“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6:33)
This blog is not about church organizations or structures. It is about the people who make up the universal Christian church of Spirit-born believers around the world. Get people personally connected to Jesus Christ, and He can then capably take it from there to produce the positive results we read about in the lives of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.
A genuine reformation in the Christian church begins with repentance, prayer, Bible study, listening in the Spirit, and a heartfelt desire for genuine discipleship.
But a fundamental reality in the world is that not many people listen to the words of the true prophet at the moment the message is being delivered. This is primarily due to the vertical separation between the message of the prophet’s speech in the elevated realm of faith and trust in God, and how well people in-the-moment have the capacity for listening “in the Spirit” (Mt. 11:15; Acts 27:9-11).
Most people going about their normal lives have their vision focused horizontally upon day-to-day concerns, and are not contemplating the higher ways of God in their daily affairs (Isa. 55:8-9).
But a true prophet of God is always trying to elevate people’s spiritual vision up into the higher realm of daily living combined with “walking in the Spirit.”
This is the location where faith and trust in God can produce divinely orchestrated outcomes coupled with profound character growth. This is also the area where resistance to change and the element of risk reside.
This is why for many people the sudden introduction of the message of God through a prophet is often a jarring and unwelcome event. The prophet’s message can be a nettlesome intrusion into our otherwise normative, complacent, worldly sensible plans.
Israel historically revered their prophets in hindsight, and went to great efforts to accurately record, maintain, and pass along the sayings and writings of their prophets. But many of the biblical prophets were persecuted and rejected by their contemporaries at the time they delivered their messages (Jer. 1:19).
It is a relatively safe exercise to look backwards in time in nostalgic appreciation for the purely intellectual component of the prophet’s message, conveniently removed into the history of centuries past.
It is a relatively safe enterprise to endorse the ancient prophet’s fiery call for personal repentance, a heartfelt change in our lives, and the challenge to step-up into a biblical-style adventure of faith (Mt. 23:20), as long as this message can be interpreted to apply to past generations of our wayward ancestors…and not directly to us.
A Spirit-filled prophetic call to surrender all to Jesus today, in full consideration of the costs and benefits involved, can be just as sobering a challenge for us now as it was for the Old Testament Jews listening to Moses, Samuel, Elijah, or Jeremiah.
The unique aspect of the final chapter of the Christian church in the last days is that there will not be a future, upcoming, extended period of time in human redemptive history on earth…to nostalgically look back upon the present-day words of prophets calling people to a higher and deeper experience following Jesus Christ…in-the-moment right now.
The second coming of Christ brings an end to this current human redemptive period…for all time.
This interaction between God and people set within the context of life’s events and circumstances, having mutual faith and trust as the bonding cement of the relationship is not found anywhere else in philosophy, religion, or human experience.
The validating element of this arrangement is authenticated by the reality that the living God must actively take up His part of the relationship.
Like playing catch with a baseball, someone real has to be on the opposite side to catch the ball and throw it back. In the case of a biblical journey of faith, the one true God invented the game and openly invites all to participate.
The entire Bible can be interpreted as God’s attempt to get us to release our faith and elevate our vision up into the realm where God can effectively work with us. This is actually a key aspect of the Bible that confirms its divine origin.
The component of God’s active out-reach toward us is something that cannot be fabricated by human invention. The callings of God, and the ingenious and varied narrative stories that follow the enlistment of each person of faith recorded in the Bible, are totally outside the imagination and literary invention of man.
One classic example of God trying to get people’s vision raised above the horizontal, everyday thinking…is recorded in Mark 12:13-17.
The Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus, and ask Him: “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” These opponents of Jesus think they have Him intellectually cornered with this cleverly devised question which appears to offer no positive option within the worldly horizontal realm of practical concerns. Answering yes or no strictly within the bounds of conventional wisdom…spells trouble either way.
Telling the Jews not to pay their taxes offends the Roman government. Telling Jews to dutifully pay their taxes to the hated foreign occupiers offends the populace in the very sensitive area of Jewish national pride and in the practical area of their pocketbooks.
But Jesus brilliantly lifts this issue up a level higher into the elevated realm of the Spirit, above our horizontal vision. Jesus asks the Pharisees to show Him a coin, asks whose image is engraved on the coin, and then unexpectedly divides the answer to their question into two distinct vertical zones.
