A Personal Testimony

Decades ago as a newly converted Christian in my first year in college, praying for guidance in the selection of a work career, in my naïve innocence I asked God to lead me into an undemanding job that would not distract me from a future Christian ministry.

I mistakenly assumed that becoming engaged in a challenging, committed secular career…and attempting a Holy Spirit-guided journey of faith into the discovery of all truth…were two separate, mutually exclusive things competing for my time and attention.

What God gave me instead as an answer to my prayer was a clear and confirmed calling into the field of building construction, which for a natural organizer like me is a life-long mission into trying to bring order and calm into a manufacturing process that is in continual need of debugging.

Unlike the standard manufacturing assembly-line plant at a single fixed location, having an economic model which is based upon the absolute necessity of debugged repetitive precision…the building construction assembly process is inconveniently fragmented into tens of thousands of independent projects spread-out all over the countryside, separated by geographical distance, economic competition, and non-communication of proactive problem-solving information.

Because the large physical size of the building product requires its assembly on individually segregated building sites, a smooth-running perfection in building construction is an ideal we aim for but never fully achieve.

Some measure of controlled chaos is an unwelcome component of every building construction project…because each different square-foot size, price range, and architecturally styled project is uniquely and individually debugged in real time…in-the-moment.

The proverbial “reinvent the wheel” occurs to some extent on every new building construction project.

This unavoidable reality of the need for constant and repetitive reform in the assembly of the pieces and parts of building construction, informs and shapes a Christian like me regarding the inescapable costs to the psyche of anyone attempting to observe, record, and disseminate building construction debugging information through first-hand, basic field research (I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction, 1995-98, a two-volume set of books on debugging housing design and construction, 2016, and a book on construction field forms, 2016).

But this challenging secular reality in the world of building construction also translates into a lesson of immeasurable importance as applied to an interpretation of biblical end-times prophecy.

God cannot demonstrate His true character unless Jesus the Son of God walks through a broken world of deadly opposition and chaotic confusion ending in the cross and the resurrection.

Jesus Christ cannot display all of the fruits of the Spirit in perfect execution amidst the most lethally hostile rejection by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, in direct contrast to the wishes of a large portion of the general populace (Mk. 11:7-10), without the environment of a broken world lost in sin, envy, jealousy, ambition, and political intrigue (Jn. 15:22-24).

If Jesus came as messiah to Israel and Jerusalem when Ezra or Nehemiah were ruling the land, or even as early as when Joshua was the leader, or during one of the reigns of the “good” kings like Hezekiah or Jehoshaphat, then the danger zone of competing agendas would have been relatively muted and moderated…compared to the extremes in place in first-century Jerusalem (Jn. 8:42-43).

When the unruly mob comes to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says to them: “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53).

A danger zone of lethal dimensions was the social, political, and religious undercurrent that faced Jesus of Nazareth throughout His ministry, and His divine character shines through all the more brilliantly because of it.

Without a world mired in sinful rebellion, God has no way of demonstrating the true depth of the power of His love for us.

The deliverance of the Israelites in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the Exodus through the desert, and the conquering of the Promised Land cannot occur without the intensely contrasting, deadly hostile backdrop of the Middle East region roughly thirty-four hundred years ago.

One final point here before moving on.

What is the relative value of faith in the mind of God compared to worldly conventional normalcy?

God places so much weight on creating a context for faith to operate…even if this involves our waiting patiently “in faith” for some good outcome…some good thing to happen…that God will insert His plan that partially or utterly displaces whatever previous plans we might have entertained or cherished (Gal. 2:20; 1 Pet. 1:3).

A new God-composed context for faith displaces and overrides our natural desire for “worldly conventional normalcy,” even when it involves withholding or postponing something good for a period of time.

Abraham the “father of faith” is the first biblical example of this key concept.  Abraham and Sarah do not want to endure a lengthy wait for the birth of a son, and become so desperate to help God out in the direction of achieving this aspect of conventional normalcy in their lives, that they contrive to arrange the Hagar and Ishmael event.

