An Adventure of Faith is a Better Alternative

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”                                                              (Col. 3:4)

When God connects with people of faith…the result is unconventional.

A biblical-quality journey of faith is not interchangeable with worldly conventional normalcy….they are on two different levels…two entirely different domains of reality.

Yes, it is blasphemy to claim to be the Son of God…but only because Jesus and His mission did not fit the worldly horizontal expectations of the leadership in Jerusalem and a large portion of the populace…who were told for centuries to expect a warrior/prophet king in the mold of a Moses or David or one of the judges…as Messiah.

All of the humiliation of the inflexibly close-minded, stubbornly blind rejection of Jesus Christ is condensed down into the cross of Calvary.

But if we unpack it and spread it out backwards in reverse order leading up to Calvary, part of the rejection of Jesus is based upon a rejection of God-composed, risk-filled journey of faith life-scripts that begin with Abraham (Lk. 11:52; Jn. 8:39-40), starting way back in time in the 12th chapter of Genesis…the first book in the Bible.

The narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible are at the core of Judaism in the Old Testament and Christianity in the New Testament.

A journey of faith like that of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Samuel, David, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to name only a few, is precisely how the new covenant “least-to-the-greatest” believers all get to know God personally (Jer. 31:31-34).

A biblical-quality journey of faith has no parallels with worldly conventional thinking.

This is not a new interpretation of the Bible.  This is not some version of self-energized asceticism.

God displacing our ways with His higher ways in the real, concrete events and circumstances of the lives of believers is the core central theme in the biblical narrative stories of faith…that bears repeating over and over again from many perspectives…from many angles…in any Christian book attempting to adjudicate the multiple competing narratives awash in our modern culture.

This concept of the cross of Christ in our lives is right there in plainly spoken words and action-examples throughout the Bible.

I particularly like the classic quote by G.K. Chesterton…that Christianity has not been “tried and found wanting” but “found difficult and never tried” (see God: The Evidence, by Patrick Glynn, page 149).

Committed Christian discipleship, over time, leads to a manifestation of the positive fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) within the characters of Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians.

A God-composed journey of faith is the best and highest route to take…in all of human experience…even when this route involves a difficult and challenging good-works ministry to mankind in a particular area of need…or the extreme outcome of outright persecution and possibly martyrdom.

In other words, a biblical-quality, God-composed adventure of faith is a better alternative to the mediocrity of worldly conventional normalcy…when our spiritual vision is aimed vertically toward eternity.

The reality is that a perfectly lived journey of faith as exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus the divine Son of God, leads directly to the cross on Calvary Hill.

Jesus instructs His followers to pick up their crosses…not to shun or ignore the cross element in our journeys of faith.

God displacing our ways with His higher ways is the essence of the danger zone of a Christian life of faith.

The Light of the World

In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to the soon-to- become Christians standing before Him…and to all future Christians…that we are to be the light of the world…that a city on a hill cannot be hid, and that a lit candle is placed on a candlestick (lampstand)…not under a “bushel”…to give light to all who are inside the house.

This implies that Christians are to be different…but in what way?

The answer is…in the way of demeanor, attitudes, tone, tenor, and character…not “conforming to this world” (Rom. 12:2).

Paul says of the Jews of his day: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (Rom. 2:24).  The Jews were supposed to be the light to the Gentiles, showing them the way to the one, true, living God and away from polytheistic idol-worship.

Instead the Jews in the first-century were worldly-minded in the worst way (Jn. 8:32; 11:48).

They were bound by horizontally conventional, worldly thinking…not having journeys of faith like Abraham…not following in the heritage and footsteps of the great men and women of faith in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament).

What this has to say to Spirit-born Christians today is that we are not supposed to be living in the reactive mode in the zone of worldly conventional thinking.

We are not supposed to be merely responding to whatever comes our way in life in conformity to the current social paradigm of random, chance-driven progress…based upon the slowly dissolving and disappearing theory of Darwinian naturalistic evolution…unfortunately still pervasive in our modern culture.

We do not have to wait for someone else to start a worldwide Christian reformation.

For Spirit-born Christians…absolutely nothing stops us from being the very best people we can be…of starting our own personal reformation within our sphere-of-influence…of being the best husband, wife, parent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent, friend, employer or employee, student, and citizen.

What differentiates a journey of faith following Jesus Christ…from the self-realization program of self-energized good works…is that born-again Christians have the Holy Spirit to help us achieve a better and higher level of godliness and holiness in our lives (Col. 3:8-10)…based upon what God has called us to do.

God has detailed and specific life-scripts…to procure our eternal happiness through the cross and the resurrection…His cross and our cross…above and beyond human imagination or literary invention.

What is more whimsical and irrational…to place our faith and trust in the God who crafted the extraordinary biblical narrative stories of faith…fully formed, premeditated, and ready to step into right out of the box…no tools required…or to culturally conform to a system based upon random-chance that by definition has no foresight, no expectations, no goals, no purpose, no meaning, no end-points to aim for…and thus no clear path to get there (Mk. 8:36-37)?

