The Second Half of the Cross Intro 4

I Did It My Way

Part of the difficulty that Christians and non-Christians have regarding the second half of the cross is that it runs contrary to conventional worldly thinking.  A person who uses their talents to achieve fame, fortune, and success all on their own is applauded by our popular culture.  Few people critically question the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it my way.”  The world validates and celebrates its own, but frowns upon dissenters.

Spirit-led Christians dissent from the conventional self-on-the-throne pursuit of personal validation and acclaim, and because the world does not understand the underlying issue of sin, the resultant response of rejection, criticism, and outright persecution is the attitude the world takes toward a walk of faith with Jesus Christ.

It is an immense challenge for Christians to live in a world where the outward appearances of success are the only standards by which we are judged.

Genuine Christians have to make the choice to follow Jesus Christ according to God’s higher ways (Isa. 55:8-9), which at times do not conform to the world’s expectations and standards (1 Cor. 4:9).

The fundamental question is whether our individual talents and our short time spent here on earth are given to us to use for our own exclusive self-gratification, or is the purpose of life to discover God and glorify Him in a life-plan that is larger than ourselves?

The “I did it my way” approach by definition is completely at odds with the biblical walk of faith designed to actualize our true calling within a life-script composed by the Creator God.  Part of the cost of living the Christian life is being radically different from other people, in our core goals and aspirations that are based upon a belief system that is centered in a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

The people of Haran did not understand why Abraham would suddenly head off in search of a new country, with his family and material belongings, through faith in a God they did not know.

At the time, Abraham outwardly appeared to have everything going for him, right where he was in Haran.  This drastic move made little sense from a conventional, worldly viewpoint.  The few people sparsely living in the region around where Abraham eventually settled in Canaan had no idea he was the God-sent future “father of faith” example for literally hundreds of millions of people in the ensuing four thousand years of human history.

They did not recognize, by anything in his outward appearance, that “somebody” important in the future spiritual destiny of mankind had arrived.  A genuine adventure of faith with God is seldom recognized, understood, or appreciated by the world.

One of the important points to be made in this book is that the second half of the cross is a necessary integral part of the package of Christian salvation for every believer.

The cross is divided into two parts by me in this book for better analysis and understanding, but we sign up for and receive the crucifixion of our self-autonomous nature, just like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and others in the Bible, as part of the initial and ongoing experience of salvation.

Not only are we forgiven, cleansed, and born anew into the Spirit, but we are also given the power through Christ to cast aside our own short-sighted will and way about the direction of our lives, like an old worn-out garment (Isaiah 64:6), when we invite Jesus into our hearts at our conversion.

The clearly defined break-points between self-in-charge, and God’s plan described above in God’s call of Abraham to leave Haran and go to Canaan, or when Moses met God at the burning bush, are also included within our salvation package.  We received this when we repented of our past life and asked Jesus Christ into our lives.  Our part as Christians is to be aware of this important feature, and to willingly surrender daily our self-wills to God in search of His higher way for our lives.

One of the vital features therefore of the new life in Christ is a higher life plan whose events and circumstances are designed and orchestrated to allow a person to get to know God personally (Jer. 31:31-34).  The believer has the participation of the Creator of the universe in helping to discover and craft a meaningful and intelligently planned life.

The associated cost involved in following God is that our self-in-control nature has to be crucified on the cross alongside Jesus.  We have to step down off our throne.  Jesus went before us in this regard, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us along each step of the way.

As with all of the works of God, a journey of faith is perfect in its inception and performance, even factoring in divine grace and forbearance to cover our shortcomings as we grow in Christ.

The second half of the cross creates the space for God to be able to set-up the circumstances by which we can get to know Him better.

Death to self-in-charge is therefore not a negative concept, but the most necessary and natural process when viewed within the context of a life of faith with God.  Without it God has no room to work His higher ways into our lives.  Our ways and God’s ways simply cannot be operating at the same time.

Christians today must come to terms with the pull of the popular culture, and recognize it for what it is.

The goal of the Christian life is to come to love God, and discover His nature and character first-hand through a walk of faith in Him.  The “I did it my way” approach to life is part of the old man of sin that is supposed to be nailed to the cross of Christ.

When Christians mix the worldly approach of self-in-control, with the cross of Christ which requires the death of the self-will, they end up with a middle-of-the-road compromise that robs them of the purity of a walk with God after the pattern of the people of faith in the Bible.