Part one of the fully correct, responsive answer is to render faithfully to the demands of the everyday practical world that which belongs to the everyday world…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
Part two of the answer is to render to God the living faith and trust that can only occur within the elevated realm of the adventures of faith following God, which up until that time were vividly and clearly portrayed throughout the Hebrew Bible.
This ingenious answer by Jesus to this otherwise difficult question has intrigued skeptics and admirers of Jesus for almost 2,000 years. The Pharisees and Herodians shake their heads and walk away in amazement at this answer of Jesus. In its brevity it fully addressed all sides of the issue of practical godliness in this broken world, having the clear bell-ring of truth that left no further opening for a follow-up question.
This succinct answer by Jesus is inarguable and unassailable in its pinpoint accurate truthfulness, because it’s simple depth and scope fully encapsulates God’s program for all humanity in a nutshell.
Temporarily improving the political equation in Palestine in the first-century was not the solution to Israel’s current problem of Roman occupation. God had already provided the solution to this problem to Israel hundreds of years before in the book of Judges. The solution was to turn to God with all of their hearts. This was the mission of Jesus (Lk. 4:18-19), not to lead a military revolt against the Romans to remove the burden of taxes paid to Caesar.
The Pharisees and Herodians attempted a strategy of verbal entrapment with Jesus, trying to publicly catch Him in misspoken words. What they got instead from Jesus the eternal Word of God was a brilliantly concise response of such universal scope and wisdom that the opponents of Jesus eventually recognized their attempts to outwit Jesus in pubic were embarrassingly counterproductive (Mt. 22:46).
But the splitting up of this question by the Pharisees and Herodians, into two distinct parts by Jesus, goes infinitely deeper than being merely a clever, temporary evasion of this thorny issue.
Jesus is not talking out of both sides of His mouth like modern-day professional politicians. Behind the insincerity of the motivation to attempt to trap Jesus there exists a profound question that goes to the heart of our faith and relationship with God in this broken and often confusing world. The answer of Jesus to render to God the things that are God’s soars far above all practical worldly considerations.
In a God-composed and orchestrated adventure of faith, everything in our lives is managed and guided by God’s will and way…even the paying of taxes to support the government of an occupying foreign nation (Mt. 17:27).
This attitude of faith and trust in God, within the ups and downs of life in a journey of faith, only successfully works through elevated vision focused on the one true living God.
In Matthew 16:21-23, Peter strongly voices his objection to the idea that Jesus might fall into the wrong hands and suffer personal injury. This would otherwise normally be an admirable and commendable reaction from the worldly horizontal viewpoint. But in this one singularly unique instance, Peter’s proposed physical protection for Jesus is about as far off-target as is humanly possible.
The upcoming event of the crucifixion of Jesus for the redemption of mankind was planned from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Peter’s spiritual vision, along with the vision of everyone else at that time, was horizontally flat regarding the impending trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Peter goes out and weeps bitterly after failing so miserably in the courtyard of Caiaphas, revealing his total lack of understanding regarding the big-picture direction of events that must occur, culminating in the resurrection that forever defeats death and hell (Rev. 1:18).
Likewise, the other disciples scatter for safety at the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane. This also reveals a horizontal misunderstanding of the temporary safety of their position as mere disciples. The security of this position is based in the historic miscalculation by the religious authorities that focusing exclusively upon the removal of the leader Jesus would quickly stamp out His movement.
Because of the conventional thinking of the religious leaders, the disciples had little to fear for their safety during the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.
The horizontally flat vision of not understanding the true situation is also clearly evidenced by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus by the wrapping of the body of Jesus with linen strips of cloth according to Jewish customs for permanent burial.
This is evidenced a second time by the women coming early Sunday morning to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices, again in anticipation of permanent interment and not at all in expectation of an imminent bodily resurrection.
A large enough group of people heard and understood the sayings by Jesus that He would rise the third day, to the point of motivating the chief priests and Pharisees to take the extraordinary step of coming to Pilate the day after the crucifixion saying: “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again” (Mt. 27:63). They then asked permission to place a group of guards and to seal the stone at the tomb of Jesus.
It is ironic that the deadly opponents of Jesus are the one group that expresses the possibility of Jesus rising from the tomb.