The undirected relativism of post-modernism…pervasive in our culture…has the potential to go in meaningless circles…leading nowhere.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script for Spirit-born Christians today is intended to craft us into becoming the light of the world…a very specific outcome.

This is one goal of the Christian life in the risky zone of faith.

It is the Same God which Worketh All in All 2

The concept of walking in the Spirit was created for us…to be actualized in this current world context (Col. 3:1-3; Gal. 2:20, 5:25; Eph. 3:11-12).

God-composed journeys of faith are written and managed by God to lift us up and out of a journey of self into the higher ways and thoughts of God.  This is the humanly inconceivable fork-in-the-road…the supernatural point…where a journey of self and a journey of faith divide asunder.

This God-invented worldview of journeys of faith is another component of the unselfish character trait of divine love.  This is why without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)…because without releasing our faith and stepping-out into our God-composed adventure of faith…it is difficult in a system of reality having free-will choice…for God to help us.

Before we compare the magnitude of our callings unfavorably with the giants of faith in the Bible…let’s listen to what else is said by and about Paul on the subject of new covenant callings of God (Jer. 31:31-34).

In Acts chapter 22 Paul defends himself before the rioting mob of people in Jerusalem, by recounting what Ananias said to Paul in Damascus: “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.  For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).

Would most of us choose for ourselves the challenging life-script for Paul as recorded in the book of Acts…oftentimes teetering on the edge of the precipice of life-and-death…to walk in the singularly unique program that would successfully evangelize the first-century Greco-Roman world…and generate the divinely inspired and sanctioned composition of Paul’s New Testament letters to the early churches…that define orthodox doctrines and practice for Christian discipleship?

Would most of us choose the program of Abraham to patiently wait for the birth of Isaac…and then to triumphantly push through the challenging test of faith on Mount Moriah…to become the “father of faith?”

Would we choose to walk in the steps of Joseph in Potiphar’s house and Pharaoh’s prison…in order to be trained to become the governor of Egypt and to set in motion the extraordinary events that would create the future nation of Israel?

Would we be willing to pay a similar high-price…the cost of jettisoning our worldly claims to conventional normalcy and thinking…by stepping into our God-composed adventure of faith tailored specifically and narrowly to match our created talents and abilities…come what may?

If God enlists us…asks us to follow Him into a fulfilling yet challenging calling that will help other people…but has the element of our having to give up some normally expected aspirations contained within conventional life…would we say yes to God and go…despite the cost?

In my opinion, the four New Testament gospels, the Book of Acts, the apostle’s letters to the churches, and Revelation…in one aspect serve as a more universal expansion of the biblical narrative stories of faith recorded in the Old Testament…applicable to every Spirit-born Christian in the relationships God wants to have with believers “from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Jer. 31:34).

As Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude write their letters to the early churches…the precise details of Christian discipleship are spelled-out in a more expanded way to cover the innumerable variations of callings and service that God intends to occur in the New Covenant Age…of the increased number and depth of personal relationships between God and people…from the least to the greatest.

In my opinion, this means that God intends to insert into the life-script of every modern Christian…who will pick up their cross to follow Jesus…some measure of this radical biblical faith we see throughout the Bible…but in a measure and to an extent that displaces our ways with God’s higher ways…in New Testament modulated gradations of callings that match what the apostles are writing about…to the Christians in the early churches.

This means that I do not have to have as spectacular a life-script calling as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Elijah, Peter, or Paul…and still have a very meaningful and fulfilling relationship with God that produces beneficial fruit that will bless myself and others.

This is what Jesus Christ is asking of Spirit-born Christians today…not within the worldly conventional realm of self-sovereignty…but in the divinely created worldview realm of novel, adventurous, God-scripted journeys of faith.

Picking up our cross for the sake of Jesus and the gospel (Mk. 8:34-35)…is a divine creation of God above and far outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…which by its very existence as an alternate viable worldview…argues for the divine origin of the Bible.

It is the Same God which Worketh All in All 1

When Christians today compare ourselves with the callings of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Joshua, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, Huldah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, James, John, or Paul…we do not see the same magnitude and intensity of calling in the specific events of our lives on a similar grand scale…as these great men and women of faith in the Bible.

Why is that?

Our understanding of God’s plans and purposes for people…in terms of journeys of faith (Heb. 11:1)…begins with the detailed life-script of Abraham the biblical “father of faith” as he is called of God  to travel from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan.

With each step Abraham takes God is displacing whatever normative plans Abraham would have had in Haran according to its culture and conventions…with a non-worldly, unconventional life-script containing the critically new element of faith in God…a life-script Abraham would never have imagined in his wildest dreams.

And with each step Abraham takes towards Canaan and away from Haran…the starting skeptical hypothesis that this story is human invented fiction…that God does not exist in reality and therefore could not have spoken to Abraham…is a door closed shut by reason of the innovative novelty of the setting aside of human autonomous self-sovereignty…that is the through-line of the story.

