God’s Optimum Training Program

“I council thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with salve, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent.”                                                                                           (Rev. 3:18-19)                      

            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. 

            A compromised message from the pulpit tailored to please people will never inspire the type of commitment that will produce excellence of character in us. 

            A book like this one, on the subject of the second half of the cross…to have real value must inspire committed Christians to continue forward on their present journey of faith, and to jolt less dedicated Christians out of complacency. 

            The story of the Bible is God’s call to people to give their best, to surrender all to Jesus Christ in trust and faith. 

            God is a spiritual coach who demands the very best, by setting up a rigorous training program of situations and circumstances for our benefit.  He does this because He loves us enough to want to see us victorious on the playing field in the actual game of life. 

            Dumbing-down and diluting the Christian experience to a more comfortable level, results only in mediocrity.  The Holy Spirit would never inspire or condone “Christianity Light” (Acts 4:8).  God is not and never has been interested in producing mediocre saints.  That is why He gave us outstanding natural talents, abilities, and capacities, like His own.  God created us in His image.  That is why God says to us “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).

            God is the great playbook writer of the lives of faith portrayed in the Bible.  The reason that God wants to compose the playbooks for our lives is that He wants to set up a regimen of spiritual training where we can be challenged to give our all…the very best we have to give. 

            In the area of assimilating godliness, which we initially know nothing about, we need a demanding coach to set up the program and to push us to our limits. 

            We won’t reach excellence in the area of Christ-like character on our own.  Like learning to play championship football as a team, or learning to play classical piano at an advanced level, we need someone who is more knowledgeable than ourselves to show us the way and to push us toward a greater effort and a higher outcome. 

            The truly great teachers, coaches, and role models in our lives obtain our total commitment to do our best because we sense that their demanding standards are based upon the fact that they really care about our development as people. 

            The respect and sense of worth that is shown toward us through a coach or a teacher, who cares enough about us to demand our very best effort, will often inspire us to perform at our highest level for a lifetime.

            Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  Jesus is telling us here that He has the winning play-book, and that He is the Championship Coach.  Only God knows what it takes to have godly character.  If we will join the team, and not quit, God will set-up a tough spiritual training program for us. 

            God does this because He cares about us.  Like an inspiring college professor, a demanding high school athletic coach, or a respected parent, we will find ourselves wanting to please God and get His approval in everything we do. 

            That is the greatness of Jesus Christ. 

            Jesus inspires a life-long commitment to excellence in the course of our life.  God takes people like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul, and transforms them into people with spiritual character and power in the areas of life that really matter. 

            Abraham becomes the father of faith, Joseph leads the nation of Egypt through seven years of famine, David becomes a godly king, and Paul evangelizes the Mediterranean world. 

            These are the world-class results when God is our coach and we submit ourselves to His program of spiritual conditioning and training.

The Easy Route Won’t Produce Results

            When we pick up our cross and are following Jesus, God is intimately involved with our spiritual training program.  The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ set up this initial beneficial environment.  Through Jesus, man can re-establish fellowship with God with a fresh start as new creatures in Christ. 

            God the Father looks at us through Christ.  Christians are sinless in the sight of God the Father through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, so that we can experience a walk of faith through the situations and circumstances God composes for the believer in this life. 

            This program of spiritual training is extremely important to God.  In the Old Testament, God was constantly fine-tuning, changing, and using the outward political environment to get the Israelites back into a relationship of trust and faith in Him. 

            The various challenges of invading foreign armies, temporary military occupations of their homeland by surrounding nations, the powerful messages of prophets sent by God, and the Babylonian captivity, constantly re-established the correct environment for trust and faith in God for the Israelites during their long history. 

            The letters to the churches in the New Testament are designed to keep Christians within the purity of an environment of faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

            As always, Satan attempts to get Christians off course by subverting and attacking the God-composed environment created for faith and trust to operate.  Satan’s strategy is a straight-on attack at the very program that God sets up in this physical world designed for the people of faith to discover His love and His care.

            If Satan incites the Midianites to attack Israel, God responds with the calling of Gideon and the uniquely creative plan of the counter-attack with the 300 Israelite soldiers.  This re-established an environment in Israel for active faith in God. 

