Purpose and the Cross 3

It is the precise and intricate ways and purposes of God that enlists our own in-built facility for purpose, which can be integrated by God into any set of current life circumstances and events.

Whether we are a heart surgeon, congresswoman, appellate court judge, school teacher, auto mechanic, pastor of a small-town church, writer of Christian books, or housewife raising children, God can overlay and integrate His higher ways and purposes into our lives if we will surrender and yield our self-wills to Him in faith and trust.

The deliverance and salvation of God within the challenges of life, expressed so beautifully throughout the Psalms, takes place within the plans of God, and not our own.

Innate purpose translates into reality at the highest most glorious level when orchestrated and directed within the framework of a God-composed journey of faith.

Sometimes purpose and worldly conventional normalcy do not mix.  Sometimes we cannot have both the risk-filled pursuit of truth and the security of conventional normalcy…simultaneously within the dynamics of this broken world.

Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world…can only die and be resurrected if His generation rejects and crucifies Him.  Only God can knit together a meaningful and purposeful tapestry of the commendable aspects of the Protestant work ethic (Lk. 19:13)…with the worldly incomprehensible, biblical journey of faith through the cross of Calvary.

All of the people of faith in the Bible gave up some measure of worldly conventional normalcy in following God’s life-script for them.  This separates out and elevates the quality of purpose and meaning into a higher zone that only God can orchestrate.

This highlights the wisdom of God in the area of purpose, and like the scriptural example of God composing a life-script for Jesus that contained challenging difficulty for our consolation…it reveals an imaginative creativity that is at the edge of perfection regarding brilliantly directed purpose.

If even our hardships work an eternal glory in us that we cannot fully understand in the present moment…orchestrated, managed, and moderated by a loving and brilliantly wise God at the limits of perfection…this should bolster our faith and confidence when outward appearances seem close to hopeless.

The narrative stories of faith in the Bible tell us that God knows precisely what He is doing, dovetailed perfectly with the type and measure of purpose He has placed within us.  Laws, rules, precepts, psalms of praise and encouragement, prophetic warnings, and historical events all occupy their place in the revelation of God to man.  But the biblical narrative stories of faith demonstrate in action the will and ways of God within life-events to reveal His craftsmanship in the management of our journeys of faith and discovery.

At the advanced Christian end of the spectrum of purpose and meaning in life, God will ask us to place our own personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice.  Isaac is not just Abraham’s son.  Isaac is the son of promise.  Wrapped up in Isaac are all of Abraham’s commendable hopes, dreams, love, and care.  Isaac does not represent some bad character trait or secret sin that Abraham must surrender to God.

If the purpose and meaning of life were just about smooth sailing through calm seas, then Abraham and Sarah could have started a large family upon correctly obeying God to leave Haran and journey to Canaan.

But Abraham and Sarah wait for Isaac, and Abraham is maneuvered by God through long-range circumstances to this pivotal moment on Mount Moriah, for a monumental reason.

The lesson for the “father of faith” (and all of us) is that he must completely and totally rely upon God and give up any remaining residue of self-reliance.

This is one part of the Bible that cannot be manufactured by man through conventional thinking.  This was the God-manufactured reality in Abraham’s life that qualified him to be called the “father of faith,” initiating a new, higher way of life with God.  As Abraham lifts his knife up to thrust it down into his beloved son Isaac, Hebrews 11:19 reads that Abraham accounted “…that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which also he received him in a figure.”

No ordinary person conquers death.  Through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus conquered death…our last great enemy.  We are raised to new life in Christ because Jesus was raised from the tomb by God the Father.

This is the central message of the Bible.  God can and will do for us in a better and much higher way what we cannot possibly even imagine for ourselves.

The most painfully difficult, yet liberating, faith-producing events in our lives are when God maneuvers our circumstances to the point where we willingly make the decision to let go of our own plans, schemes, self-efforts, and even our personal hopes and dreams in a particular area.