The biblical message is that if we are to experience the optimum course toward discovering fulfillment and satisfaction in life to their fullest extent…then God’s higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)…in the form of a God-composed life-script…must displace our tendency to go our own way according to our thinking and preferences.

The initiative here…as in every narrative story of faith in the Bible…is with God.

This concept has already been covered in each of the preceding essays…but examines a slightly different point here.

People of faith in the Bible react to God’s enlistment of them into a scheme of events and circumstances that stretch them…in terms of a relationship with God and in self-sacrificing service to others… far beyond anything they could have invented or contrived.

If God is the initiator of the faith-program and its scope, outreach, and magnitude…the divine composer of all journey of faith life-script callings…then today’s Christians must surrender and yield ourselves to Christ in prayer…and listen in the Spirit…to actualize a similar fulfilling and challenging calling in our own lives.

This is the whole point that separates-out and validates the divine origin of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts.  They do not start with human creative imagination, invention, contrivance, or self-generated energy.

The example and argument from scripture is that biblical narrative stories of faith are so outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that they cannot be the product of human inventive imagination or literary fiction.

The response of Jesus to Peter’s question about the calling of the apostle John: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?  Follow thou me” (Jn. 21:22)…makes no sense within the default worldview program of conventional thinking based on self-energized good works and personality driven self-direction.

But this response makes perfect sense in the worldview reality of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…in the biblical narrative stories of faith starting with Abraham…and in our Christian callings to very specific service today…to match our created talents and abilities.

The big question here is…does this divinely created worldview choice of a journey of faith apply universally to all Spirit-born Christians today?  Does its scope and magnitude reach down into the commonplace reality of “normal life” to produce something spectacular and extraordinary…yet typically unrecognized and unheralded by worldly conventional standards?

Paul addresses this very practical question of the varied, comparative magnitudes of our callings in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 when he writes:

15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?  If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

“As it hath pleased him”…as it has pleased God…the journey-of-faith script-writer…is the key theme here.

But the sharper-than-any-sword, cutting-edge truth here is that God-composed journeys of faith…after the biblical pattern…are not written for God’s benefit.

They are written for us.

One Key Point Regarding Abraham 2

It would unquestionably appear that there is a key element within the biblical narrative stories of faith…of death to self-direction and self-reliance in terms of pursuing the worldly conventional tenets of the American Dream­…a totally unconventional strategy of application to human lives…of a seed that must fall into the ground and die (Jn. 12:24)…before springing up into a new, transformed, and totally different lifestyle from its previous life-form as a seed.

This is a concept that is universal in every God-composed adventure of faith life-script recorded in the Bible.

There are two important takeaways from this observation…central to the argument for the divine origin of the Bible and Christianity.

First, this initial and preliminary time-period of adversity that produces the outward appearance of failure and set-back in terms of worldly conventional norms…that sets aside or removes all-together the pursuit of individual success toward the popularly accepted direction of the American Dream…as has been and will be discussed in multiple variations-on-a-theme throughout this book…would never originate out of humanistic literary fiction.

Second, only God could and would compose life-scripts that contain a specific set of events and circumstances…that correctly rearranges the vertical order of authority in the relationship…of God rightfully being above us…rather than us incorrectly and foolishly above God.

Apparently…as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…a large dose of adversity is the remedy to cure the malady of self-sovereignty…that will mar and block our ability to walk with God through a journey of faith.

The biblical narrative stories of faith contain the one element that would never originate out of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…the correct displacement of our ways with the higher ways and thoughts of God (Isa. 55:8-9)…of God rightfully sitting upon His throne as King…correctly positioning Himself above us…His detailed short-term and long-term plans for specific life-missions taking priority over our plans.

I did not make this up.  This is what we see in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The concept of a seed falling into the ground to die…before being able to spring up from the ground into a tree, bush, or plant that produces grains, fruits, and vegetables…as applied in unprecedented fashion to real human lives through God-composed life-scripts…having the enormous practical consequences of the risk of failure playing-out in the events of our lives…is clearly and openly revealed to us in Judges 7:3.

The proper arrangement of God above us as leader and guide in our expedition through a God-composed journey of faith…is brilliantly and succinctly described in God’s instructions to Gideon…in reducing the numerical size of Gideon’s army to go out in battle against the overwhelming force of the Midianite army…producing circumstances that could end in either miraculous success…or utter catastrophe…creating a divine plan of attack that falls far outside of the imagination of Gideon…and far outside of conventional thinking:

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:3).

This incredibly innovative and unconventional idea of a seed…falling into the ground to die…then springing up into life…managed entirely within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…has as one of its primary goals to reverse the vertical priority of the personal relationship…with God as leader…and us as followers.

This divine use of the negative ingredient of temporary adversity skillfully puts our worldly dreams and aspirations…conventionally based on our internal perception of our in-built, innate gifts and abilities…into the ground to die…only to spring up into new, better, and different life-missions as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…confirming the divine origin of these biblical narrative stories of faith…and validating the truth of the Bible and of Christianity.

