An Argument for the Ages…Part 1

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”                                                (Col. 3:1-3)

In making both an apologetic and an inspirational argument…the goal of this book…to end-times Christians to encourage and to confirm our faith…for the existence of God and the truth of Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity…one place to start is to make the opening claim that the story of Abraham…and all of the life-stories of the biblical characters of faith coming after him…are too profound…too complex…too coherently integrated…and too thoroughly unconventional to be the product of human literary invention.

If this claim is true…and I think it is…this is one of the most important issues for discussion and actual testing… through applied Christian living…in all of human history.

The novelty of the through-line of the story of Abraham…having no precedent or parallel outside of the Bible…is that God…the Creator of the universe…communicates and interacts on a personal level with Abraham in a life-script that has an imaginative story, true-to-life characters, and captivating drama.

But the story of Abraham also has a life-script that introduces revolutionary, non-simplistic, highly specific, unheard-of themes that cannot be found anywhere within the universally conventional mindset of the plans and goals for “normal” human living…in 2,100 B.C. or in the twenty-first century A.D.

The apologetic and inspirational argument in this book starts out by suggesting that unless Abraham has the faith-challenging, plotline component of waiting the unexpected twenty-five years for the birth of Isaac…this being a large detail left-out of God’s promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars in the night sky (Gen. 13:16, 15:4-6, 22:17)…that unless God shakes up and turns upside-down the universal mindset of worldly conventional thinking…shared by Abraham and every other human being on earth since the dawn of time…then Abraham would not have been able to muster the faith to take Isaac up to Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:1-19).

This ultimate surrender of all that is important to Abraham in trusting and obeying God in taking Isaac up to Mount Moriah…resulted in giving us an invaluable foreglimpse of what God the Father planned to do with His Son Jesus the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…two thousand years later at the cross on Calvary Hill in Jerusalem.

If Abraham and Sarah had been able to start a large family early…according to a more conventional life-script upon their arrival in Canaan…to live a commonplace, unremarkable, and unadventurous life-script…then over time it is likely that Abraham would have become so committed to the routine activities and continued longevity of a large family life…that the conditioned instinctual pull inside him to stay within worldly conventional normalcy on a going-forward basis…would have flat-out said “no way” to God’s incredibly audacious and unconventional “request” to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering at Mount Moriah.

It was the unusually unconventional component of the late arrival of the birth of Isaac…engineered by God in Abraham’s life-script…that reconditioned Abraham’s thinking and thereby set-up the context of events that inaugurated the revolutionary new concept of biblical faith.

This is described succinctly in Hebrews 11:1…”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…that scrambled-up the otherwise rigid duties, responsibilities, and long-range aspirations that normally accompany the early start and ongoing maintenance of a large-sized family-life.

This created the space within the newly liberated mindset of faith within Abraham to even entertain…much less follow through with this idea to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac…for what turned out to be the highest and best of reasons imaginable…as we see at the end of the story…and as we see two thousand years later in history, with Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary Hill.

It was the innovative, fine-tuned trajectory of the upfront preparation for Abraham that enabled him (Heb. 11:17-19) to step forward in faith…take Isaac to Mount Moriah…and become the “father of faith” for the millions upon millions of people down through the succeeding centuries of human redemptive history…who will also accept the risk to place the benefit-of-the-doubt in the reliability of the word of the timeless and living God (Isa. 46:9-10)…in their unique “called-out” missions in life (Gen. 15:13-16).

Simply put, the faith-journey of Abraham offers an alternative dynamic for human life…previously unheard-of…of God displacing our otherwise safe, risk-averse, and spiritually short-sighted ways with something far better.

This opening biblical life-script of faith…for Abraham…not only argues for its divine origin on the basis of its utter departure from worldly conventional thinking and normalcy…in God displacing our ways with His higher ways…but it also defines the intensity, focus, and the resolve of a God-composed journey of faith that is not “playing religion”…that has no overlap whatsoever with self-led self-realization.

Abraham let go of nearly everything that was important to him…in his final test on Mount Moriah.

The essence…the core…the central theme of this instruction from God to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac…was the issue of God’s way or our way.

We must remember here that God worked through the faith of Abraham to provide us with a foreglimpse of what God would do through the cross of Calvary with His own Son as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world…as the Passover Lamb of God.

From Inspirational Thoughts for Christians.