The leading of God for born-again Christians is always in accordance with the scriptures, and always results in morally correct choices, increasingly higher levels of ethical behavior, a better acceptance and performance of responsibilities, a noticeable improvement in personal character traits, and more love towards others.  With time and spiritual maturity, God’s leading eventually results in blessings to a larger number of other people in whatever theater of action God has placed us in.

Once we see the cross within the lives of the people of faith throughout the Bible, and understand this within the context of God composing, setting-up, and orchestrating specific events and circumstances within a journey of faith to lead us to the point where we discover our need of God’s help, then the biblical idea of an individually tailored and personalized adventure of faith following Jesus Christ becomes a rock-solid foundation of scripture that every Christian can stand upon.

Once we see the second half of the cross…the death of our self-in-charge nature (Lk. 22:42), designed to create the space for God to implement His plans for our lives…once we see this within the life-scripts of the characters of faith in the Bible, this then becomes a life reality based upon scripture that we can follow with confidence and commitment.

The second half of the cross is not just a New Testament concept.

The idea that the higher ways of God must completely displace our own ways, according to the cross of Christ, and through the symbolism portrayed in believer’s water baptism, is interwoven into the accounts of the lives of the people of faith in the Bible from beginning to end.

This God-invented idea was hiding in plain sight all along throughout the Bible.  Studying this all-important second half of the cross aspect in the lives of the people of faith in the Bible, as it relates to our own lives as modern-day Christians, is the subject of this book.

The Second Half of the Cross Into 3

A Biblical Adventure of Faith Begins with Abraham

In the Old Testament, after Abraham received his calling from God and left Haran to go to the land of Canaan, from that point onward Abraham was no longer completely in control of his life.

This is a biblically illustrated example of Abraham stepping down off the throne of self-sovereignty.

Abraham cannot stay in Haran and at the same time go to Canaan.  Abraham cannot have a “conventional” life in Haran according to all of the local customs, practices, and social expectations there, and also pursue the promise that God would make Abraham the father of a great nation in the land of Canaan.  Abraham cannot physically and spiritually be in both places at the same time.

Abraham chooses God’s plan and goes to Canaan, and in the process of doing so he also chooses the second half of the cross…the falling away of his old self-will and self-made plans.

Abraham is the first fully illustrated example of the uniquely biblical approach of a person’s free-will purposely choosing the risk inherent in subordinating his self-in-charge nature to the plans of God, based solely upon faith and trust in God’s character.

This is the recipe for a successful human life as defined by God through the stories of faith portrayed in the Bible.

Likewise in the Old Testament, after Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt…he was no longer in complete control of his life.  Joseph cannot be in Potiphar’s house in Egypt being uniquely schooled in business management and leadership according to God’s plan, and at the same time work as a simple shepherd back at home in Canaan in his father Jacob’s house.

Moses cannot meet God at the burning bush, and be sent to Egypt to deliver the Israelites, and at the same time continue to live a quiet life as a shepherd in Midian.  From the time of the burning bush onward, Moses is no longer in complete control of his life.

When God sends the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem, the city where Jesse lives, to find and anoint a new king for Israel from among the sons of Jesse, David’s father Jesse thinks so little of David the youngest son as a potential candidate for Samuel’s review, that he is left outside to tend the sheep while his older brothers are brought before Samuel.

David cannot stay in his father’s house as the youngest, and according to the culture of his day the least valued son, and at the same time grow into the future king of Israel according to God’s unique plan.  After David is finally brought before Samuel, and is selected and anointed to become the next king of Israel, from that time onward David was no longer in complete control of his life.

In the examples of the lives of these people of faith, their own normal life-plans and schemes were entirely displaced by the brilliantly imaginative life-plans God had for them.  These individual callings of God could not actualize without the second half of the cross, without these people stepping down off the thrones of their lives to make room for God to work.

Why is this important?

This is important because we need the one true living God to proactively set-up the precise conditions of our lives to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13) and thus a true revelation about Himself.  This divinely crafted recipe for a godly life translates into our modern world today just as well as it did in biblical times, no matter our current social, economic, geographical, ethnic, or cultural location.

A journey of faith following God converts precepts and concepts into practice in a way that is beyond our human capacity to actualize.  A biblical quality journey of faith following Jesus Christ today translates theory into practice through the divine means of God-composed, individualized life-scripts to match each of our unique in-born abilities and our singular purpose in life.