No human writers could or would invent a new religion having this unique concept of a seed first needing to die in the ground…in order to rise-up out of the ground in the new form of a tree, bush, or plant…bearing edible good fruit or vegetables…as part of the complex, God-composed life-scripts for human beings.

To depict God as the active agent in setting-up…in the biblical narrative stories of faith…this previously unheard of and completely exclusive feature of God turning upside-down the autonomous individualism of worldly conventional thinking…placing Himself correctly in the leadership role in our lives…introducing the elements of risk and faith into our life experience…through the vehicle of a journey of faith (Heb. 11:1)…as pure inventive human literary fiction…is entirely nonsensical.

This insight into the depth of the underlying issues…and the creative artistic genius of these biblical stories…well outside of the parameters of human invented literary fiction…put a kibosh on the false assertion that the biblical narrative stories of faith are nothing more than human invented religion.

In the Sermon on the Mount…Jesus says: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).

In Mark 8:36…Jesus says: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

God can craft people like Abraham into the father of faith, like the Hebrew foreigner Joseph into the governor in ancient Egypt, Moses the shepherd in Midian into the great deliverer of the nation of Israel out of bondage as slaves in Egypt, the young man David of lowly background into the King of Israel, Peter the fisherman into the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem, and the persecutor Paul into the premier Christian evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…to name only a few from the Bible.

But all of the people of faith in the Bible…achieved their success not by aiming directly at the American Dream…but aiming instead at the specific goals of their God-composed mission-plans…eventually arriving at the top of the heap in terms of human achievement…but achieved by way of the cross of Christ…the Holy Spirit guided tour into the discovery of the all-truth of John 16:13.

I have seen both sides of this in my life.  Most people have.

I have seen people who went straight for the money…in pursuit of wealth and all that it brings in terms of recognition, pride of accomplishment, and worldly esteem.

But these people would do anything to get ahead…cut corners illegally in terms of not following laws and regulations…lie to people…have no care whatsoever about improving operations and doing things right in order to cut costs…and despitefully use other people as means-to-an-end rather than developing healthy relationships built upon respect and the placing of value on the contributions of subordinates.

We can aim directly at obtaining wealth with the goal of actualizing the end-points of the American Dream in our lives…but even if we gain the whole world…we can lose our own soul.

Salvation and eternal life is a gift from God that is of inestimable worth…offered freely to mankind through repentance of sins and faith placed in Jesus Christ (Mt. 4:17)…and is the possession of all Spirit-born Christians past and present.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script for Christians today is also a gift from God…designed to take us through life the right way…focusing on goals and aspirations that are eternally important and of priceless value.

What is incredibly interesting here…is that the standard and traditional morals and ethics of the Christian life…transcending above and being so fundamentally different in their aim and aspirations…from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…for twenty-plus centuries of human history now…that this would in modern-day hindsight make the sophisticated and rational case…that this deep and complex reality of the direction of where we aim our priorities and aspirations…in journeys of self or in journeys of faith…could not have originated out of worldly conventional thinking…and therefore must have a divine origin coming from the creative mind and heart of God.

One Key Point Regarding Abraham 1

Abraham is a wealthy herdsman in Canaan.

But the people in Canaan who know the personal facts about Abraham…despite his worldly wealth and success…might still look down their noses at him for failing in this one culturally all-important area of not producing a male heir.

In the eyes of the people who are totally ignorant of the promises of God to Abraham…who are unaware of the divinely crafted program that Abraham is walking in…that displaces all other considerations in importance…the inhabitants in Canaan might think there is something amiss with Abraham…that he is going about life all wrong…in that he has not been able to contrive the culturally accepted way…of taking-in additional wives to Sarah…to produce a male heir that is suitable to pass along his wealth to…and that will continue his name forward for posterity.

This issue of producing male heirs is important to everyone at that time-period in history…yet Abraham outwardly appears to be curiously inactive in an effort to procure more wives and produce children.

Yet the real truth…behind the scenes…of the storyline of Abraham is that the Creator of the universe…God…ascribes to Abraham righteousness based upon the faith and patience of Abraham in trusting…through adverse appearing outward circumstances unknown to other people…in the truthfulness of God’s promises to him (Gal. 3:6; Heb. 11:19).

The key point here…is that it is God…not Abraham…who is the intentional author of this adventure of faith life-script dilemma for Abraham.

It is God who has purposely set this all up…this twenty-five year detour around worldly conventional expectations…within the dramatic storyline details of the life-script calling of Abraham to become the “father of faith” (Gen. 17:17).

The big question for biblical scholarship…and for practical Christian discipleship today…is why God would do this?

What is so important about a long time-period of waiting for the birth of Isaac…inserted by God as a fundamental element into the life-scripts of Abraham and Sarah?

Completely contrary to popular conventional normalcy and thinking…the narrative story of Abraham does not go in the direction of an ancient version of the American Dream…of Abraham and Sarah in Canaan starting a large family according to conventionally normal expectations.