As God shouts to Abraham “Stop!” as he is about to plunge his knife down into Isaac, Abraham has totally let go of all self-generated assistance regarding helping God out toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

God would not and never has unjustly asked anyone to take the life of someone else.  The sacrifice on Mount Moriah was a foreglimpse, a “type” of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill two thousand years later that would go forward to full consummation in the death of God’s own beloved Son.

The foundational example of a biblical journey of faith, starting with Abraham, begins with Abraham placing his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice…and God taking this unconditional faith and trust and literally turning it around into life from the dead.

Like all Christians, I have experienced trials, tragedies, and heartbreaks in my life.  Although excruciatingly painful at the time, I would not trade these experiences for anything.  When shaped, orchestrated, and moderated by God, they make me into a better person.

Could one of the things that conventional, worldly thinking chokes on and stumbles over so badly…the presence of suffering and periods of hardship in this life…be an important ingredient that produces the continue-on-at-all-costs, come-what-may, get-up-and-carry-on resiliency of character that can overcome any life-challenge that comes our way?

I cannot discover the inspirations to write this book unless I allow God to lead me through a personal guided tour of life’s valleys and mountaintops to demonstrate to me His faithfulness and His management skills.

The partially hypocritical “do-as-I-say”…moves closer to the absolute ideal of “do-as-I-do”…when divinely-guided purpose is actualized within a God-composed journey of faith.

Purpose and meaning are inextricably connected with this concept of Jesus walking alongside us through the most challenging of life’s circumstances.

The purpose in the cross is all over this encouraging reality of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the hills and valleys of life, ironically fulfilling in the most commendable God-scripted way the tempting seduction of Lucifer in the Garden: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

As King Saul’s deadly pursuit of David is on several occasions within a hair’s breadth of succeeding, David must think to himself whether God’s promise to him through the prophet Samuel will ever come true.

Joseph’s own attempt to get Pharaoh’s butler and baker to speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh and hopefully procure his exoneration and release from prison, falls flat.

When the Israelites are trapped up against the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian chariot army in deadly pursuit, it never entered the minds of the Israelites as a plausible solution that God could open up the Red Sea.  If the Red Sea bordered on a forest, some small number of people might have used drift wood as floatation devices to swim safely on top of the surface of the water to the opposite shore.

But this body of water was in the middle of a desert…there were no trees or driftwood.  Some daring people might have considered attempting to swim across the entire width of the Red Sea.

Opening up a dry land passage through the midst of the waters was something that only God could even imagine, much less actually accomplish.

Upon first hearing God’s plan to successfully defeat the opposing army, we can imagine Gideon asking God “Did I hear you correctly…you want us to do what?”

Esther throws all personal caution to the wind in seeking an uninvited audience with the king…in an extremely tight set of deadly circumstances forced upon her by the expediency of the crisis…not at all of her making.

Even on Resurrection Day, as the two disciples are walking toward Emmaus and speaking with the as-yet unrecognized Jesus, after some of the disciples had already reported discovering the empty tomb, they still did not understand the magnitude of the power of the resurrection.  They say about Jesus that He was “a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19), and that “we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21).

They did not realize that Jesus, a “prophet mighty in deed and word,” had that very day conquered the great final enemy of death and hell for them, through His divinely empowered resurrection from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.

Most of us did not fully understand the second half of the cross…the surrender of the sovereignty of sitting atop the thrones of our lives as self-autonomous kings…when we experienced believer’s water baptism.  When we were submerged briefly below the surface of the water, and then assisted up into a vertical standing position representing resurrection into new life, we grasped the basic outlines of the cross and the resurrection.

Only after some length of time in our journey of faith do we begin to comprehend in some measure the depth of God’s purposes, patterned for us in the narrative examples of faith recorded in the Bible.

This concept of placing our personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice so that God can insert His higher ways into our lives, will crystalize into a major theme for Christians as we enter the last-days to close out the long redemptive history of mankind.

This is another key to our success as the Christian church in the last-days.