            If Satan incites the Philistines to invade Israel and defy the God of the Jews through a warrior champion like Goliath, God counters with the raising up…seemingly out of nowhere…of a courageous young man named David. 

            David kills the giant with one sling-shot stone perfectly aimed into the forehead of Goliath.  This starts in motion a process to establish the reign of a godly king in Israel that sets up the environment for the Jewish nation to again exercise trust and reliance upon God.

            The scriptures tell us that Satan desired to “sift” Peter during the faith-testing period of the arrest and trial of Jesus (Lk. 22:31), to destroy Peter forever in self-incrimination and despair over failing to remain true and faithful to Jesus at the critical moment.  Satan successfully uses the unfamiliar, intimidating surroundings of the home of Caiaphas the high priest, as an unanticipated and underestimated new environment for Peter, who utterly fails in courage to acknowledge Jesus before a group of people assembled around a fire in the exterior courtyard. 

            Yet God counters by using this very same crushing defeat in Peter’s life to create a life-changing, positive character transformation in Peter, from previously being foolishly self-confident and self-reliant…to becoming humbly and wisely reliant upon the Holy Spirit for the remainder of his life.

            Satan attempts to discourage and weaken Paul’s resolve for service by inciting a near-death stoning of Paul by the Jews at Lystra.  Satan tries to bring disruption and doubt into Paul’s calling, to bring in an element of fear and possibly unforgiving resentment and bitterness toward the Jews into Paul’s God-inspired program of evangelizing the Greco-Roman world. 

            Instead, this failed attempt by Satan to attack the ministry of Paul… probably only created more spiritual freedom in Paul’s outlook.             

            From that time forward Paul could consider that he was now operating on borrowed time.  Paul had looked a horrible death square in the face, and got up and carried on. 

            If Jesus Christ could raise Paul up from this stoning experience at Lystra, what more could Paul have to fear from opposition to his ministry?  Paul could look at each current threat and say to himself that he already experienced far worse and had survived. 

            But on a deeper level, 1 John 4:18 says: “but perfect love casteth out fear.”  This extreme physical attack upon Paul did not dampen his love for his Jewish brethren (Rom. 9:1-3). 

            Paul exhibits fearless ministry in perfect love (within human limits) throughout his calling to evangelize the first-century world, because Paul stayed faithfully within the rigorous training environment that Jesus Christ set-up for him.  No matter what was occurring in the natural realm in terms of the deadly malice and hatred of the opposition, Paul remained steadfast.

            These are all examples of a great, championship-quality Coach instilling the high standards of character and preparedness that produce victory on the field of play.

            The greatest harm that man can do to the ways of God is to tinker with the training environment of faith that God sets up. 

            Mankind is constantly trying to replace the spiritual training program of a walk of faith with God, with empty religious practices that homogenize, sanitize, and nullify the environment of situations and circumstances whereby God can interact with faithful believers. 

            This occurred throughout the Bible.  It starts with the lethal contrast between Cain and Abel.  Cain wants to change the rules to suit his ideas.  Cain wants to do things his way, with deadly tragic consequences. 

            In the New Testament, replacing God’s ways with our ways is one of the underlying causes of the lethal differences between the Jewish religious rulers…and Jesus…which culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus the Son of God. 

            There is no basis for the extreme outcome of the crucifixion of Jesus…the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of man…if there are not stubborn and hard-hearted hypocrites sitting in the seats of power as religious and political rulers in Jerusalem. 

            The religious leaders of that day, and Jesus and His disciples, are in two totally different realities…two different character-building programs…two different spiritual “training camps” that are worlds apart.  This difference is what fueled the tension that finally resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus.

            The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers did not submit themselves to the spiritual equivalent of the grueling two-a-day August workouts that typically lead up to the start of the high school football season, orchestrated by a demanding coach getting his team into top physical shape to be winners on the football field. 

            The ministry of Jesus Christ exposed the fact that they had not gone through God’s spiritual training program.  Otherwise, they would have recognized the voice of God their divine Coach during the Sermon on the Mount.  They would have been conspicuous within the listening crowd of people…with heads nodding up and down in agreement with what Jesus was teaching, walking in amongst the audience patting people on the back and encouraging them to listen to what Jesus was saying. 