The God-composed journey of faith life-script for Abraham…goes intentionally against-the-grain of conventional expectations for normal life (Gen. 17:1-8, 17)…against-the-grain of our supposed entitlement to pursue the worldly universal aspirations of the American Dream of success, fame, and fortune…however we culturally and socially define this.

Examining some additional biblical narrative stories of faith will help here.

Joseph possesses the innate capacity to manage the nation of Egypt as governor during a great famine…but he finds himself at the age of 30 in Pharaoh’s prison…as a result of being falsely accused by the wife of Potiphar of sexual assault.

What could be going worse in terms of outward appearances for Joseph…just a few months prior to Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation…just before this supernatural insertion of massive events that change Joseph’s life…and that miraculously confirmed his two dreams as a teenager in Canaan (Gen. 37:5-11)?

Why this extended time-period of years of adversity in the life-script of Joseph…in this unusual version of graduate management training in leadership and humility…before being elevated up into the position of governor in all of Egypt?

As Moses tends sheep in Midian…he has essentially become a “nobody.”

Moses is no longer a prince in Egypt.  Moses is a colossal failure in worldly conventional terms…as he and Aaron walk towards Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew slaves…with nothing more than a shepherd’s wooden staff…the strength of God’s word at the burning bush…and the promise of an old and faded reputation.

David is the youngest and therefore the least culturally valued son of Jesse…when the prophet Samuel arrives to find and anoint with oil…the next king for Israel.

But as David is pursued for his life by the current and established King Saul…with several near misses…people looking at David from age 20 to 30…might consider him a disappointment and a failure.

How can this adversity be the case for the daring young man that courageously killed the Philistine giant Goliath…is anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the next king…and is the son-in-law of King Saul?

Esther and Mordecai have the best of positive intentions for their current capitol city Shushan…and for their people the Jews…in their deadly struggle against Haman the Agagite…and are locked into a totally unanticipated combination of circumstances in a battle for their lives…that is not anything like pursuing the American Dream…in terms of worldly conventional normalcy.

Again, why is God the author of this challenging life-script for Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews in exile…not Himself being the source of the evil that first propels the storyline…but as the brilliant scriptwriter finding the perfect finale response…for the end of the story?

Is there a good explanation behind this storyline theme of adversity that precedes victory…that is universal in the biblical stories of faith?

The great prophet Elijah bitterly complains to God that he appears to be all alone…in his criticism of the evil king and queen…Ahab and Jezebel…in their apostasy of worshipping the idol-god Baal.

Elijah faces adversity like few others in the Bible.

The prophet Jeremiah is certainly going against-the-grain in denouncing the wayward condition of Israel at that time…a condition so bad that it resulted in the eventual removal of the nation into foreign exile.

Daniel is a faithful, loyal, and exemplary civil servant in exile…yet he finds himself spending a long night in peril in a den of lions…as the result of a deadly scheme of revenge powered by the jealous envy of a small group of men high-up in the government…colleagues of Daniel.

Jesus is the Son of God…the Savior…the light of the world.

Yet without the wide separation from worldly conventional thinking that fueled the violent rejection of the person, the teaching, and the ministry of Jesus by the religious and political leadership in Jerusalem…as well as a portion of the populace siding with this leadership group…then there is no cross of Calvary, no Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for lost sinners, no glorious resurrection on Easter morning, and no redemptive salvation for mankind.

The roots of Christianity come out of deadly adversity…the emphatic rejection of Jesus Christ demonstrated through the cross at Calvary…and not from the broad gate of Matthew 7:13…not from a peace-seeking compromise with worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…not in a coronation of the King of Isaiah 9:6…to be fully actualized in the near future at the second coming of Christ.

When Paul gives his final testimony to his fellow countrymen in Jerusalem…Paul receives a total and complete rejection as the people throw their garments and dust into the air in violent protest against Paul…saying: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).

Journeys of Faith are not “Religious” 2

The calling and mission-plan for the apostle Paul is about as far from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as is possible.

The incredible mixture of high scholastic erudition…being taught by the renowned rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem…and the contrary ingredient of radical humility obtained by Paul in the supernatural revelation of Jesus as the Christ…in a blinding light on the road to Damascus…producing an indispensable ingredient of humility in Paul’s evangelical mission to the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world of the first-century…is premeditated, advance preparation that has the end-goal of creating new Christian churches…and writing his New Testament letters…that does not exist anywhere within the contemplation of ordinary, commonplace, worldly conventional aspirations (1 Cor. 4:9-13).

None of the callings of God recorded in the Bible are on the list of things defined by worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…as things we want in life…as things that people are normally pursuing in life…with the possible exception of Ruth and Hannah.

Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment?” (Mt. 6:25).

This is a commonsense Christian apologetic argument for the uniqueness of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which actualize…in some measure and on some varied level…the altogether unique concepts of The Sermon on the Mount…above and outside of…and in many cases in total contrast…to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

These biblical narrative stories of faith would never be the product of humanistic literary invention.