Just as the cross and the resurrection conquered death in a way that was beyond our capacity to accomplish for ourselves, the second half of the cross is a divine creation beyond human imagination or creative literary invention.

The narrative stories of faith in the Bible, and our own personal experience of salvation and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ, will be a calm harbor of refuge and a sturdy anchor of protection through whatever worldwide turbulence lies ahead.

A journey of faith through the second half of the cross is at the pinnacle of divinely inspired and revealed orthodoxy, as orthodox as orthodox can be.

This is the part of the message of the Bible that is designed to illustrate the Spirit-born transformation that takes place within a person, from having merely an impersonal knowledge about God, to a personal, purpose-filled, new covenant adventure of faith following Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31-34).

The Natural Moral Law 3

If one thinks about it, this is an amazingly profound realization.

How is it that we agree so readily about the decision for duty, honor, and responsibility over the pursuit of personal happiness?  How can this natural moral law rise to elevated precedence over everything else, including our personal goals and wishes?

How can the natural moral law be that important?  How can there be values in life worth making sacrifices for, over and above our personal desires?

How can “doing the right thing” command our respect and loyalty to this degree of self-sacrifice?

Why does this theme repeat itself in so many great movies, achieving so much popular acceptance and acclaim, yet be so morally demanding?

No Christians today would in hindsight tell Noah to stop building his ark, or advise Abraham to stay in Haran, or advise Moses to refuse God’s difficult calling to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites.

No Christians would tell David to forget about the absurd notion of attempting to kill Goliath using only a sling and a stone, or tell Peter to continue mending his nets rather than accept the invitation of Jesus to follow Him, or tell Paul he had better give up his missionary quest and return to the safety of being a Pharisee in Jerusalem…after being nearly stoned to death in Lystra.

Buried deep within our conscience, we know that doing the right thing is more important than doing what we might otherwise want to do, when the circumstances of life require us to make a choice.

This must have the clear bell-ring note of truth that resonates in our innermost being, otherwise the movie Roman Holiday would not have captured our imagination and maintained its longstanding popularity to reach the elevated status of being considered a “classic.”

Within the highly competitive marketplace of ideas filtered through the cultural medium of modern movie-making, the theme of this beautiful story has stood the test of time for a good reason.

There is an important lesson we can take away from this classic movie.

Even the supportive and affirming aspects of common romantic love, which God created, can change people for the better.

Before her one-day love affair in Rome with Joe Bradley…the Gregory Peck character in the movie, the Princess Anne is going through the perfunctory motions of acting like a princess, of doing what everyone around her tells her to do, because that is what is expected of her.  But after she discovers, even for a single day, that a handsome and charming man actually loves her for who she is rather than what she is, this supporting validation of her as a person sets her free to become her own person.

Not only does the love, value, and respect coming from the Gregory Peck character in the movie enable Anne to grow instantly into a mature woman capable of independent decision-making, but also enables Anne to make the difficult but elevated moral decision to continue in the responsible role as her country’s princess.

After her Roman Holiday, the Princess Anne will enter into her duties in the service of her family and her country out of her own volition and choosing, albeit at the high cost of a lost romance and a broken heart.  This one-day, eye-opening experience will make her a better person and a more committed public servant for all of the right reasons.  This one-day transformation came about through the respect and support that comes with being genuinely loved.

Likewise, the one-day romp through the city of Rome with the beautiful princess in the disguise of a commoner, creates in Joe Bradley a growing love and affection for this woman as the day progresses, that in the end produces the elevated nobility of character that sacrifices for her welfare, the sensational front-page reporter’s story of a lifetime.

While standing in the front row of the gallery of reporters at the next day’s press conference, Gregory Peck assures Audrey Hepburn that the scandalous nature of their day out-in-the-town in Rome will forever remain a secret between the two of them.  Joe Bradley tells the Princess Anne that her “faith in the relations between people will not be unjustified.”  And thus these two people discover together the elevated, self-sacrificing quality of character that their love for each other has created…seemingly out of nowhere.