            Instead, Luke 11:52 reads: “Woe unto you, lawyers!  For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” 

            The ministry and teaching of Jesus exposed the fact that these religious leaders were outside of the uncompromising environment of faith that God sets up for the benefit of all. 

            Jesus exposed the Pharisees and scribes as unskilled and untrained players, posing as qualified players in the starting line-up on the field, and they killed Him for this (Mt. 27:18).         

            When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John the Baptist at the river Jordan, John said “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth, therefore, fruits befitting repentance” (Mt. 3:7-8). 

            In other words, John the Baptist said “show that you are genuine athletes prepared for real play on the field, and not just pretenders and frauds wanting to wear the uniform during the game, and wanting to walk around campus wearing the varsity jacket during the week.”

            The context of situations and circumstances in which God sets up faith and trust to operate, is not a matter to be taken lightly.  God and Satan are in a constant spiritual battle over who controls the territory of the environment of situations and circumstances.

            The Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, and the method of preparation for them to be able to conquer their promised land, is a straightforward biblical example of this concept. 

            God took Israel out of the context of Egypt and into the Sinai desert.  God changed the environment altogether.  In the desert God had more exclusive access and control of outward situations and circumstances to craft lessons of trust and reliance upon Him.  The external issues for the Israelites in the desert were narrowed down to the basics…food, water, and getting the memory of Egyptian idol worship out of their thinking. 

            In the desert God was able to get the undivided attention of the Israelites, and to get them trained in the spiritual areas of trust and reliance upon Him, so that they would follow Him and Joshua into the all-important impending military battles. 

            God did not want the Israelites to be terrified at the first sight of warfare.  God wanted the Israelites to march forward into battle with determined resolve and courage, for their own benefit and welfare.  God’s demanding and challenging training methods with the Israelites, at the very real risk to Himself of becoming temporarily unpopular, proved to be of the highest championship quality. 

            Satan, by contrast in this environment of the Sinai desert, had fewer tangible outward opportunities to work with.  The usual glittering worldly temptations and allurements were not present in the desert.  Spiritual military “boot-camp” provided fewer openings for Satan to operate within.

            One of the fallacies that should be addressed as we approach the upcoming end-times is the idea that just because we are born-again Christians, God is satisfied with spiritually out-of-shape and overweight players on His team. 

            This idea of a soft brand of Christianity is not biblical. 

            Every born-again Christian will be raptured when the time comes, regardless of what shape we are in.  The thief crucified next to Jesus, who that very day would be in paradise with Him, with no future opportunity to live out his new faith on earth, tells us that salvation is entirely by grace through faith… and not conditioned upon works. 

            But the idea that Jesus Christ will not set-up a rigorous training environment to get us all into top spiritual shape before the end, whatever particular eschatology the end-times may entail, needs some serious re-thinking within contemporary Christendom. 

            This current environment of earth is a one-time, non-repeating event.  The end-time is the last “football” season for all eternity.  Jesus Christ will not allow His team to go out with a losing final season, because we were out-of-shape, unprepared, and poorly coached. 

            The perfect, divine coach Jesus Christ unselfishly loves each one of us too much to allow that to happen. 

God Has Our Back

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”  (1 Cor. 2:10)

            God has our back in a crisis.  The only way we would know this for sure is by actual experience, by being in the middle of a shooting war.  

            This has to be true, because it cannot be fiction.  It does not hold up as fiction.  Once it rises to the level of becoming recorded in writing, put down on paper, it enters the arena of being universally testable and falsifiable over time. 

            The interaction between the living God and David, memorialized forever in David’s 23rd Psalm, is true because it cannot be otherwise…it cannot be fictional writing.  Once David writes about walking through the valley of the shadow of death with God at his side, then fiction-writing as the source of its inspiration and origin becomes nonsensical. 

            The uniquely biblical concept of the living God participating in our lives to this extent of personal interaction…at the very center of our life-scripts…is too far outside of the default, conventional worldview thinking of sitting atop the thrones of our lives in self-sovereignty to make the huge leap across to the other side of the spectrum in placing our lives on-the-line in sacrificially following, through a journey of faith, the living God.

            According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking, David should be telling us how great and powerful he is, not about successful faith in God, because self-adulation surrounding his achievements would be the normally expected outer limits, the extent of his possible experience.