How could…or would…a human literary genius invent the concept of God-sovereignty in the life-scripts of the positive people of faith recorded in the Bible?

How could any human being invent this unconventionality?

It must originate from the viewpoint…from the direction…of God alone.  Any other explanation is shallow and nonsensical.

 

We do not see first, second, and third-graders in elementary schools out in large numbers picketing their schools on the weekends…with signs reading: “Down With Division”…or: “No More Multiplication”…or: “Forget Reading…Play Video Games”…while shouting chants of “Unfair” and “Heck No…We Won’t Go!”

Children at that young age have no idea of the importance of reading, writing, and mathematics for their upcoming adult lives.

Grown-ups set the agenda for our early childhood education…and as children we go along with this…through childlike faith placed in our parents…our teachers…and in grown-ups in general.

There exist no other practical options in childhood education.  Adults are…by default…simply in the position to know more than children…to have the knowledge and the facts…in this critical area of what we need to learn as children…to get from where we are as children to where we need to get to…as we grow up into adults.

How is it that we would then assume to know anything about godliness?  Godliness belongs exclusively to God.  It is not found anywhere within conventional human living and thinking.

Godliness must come from top-down…not from bottom-up.

Godliness is defined and actualized through the biblical narrative stories of faith…coming from the singular perspective of God.

A surprising thing about the biblical narrative stories of faith…for the most part…is that they are not religious in nature.  This should also get our attention.

The Old Testament lists 613 laws…including the Ten Commandments…and has religious observances and celebrations like the Passover.  Male circumcision begins with Abraham and Isaac.  The Old Testament has the animal sacrifices in the temple conducted by the priests.

The New Testament has the Lord’s Supper communion for believers…and water baptism.

But the biblical narrative stories of faith themselves are not built around anything like pilgrimages to “holy sites,” or the veneration of relics, or the sale and possession of paper documents like indulgences insuring salvation, or elaborate religious rituals like a universal practice of praying toward a geographical location every day (Dan. 6:10).

The biblical narrative stories of faith provide no opportunity for salvation through the self-effort of “good-works” and the “self-realization” of religious practices and rituals.

Through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…God goes boldly into the realm of human life…cutting across the grain of the conventionality of our standard dreams, goals, and aspirations…according to His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness it is recorded in Luke 4:6-8:

6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

7 If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.

8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

“Worshipping only God”…tells us that this present world still belongs to God.  Worshipping only God is the correct optional choice for human beings…and it is an option we can willingly choose.

God can craft life-scripts having events and circumstances that cross-over into human life in any way that He chooses in order to set-up the context for biblical faith to actualize.

Judging from the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…this novel and innovative approach goes much deeper than the religious rituals designed for worship.

The calling of David is to become a king.  Joseph’s calling is to become a governor.  Abraham is called to become the “father of faith.”

Moses is called to deliver the Israelites from Egypt.  Ezra is called to rebuild the temple.  Nehemiah’s calling is to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.

Jeremiah is called to stand within the gates into Jerusalem and preach the messages God gives him.  The calling of Gideon is to expel the Midianite invaders.  Daniel is called to be a prophet and a leader of the Jews in exile.

Peter is called to lead the early church in Jerusalem.  Paul is called to preach the new gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world in the first-century.

These journeys of faith inexplicably have little connection to religious practices and rituals…an odd, interesting, and transcendent feature…which looking back in hindsight we might expect to find in life-scripts leading toward “spiritual adulthood”…composed by a “grown-up” God for us…who obviously knows more about godliness than we do…and has set-out a course for life and for study for each of us…taking us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ…through the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14…described in The Sermon on the Mount.

Journeys of Faith are not ” Religious” 1

Another compelling apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…also possessing inspirational value…is that the biblical narrative stories of faith starting with Abraham in the Old Testament…do not align with what we normally want in life according to worldly conventional thinking.

But equally revealing is that the callings of God in the Bible are not “religious” in nature.

According to modern conventionality…we want the best education, a great job that we enjoy working at…with a high salary…so that we can afford to travel and take vacations…and to purchase the things that we want.

We want to buy a house in a good location, have a loving marriage, raise a family, have friends, enjoy hobbies, play sports, have good health, drive a nice automobile, send our children off to college at Harvard, NYU, or Oxford, have a secure retirement, and avoid warfare and natural disasters.

There is nothing wrong with any of these goals, aspirations, and expectations.

They are commendable and admirable when translated into any culture…starting in ancient times going forward…progressing up to today.

But these goals, dreams, aspirations, and sentiments are not anything like the underlying themes of the life-scripts of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

They are in two entirely different zones of reality.

This should raise some red-flags…should get our attention in the apologetics debate now centuries old and still going strong…in determining the origin…human-invented or divine…of these biblical narrative stories of faith.

This particular nail-head cannot be hit by a hammer too many times.

This particular issue cannot be explored from too many different angles or viewpoints…being central to the biblical narrative of truth inserted into the human marketplace of ideas…amidst a worldly secular sea of multiple competing narratives all telling us the direct opposite thing…to go our own way in life…separate and apart from God.