But the life-script that God has written for the life of Abraham…contains a divinely ordained element of patient waiting…in the storyline…purposely to create the context for faith to operate.

Other biblical examples that come to mind are the Israelites in bondage in Egypt, Joseph in Potiphar’s house and Pharaoh’s prison, Moses in Midian, the Israelites in the wilderness exodus, Hannah, David during his 13-year period of preparation to be king, the blind man in John 9:3, and the three-day wait for the disciples while Jesus lay dead in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.

All of these people…along with many other examples in the Bible…had the circumstances and events of their lives arranged by God to set-up the context for faith to operate…at the cost of giving up some portion of conventional normalcy and thinking.

Not only does this have enormous apologetic value for validating the supernatural origin of the Bible…but it also provides a biblical perspective to our interpretation of end-times prophecy.

Human nature wants to hurry things along…to speed things up.  We want to rapture the Christian church off the earth pretribulation.

But God takes as much time as is necessary to do things right.

The contrast between Adam and Eve impulsively taking and eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, and the long period of human redemptive history…is enormous and clear-cut.

But if God must withhold or postpone something good in our lives in order to create the context for faith to operate…He will do it.

Faith leading to knowing God…like Paul in Philippians 3:10…in the eternal view is exceedingly more important than the loss or postponement of something otherwise good in the this-worldly, conventional scheme of things (Rom. 8:18).

Patience

What God wants the most, even He has to wait for.

God not only agrees with the perfection of the natural moral law, He lives it perfectly Himself.

If the current process at hand requires patience over time, then even God submits Himself to patient waiting if the rightness of the process requires it.

Even God cannot make instant saints.  Even God cannot instantly manufacture the “bride of Christ”…the Christian church…through instantaneous fiat creation.

Within the constraints of our earthly dimensions, bringing many sons and daughters to glory takes time.

Adam and Eve impulsively jump at the chance to obtain the knowledge of good and evil.  But the process of Jesus slowly and patiently bringing the disciples to a point where they can stand in faith on their own two feet, and capably listen and walk in the Spirit…after He ascends into heaven…takes a full three and one-half year period.

This standing on their own two feet…walking in the Spirit…occurs after their privileged, singular experience of listening to and observing Jesus up-close…the greatest teacher of all time…in action on a daily basis.

There is something singularly unique about patience that burns away the chaff of the superficial, and purifies the genuine and real.

Patience is a valuable component of the commendable process of becoming the actual, real thing in truth…after which achieving the given task at hand rises in importance to the point where worldly recognition and acclaim fades away into insignificance.

If God calls us out to become the king of Israel, or governor of Egypt during a great famine, or as the deliverer of a nation in bondage, or to become the father of faith, or to discover real truth to be able to write New Testament epistles to the early Christian churches…we may have to exercise patience and wait for some period of time while events and circumstances in our journey of faith develop.

The process of getting there and actually becoming the capable person uniformly through-and-through is more important to God than the thin veneer of outward appearances.

“Getting there” correctly and honorably is paramount (Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Jas 1:17).

What Abraham wants the most…to become the father of descendants as numerous as the stars of the night sky as promised by God…he has to patiently wait for.

What Joseph wants the most…to fulfill his potential according to his two earlier prophetic dreams as a young man in Canaan…he has to wait for patiently through his preparation in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison.

What Moses wants the most…to fulfill his destiny as the deliverer of his people in bondage in Egypt (Acts 7:25)…he has to patiently wait for.

What David wants the most…to become king and to rule the nation of Israel finally in peace and security with its surrounding neighbors…he has to patiently wait for.

What Peter wants the most…to fulfill his potential as a “rock” to courageously lead the early church…he must patiently wait for through many character-building lessons, setbacks, and failures.

What Paul wants the most…to discover real truth…he has to wait for through the long journey of a walk of faith as a missionary evangelist to the Jews and the Gentiles of the first-century Greco-Roman world.

What God wants the most, as expressed in the final prayer of Jesus…that Christians might be as one even as Jesus and the Father are one (Jn. 17:21), thereby setting up the context for genuine peace, joy, and love in His kingdom for all eternity …even God has to patiently wait for.