God Asks Too Much…Part 2

God-composed journeys of faith take the measure of our souls by creating life-events and circumstances based around faith and trust in Him…unthinkably non-existent in the self-autonomy of self-sovereignty as junior gods sitting atop the thrones of our lives.

This is a work of God.  It cannot come from or out of a human invented religion.

God’s plans worked against going our own way in this incredibly difficult task of Abraham letting go of his way to make room for God putting into action His higher ways and thoughts in-the-moment…Abraham not knowing that God would shortly shout from heaven “Stop…I myself will provide” (borrowing the phrase used here by Ravi Zacharias)…inferring from that time forward that only God Himself could provide a candidate worthy enough to be a human sacrifice for sin…Jesus Christ the sinless, blemish-free Son of God on Calvary Hill.

Are there other notable characters of faith in the Bible who might have a legitimate complaint that God was asking too much of them…while again like Abraham lacking the long-range foresight of God to see all of the momentous benefits their God-composed journeys of faith produced?

God asking too much of us…is actually a universal component in every biblical narrative story of faith.

As Jacob deals with his unscrupulous uncle Laban over the shifting terms regarding Jacob obtaining Rachel as his wife…Jacob cannot see ahead in time as he, his wives, his twelve sons (Joseph already there as governor), and one daughter take refuge in Egypt as a result of the great famine…the beginning of the nation of Israel.

At the most difficult point in this God-scripted journey of faith…Jacob could have complained…by virtue of not possessing timeless foresight…that God was asking too much of him (Gen. 31:4-17).

As Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison ponders the discouraging fact that his attempt at procuring his freedom through the butler and baker’s intercession to Pharaoh had failed…and contemplates the course of his life up to that point in time…just prior to Pharaoh’s dream and the interpretation given by God to Joseph…Joseph probably considered the notion that in staying within the vision of his two earlier dreams received in Canaan as a teenager…that God was asking too much of Joseph.

At the burning bush…we sense that Moses comprehends the enormous magnitude and sheer impossibility of delivering the Israelites out of the grasp of Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt.

At many times during the miraculous ten plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Exodus across the wilderness of Sinai…Moses probably thought that God was asking too much of him (Ex. 18:18, 32:19; Num. 20:1-13).

After the death of Moses, God speaks to Joshua and tells him: “Be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6)…implying that the out-numbered Israelites might be looking at an insurmountable challenge…in attacking the walled and fortified cities of the Canaanites.

After the Amalekites attacked and burned Ziklag…taking captive the wives and children of David and his men…at this lowest point in the adventure of faith in preparation to become the king of Israel…David might have thought that God was asking too much (1 Sam. 30:6).

More could be said about Gideon (Jud. 6:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:10), Ezra (Ezra 4:17-24), Nehemiah (Neh. 2:19-20), Esther and Mordecai (Est. 4:16), the three young Hebrew men in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:16-18), Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:16), Jeremiah (Jer. 20:7-9, 14-18), and Peter (Lk. 22:61-62)…to name only a few.

We may set high expectations and ask a lot of ourselves.  But it takes someone outside ourselves…a parent, high school teacher, piano teacher, sports coach, personal trainer, mentor at work, or a husband or wife…to name a few…to inspire, encourage, and push us to achieve our very best.

Only God would and could ask too much of us through a God-composed journey of faith life-script that has faith and trust on-the-line…at risk…within a personal relationship…that also contains the by-product of unselfish service to other people.

The positive characters in the biblical narrative stories of faith not only develop a personal relationship with God…but also baked into their unique journey of faith storylines is a current and future blessing for other people…sometimes in large numbers.

The built-in, innate capacity within us to respond to the positive confidence and encouragement that people outside of us place in us to achieve our best…the root of which is a form and demonstration of love…is a reality within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In a God-composed journey of faith life-script…God simply takes this innate capacity to a higher place.

This again is outside the creative imagination of human literary fiction…and makes the case for a divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

From Inspirational Thoughts for Christians.

God Asks Too Much…Part 1

Along our God-composed journey of faith…at some point in time…we discover that God seems to be asking too much of us.

This is a truism that will resonate with Spirit-born Christians engaged in a genuine adventure of faith…actively pursuing some type of Christian ministry or calling…following the leading of Jesus Christ.

The fact that this is a reality in our Christian lives, and that we see this recorded in the biblical narrative stories of faith…is a compelling argument for the existence of God and the divine origin of the Bible.

