people who are dying will say something like, “Don’t cry when I die, but be joyful because I’ll be with Jesus.” As a result, it’s normal to hear family members of the deceased person say, “He didn’t want us to grieve, but to joyfully remember the life he had and remind ourselves that he is truly in a better place.”

These are endearing statements, and we don’t want to belittle the love and affection that caused them. However, these responses are not complete. We should not merely rejoice when a Christian dies.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26, NLT)

Even though there are great promises to Christians after death, death itself is an abomination. Death is an unwelcomed guest. It had no place in creation. Rather, it stormed onto the scene as the thief of life upon the entrance of sin into this world. Therefore, death itself is not to be celebrated.

We cannot merely rejoice when a Christian dies somehow forgetting that death is an enemy. The Scriptures never ask Christians to deny the feeling of grief.

However, we should not merely grieve

When a Christian dies we should also be filled with rejoicing. Truly, for the Christian, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As a believer in Christ departs from this life they are immediately in a far better place (Philippians 1:23). They are with Christ! They have finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); and that faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). They no longer see in a mirror dimly, but see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). The object of their love, affection, and joy is before and with them forevermore.

What amazing things wait for the Christian at death!

When a brother or sister in the Lord passes away, there should be grief and rejoicing. They both have a place. We grieve for what is lost and rejoice at what is gained. That is good theology of Christian death!

Paying Attention

A few wise men or thousands of fools?

Large numbers of people are helpful in the right context, but unless at least a few of those people are prudent, discerning, and able to lead, a powerful army may deteriorate into an angry mob.

David received the affirmation of the entire nation without exception. People were attracted to follow him.

These are the numbers of armed warriors who joined David at Hebron. They were all eager to see David become king instead of Saul, just as the Lord had promised. From the tribe of Judah, there were 6,800 warriors armed with shields and spears. From the tribe of Simeon, there were 7,100 brave warriors. From the tribe of Levi, there were 4,600 warriors. This included Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, who had 3,700 under his command. This also included Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 members of his family who were all officers. (1 Chronicles 12:23–28, NLT)

David undoubtedly appreciated the thousands who came to his side at Hebron, but the 200 men of Issachar were especially important.

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

Without the men from Issachar to provide the strategic wisdom, the David’s mighty army would’ve been merely a mindless militia. The men of Issachar were singled out as men who had an extraordinary grasp of the political context. They understood the times and knew what Israel was to do.

Knowing what to do

The men of Issachar didn’t simply know the signs of the times, but they knew what to do in light of them. Christians should also be people of understanding who are able to navigate culture effectively and wisely. Christians must be discerning people of courage, vision, and faithfulness to the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon used to say that effective ministers should hold a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. He didn’t mean that the headlines should become our text, but that to be effective we need to know our culture in order aptly to apply Scripture to the needs of the hour.

It’s more than headlines, it is knowing what is significant among the happenings of our world – events and movements, trends and ideologies, currents and worldviews. It means having a sense of what to think, how to act, and the manner in which to respond.


Seeing What Can’t Be Seen

Seeing thousands of miles, but not five miles

350 years ago a shipload of pilgrims landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward, thereby expanding the city. They exclaimed…Who needs to go there anyway? 

The same people who could see three thousand miles across the north Atlantic ocean, were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their vision.

Seeing what can’t be seen

Ever experienced the frustration of not seeing something that somebody else does? Or, the equal frustration of you being able to see something that others can’t? Either side of the equation is annoying. The Apostle Paul experienced this.

The Holy Spirit was showing Paul unbelievable things. He was shown how amazing God’s grace and justification were. He saw how God was had included the Gentiles in His great plans and purposes. But when he told people about what he was seeing, they didn’t get it. So he would say things like…

I pray that your eyes are focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers. (Ephesians 1:18, The Message)

It’s like God was yelling through Paul, “Whoa! Look at that!!!” But He doesn’t impatiently point in the general direction wondering why we’re not seeing it. Instead, He patiently and lovingly directs our attention.

Where there is no vision or prophetic insight, the people lose focus and purpose. (Proverbs 29:18, JHP)

With no spiritual insight of what we can do and/or become in Christ, even the smallest obstacle poses a serious threat to our growth and success. But when God focuses the eyes of our faith through vision and prophetic insight, and begin to see beyond circumstances. We then realize that no obstacle, no matter how big, is too big for God!

Speaking to the Future

The Power of a Testimony

Testimonies have incredible power because they carry within them the seeds of faith it took to bring them to pass the first time. In fact, the word, “testimony” means, “to do again!” Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, states that “Testimony is the spirit of prophecy.” If prophecy causes change in present events, then releasing a testimony is like prophesying into the future

What this means is that when you hear or read a testimony, many times the same faith that produced the miracle the first time leaps into your heart and reproduces that same miracle in your life!