This prayer of Jesus has not been fulfilled yet, as today’s Christian church is divided by factions, disagreements, and denominations.

The last part of John 17:21…”that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” is greatly undermined today by this outward show of debilitating divisions and disagreements.

The actualization of this divinely uttered prayer of Jesus is still awaiting fulfillment within the complex and highly specified arrangement of events and circumstances in the upcoming last-days.

The soon-to-be-addressed issues of contention between God and the “son of perdition” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 are larger and more complicated than human intellect can currently fathom (Dan. 7:25-27; 8:23-25).

This final instructive confrontation between truth and error, between darkness and light, on a massive and intensified scale, will require a premeditated, divinely composed, macro and micro-engineered life-script for the world and for the Christian church on earth…of an unprecedented, panoramic scope and quality.

The end-times will require a God-composed script of such brilliant creativity and subtle complexity as to rival and surpass anything heretofore in Christian apologetics, in theology, in our burgeoning comprehension of the marvels of the physical universe today, or in any of the great journeys of faith recorded in the Bible… except for the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the first-century (Dan. 8:23-25).

If the God-composed life-scripts of the people of faith in the Bible serve as a preview of what we can expect in the upcoming end-times, the scenario of events will include a large dose of patience as Christians likewise wait for what they want the most…the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…during a period of time described as being the most intensely challenging in all of human history (Mt. 24:21-22).

Why the Pursuit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Involves Hardship 2

Like the great high school football coach that works his players hard during pre-season training to be ready for the upcoming regular season…unselfishly for their benefit at the risk of temporary unpopularity…God crafts the characters of the people of faith to benefit them with the priceless capacity for joyful living…for eternity without end (Jn. 15:16; Rom 9:21).

In God’s infinite wisdom He knew ahead of time that this fall of man in the Garden of Eden would cost the future incarnation for Jesus the Son of God and the second Person of the Trinity, His difficult human ministry on earth (Isa. 53:3-5), the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

Yet on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus amazingly says to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27).

Jesus is saying that even amidst the upcoming horrors of His arrest, trial, beating, rejection, ridicule, mocking, crucifixion, and death, that He has perfect divine peace.

Jesus can truly say this because His peace is founded upon an unselfish love for us that is infinite in its scope, dimensions, and outreach.

Yet in the Garden of Gethsemane, even this infinite divine love is stretched to the point of novel and unprecedented challenge as Jesus contemplates the awful ordeal of absorbing the full weight of the sins of the world…placed upon Himself on the cross (Lk. 22:42).

On the cross…a Person who has been and will be morally perfect and blameless for all eternity…Jesus Christ the Son of God…takes upon Himself the darkness and rebellion of human sin…enabling us to be set free from bondage to sin.

God is telling us through the life of Jesus that our impulsive attempt at a shortcut to the knowledge of good and evil…will also cost us a similar hard road of first-hand experience to discover God’s perfect peace amidst daunting challenge, adversity, and suffering.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script for us tells us that somewhere along our walk of faith…we will also in some measure and to some extent pray a similar prayer: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

The hard reality of a joint-venture with God down the road to the discovery of “all truth” involves the fullness of experience that must honestly and courageously be encountered in a God-composed journey of faith…for Christians living in the danger zone.

This danger zone extends even to the breaking point of having to give up our will and way regarding the big issues at stake in life.

But in terms of a God-composed journey of faith life-script following the pattern of the way of the cross…the theme of this book… and arguably one of the main themes of the Bible…is that adversity, challenge, and suffering separates us from self-sovereignty.

Faith in the rigorous training methods of the great football coach…separation from the self-sovereignty of thinking that we know what is best…results in a winning season (1 Cor. 9:24-26; Gal. 2:20).

It is the fundamental tension between the strong pull of worldly conventional normalcy, and the totally unconventional way of the cross… that lies at the central core of every biblical narrative story of faith.

This is the razor-sharp edge of truth that separates-out each genuine experience of faith and trust in God…for our benefit and instruction (2 Tim. 3:16)…often tested through the furnace of immediate personal danger and the real potential for overwhelming, crushing defeat.