            What would be the point, the motivation, the source of inspiration for David making this Psalm 23 up…if the actual boundaries of human experience stop at the edge of self-sovereignty, self-reliance, and autonomous individualism? 

            Following God into an adventure of faith would not hold water, would not stand-up, for any period of time within actual lived experience unless God is real and that we can experience His active participation in our lives.

            Religious “faith” that is still rooted in self-reliance and self-rulership is not biblical faith.  Biblical faith will connect us with the real God who according to the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible will displace our ways with a higher life-script that reflects His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

            This is the root of what was so threatening to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first-century that led to crucifying Jesus Christ, a line of reasoning revisited several times in more detail throughout this book. 

            The religious leaders in Jerusalem were exposed by Jesus as being blind hypocrites, as being fraudulent religionists. 

            They said they were the authorized representatives of God (Jn. 8:33, 39, 41) when in fact they were the deadliest enemies of applied biblical faith. 

            They were firmly committed to the default worldview of self-sovereign self-rulership, of maintaining complete control over their lives to the point of instigating the death of Jesus through Roman crucifixion, in order to remove the threat of having to surrender this self-guided, self-sovereign status quo (Jn. 11:47-48). 

            They knew roughly about biblical faith, had been exposed to it as they studied the Hebrew Bible, but did not want any part of it themselves (Lk. 11:39-54).    

            This is a component of the “mystery” of iniquity, the conflict between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty in our lives that produced the radical outcomes of the cross, the resurrection, and our salvation, which again is analyzed and discussed throughout this book from many angles and in more detail.

            The risk-factor involved in the novelty of voluntarily and willingly walking through a genuine journey of faith following the living God is on its own powerful and persuasive evidence that supports the divine origin of the Bible.  As human invented literary fiction the concept of God-sovereignty displacing our self-sovereignty…as imaginary fictional invention…cannot and would not exist for any length of time in real practice. 

            Minutes, hours, or days of actual tested experience would quickly expose this concept, if fiction, as empty fantasy and be discarded as functionally worthless.

            If God is in actuality “not home,” then His brilliantly imaginative solutions in the biblical narrative stories of faith, that soar above human creativity and invention would not only be inaccessible as real experience to be recorded as life-history on paper…they would also be beyond the creative imagination of human contemplation altogether. 

            David or some other writer inventing the 23rd Psalm as fiction has no motivational or conceptual legs to stand on.  It does not take us anywhere within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking. 

            A real journey of faith following the living God, as recorded in the Bible is inconceivable and incomprehensible to a person committed to following their own way according to self-rulership.

            This dichotomy of worldviews…two different approaches to life as unmixable as oil and water…should be an obvious red-flag jolt to anyone involved in the debate over the existence of God. 

            The fundamental first question, like the causal explanation of the Big Bang, is what or who is the source of the completely novel and innovative, alternative worldview of a God-composed journey of faith life-script starting with the life of Abraham, continued through all of the biblical narrative stories of faith?

            What explains the origin of this consistent storyline pattern in the Bible of  the cross of Christ (Lk. 22:42) continuing down to contemporary Christian experience in our modern times that is so utterly contrary to the conventionality of the accepted life-approach of going our own way in self-reliance and self-autonomy?  

            In modern speech a biblical-quality adventure of faith, if it is fiction, if it is false, then it would be a “non-starter”…it would have no “there/there.”  It would be without tangible, supportive substance. 

            If there is no active engagement between God and people…then there is nothing extraordinary, unconventional, or supernatural to write about…nothing that could “get-off the ground” and sustain air-born flight. 

            This is why God-composed adventures of faith life-scripts having God displacing our ways with His higher ways are non-existent in other religions, philosophies, and worldviews, outside of the Bible. 

            This is why biblical adventures of faith fall far outside of and above the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

            This dichotomy of two distinct worldviews delineated exclusively in the Bible and miles apart in their practical application to human purpose and meaning in life, is a major, commonsense apologetic argument for the divine origin of Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity. 

            It is never raised by atheists and skeptical critics because they cannot even see it as a target to attack in scripture, as a debatable talking point.

            It can only be raised by Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians who have themselves been in the danger zone of faith in a “shooting war” that has real consequences in life, because people personally led and taught of God are the only people on the planet aware of this reality.