The truth that will make us free (Jn 8:32-36) is part of God’s gift of eternal salvation that includes a personal relationship and an understanding of Him.  This is the living faith that God wants to enact in each of our lives, divinely crafted and fine-tuned according to our God-given, in-built capacities and talents to match the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

The Second Half of the Cross Intro 2

The Two Halves of the Cross

In countries where for centuries Christian churches have taught the traditional doctrines of repentance, water baptism, salvation, and spiritual rebirth, parts of the gospel message are spread out within the popular culture.


In its purest form, this message is that the blood that Jesus shed on the cross washes the new believer clean of sin.  The resurrection of Jesus creates a new birth in the Spirit, provides the Holy Spirit within a person to enable the living of a new and better life, and grants eternal salvation from the penalty of sin.


These basic, fundamental tenets of Christianity, which many have at least heard of and been somewhat exposed to in Christian countries and in many non-Christian countries, is what I call in this book the first half of the cross.


Through churches, foreign missionaries, family members, friends, newspapers, magazines, books, movies, television, the internet, popular culture, or simple osmosis, many people around the world, except those living in the extreme remotest areas, are familiar with some of the basic outlines of the first half of the cross.


When anyone personally hears the genuine gospel message for the first time, and is convicted in their conscience of a wayward life, that person is moved upon by the Holy Spirit to reconsider their previous life up to that pivotal moment in time.


This process of re-evaluation, leading to believing and accepting Jesus Christ into our lives, is called repentance.  To repent means to turn around, to do an “about-face” in military language, or to have a change of mind.


The person who is listening to the gospel message, and thinking about changing their life, is considering discarding their current unfulfilling life-plan in favor of an entirely new life approach.


This new life approach involves the inclusion of God in their lives, who is speaking at that decisive moment to their heart and mind through the Holy Spirit.  This person, at the point in time of repentance and accepting Jesus Christ into their lives, is contemplating taking a large step away from their past life and a step forward in a new direction having hope, purpose, and renewal as a Christian.


One of the symbols of making this decision for a new life “in Christ” is the Christian experience of believer’s water baptism (Col. 2:12).  When a person lies horizontally under the water in baptism, this symbolizes the old sinful life becoming dead and “buried” under the water.  When the person rises to a standing upright position waist deep in the water, this symbolizes resurrection into a new life “in Christ.”


In Christian conversion, produced through belief in the gospel, accepting Jesus Christ into our lives, and in water baptism that comes later, most people understand the part about  cleansing from sin and the creation of a new, spiritually transformed person in Christ.  The visualization of this concept is easy to grasp through the physical actions of going under the water and then coming up out of the water.


This first half of the cross regarding salvation through cleansing from sin, followed by a fundamental change in a person through spiritual rebirth, is not a deep mystery.  It is easily understood, even by children, as part of the basic Christian experience in most traditional orthodox churches, and in world-wide Christian evangelical missionary efforts.


The deeper spiritual part of the concept of believer’s water baptism that is less easy to grasp, not as universally well understood, and the most challenging, is that the new Christian’s self-in-charge nature, which is the root cause of our sin problem, is also supposed to be represented as becoming dead and buried in the process.


This is a powerful part of the Christian conversion experience that is also portrayed through the symbolism in believer’s water baptism.  The new person “in Christ” coming up out of water baptism is supposed to have Jesus Christ now installed in His rightful place as Lord and King in our lives, with the “old man of sin” who used to be sovereign and in control, left behind for dead underneath the surface of the water.


This is what I call in this book the second half of the cross.


This is what happens in the Bible when people of faith hear the voice of God’s leading and direction, surrender all of their old ways and plans to God, and head off in the pursuit of their individual and unique callings.


The calling of God in people’s lives in the Bible dislodges and displaces whatever ordinary plans and schemes people might otherwise have.


This is what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20, cited at the beginning of this chapter.  To better illustrate this, see Abraham (Gen. 12:1), Moses (Ex. 3:10), Gideon (Jud. 6:14), Ruth (Ruth 1:16), David (1 Sam. 16:13), Esther (Est. 4:14), Peter (Mt. 4:18-19), and Paul (Acts 9:3-5), among many others in the Bible.


Matthew 16:24-25 reads: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”


The second half of the cross is another way of describing the process of abandoning our self-in-control nature.  It is not self-hatred.  God loves us.  He created us.  God knows, values, and appreciates our natural attributes better than we do.