Anne starts out her Roman Holiday wanting only the excitement of pursuing one day of total freedom to do just whatever she pleases, and Joe Bradley starts out pursuing the personally detached, coldly calculated news reporter’s front page feature article.  Both unknowingly start out the day in the natural realm of worldly conventional, self-centered plans and schemes, but through the day’s totally unique shared experiences they end up at the highest character realm of the natural moral law of self-sacrificing love.

So it is with a God-composed journey of faith following Jesus Christ.  Spending time with Jesus will change us forever.

Romantic love that contains genuine self-sacrifice motivates Hepburn and Peck, in the movie, to make the right decision and to do the right thing.

But it is the actual activities of the day spent together that creates the bond of love between them to make this possible.  This is where the “rubber meets the road” in the story.  Without their “Roman Holiday” there is no context for their shared experiences, growing love for each other, and subsequent elevated character growth.

Without their Roman Holiday experience, they both would remain just the same as they were the previous day, hopelessly stuck within their horizontally conventional realities.

Only God can craft the events and circumstances in our lives to create the singularly unique context for developing love for God and right actions consistent with the natural moral law.

Whenever Jesus Christ calls a person into a particular task, mission, or service as part of their journey of faith, the confidence that God places in us is a divine aspect of love that will inspire a response to rise to the occasion.

This supportive validation of us as a person, coming from no less than Almighty God Himself, will raise the bar to a new elevated level of character within us.  The value that God places upon us, and the trust He invests in our development, when divine love is in operation, will elevate people into the high character level of the natural moral law contained within a journey of faith, to match the beautiful stories of faith in the Bible.

The acceptance, confidence, and validation that are a part of the love of God that is shown in God’s willingness to interact with us on a personal level, will elevate us to become better people, again seemingly out of nowhere (Mk. 4:26-28).

Whether we consciously know it or not, when we place our trust completely in Jesus Christ through a God-composed journey of faith, we are subscribing wholeheartedly to the natural moral law.

A personalized adventure of faith patterned for us after the lives of faith portrayed in the Bible, is God’s ingenious method of establishing a relationship with us based upon mutual love.  This love will capture our voluntary willingness to climb any mountain, cross any sea, and bear any burden in response to the living God who loves us and cares for us.

This explains why Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Ruth, Esther and Mordecai, Jeremiah, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul stay with God’s program through thick and thin.  They recognized God’s confident love for them and responded with fidelity and loyalty to God’s higher ways and plans.

This is the elevated, higher character realm of the natural moral law where God resides.

Princess Anne and Joe Bradley unintentionally fall in love as a result of their shared Roman Holiday experience, combined with their physical attraction and growing affection for each other.  This was not a consciously intellectual choice on their part, conferring merit on their creative wisdom to set all of this up in advance.  We simply have the God-given, innate capacity for experiencing love that will alter our lives for the better.

“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.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

One theme of this book is that God sets up unimaginable life-scripts for us to walk in, individually tailored to His intentions when He originally created each of us.

Love will motivate people to voluntarily choose high moral actions in a truly genuine and fulfilling way.  Divine love is the dynamic force that energizes the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible.  The “that not of yourselves” part involves picking up our cross, listening in the Spirit, and following Jesus.  It is the love of God that actively intervenes in our lives that is the key for individual Christians and the Christian church in the last-days.

This is the part of the Christian experience that is infused with the most unselfish, loving intentions of God toward us, creating the space for God to insert a biblical version “Roman Holiday” of unique situations and circumstances into our lives.

The secondary theme of this wonderful movie Roman Holiday, where the cost of duty and honor is commendably chosen over the short-term gain of personal preference, is something that Christians can anticipate becoming more clearly defined in our journeys of faith as the last–days approach.

Love that produces and exhibits self-sacrifice is one of the basic spiritual realities of the Christian life.  It is one of the fundamental aspects of this natural moral law that is a part of the Almighty God that we worship and follow.

Amazingly, this natural moral law even shows up as a main theme in a classic movie produced out of Hollywood in 1953.