Albeit, in this case, their thinking is not based upon faith in Jesus but on the totally cynical notion that the disciples would attempt to steal the dead body of Jesus, and then falsely claim He rose from the dead. Their vision is about as worldly horizontal as can be. This explains their nervous precaution of placing a group of guards at the tomb to prevent the removal of the body.
The actions taken by everyone involved in the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection betrays their horizontal mindset.
Peter, the other disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, the women at the tomb, and the opponents of Jesus all are stuck in the understandably commonplace notion that people simply do not raise themselves from the dead.
It takes the one-time, supernatural intervention of God the Father to raise Jesus the Son of God from these seemingly impossible circumstances, validating and establishing Jesus Christ as Savior.
That God the Father supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead is the fuel that propels forward the world-changing gospel message and testimony of the early church, and is the foundation for the Christian church to this day.
In this critical area of biblical lessons demonstrating God’s attempt to raise our vision upward toward Him, one of the highest illustrative examples is the redemptive reach of the cross of Jesus Christ.
How could anyone, including the apostles, grasp ahead of time the enormous idea that one person could die on the cross as satisfaction for all of mankind’s sin…actualized by grace through faith? The atonement for the mass of sin accumulated by every single person from the beginning of human history…redeemed through the sacrifice of one man Jesus Christ…was in-the-moment simply too much to contemplate.
Even someone like Jesus, who is restoring sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, healing cripples, casting out demons, multiplying fish and bread to feed thousands, walking on water, instantly calming a raging storm at sea, and raising the dead…still does not bridge the conceptual gap ahead of time that one person could single-handedly as the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice absorb the enormous quantity of mankind’s sins and offences…enabling God to justifiably forgive any person who will come to Him through faith in Christ.
People see Jesus raise the widow’s son from the dead in the city of Nain, but they ascribe to this obviously divine miracle the arrival in Israel of a great prophet only. This is as high as their spiritual vision will allow them to go (Lk. 7:16).
Eye-witnessing this miracle did not connect them with the idea of the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice…for the sins of mankind. One does not necessarily follow the other. Making atonement for mankind’s sin is a totally different matter.
Though Jesus actually told the disciples ahead of time about His impending crucifixion and resurrection (Mk. 8:31), even they did not get it. It was spiritually above their still worldly horizontal comprehension. Only after the resurrection did they finally understand.
They personally saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus in His newly restored body, still having the nail-pierced scars on his hands and feet, affirming the divine capacity of the blemish-free Lamb of God Jesus to indeed take away the sins of the world.
The perfection of Jesus as the sinless, spotless Lamb of God atonement for mankind’s sin would only make full sense after seeing Jesus visibly risen from the dead.
The powerful testimony of Jesus through the words and deeds of His ministry, combined with all of the Old Testament messianic backstory, only comes into clear focus for the disciples after the resurrection.
In the glorious new world the disciples awoke to on that fateful Sunday morning, where Jesus is now bodily risen from the dead, the upper boundary line of what was previously possible was completely shattered. This unanticipated action by God liberated the disciples up above the conventionally horizontal into the realm where all things are possible (Acts 3:6; 4:8).
The example of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle of God’s divinely composed outreach to mankind…in a previously unthinkable and unimaginable way…to come upward in our spiritual vision of what God can and will accomplish in our lives if we will place our trust in Him.
One man can take upon Himself the sins of the world, if He is the Son of God.
If absolutely everyone in-the-moment is not comprehending the upcoming resurrection of Jesus Christ prior to and shortly after His crucifixion, and all of the details surrounding their actions and reactions are embarrassing to the apostles of the early church…are we to plausibly believe that these same apostles or someone else subsequently invented this brilliantly imaginative scenario as literary fiction from a detached, mezzanine viewpoint?
What would be the origin or frame of reference to explain the unique originality of this creative inspiration if the gospels themselves admit that no one at the time anticipated God the Father raising Jesus from the dead?
Why would the gospel writers admit and accurately record this fundamental shortcoming of not grasping the upcoming resurrection, then describe it all with such detail? And who amongst the followers of Jesus would possess this world-class literary creativity, if it were all pure fiction?
Encapsulated within the account itself is the important revelation that the ordinary, naturalistic capacity of our human intellect is not up to the task of anticipating and comprehending ahead of time the higher ways and works of God.
God had to arrange the cross and the resurrection in such a heart-breaking and disappointing fashion for the disciples in order to bring everyone to the endpoint of their own self-reliant thinking, plans, and vision.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus forced everyone to squarely face the limited reach of their own horizontal thinking.