            The idea that God-scripted life-plans fall so far outside of conventional thinking is itself a compelling and persuasive argument for the truth of their divine origin, because this unique genre is inexplicable as humanistically invented, literary fiction.

            If Christians do not see the unconventionality of the cross of Christ skillfully embedded within the script of every biblical narrative story of faith, because they have not experienced God having our back in a crisis, then this positive and compelling apologetic argument for the divine origin of an adventure of faith…completely unknown outside of the Bible…will not be made. 

            It will be missed in the competing marketplace of ideas.

            This is the dual choice we all have as cognitive beings having free-will to follow God down an adventurous path of discovery…or to go our own way in self-lead, conventional normalcy and thinking.

Repentance and the Vehicle of a Fallen Nature

            The blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross covers my sins past, present, and future through the uniquely biblical reality of grace through faith.

            But when I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18, I was not instantly transformed into a perfectly virtuous moral person. 

            After the night I asked Jesus Christ into my life, I did become a noticeably changed and better person now having hope, direction, and a new purpose for living…but in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead I was and still am occupying my fallen, imperfect moral nature.

            This is such a universally commonplace experience for the people of faith in the Bible, and for Christians throughout the past two thousand years, that we take it for granted without much thought.   

            But we can and should ask the probing question of why it is the case that within the biblical narrative stories of faith, without exception other than the life-script for Jesus Christ the Son of God, each God-composed journey of faith life-script combines a divinely crafted mission-plan being experienced and performed by people occupying imperfect moral natures.

            We quickly assign this to the notion that we are simply “human” and leave it there.

            Paul “complains” about this reality in Romans 7:15-25, then supplies the brilliant answer in Romans 8:1 that opens up one of the deepest concepts within the human marketplace of ideas, and validates a walk of faith following Jesus Christ as being a creation of God outside of human literary invention: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

            A concept that I think has near equal importance with the re-discovery by Martin Luther of salvation by grace through faith that launched the Protestant Reformation is the verse: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).

            The entirely biblical but revolutionary concept here that becomes empirical experience through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, overlaid and inserted into the events and circumstances of our lives as Christian believers…is that the redemptive salvation through Christ enables me to enter into a risk-filled journey of faith with impunity and without the threat of jeopardizing the eternal security of my salvation through falling short of perfect moral performance.

            The reality of the connection of the verses 2 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 7:15-8:4, John 8:36, and Matthew 5:6 give us a scriptural roadmap that reveals the divine brilliance of God in being able to flip our imperfect fallen nature into the very vehicle needed to venture-out into this fallen world to explore and discover the knowledge of good and evil…to utilize this current environment as the research program to be able to understand the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil.

            This has enormous implications for appreciating the moral difference between belief and unbelief, because this uniquely divine set-up of a research program exploring this fallen world through a fallen imperfect nature, is only and exclusively accessible through the repentance of first acknowledging our fallen sinful nature.

            The detailed life-scripts of Abraham through Paul (not excluding Enoch and Noah) cannot be experienced without first allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)…which starts with the honest admission that we have a fallen, imperfect moral nature that needs the redemptive salvation touch of the God of the Bible personally participating in our lives.

            If we stop to think about it, the timeless foresight of God is so brilliant that He can take the negative outcome of the fall in the Garden of Eden and flip it into the four-wheel drive vehicle that can take us through the rough terrain of this world into a first-hand knowledge of good and evil…that merely eating a piece of forbidden fruit could never actualize into an empirical reality…which probably forms most of the reason why God told Adam and Eve to not eat this fruit in the first place.

            The words of God and His motivations that were slandered by the serpent, turns out to have the highest imaginable purpose and meaning in this current universe and for all time into eternity, as seen in the divine capacity of the God of the Bible to take this negative event and craft it into a positive…in flipping my imperfect moral nature into the means and method to understand the knowledge of good and evil…in the only way that will stick to my ribs like warm oatmeal cereal as my mother used to say on cold winter mornings before we went off to school.

            That this research program could only and exclusively be accessible through repentance…of the ability to admit that we can be wrong and the willingness to do an “about-face” and turn around, separates the divine origin of the Bible from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking by a gulf as wide apart as the Grand Canyon.