If the competence, faithfulness, and overall intentions of Jesus Christ our King and Ruler…for all eternity…must be experientially tried and confirmed through a joint-venture expedition of faith through the context of this broken world lost in sin, then the excess baggage of our claim to self-sovereignty must go.

If some measure of adversity, challenge, and suffering will accomplish this separation from our self-sovereignty…then it is God’s positive intention to set-up the precise circumstances for this to occur for each believer…for our eternal good.

This is what we see in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.  This is why these real-life stories serve as the pattern for our own faith journeys.

This is the dangerous part of following the living God into a genuine journey of faith that we see portrayed in the lives of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.

This is the epitome of being accountable, of not quitting early, and of breaking through…so that we may someday at the end of our own journey of faith, commendably say along with Jesus: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Why the Pursuit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Involves Hardship 1

It would probably be a good thing at this point to attempt a further exploration of some of the reasons behind why challenge, adversity, and even suffering are integral components of God-composed adventures of faith:

“A truly great high school football coach who cares about his players will work them hard during the late summer two-a-day conditioning drills.

The football team that is heading toward a successful season can be heard groaning and complaining about the coach’s tough training methods and seemingly impossible standards for the entire six to eight weeks leading up to the first game of the regular season.

It is only after the team takes the field and discovers that they are well prepared to play high-quality football that they can look back at their coach’s emphasis on physical conditioning and the constant repetition of the same basic plays over and over again until they finally got them right.

The character lessons these players learned from their coach, about how to approach a particular challenge with intensity of purpose, hard work, and a will to never quit, often last them throughout their lifetimes, long after they stop playing football.

            A God who asks little of us cannot have much of an impact upon our lives and can never be considered great. 

This describes the universally understood concept of “no pain, no gain,” but it does not go deep enough to address some of the underlying reasons behind why challenge and adversity are often necessary components of our adventure of faith.

In the Garden of Eden before the fall, God knows in advance that Adam and Eve will eat of the forbidden fruit.  This involves the mysterious and unfathomable depths of the blend between a God who exists in a timeless reality of foreknowledge, and humans on earth living within the limited dimensions of space and time.

The fruit on the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” is within easy reach of Adam and Eve, and the serpent has convenient access to the garden and can converse with the man and the woman without the presence of God on the scene.

Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, which implies that God had foreknowledge of the future need for a Savior for mankind.

The Garden of Eden is set up for a possible free-will choice to disobey the commandment of God…otherwise God would have purposely placed this tree in an inaccessible location in the garden, and banned the access of Satan in the spiritualized apparition of a talking serpent…into the garden and from any possible encounter with Adam and Eve.

A conjectural interpretation of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, entirely on my part, is that it displays a commendable desire for perfection, albeit used in a wrong-headed way, which is part of our innate, in-built capacity that confirms in an indirect and round-about way…that we are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).

A fundamental fault in this opening scenario…critical to mankind’s eternal future, besides disobeying the clear directive of God…is that Adam and Eve impulsively jumped at this seemingly beneficial short-cut to a knowledge of good and evil without patiently waiting to speak with God directly about the pros and cons of such an action.

God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil located in the center of the garden.

If Adam and Eve had been mature, savvy moral beings as a result of having personally experienced the ill-effects of sin, darkness, and despair in our broken world…if they were seasoned veterans of life …they might have responded of their own accord to the audacious speech of the serpent:

“What you say sounds appealing on the surface, but we will discuss this with God and then get back to you in the near future.  In this matter that you speak of, there is no hurry.  We will think it over.  And by the way, we know God well enough by now to know He would never withhold something good from us without a sound reason.”

Adam and Eve, without understanding all of the future issues involved, are in essence going along with the false idea of obtaining the knowledge of good and evil…on the cheap.

A knowledge of good and evil cannot be gotten on the cheap.

A quick and easy, “one-click” on the computer keyboard option to a full knowledge of good and evil is not feasible.

It is like the impossibility of a square circle, married bachelors, describing colors in terms of their shapes, or drawing with a pencil on paper a one-ended stick.  God knows this.