Paul’s Private Discourse with Felix

During Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, Acts 24:24-25 reads:

“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.  And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”

Over the years I have wondered about the exact words and the power of Paul’s speech that made Felix…a Roman ruler…a powerful and worldly successful man…tremble during this very private interview of Paul and “the faith in Christ.”

Paul was reasoning out of the natural moral law combined with the gospel message of salvation through Christ and the cross, in an elevated manner and through personal conviction that is not attainable by human intellect alone.

Saul (Paul) the young Pharisee speaking to Felix or someone like Felix decades earlier, about his zeal and enthusiasm for the religion of Judaism, would have produced genuine respect and admiration for Saul’s religious beliefs and erudition, but would never have brought Felix under Holy Spirit conviction for sin that an anointed discourse on righteousness, temperance, and judgment-to-come would produce in a politically powerful, worldly successful Roman governor.

The difference between Saul the young Pharisee and Paul the seasoned Christian missionary evangelist is that on the road to Damascus, God found Paul and Paul found God.

Saul the young Pharisee knew about God…Paul the apostle of the faith knows God personally.  Paul was able to draw-out from his own adventure of faith following Jesus Christ, the living words of truth that cut through the hard outer shell of the practical worldly thinking of a man like Felix, to reach his inner conscience.

The difference in Paul was produced through an adventure of faith following Jesus Christ in the danger zone of self-abandoned faith….according to a God-composed life-script of such original creativity that it was previously unimaginable to Saul (Paul) or anyone else at the time, before his conversion.

It was a God-composed adventure of faith life-script to be a missionary evangelist to the Greco-Roman world of the first-century that enabled Paul to write to the Corinthians:

Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,    Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.                                                                            Love never faileth…                                (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

It is my guess that some of these timeless truths entered into the discussion of Paul with Felix so many years ago.  Only in heaven will we know whether Felix eventually made the decision for Christ that would determine his eternal future.

In this discourse between Paul and Felix, Felix knows that Paul is a prisoner, knows all about the recent furor in Jerusalem involving Paul, and is fully aware that Paul has been rejected by the ruling Jews of Jerusalem.

Yet Felix initiates this private interview with Paul, making a point of including his wife Drusilla the Jewess as well.

The Christian church in the last days, if not raptured pretribulation, may be in a similar worldly disadvantaged condition like Paul in relation to Felix and the world at large (Mt. 24:9), yet likewise be filled with Holy Spirit wisdom, self-composure, grace, confidence in Christ, and divinely empowered love that will draw people to us to hear the gospel message.

In the heat of the end-times environment, only the polarized contrast of a journey-of-faith and a journey-of-self…may exist as options.

Multitudes of people disenchanted with the conventional worldly option will become interested in hearing the gospel message…really listening for the first time.  The piercing truth of the gospel message spoken through an anointed and inspired discourse will cause people to tremble over conviction of sin…as Felix trembled at the words of Paul so many years ago.

Christians today must rise above being merely “church Christians” where the sole experience of our faith occurs only within the four walls of our church building.

Our testimony must have more depth than merely telling people “how great” is our church service, our pastor, the worship music, and the youth program, without ever mentioning what Jesus Christ means to us.

Our lives and our testimony must begin to approximate and become in-line with what we read in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible, based upon our own biblical-quality adventure of faith.

This is not only achievable, but is the special work God intends to do through the new covenant relationship with all believers who exercise faith in Christ.

God’s Unexpected Answer 2

This notion of removing the Christian body of believers off the earth pretribulation, chops out a massive portion of the potential creative imagination that God…as righteous Judge and eternal Ruler of the realm…could bring to bear in one last final closing chapter of human redemptive history.

The recurring pattern of the cross of Jesus Christ, skillfully placed within a variety of indeterminate plotlines having uncertain outcomes in-the-moment, in what this book calls the danger zone of faith in the competence and the good will of the living God…is a direct argument against a full pre-knowledge of the early removal of the Christian church…and what amounts to a foreclosing of the opportunity to adventure through the illuminating danger zone of the tribulation…at the end of the ages.

