Abraham 1

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.”                        (Heb. 11:8)

When God…in the Old Testament…spoke to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1), from that moment forward Abraham was no longer in complete control of his life.

Here begins the mysterious blend of God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free-will choice, combined within the dynamics of an individually tailored, God-composed life-script that requires subordination of our ways to God’s higher plans for our lives, entirely unique to the Bible.

In choosing to obey God, some of Abraham’s self-in-charge nature was left behind as he headed off toward Canaan.  Abraham’s own plans, schemes, and ideas for his life were displaced by God’s plan that was much larger and grander than anything Abraham could have imagined.

With each step toward Canaan and away from Haran, Abraham left behind the other life he would have lived had he not met God, and walked toward the new life being offered to Abraham by God.  For this it is said of Abraham that “he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6).

At the time of his departure from Haran, Abraham was a wealthy man, and had the means to support a large family.  We can imagine that when Abraham excitedly told his wife Sarah about God’s promise that their descendants would be in number as the stars of the night sky, as they traveled together toward Canaan they both began to think with future expectations about the joys of a family life with lots of children.

Abraham could see himself teaching his sons to ride horses, hunt wild animals, tend their herds of sheep, and to worship the one true God who had spoken to him in Haran.  Sarah thought about the joys of raising young children, seeing them grow up into fine adults, and providing her husband with male heirs to continue his name.  The information that God left out of this promise was the long wait in years before Isaac their only son would be born.

Here lies one of the stumbling blocks that the human race generally has with the cross of Christ.  Matthew 16:24-25 reads: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 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.”

If we offer up our self-made plans to be crucified on the cross of Jesus Christ…will God’s plan for our lives be better than the plan we would choose for ourselves?  Will God’s plan have more meaning and purpose in relation to our individual gifts and talents, than the life we otherwise would create?

If we give our all to God, including our goals and dreams, will God take our lives and come up with something that is better than what we would come up with ourselves?  Will we be able to look back on our lives and be glad that we chose God’s way instead of our own?

Will the benefits of following God outweigh the costs of giving up control?

This is one of the fundamental issues in allowing God to take over the course and direction of our lives.  This is a basic, narrow-gate question that confronts every Spirit-led Christian along their individual journey of faith following Jesus (Mt. 7:13-14).

Can Abraham become the father of faith, and achieve his highest and best life as recorded in the Bible, without walking in God’s uniquely imaginative plan for him?  Is there some compromised, less difficult, middle-ground course of life that would combine Abraham’s will-and-way with God’s plan that might still produce the same result?

Can’t Abraham and Sarah go to Canaan and have Isaac right away, along with a lot of other children, without the years of waiting and believing that God will perform His promise?  Can’t Abraham skip the whole part about sacrificing his 13-year old son Isaac on Mount Moriah as a burnt offering to God, and do something else for God like going on a spiritual pilgrimage or sitting alone on top of a rock in meditation for a month or two?

Through the benefit of four thousand years of hindsight, each one of us can make a judgment as to whether Abraham made the right choice in believing and following God.

I believe that if Abraham could go back and do it all over again, that he would not change a thing, even the major mistakes he made involving Lot, Hagar, and Ishmael.  I think Abraham would stand in awe and amazement at what God has accomplished and is currently accomplishing in our world, using the simple ingredients of cooperation, trust, and faith.

I think that both Abraham and Sarah, despite their major lapse of faith regarding Hagar, would say that their one great personal sacrifice in waiting for Isaac, though difficult at the time, in hindsight was miniscule in comparison to the enormous good that was accomplished through the creation of the nation of Israel and the future Christian church.

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.