As the Roman soldiers are hammering the metal spikes through the hands and feet of Jesus, not only is the blood of Jesus cleansing believers from sin, but these metal spikes are going straight through the arrogant pride and hubris of humanism…humanism that was and is blind to what was happening at that moment.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s most powerful, drastic, and love-filled means to get people to raise our vision higher. The unsurpassed quality and singular originality of the story validates the divinity of its authorship.
This is a reality common to all of the positive journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, and a foreglimpse of the upcoming issues for individual Christians and the Christian church on a colossal scale in the end-times.
In a biblical journey of faith, God takes people through tightly crafted and divinely guided circumstances beyond the point where they can depend upon their own self-reliance.
This is the surest way…maybe the only way…that God can demonstrate His faithfulness and love for us.
Why did the world reject Jesus during His first advent as Messiah?
One basic answer is that the religious leadership in Jerusalem and a large portion of the populace had their vision focused horizontally. Some portion of the populace followed Jesus because they wanted a free meal (Jn. 6:26) and to witness the novelty of miracles (Lk. 23:8).
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes thought that the removal of Jesus of Nazareth, who showed no signs of leading a successful Jewish military revolt against the Roman occupation of their country according to their expectations, was best achieved through the ignominious death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.
They had no concept of the mission of the messiah as outlined in Isaiah 61:1-2, and no desire for a new covenant gospel message of hope and peace that would offer genuine freedom to the entire world. This was above their temporal and worldly comprehension.
The disciples, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the horizontally flat, vision spectrum-line. Their individual hopes and plans are crushed by the trial, death, and burial of the one they believed to be the long-promised Messiah for Israel.
They wondered if they had somehow made a mistake in following Jesus. It is probably not fair to say that the disciples should have known better. God arranged events with such precision that the hopes and dreams of the disciples were dependent upon the miracle of a resurrection of Jesus…that was not even within their contemplation.
The eternal salvation for mankind and the disappointing heartbreak of the disciples were both contained within the exact same cross and resurrection events. God had to raise their vision above the horizontal, and it took the most sublimely brilliant, imaginative action composed and orchestrated by God that also contained a painful separation of the disciples from their own mindset, their self-will, and the way they expected things to turn out.
In short, the divine love that is contained within the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ extends into our daily lives through a God-composed journey of faith far above the horizontally conventional.
This is a truth of such monumental importance and application that it must not be surrendered, misplaced, set aside, lost, or become partially out of focus for the Christian in the last days.
Someone may ask at this point, how do the narrative stories and examples in the Bible relate to me, and to the modern-day Christian church? I get up in the morning, go to work, and come home to my wife and children each day…so how do the inspirational stories of the biblical superstars of the faith relate to me in my desire to obtain vertical vision as a Christian?
How can God integrate His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9) into the ordinary conventional routine of my daily life?
The answer is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, learning to listen in the Spirit, studying the Bible daily, and a willingness to follow the leadership of Jesus within the events and circumstances of our uniquely individual lives.
Like the example of playing catch with a baseball, we get better with practice. But unless we are throwing the ball straight up and catching it by ourselves when it comes back down, we need a minimum of two people for a game of catch.
To enter into a biblical style journey of faith having vertical vision, this requires the unmistakably supernatural participation of the living God. This is the reality for new covenant, Spirit-born Christians that is promised through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).
The solutions to the challenges facing Christians and the Christian church in the last days are found in raising our vision upward toward Jesus Christ in faith and trust.
The answers to the upcoming challenges of the end-times are found in the fully committed approach taken by the three young Hebrews confronted with the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:18), by Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:22), and by Esther in attempting to be the instrument of God to save her people (Est. 4:16).
These are not ancient myths. This is not man-invented folklore.
The opportunity to likewise exercise our faith, to walk in the Spirit, and to be “in Christ” in this broken world in the middle of the unprecedented world-shaking events of the last days, is a privilege, a calling, and an honor beyond reckoning.
The theme of this book is to illuminate and clarify this vision of seeing above the horizontal through faith in Christ.
An understanding of the role of a collective adventure of faith through the cross…for the entire Christian church as a group…composed and orchestrated by God in a way that is above and beyond human invention is another key truth leading to our success as overcomers in the upcoming end-times events.