Becoming the “father of faith” by traveling from one city to a new region that in the future will be called the Promised Land (Heb. 11:8)…according to the promise of God to Abraham that He will start a new nation of people physically and spiritually…through Abraham…as numerous as the dust of the earth…does not fall anywhere within any ancient version of the list of what we normally want in life…described above.

Being sold into slavery into ancient Egypt…in order to begin a novel and innovative graduate MBA program lasting 13 years in business management and leadership training for Joseph…within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…that eventually leads to becoming a divinely inspired, first-rate governor of Egypt during the crisis of a great famine…again does not come anywhere near the list of normal goals and aspirations listed above.

What about the backstory of the uniquely innovative preparation for the calling and mission-plan of Moses…initially educated and trained for leadership at the highest level in Egypt…yet spending 40 years in exile as a shepherd of sheep on the hillsides of Midian…prepared to become the deliverer of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt…and the “shepherd” to lead his people across the desert and to the boundary edge of the Promised Land?

We will not find this life-script theme of extraordinary goals and grandeur-of-mission on any conventional list of things we normally want…and aspire to…in life.

Would anyone normally want to be the king of Israel in ancient times like David…if it involved the arduous route of 13 years of near-death escapades fighting the Philistines and evading the deadly opposition of King Saul?

We might if we were David…but the narrow way God designed for David is not on the list of things defining a conventionally normal life.

The life of the apostle Peter is a great example of the contrasting dichotomy of self-sovereignty according to worldly conventional thinking…versus a totally different life-script according to God-sovereignty.

Jesus sees the future potential in Peter to lead the early Christian church in Jerusalem…just as God sees a hidden potential in all of us…because He created us.

But during the period of time after the resurrection of Jesus…and before His ascension…Jesus does not instruct Peter, James, and John…and the other disciples to sign-up to attend rabbinical school in Jerusalem and then fit-in with the Jewish religious community…to join-in with the status quo…to “go along to get along.”

Peter is called to stand up on Pentecost to powerfully preach Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah to thousands gathered in Jerusalem…through the power of the Holy Spirit…at the risk to his life in the very city where a short time ago Jesus was crucified.

Peter and John are then enlisted…through the cascade of events following the miraculous healing of the crippled man at one entrance into the temple called the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:2)…to stand and testify before the august and intimidating Sanhedrin council in Jerusalem…again at the risk of their lives…and boldly proclaim Jesus as Savior, King, and Messiah…to the very religious elites who rejected Jesus and instigated His death on the cross…only weeks earlier.

This is not the horizontally conventional, worldly recommended normalcy…of mass conformity to mediocre standards…by any definition.

Some Scriptural Conflicts are Resolved within the Narrative Stories of Faith 2

Predestined election and free-will choice are not in conflict in the biblical narrative stories of faith…because election and choice are fused together in the storylines…using the different reality equations of the timeless existence of God…and our dimensions of time and space.

In my opinion therefore…this resolves the seeming theological dispute between the scriptures that alternately support predestination, foreordination, election, free-will choice, the universal outreach of salvation, and the numerous (13) “whosoever’s” in the New Testament…all blended together into a harmonious synthesis…bringing together two entirely different roles…of God and of people…set within the two entirely different time-frame realities…of timelessness in the Spirit featuring the divine foresight of God…and humans within the earthly fourth dimension of time spread-out over the here-and-now.

I believe this method of biblical interpretation…derived from the narrative stories of faith…makes the case for the eternal security of salvation from the side…the viewpoint…the perspective of a timeless God having divine foresight.

God’s promise of eternal life is true and eternally unchangeable at the precise moment of the occurrence of the believer’s new birth in the Spirit…because this promise of God occurs on both the timeless side…of God…and also spread-out within our dimension of time (Heb. 11:1)…yet both simultaneously at the same moment in time…in heaven and on earth.

This I believe is what I experienced during the first few weeks following becoming a born-again Christian at age 18…many years ago now.

My spirit rejoiced in a supernatural way with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8) that it had received eternal life…the angels in heaven rejoicing along with me (Lk. 15:7) which would not have been the case if salvation is contingent…if salvation can be lost over the course of a God-composed life-script that has the final outcome in doubt…as if God is limited by our dimension of time…which He created…rather than having the timeless foresight we can recognize in scripture…played-out in the biblical narrative stories of faith…wherein the people of faith are successful overcomers without exception.

This I believe is what Paul is describing in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:13-14…a timeless God who knows the ends from the beginnings (Isa. 46:9-10)…and can seal our eternal security at the start of our salvation because He already sees what we cannot yet see…the end-point of our God-composed and God-assisted…journey of faith.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are controlling here…have the final say…in resolving the issue of the eternal security of Spirit-born salvation.

Biblical narrative stories of faith…that could not plausibly come out of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…as human literary fiction…and that have positive outcomes requiring timeless foresight on the part of the non-fiction script-writer God…makes the argument from the biblical narrative stories of faith…that our salvation is eternally secure.