If God wants to create non-divine people…yet made in His image, with free-will choice and the intellectual capacity for moral reasoning…that God can have a loving relationship with over the long expanse of eternity…then those people must have an encounter with the mystery of evil in all its subtle forms…and reject it.

Our Stubborn Will and Way 2

The Christian life in the danger zone of faith is just that…a zone of danger.  There is real spiritual opposition of darkness in high places (Eph. 6:12) that would like this upside-down world of skeptical indifference to God…to continue just as it is.

According to Joel 2:28-32, God intends to pour out of His Spirit upon the entire planet at the time of the end…the latter rain…with a piercing truth like the sharp, two-edged sword it is…setting large numbers of people free from the blindness of skeptical unbelief.

This can mean nothing less than a critical zone of danger every bit as perilous as the early Christians faced in Jerusalem…proclaiming boldly after Pentecost that Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah risen from the dead for our salvation.

This can mean nothing less than a similar experience of persecution and tribulation…encountered by Paul in his evangelical mission to the first-century Greco-Roman world…that will separate-out the subtleties and nuances of a final understanding of the knowledge of good and evil…in the closing chapter of human redemptive history.

A genuine God-composed journey of faith life-script sets-up a foreordained crash and a collision between the two opposing “business models” in our approach to life.

An entirely new model of complex, well-ordered, pre-planned, and premeditated information is needed for a larger enterprise, before the “scope of work” grows.

Joshua did not think up the military strategy to bring down the walls of Jericho.

Gideon would never have dreamed up the battle plan God devised to defeat the invading Midianites.

The life-script of waiting patiently for the birth of Isaac was far outside of the initial contemplation of both Abraham and Sarah.

Peter could not anticipate all of the upcoming events that would revolutionize his life in the simply call of Jesus: “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mk. 1:17).

Like Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), when I became a Christian at age 18, many years ago, at that time, I now looking back in hindsight would place myself at the bottom 5 to 10 percent of average people out in the world in terms of basic good character.

Sometimes God calls the worst people to follow Him, people who at the time of their conversion are totally lost, misguided, and falling far short of our created potential.

God does this, because after He places divinely motivating faith in our future potential…that at the time we cannot initially see…on our subsequent journey-of-faith road to the recovery of our true selves and our destinies, we have so much “make-up” ground to recover that in catching up there is a great deal of “all truth” basics to learn along the way (Lk. 5:8).

If I were able to go back and rewrite the course of my life… doing everything right according to an alternate reality of worldly conventional normalcy…like Saul/Paul going back to Jerusalem to live an exemplary life according to the highest values of humanistic, worldly conventional thinking…then I simply could not write this book.

It is a Christian life lived in the unconventional danger zone reality of a God-composed journey of faith life-script…having challenges and difficulties to overcome…that informs my recognition of the danger zone central to every journey of faith recorded in the Bible.

It is a Christian life lived in the danger zone that raises the interesting and compelling questions I seek answers to that motivates my drive to follow Jesus up into the heights of jagged mountain peaks and down into the depths of the lowest valleys…where the highs and lows of a “knowledge of good and evil” reside and can be found.

But I am very much like the disciples in the first-century who say to Jesus: “Declare unto us this parable” (Mt. 15:5; Mk. 4:10, 4:34).

I need the Holy Spirit to divide out for me truth from error in the middle of life experience.  I need a journey of faith with divinely premeditated events and circumstances precisely sequenced to lead me step-by-step into the world of the “all truth” of John 16:13.

Otherwise, the issues are too subtle and too finely hidden for me to intellectually separate and identify, even with the gift of an analytical mind.

The small-business owner’s mindset of: “I can do everything because I am doing everything” simply does not hold true when the stakes get higher in a God-composed journey of faith.

If the “scope of work” volume of our lives expands through our adventure of faith, then spiritually we become stretched beyond self-reliance.

When we arrive at the fullness of our life’s mission, the program of godliness is much bigger and much grander than we can manage on our own.