God asking too much of us through the interaction of a life-script calling or mission-plan not of our making…outside of our origination but instead coming to us through revelation…that stretches us beyond our seeming capacity in a divinely initiated relationship with God…that has the clear trajectory of God-ward toward us rather from us-ward toward God…to ascribe this to the imaginary creativity of human literary fiction…is nonsensical.

A personal relationship between God and people that reached this level of intimacy and commitment…of God asking too much in our calling or mission…is beyond human literary invention…as a made-up characterization of God or as a biblical narrative story of faith.

Such fictionalization…falls completely outside of the normalcy of worldly convention and thinking…and would not stand up to the empirical scrutiny of human experience for any length of time.

No one would ever invent this reality of God asking too much of us within the context of a highly specified journey of faith life-script…in which God displaces our ways with His ways…because fictionalized religion based on self-realization and self-works could never make the huge conceptual transition from the self-reliance of autonomous individualism…of self-realization… to the contrary concept of a faith-journey of God-sovereignty.

One explanation for why God asks too much of us in a journey of faith…is that He has a lot to give usHe has a lot of territory to cover.

In a biblical narrative story of faith…not only does God have a lot to give us…but through the working out of the events of a journey of faith…these biblical characters have a lot to give to mankind…God giving through them to other people…and to us.

It almost seems in these biblical narrative stories of faith that God skips over the reasons “why” for a particular storyline…and jumps immediately into actualizing the events as if the “why” is not that important for the time being…or is beyond our current comprehension of the fuller “big picture.”

It is as if God is saying to the biblical characters of faith: “trust me for now…I know exactly what I am doing…even though to you it is not entirely clear at this moment in time.”

The idea that God would use the biblical characters of faith…as a means to give what God has…through them to us…using the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1 while bypassing collaboration as to the “why” of their specific and varied callings in life…is a singularly unique and specifically innovative concept in the broad marketplace of ideas…in the breadth and width of human experience.

God loving other people through us…through the ingenuity of the events of a God-composed journey of faith life-script…is a divine creation of God.

No naturalistic explanation of genetic mutation, variant traits chosen through natural selection, geographical isolation, reproductive barriers, the resultant inability to mix gene pools, and Darwin’s common descent tree-of-life…will account for the origin of this uniquely biblical concept.

A look at a few of the biblical narrative stories of faith would be helpful here.

Acts 23:11 records Jesus visiting Paul in a vision at night, saying: “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

After being violently rejected by the Jerusalem populace while giving his defense and witness from the steps of the Roman garrison castle (Acts 21:31-22:30)…and again violently rejected by the Jewish religious and political leaders of the Sanhedrin Council…by the very home-town crowd Paul used to be in-tight with before converting to Christianity…the discouragement must have been overwhelming.

But I do not think Paul was ready to “throw in the towel” and give up on his calling and ministry at that time.  But Paul may certainly have entertained the notion that God was asking too much of him.

Paul could not see ahead down through the upcoming twenty centuries to our current time…when his thirteen letters to the churches (fourteen if we include Hebrews) would strengthen and inspire tens and hundreds of millions of Christians in the “church age”…and establish orthodox Christian theology for the benefit of countless numbers of believers.

On that night in the first-century following these two enormous setbacks for Paul…Jesus does not explain all of the fine details of the “why” to Paul as to what is happening in the moment…but confirms Paul’s calling and ministry once again with His divine presence and encouragement.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

I think this verse can…and it does…apply to the unimaginable sights and sounds we will discover in heaven.  But it can also describe God having a lot to give us…and to give through us…in the short length of time available in a human life-span.

God asking too much of us may simply be the product of the richness of what God has to give us…and the imperative of using the most brilliantly concise combination of events and circumstances to convey the “all truth” of John 16:13 to us in the most creatively insightful way imaginable.

The mission of Abraham on Mount Moriah may be the most difficult thing anyone has been asked by God to do (Gen. 22:1-14)…but also had the highest and purest benefit to us.

God saw the mature and developed faith of Abraham…as God had intended…that Abraham believed that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19)…and said to Himself: “yes, this is the biblical faith that will bless untold millions in the coming centuries and for all eternity”…earning Abraham the priceless moniker “the father of faith.”

But equally important…the entire scenario of the ram caught in a nearby thicket…that Abraham then uses as a replacement for Isaac as a sin offering to God…informs us of the timeless foresight of God in being able to craft countless similar scenarios large and small for our benefit and for the benefit of others down through the centuries…involving the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…scenarios containing the highest, best, and most elegant outcomes imaginable.