This gives today’s Christian the assurance to be able to step-out into their own unique God-composed journey of faith life-script…and make the mistakes we are bound to make…without jeopardizing our eternal salvation…our born-again status.

This also again makes the argument for the divine origin of the Bible…in the supernaturally blended mixture of conflicting realities coming from two different time-frames…that only God could resolve…that only God would even know about…and far too complex and unconventional to be the product of human literary imagination.

If God is operating from the direction of timeless foresight in terms of predestination and election…and believers are living in the fourth dimension of time which enables the free-will choice to engage with God in a Hebrews 11:1 journey of faith spread-out over some interval of time…this not only clarifies what today’s Christians are supposed to be doing in terms of seeking-out God and pursuing our individual callings…but also gives perspective in recognizing the enormous amount of thought and work that God put into the universe…to be able to provide us with a journey of faith discovery into the knowledge of good and evil…spread-out over time…that can be experienced through specific events and circumstances in a physical environment.

I include this brief argument for eternal security because confidence upfront in our salvation is essential for end-times Christians entering into the type of adventures of faith depicted in the Bible…that make up the apologetic and inspirational case for the divine origin of the Bible…being articulated and advocated in this book (Daniel 12:1, 10; Mt. 24:21-24).

Some Scriptural Conflicts are Resolved within the Narrative Stories of Faith 1

In my opinion, many of the scriptural debates and conflicts we still have with us today in biblical interpretation…are adjudicated and resolved by God within the events, details, and storylines of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

This provides us with a somewhat new and innovative methodology for biblical interpretation…which I do not think has been fully utilized in the recent past…at least on the big issues that divide Christians.

This then also identifies one motivation for why spiritual opposition in high places (Eph. 6:12) has been so vehemently attacking the credibility of these biblical narrative stories of faith for hundreds of years.

Take for example, the New Testament issue between predestined election versus free-will choice…related to the all-important question of the timing in our lives of our eternal security of salvation…vitally important as a practical matter in our Christian discipleship.

Isaiah 46:9-10 tells us that God lives in a timeless environment.  The apostle Peter tells us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).

The biblical narrative stories of faith could not consistently and universally have all of its faith characters…all reach positive final outcomes in their individual life-scripts…having “happy” endings…unless the God who wrote their life-scripts and orchestrated their adventures of faith… knew in advance through divine foresight that they would eventually succeed and not fail.

Because there is not the slightest hint of trial-and-error, make-it-up-as-we-go, evolutionary progression in any of the biblical narrative stories of faith…being in essence fully developed life-scripts that are functionally perfect and complete…right out of the box…no instructions and no tools required…then the only two explanations for this scriptural phenomenon is that either these stories are entirely human fiction…with manufactured positive endings…or that the composer is God…inhabiting a timeless existence…having divine foresight…wherein He can compose life-scripts where He knows ahead-of-time the ends from the beginnings (Rev. 13:8; Isa. 45:21, 46:9-10, 48:3; Mt. 24:2).

The biblical narrative stories of faith do not have ten different Abrahams…all vying to become the top-most “father of faith” through a survival of the fittest, trial-and-error competition to determine the winner…so this explanation is ruled-out.

The same can be said for all of the other positive characters of faith in the Bible.

None of the biblical people of faith appear to have Plan B and Plan C back-up candidates in waiting…in case people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, or David completely fail in their callings.

One commonsense argument for the timeless foresight of the God of the Bible…is that the timeline schedule for the appearances and mission-plans for each task in the Old and New Testaments…has milestone calendar dates that must stay on-schedule…thus eliminating any trial-and-error suspense regarding the eventual success of the people of faith in their specific callings.

If multiple substitute people were needed to fill-in when the primary main characters failed in their missions…through trial-and-error that added time to the timeline…this might conceivably push the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ ahead in time to the 4th, 6th, or even 10th-century A.D., at a time beyond which Roman crucifixion was no longer in use…and thus ruining the prophetic details of Psalm 22.

Therefore, one compelling argument for the divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith…and for resolving some seemingly conflicting scriptural interpretations…is that God has this incredible capacity of divine timeless foresight.

God created Abraham…composed his journey of faith life-script…and knew ahead of time that the one-and-only, singular person Abraham would go all the way to the finish-line…mistakes and shortcomings accounted for…to achieve final overcoming victory in a unique life-plan God invented for Abraham and for the benefit of us…that took the measure of his soul and produced a personal relationship with God along the way.

Yet all the time throughout his journey of faith…Abraham has complete free-will choice.  Abraham is not a machine.  He is not a pre-programmed robot.

To be able to experience love…to be loved by God and to return this love toward God…within the context of events and circumstances within his very complex journey of faith life-script…Abraham must exercise his free-will choice to follow God’s plan to the exclusion of his own plans.

This is one brief example of the mystery of how God blends and adjudicates the seeming disparate conflict between His divinely timeless foresight…and our free-will…through the storylines of the biblical narrative stories of faith.