A perceptive reader at this point might object that the revelation of the upcoming end-times macro-script in incremental stages through actual events and circumstances as they occur in real-time in-the-moment (Mt. 24:32-51)…rather than all upfront in a clear and full revelation…places God in the very role that has been criticized in this book as inadequate for the management of larger, expanding enterprises…that of appearing to be in the reactive mode.

Herein is where a biblical journey of faith in the danger zone can be taken apart and more well-defined.

God has all of the answers already…because God possesses timeless foresight.  God lives in a timeless environment (Isa. 46:9-10).

Prior to the commencement of every biblical journey of faith, God has the script already pre-written.  But God does not reveal all of the details upfront to each person of faith.  God does not give us the entire blueprint of our journey of faith upfront for us to follow according to our own wits, personal interpretation, and take-it-or-leave-it pleasure.

This is why we call these God-composed life-scripts…walks of faith, journeys of faith, and adventures of faith.

The Bible says we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

If we had all of the information upfront about our journeys of faith, we would attempt to tweak some of the circumstances to fit more closely within the comfort of worldly conventional normalcy.

If Jesus the Son of God asked His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane if there was an alternate way to procure salvation for mankind, other than the events of the cross He was facing the next day, how do we suppose we will respond to the way of the cross in our own lives…if we knew upfront every challenge and difficulty we would face?

If Peter and John knew ahead of time that going to the temple in Jerusalem that fateful morning would result in the miraculous and sensational healing of the crippled man, and subsequently lead to placing the two of them standing foursquare before the intimidating Sanhedrin council demanding an explanation for this miracle, Peter and John might have decided to take a wise detour and go fishing that day instead.

God-composed journeys of faith are crafted for our benefit.  A timeless God has all of the journeys of faith pre-written, including the great end-times scenario of eternally momentous events resolved through a brilliant script, surpassing the suspense of our best spy thriller or murder mystery fiction novels.

But though God is timeless, we learn through discovery…experientially.

God-composed life-scripts are ingeniously crafted to unselfishly and lovingly impart some of the characteristics of God to us.

Although God is never in the reactive mode, for reasons that we do not fully understand now (1 Cor. 13:12), the revelation of God to us must occur in incremental stages as our confidence grows with each tentative step in our walk of faith.

Abraham discovers through his journey of faith that God is true to His word.

Joseph discovers that God knows exactly what He is doing, even when all outward appearances argue in the opposite direction.

Moses discovers the power and resolve of God to finish what He starts.

David discovers that God is trustworthy as a companion and a guide even while walking together step-for-step through the valley of the shadow of death.

Peter discovers that God sees our hidden inner talents and can transform anyone, no matter how common our initial worldly status, into the “rock” He called us to be.

Through his remarkable adventure of faith, Paul amazingly discovers that God does actually know everything and can separate-out and illuminate the intricate parts of any issue through the divinely sequenced occurrence of events and circumstances.

God’s Unexpected Answer 1

The divinely patient and love-filled answer of God to my prayer about guidance in the selection of a career…as a young man in college…went not at all according to what I naively thought I wanted, but what God knew I actually needed if I was to be able to grow in my knowledge of Christ and to understand some of the deep issues within the cross and the resurrection.

God’s answer to my prayer asking for worldly conventional normalcy in the career portion of my life, so that I could pursue Him undistracted by the cares of this world according to the shallow thinking of a beginning novice, turned out to be the direct opposite of what I expected.

Without divinely created and guided experiences, having some measure of adversity and challenge, I cannot grow into the fullness of the better person God had in mind when He created me.

If we truly seek God with all of our hearts and minds we will find Him, but not according to our initial, horizontally conventional thinking.

The God of the Bible that we find through life experience is not a shallow projection of our own imagination (1 Pet. 1:3). God is expertly and amazingly way ahead of us in laying out the precise routes to discovering truth in every aspect of reality and existence.  This is one of the truly fascinating features of picking up our cross and following Jesus Christ into our unique and individualized callings.