Abraham could have said to God: “in this that you are asking me to do with Isaac my only son…God…you are asking far too much.”

Only God has the foresight to see down the long centuries in time to a lonely hill in Jerusalem displaying three crosses of execution…the center cross bearing the divine Son of God Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sin.

Abraham could have said to himself as he and Isaac traveled to Mount Moriah: “all this is working against me”…and in the highest sense imaginable…it was.

Biblical narrative stories of faith have the uniquely novel goal…not found anywhere else in all of human literature or experience…of removing going our own way from our life-script trajectory.

From Inspirational Thoughts for Christians.

Introduction…What is in this Book 2

Everyone can visualize a young father kneeling on the living room carpet…a few feet away from a chair upon which is standing their two-year old son or daughter…saying unto them: “jump into my arms, and I will catch you.”

After the son or daughter jumps the short distance and is caught into the outstretched arms of their father…laughing and gleefully shouting “do it again, Dad, do it again!”…not only has a fun new game been invented but a bond of trust has been strengthened between father and son or daughter…that Dad will catch me each time in this game when he says “jump” from the chair into his arms.

One important point here is that it is the father who invents this game.  The two-year old does not say: “Dad…I am going to stand at the front edge of this chair and jump…and you are going to catch me.”  All of the logistics and outcomes of this new game…of having fun but also building a relationship of trust…are premeditated within the creative mind of the loving father.

I cannot speak for Abraham as he journeys from Haran to Canaan…or Joseph as he works through his unofficial MBA training in Potiphar’s house and Pharaoh’s prison…or Moses as he walks with his brother Aaron toward Egypt to deliver the Israelites…or David when he approaches Goliath with his sling and stone…or Peter at his personal interview with Jesus on resurrection day…or Paul after he discovers on the road to Damascus that Jesus is the Messiah.

Anyone who has heard the voice of God in the Spirit in their calling…in some way or another senses an authority, a confidence, an assurance of certainty that God is someone I can trust and follow…even more importantly someone I can love…unlike anything else in all of human experience…as we should expect.

This is what see observe in the biblical narrative stories of faith…and it does not make for anything like accurate, human literary fiction.

Good human literary fiction is based upon conventional human experience.

But God inserting life-scripts having His higher ways and thoughts…displacing our ways in the process…is so unconventional it cannot be found anywhere in human literary fiction or anywhere in human experience…outside of the Bible.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are too complex, too sophisticated, too functionally integrated, and too creatively outside of the boundaries of normally conventional thinking to be the product of human literary imagination.

If following God was very similar to everyday normal life…then the God-track would not only be suspect as being a human invention…but it would offer very little benefit in terms of genuine departure, change, and hope for a transformed better life…compared to the self-sovereignty track of going our own way.

The more inexplicably implausible the origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith are by way of humanistic literary invention…in other words the larger the obvious gap between going our own way versus picking up our cross to follow Jesus Christ is…then the more reformation content and value there is in a God-composed journey of faith life-script designed not only to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13) but also to establish a context wherein we can get to know God within a personal relationship…something that is entirely supernatural (Jn. 10:27-28, 11:25-26, 14:8-9).

The concept of split-second, instantaneous revelations and pronouncements by God…spanning the duration of a micro-second within the timeless environment of God (Isa. 46:9-10)…cannot by definition actualize into the first-hand experiences of the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1…spread-out over the time intervals of “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…within our dimension of time.

My mother used to say at breakfast on a cold winter morning before we headed off to school that “oatmeal will stick to your ribs.”

This is why God invented time.

This is why God invented journey of faith life-scripts as the optimum vehicle for the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil…for every believer (Jer. 31:31-34).

The lessons learned first-hand through a journey of faith spread-out over time…will stick to our ribs for all eternity.

This is why a timeless God gives us the assurance of the eternal security of our salvation…before we enter into the risk of an adventure of faith (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14).

This is why a timeless God has already factored-in our mistakes and shortcomings into our adventure of faith…covered by God’s grace…not just at our initial acceptance of Christ and becoming spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:3-5)…but throughout our journey of faith…come what may (Eph. 2:8-10).

From Inspirational Thoughts for Christians.

Introduction…What is in this Book 1

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”                                    (1 Pet. 3:15)

This book is a series of short-length, stand-alone essays that start with the main theme that the biblical narrative stories of faith could not possibly be the product of human literary invention…but instead have a divine origin, composition, and intent.