Focusing on what God can do

God told His people all throughout the Bible to record what He had done so when they experienced a new obstacle they could remember what He had done for them in the past and draw on that experience to gain fresh faith for the present. This is especially important for those who have not yet seen their prayers answered. It is so easy to focus on what God has not done, rather than focus on what He has done. This will also help you maintain a life of gratitude!

Another reason God tells us to write down our testimonies is so that our children, and our children’s children, will have faith in God!

“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” (Psalm 102:18)

The testimonies of what God has done strengthen the faith in others to believe for the impossible. Testimonies remind us of the goodness of God! And testimonies allow others for generations to come to share in the amazing things God can do!

God’s Waiting Room

Waiting for the door to open

My wife Kathie and I have four children. They were all born in modern maternity wards that allowed our families and friends to be a part of the process (though Kathie had the rough part). In fact, the doctor actually let me deliver both of our youngest kids. I think he figured anyone with four kids ought to know how deliver a baby.

However, when I was born things were totally different.

While my mom enjoyed the pampering of nurses fluffing her pillow and meeting her every request (joking), my dad had to wait in a smoke-filled room with all the other nervous soon-to-be dads. Every time the door opened, the pacing would stop, and all eyes looked to see who belonged to the latest little package held in the nurse’s arms. Finally after hours of waiting, my dad heard the door open at 3 AM and the nurse say, “Mr. Phillips, congratulations, you’re the father of a boy!”

My dad was in a place called a “waiting room,” and though they are a thing of the past, there are still plenty of them in existence. The fact is, someone reading this is in a waiting room.

This is for you

You’ve been waiting, pacing, hoping for something, and as of yet there’s been no announcement or sign of it happening. However, it just may be that you’re actually in God’s waiting room. And it may encourage you to know that there have been many others throughout history who have also been in this room.

Like my dad, Abraham had to wait for a son, only instead of waiting for one night, he waited 25 years. Joseph was given a dream, only to watch his youth dwindle away for 17 years in an Egyptian jail. Job waited for healing and restoration. David was anointed to be King of Israel, but had to hide for years in the wilderness running for his life

What have you been waiting for? David wrote something important for you…

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14)

What Do You See?

Milk and honey

What he saw captivated his thoughts. It was lush. Fertile. Beautiful. And it was all theirs! Moses said to the men around him,

“Now I know what God meant when He said,
‘I’m bringing you into a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

Moses was getting older, but his strength got a second wind as he thought about how God was fulfilling the promises made to him back in Egypt. Even though there appeared to be walled cities and some formidable opponents, hope surged in his heart. Surely these obstacles could be no greater of a challenge than Pharaoh and his armies. He could hardly wait for the men to get back who he had sent to spy out the land.

“Here they come!” someone shouted as the twelve spies came up the trail. The twelve of them didn’t appear to be very excited as Moses asked for a status report.

“We cannot go! The people are too big! The cities are too strong. We would be better off back in Egypt.”

Everybody listening began to moan, but Moses noticed that Jephunneh’s son and Nun’s son were shaking their heads. “Caleb and Joshua,” Moses asked, “what did you boys see?”

Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it…Do not fear the people, for the Lord is with us!(Numbers 13:30, 14:9)

God is with you

That answer proved to be a very key moment in the history of Israel, and in the lessons God deals with his people. It turns out that how you relate to circumstances is based on how much you really believe God is with you, and that nothing is impossible for Him.

What Caleb and Joshua saw and felt inwardly affected their hope, which in turn affected their destiny. This is true today. You may see things today that in the natural look impossible, but remember you’re not facing those things alone. Let hope rise in you today knowing that God is with you, and because of that nothing is impossible!

Trophies of Grace

Good questions

It’s often asked, “If God knew that people were going to sin, why did he create humans?” That’s a good question, but a more thorough question might be…“Why did God create the world at all?”

The best answer is that God created everything for his glory. He created a world that would display his glory most fully and most perfectly. That is to say, every aspect of God’s character could be shown in its most extreme form.

If God had created a world in which no one sinned, what aspects of his character could he have shown? His creative power? His loving-kindness? His provision for his people? Yes. But what about his mercy? Or his justice?

Going deeper

Think about this, how would we know about God’s loving-kindness and creative power to their fullest extent without knowing that Jesus died in our place, and then was raised from the dead? Listen to how Paul expounds on this in Romans 9:22-23…

In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. (NLT)

God’s wrath being held back from people who deserve it demonstrates the riches of his glory. Just as the power shown in His creation reveals his glory, the power that forgives reveals his glory.

God is the champion at bringing people from a place of destruction to a place of total victory. As they reach that place of victory they become trophies of his grace, and they are set on display as a fragrant reminder of his glory.