Herein is one argument against the timing of a pretribulation rapture of the Christian church, found within the modern field of information theory.

If the pretribulation scenario as proposed today is correctly described in exhaustive detail upfront…like in the exciting and captivating Left Behind book series…then unpredictability, improbability, and information content potential are all reduced.  The opportunity for God to creatively compose, using an information-rich end-times script, is reduced.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script is information-rich.  It is not repetitive, redundant, or deterministic.  The highest amount of information is conveyed within the biblical narrative stories of faith because the plotlines are novel and unique with uncertain outcomes…in-the-moment.

Even though there is the common pattern of the cross of Christ in every journey of faith life-script, there is what is called indeterminacy.  Every narrative story of faith is different.  There is no repetitive redundancy.

If the biblical narrative stories of faith and their resolutions were all closely similar…all narrowly predetermined…then less information would be conveyed as a whole.

For example, a romance novel that only has the word “love” repeated over and over for 100 pages provides very little information content.

God’s novel strategy for Gideon to repulse the invading Midianites, the unique approach for Joshua to bring down the walls of Jericho, Joshua’s request of God to halt the skyward progress of the sun in the middle of a decisive military battle, and Jesus walking on water, are examples where we can read the outcomes in hindsight but which were all in doubt and at risk in the moment they occurred.

Because the challenges in each situation differed, the solutions are unique and unpredictable.  And because there are multiple possible alternative outcomes, the narrative stories of faith in the Bible provide maximum information.

Using an analogy to the concert grand piano…artistically created, musical piano compositions are indeterminate in that there are a nearly infinite number of combinations of notes, tempos, and styles available on the piano keyboard to produce improbable outcomes.

The music of Chopin is distinctly different from the music of Debussy, Rachmaninoff, or Scott Joplin.

At the level of artistic creativity, how do we identify and define great musical melodies?  What is special about the simple melody of Beethoven’s opening notes to his fifth symphony?  How did the Beatles or the Beach Boys come up with so many brilliantly creative melodies in their popular songs, when other musical artists can only manage single hit-songs that are referred to as “one-hit wonders?”  How does composer and symphony conductor John Williams create such incredibly moving musical themes for his many movie scores?

This analogy to the concert grand piano, and the brilliance of musical compositions, helps us to understand the unique and elevated nature of the complex, highly-specified, diverse, artistically creative information that goes into a God-composed journey of faith life-script.

This then helps us to understand the ingenuity of the Christian life in the danger zone of faith, and to likewise be able to place our faith in the living God who is up to the task of writing and directing brilliantly insightful, issue-illuminating scenarios in our lives…no matter how darkly challenging in the present moment.

An irony therefore in the end-times prophetic debate is that one set of evidences that argues apologetically for the divine inspiration of the Bible…the presence of complex, specified, top-down information found in the ancient texts of these biblical narrative stories of faith…refutes the notion of a predetermined knowledge that the rapture of the Christian church would occur prior in time to the great tribulation.

What is Missing in the Eschatology Discussion Today…is the Way of the Cross

In my opinion, Christians in the end-times cannot fully discover, internalize, and outwardly demonstrate the triumphant, overcoming nature of Jesus Christ…without the necessity of experiencing a similar intensity of challenging issues on a massive scale, as Jesus did in the first-century, during at least some portion of the upcoming great tribulation, prior to the rapture.

Will the Christian church be raptured pretribulation to escape all of the action, or is the overriding, controlling element of biblical interpretation instead the investigative, experiential component of our God-composed journeys of faith…that take us straight through the cross no matter what are the daunting outside challenges we face?

Is the God of the Bible, who has given us a pattern in the biblical narrative stories of faith, and who resides in a timeless reality, equally capable of rising to the occasion and crafting an end-times script of brilliant intrigue, moves and countermoves, the unmasking of true underlying motives, and the revelation of truth worthy of the final chapter in this amazing saga of human redemptive history?