We are simply in our highest nature and expression when God is sovereign in our hearts.  We are in our most natural state of peace and fulfillment when we are human beings living in fellowship with God, pursuing our unique destinies following the leadership of Jesus Christ.


The symbolism of water baptism is perfect for understanding Christian conversion, the second half of the cross, and a biblical journey of faith.


The symbolism of water baptism illustrates the fundamental change that occurred when Abraham, the father-of-faith example in the Old Testament, stepped into his calling from God.  A person during baptism cannot be lying horizontally under water, and at the same time be standing vertically upright out of the water.  A person cannot have their old self-will in control of their lives, and at the same time be walking with God in their new life in Christ.


The two opposing things…our old self-in-charge nature that we rejected upon believing and accepting the gospel…and God’s plan and will for our lives…cannot occur at the same time.

The Second Half of the Cross Intro 1

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”                                                            (Gal. 2:20)


As Abraham traveled from Haran to Canaan, with each step forward Abraham walked away from conventional normalcy toward a higher life-script now featuring faith and trust in God, composed entirely out of the creative imagination of God.


A God-crafted journey of faith as recorded in the narrative stories of the Bible completely displaces our ways with God’s higher ways (Heb. 11:8).


The calling of Abraham to become the father of faith could have involved any set of normal circumstances based in Haran, without ever going to Canaan.  But traveling to Canaan, and waiting patiently in the Promised Land year after year for the birth of Isaac…were both far outside of the initial contemplation of Abraham.


A biblical journey of faith lies outside of our own making.  It is devoid of human contrivance, self-reliance, and self-realization by purposeful design.  A biblical journey of faith is radically different from other religions and philosophies, for profound reasons having eternally beneficial outcomes.


A God-composed journey of faith is a uniquely original, one-time, fiat creation that authenticates the God of the Bible as the one true living God.  It stands completely outside of human literary invention, because the concept of the cross of Jesus Christ setting aside our ways to be replaced by God’s higher ways, not only runs contrary to worldly conventional thinking, but is beyond our capacity to self-orchestrate (Isa.55:8-9).


The invention of a journey of faith is God’s effective antidote to the destructive nature of a life in bondage to sin, the practical extension of God’s salvation into the spiritually born-again life.


No human writer could invent the cross component of the narrative life-stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Peter, or Paul.  The idea of God crafting for each of us an individually purposeful life-script that we willingly follow according to God’s initiative through cooperative faith…is beyond our imagination (Jer. 31:31-34).


No power on earth other than the Holy Spirit can actualize a biblical quality adventure of faith into true reality.


An adventure of faith following God to a destination we could not possibly anticipate in advance, following routes that are beyond human imagination, is a concept totally unique to the Bible in all of human history, experience, and culture.  A biblical style adventure of faith, where God is the composer of the script and the leader of the expedition, will not be found anywhere in modern comparative religious studies.


The advance preparation of every positive character of faith in the Bible precisely matches their individual callings.


Abraham the “father of faith” waits patiently for many years in faith for the birth of Isaac.  Joseph is prepared ahead of time in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison to manage the nation of Egypt during a great famine.


Moses is schooled in Egypt in military science, leadership, reading and writing, and in God’s special school for prophets in the quiet of the desert, to enable him through reliance upon God to go back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites.


King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David prepares David to become a godly warrior/king who courageously and ably clears the regions around Israel from the constant threat from foreign enemies, and informs the inspiration to compose his timeless and endearing psalms.


Even the radically misguided action of persecuting the early Christian church prepares the highly educated, rabbinical Pharisee Saul/Paul to be able to enter the mission field with a super-humility that removed any condescending pride toward the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Gentiles.


Only the living God, outside of the limits of time, could possess the foresight to match advance preparation with the singular tasks that the people of faith are called to perform as recorded in the Bible (Tit. 2:14)).


The cross of Jesus Christ that sets us free from short-sighted and debilitating self-rule on the thrones of our lives…is a theme that runs throughout the Bible.  God displacing our horizontally conventional plans with His higher ways, producing outcomes that impact the course of redemptive history beyond our individual human capacity, is found in every positive character recorded in the Bible.


A journey of faith following Jesus Christ for Christians today is as biblically orthodox as orthodoxy can get.


The goal of this book is to illustrate the power of the cross within the fabric of the lives of several key biblical characters in order to better understand the relationship God wants to initiate with each of us if we will listen in the Spirit, study the Bible, and follow Him in faith.

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.

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