The information-rich danger zone of God’s higher ways is where Paul received his mission, his motivation, and his inspired message (Gal. 2:20).

The danger zone of faith in God…is where and how the Holy Spirit leads Spirit-born Christians into all truth yesterday, today, and in the rapidly approaching end-times.

Our Stubborn Will and Way 1

The most guarded and treasured possession to humans…our autonomous, self-directed will-and-way…the control over our lives…in a journey of faith is crucified alongside Jesus to create the space for God to insert a new life-script (Gal. 2:20).

The one and only life we possess is placed on the line in a journey of faith.  Everything is at stake, in play, and at risk in a biblical-quality, God-scripted adventure of faith.

Jesus entreats us to lose our lives for His sake, and in doing so we will find our lives (Mt. 10:39).

Because of the magnitude of the last days, for end-times Christians this has to become more than mere words.  Losing our lives for His sake within a God-composed adventure of faith must actualize in our lives.

Again, this can entail risks of enormous proportions and require decisions that are momentous in their long-range impact upon ourselves and others…keeping in mind the morally correct disclaimer in the last paragraph of the previous essay above.

God cannot let us off easy in this regard and still have our best interests at heart.

If Paul is to be able to write his powerful and insightful New Testament letters to the early churches…with the quality of divine inspiration…he must walk through all of his difficult, lesson-plan challenges.

This is something we sometimes partially miss in Christendom.

For Paul to be able to correctly write the inspired truth, his course must go straight through adversity, tribulation, and struggles that divide out the subtleties and nuances of the issues.

The “narrow way” of Matthew 7:13-14…always has a guided trajectory towards a premeditated goal.

Divinely guided trials proactively scripted through timeless foresight…not random-chance events inadequately resolved in the reactive mode…form the basis of the challenge of the Christian life in the danger zone of faith.

Even Paul’s Spirit-filled Christian friends and companions entreat him not to go up to Jerusalem for that last final visit for fear of personal injury (Acts 21:12).  But Paul has to experience all of the chaotic turmoil of his evangelistic ministry for God to clarify for him the subtle nuances of the knowledge of good and evil.

If we do not have Paul’s fully informed and inspired New Testament letters to all Christians then and now, then we are all diminished greatly in our own journeys of faith.

Paul’s willingness to get out in front, to pay the price to discover “all truth” through God’s narrowly crafted way in an heroic adventure of faith is the hallmark of a person taking up their cross to lose their lives for the sake of Jesus and the gospel (Mk. 8:35).

An easy to identify Old Testament example of this basic truth can be found in the Psalms of David.

David cannot write in his world-famous 23rd Psalm about walking safely through the valley of the shadow of death…with God by his side for protection…unless David in fact and in truth had walked through several danger-filled valleys in real life…darkened by the shadows of death.

Jesus said in John 16:33…“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Tribulation separates us from autonomous self-sovereignty…of sitting atop the thrones of our hearts as unqualified and uninformed kings of the realm of our lives.

This concept of having “tribulation in the world” partially undermines and refutes two of the four or five current, major end-times interpretations of biblical prophecy.

Postmillennialism says that the transforming power of the last-days Christian church will…by the attractive virtue of its winning ways and message…usher in by positive incremental steps the era of the thousand year…”millennial”…reign of Christ on earth.

The pretribulation rapture interpretation says just the opposite…that the believing Christian church will be raptured off the earth before all of the challenging and horrifying action of the Great Tribulation begins.

Both of these biblical end-times prophetic interpretations do not appear to square with the universal, generally applicable biblical concept “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

“In the world ye shall have tribulation” is not consistent with an end-times world slowly and gradually being converted to an elevated level of godliness…consonant with the dawn of a new millennium of blissful peace, truth, and justice.

The challenges, trials-of-faith, and radically life-changing epiphanies of truth that result from “much tribulation”…as a result of a surgical separation from autonomous self-sovereignty through God-composed journeys of faith…is not consistent with a full removal of the Christian church pretribulation before “all the shooting starts.”