If this is true…and I think this can be convincingly shown to be true using popular, commonsense logic…then the implications are enormous.

Is God real…what is He like…and how do we best live our lives…are all wrapped up in this one question of whether or not the biblical narrative stories of faith could be a human literary fabrication…or instead could only come from the mind and heart of a brilliantly creative God.

But before moving on to make commonsense apologetic arguments in more detail for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the truth of Christianity…in this introduction I should disclose my theological biases and presuppositions…that have a direct bearing on the logical consistency and strength of my arguments.

I believe that born-again Christians have the full assurance of the eternal security of their salvation (1 Jn. 5:13; Phil. 1:6; Jn. 10:28-29)…through their free-will choice (Mk. 8:34-38; Jn. 4:14; Rev. 22:17) to accept Christ through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). 

This certainty is based upon their knowing (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 1:18) that they have accepted Jesus Christ by faith.

I believe that faith precedes salvation (Rom. 5:1; Acts 16:31; Eph. 1:13)…that upon hearing the gospel message (1 Cor. 15:1-4)…if we believe and accept Christ…then we are saved…and can never lose our salvation (Jn. 3:16).

I believe that the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross is the perfect atonement for the sins of mankind (Col. 2:10)…and that this atonement is offered freely to every person for them to either choose to accept or to reject (2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jn. 1:11).

I believe that the concepts of predestination, election, divinely timeless foreknowledge, free-will choice, the capacity to believe, and the universal outreach of salvation are all derived directly from scripture…and are brilliantly interwoven, adjudicated, balanced, and resolved…interpreted by God Himself…within the biblical narrative stories of faith.

God is the only person who could blend seemingly contradictory concepts together within the numerous biblical life-scripts of journeys of faith…bringing together the unmixable ingredients of God’s will, our free-will choice, God’s timeless foresight, and our four dimensions of space and time.

As I will argue many times in essays throughout this book, this is a compelling, commonsense, stand-alone, fact-based apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

This biblical interpretation has a direct bearing upon the actualizing within our lives of the type and quality of a journey of faith described in the Bible…from Abraham through Paul…due to the high risks involved…if our salvation was not secure.

As a practical matter…no one in their right-mind would take the risk to venture out into a journey of faith following a God-composed life-script…in which we cannot…by divine intention (2 Cor. 5:7)…see around the next bend in the upcoming corner or over the top of the next hill …as to how steep, perilous, or narrow the way may become…if by following this life-script our eternal salvation was placed in jeopardy.

God knows that no one would or should accept the risk of a biblical-style walk of faith…if our salvation was in the slightest way dependent upon our often flawed human performance over the course of our lives…dependent upon faith plus some additional measure of our good-works.

No ancient or modern Christian would step into their risk-filled, God-composed life-script…crafted after the biblical pattern of an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul…without the upfront assurance of the eternal security of their salvation.

This all-important issue illuminates a critical, commonsense apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible…simply…that a God-composed journey of faith life-script is so foreign to worldly conventional thinking…and therefore by nature highly risk-filled in its reliance upon the good faith and character of God…that God is wisely offering us a safe-conduct upfront…through the blood of Jesus Christ…securing our eternal salvation…before we willingly agree to accompany Him out into the newness and novelty of a walk of biblical faith.

This is precisely why God invented time in conjunction with the material particles, energy, and the laws of science at the Big Bang…so that we could experience the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1…spread-out over time.

In this uniquely biblical reality, we maintain our free-will choice, but the program of salvation and the journey of faith life-scripts are entirely of God…as logically they must be…if godliness is to come into our lives.

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

That not of yourselves…not of works…because human good-works cannot get us from one end of the spectrum-line…self-sovereignty…all the way over to the other end of the spectrum…God-sovereignty.

A functionally effective program for salvation that includes a God-composed journey of faith life-script…like that of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul…to name only a few…must have these components of eternal security, free-will choice, the universal atonement of Christ (in the Old Testament looking forward in time to the coming of the Messiah), the innate capacity of people to be able to exercise faith or to reject God, and the all-important grace of God…to not only forgive our sins through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…but to make allowances for our flawed performance within our individually scripted journeys of faith…thus removing out-of-the-picture entirely the concept of self-works earning our way to salvation.

From Inspirational Thoughts for Christians.