I personally do not think that the rapture and the second coming of Christ are one and the same event.  Paul speaks about the rapture of the church as being a mystery, yet everyone in the early church knew about the Acts 1:9-11 account of Jesus coming back some day in like manner as He ascended into heaven.

It is nearly certain that Paul shared his outlook on this important issue with the other apostles (Gal. 2:2; 1Th. 4:13-18; 2 Th. 2:5) and with the early churches he founded, yet there is no biblical record of any dispute or disagreement on end-times eschatology.

The major council of Acts 15 (around A.D. 49) in the early church considered the vital question of the Judaic law as it applied to the new Gentile converts, and had no recorded discussion of the rapture or the second coming of Christ as a secondary topic in dispute.

Because the element of the way of the cross in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…argues against a pretribulation rapture of the church (discussed more fully in my book The Cross in the End-Times), and because I see the rapture and the second coming as separate events, this then leaves for me a rapture that would occur sometime in the middle of the great tribulation (there is no rapture after the second coming of Jesus Christ).

Everyone who looks at these issues has to form their own opinion.  The Holy Spirit is the only real expert in all of this.  Until Joel 2:28-32 and Matthew 24:7-14 actually begin to materialize and specify the coming events more fully, for the present I am leaning toward the timing of a mid-tribulation rapture of the Christian church.

Whether the duration of the great tribulation is a full seven years or three and one-half years, as some people contend, would obviously alter substantially the definitions of pretribulation or mid-tribulation raptures.

But the way of the cross in the biblical narrative stories of faith is central, controlling, and irreplaceable…in my interpretation of end-times biblical prophecy (1 Jn. 3:1-3).

One insight of priceless value that God has given me through a career in building construction, which informs my understanding of the cross and the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, is that the varied problems that plague building construction can only be identified through hard-earned, first-hand personal experience with both feet planted firmly in the middle of the action.

Fact-finding research in the middle of the building construction jobsite arena as a tradesperson, a field superintendent, or a project manager…comes with a cost.

Valuable lessons only surface one at a time in the heat and stress of the daily struggle.  No detached, theoretical, academic approach from a safe distance will unearth and separate out the subtle, latent problems that disrupt the building construction process, causing time delays, cost overruns, poor quality, and the unpleasant task of having to explain to the new homebuyer why their house is not finished on time.

Comfortable complacency in the worldly conventional zone will never produce beneficial reform in this broken world.

Necessity is said to be the mother of invention and is the guiding motivation for discovery in many walks of life.

In terms of a journey of faith, we have to go boldly and courageously into the world to discover first-hand precisely what is wrong with the world…in order to enact real solutions.

Christians have to first go through the way of the cross ourselves in order to be able to assist others to be able do the same.

We see this theme at work throughout the Bible in the narrative stories of faith.  The positive characters of faith in the Bible are grounded in the realities of life, yet on an elevated plane within the creatively imaginative mind of God that produces truth-revealing adventures of faith like those of Gideon, Joshua, Elijah, Ruth, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, David, Noah, Moses, Joseph and Mary, and Peter, to name only a few.

The issues of right and wrong are sorted out by God for us through the actual events and circumstances of an adventurous journey of faith.

Paul has to live the Christian life to the fullest maximum extent in order to be able to “connect all the dots” and correctly write about it on a divinely inspired level.

The same is true for Peter, James, John, Jude, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ into this world in the form of a human being underscores at the divine level of perfection, the enormous power behind the concept of God-composed and guided journeys of faith…separating truth from error (Jn. 9:39-41).

Jesus Christ values a journey of faith, which sets up the context to reveal the true nature of God, so much that He entered our world as a human being to personally “debug” our relationship with God.

The Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth placed both feet firmly in the middle of the action to become the way, the truth, and the life through the events and circumstances of life.

Jesus Christ the Son of God became a human being to create a priceless commonality with us that is the basis for a lasting and meaningful relationship for all eternity.

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).