One Christian’s View of the End-Times Danger Zone 2

A Fictional Alternate Scenario                    

Imagine for a moment a flashback “alternate reality” of a different scenario for Paul’s life, as is sometimes ingeniously portrayed in modern motion-picture fictional storylines.

After this experience on the road to Damascus, in this alternate reality, Paul returns to Jerusalem and offers as an expedient explanation to the religious leaders of his failed mission that he could find few if any Christians in Damascus.

He judiciously keeps the details of his Christian conversion to himself for the time being.

But Paul is so transformed by his newfound faith he then proceeds to live an exemplary life, rising to the top of the leadership in Jerusalem while marrying a wife and raising a family according to rabbinic tradition (Jn. 18:13).

His leadership skills and his influence in Jerusalem are so highly regarded that when he prudently begins to share his faith in Jesus Christ as the messiah and savior, he is successful in bringing many of the leading Pharisees and scribes who were previously somewhat confused, ambivalent, and undecided about Jesus of Nazareth…to the Christian faith.

In other words, if Paul in a moment of reflective hindsight, towards the end of his actual missionary journeys, had the opportunity to go back and rewrite the course of his life according to a more worldly conventional scenario close to the alternate reality described above, would he have regretted the actual course of his life according to the challenging, difficult, narrowly structured ways and plans of God for a world-class missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…and instead thought he could have written a better and more effective life-script himself?

From our time-sharpened viewpoint of hindsight, the Saul of Tarsus of the alternate reality, returning to Jerusalem to assume a position of religious and political leadership, no matter how exemplary in terms of humanistic, worldly conventional thinking…could never have written the inspiring and insightful New Testament letters to the early Christian churches.

Conventional normalcy at its highest level of achievement and expression is incapable of excavating the subtly deep issues that separate truth from error in this broken world. 

God knew in advance that Paul would give up his claim to worldly conventional normalcy…if a journey of faith through the danger zone would lead to the “all truth” that Paul so brilliantly articulates in his New Testament letters…that have blessed untold millions of people down through the past twenty centuries.

God knew that Paul would willingly choose the way of the cross, with all of its difficult challenges and positive breakthroughs, if this path took him to the place where both his mind and his heart told him he wanted to go.

The challenges, tribulations, and sufferings of the Christian life in the danger zone, so beautifully documented in the New Testament book of Acts, disembark in a vertical tangent from the horizontally conventional thinking of this world…producing a fulfilling and eternally productive adventure of faith for Paul.

This new adventure of faith was unimaginable to Saul the Pharisee prior to his conversion.  Paul, from the most intense personal experience, can write to the Corinthians: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

A walk of faith following God sometimes entails huge risks and requires the most adventurous spirit of discovery, within the context of the one, single lifetime we enjoy.

Going deeper still, the message that Paul brings to his audiences in the Greco-Roman world…is precisely and exclusively this exceptional adventure of faith that he himself is experiencing.

What Paul has is what he gives.  Paul’s message cannot be separated from his life as recorded in the book of Acts.  Salvation, redemption, forgiveness, and grace are an inseparable part of Paul’s story.  So also is a dynamic, living journey of faith following Jesus Christ into the discovery of “all truth.”

An exemplary life according to worldly conventional normalcy would not produce Paul’s New Testament letters to the early churches…because the message itself is formed and shaped by his God-composed life-script…purposed and directed out of the imaginatively creative mind of God.

I believe Paul wrote the New Testament letter to the Hebrews.  In Hebrews chapter eleven, Paul recounts the great journeys of faith in the Old Testament from the vantage point of his own adventurous journey of faith.

This point is critical to understand for today’s Christian.  Living in a faith-dependent relationship following Jesus Christ sets-up the precise conditions for Christians to have something valuable to give to others…the one thing that is of eternal value…a personal relationship with God…likewise based on and indivisible from a faith-journey.

“That I may KNOW HIM, and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10…capital letters mine)…occurs within our God-composed journey of faith…and not within an alternate reality of worldly conventional normalcy…lived and experienced…at even the highest commendable, humanistic level.

But it must always be remembered that the leading of God for born-again Christians, no matter how daring and adventurous, 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.