A God-Composed Journey of Faith Transcends above the American Dream 2

The narrative stories of faith…as recorded in the Bible…are so different from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that they invent an entirely new frame-of-reference for human life.

This frame-of-reference has as its goal the establishment of a personal relationship…between people and God…set-up through the creative mind of God…and on His terms…that must be the new reality if our life-stories are to be elevated up and out of worldly conventional, popular normalcy and thinking (Jn. 8:36).

The biblical narrative stories of faith are not for or against the aspirations of ancient and contemporary versions of the American Dream. 

The biblical narrative stories of faith simply transcend above these universally popular goals, dreams, and aspirations in a way that makes them curiously inapplicable, unimportant, and no longer the chief desire of our hearts and minds.

The life events and circumstances…the goals…and the end-point outcomes in the storylines of the biblical people of faith…have nothing to do with making a success of ourselves in terms of worldly conventional standards…according to the American Dream as translated backwards into every century of time and every cultural setting from the ancient books of Genesis through Acts…in the Bible.

In the Bible…the people who become caught-up in a God-composed adventure of faith life-script mission…discover along the way that their personal relationship with the living God becomes more important and more valuable than anything else in life…even the attractiveness of the American Dream of material wealth, the culturally acceptable validation of ourselves, and achieving through our own efforts a sense of personal security.

The acceptance and validation coming from God…in valuing us enough to call us by His Spirit into a unique and individual life-plan…of having faith in us to the point of calling us individually into a specific mission that only we can perform…with His assistance and partnership…is entirely different from the self-satisfaction of achieving the goals, dreams, and aspirations of the American Dream according to the Frank Sinatra song “I did it my way”…of self-autonomous individualism…that is typically found within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Phil. 3:4-10).

The parable of the nobleman away on business…and the instruction of Luke 19:13 to “occupy till I come”…is the commendable, baseline guide for all Christians to be about our Father’s business in whatever capacity we may be assigned in the caretaking of the estate…in this parable…of trimming the walkway shrubs, sweeping the exterior walkways, picking the fruits and vegetables from the orchard, caring for the livestock, preparing the meals for the staff, and the general interior and exterior cleaning and up-keep maintenance of the estate buildings and grounds.

Realizing the American Dream…can be achieved entirely through self-effort…through the application and exploitation of our natural, innate abilities…through autonomous individualism.

Experiencing a biblical-quality journey of faith…by intentional design…requires the direct participation of the living God…within a personal relationship.

These two realities for life are not the same…although they can and do overlap…along the way in a journey of faith…in some areas and in some cases.

What this means…in a practical applied sense…for Christians today is that God can guide and channel life-events and circumstances …inserting unique and individualized life-scripts into the lives of plumbing contractors, stay-at-home moms, auto mechanics, high school teachers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, professional athletes, journalists, small town mayors, church pastors, Christian foreign missionaries, Bible college professors, and Christian book writers…after the pattern of the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

For some people…their individual gifts and talents are either outwardly apparent…or internally revealed to them.

Some people know early in childhood that they want to become a medical nurse, or that they possess the athletic ability to play professional sports, or that they have the gift of exceptional intelligence to be able to earn a PhD in mathematics.

For these people…the addition and inclusion of an actively interested and participating God into the mix…enhances the life experience of pursuing their goals with their very best effort…giving it their all…because these unique gifts and talents derive from their Creator God in the first place.

A personal relationship with God can actualize…can come to life…can translate into any conceivable career path, geographical location, personal circumstances, political environment, and economic situation…having enumerable choices and pathways leading to the optimum successful life…at the pinnacle and peak of our intended destiny.

Jesus famously said that He came to earth…that we might have more abundant life (Jn. 10:10).

This more abundant life is based upon the strength of the foundation of a fulfilling relational walk-of-faith with Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit…and not on the satisfaction of the self-works of achieving the American Dream on our own…apart from God…and outside of a brilliantly unique, divine calling for our lives (Mk. 8:36).

God created within us this strong drive to succeed.

This actualizes into the optimum life when it is lived within a joint-venture walk of faith…with Jesus Christ…occupying His correct relational position as King and Ruler in our lives…utilizing His qualities of timeless foresight and divinely unselfish love…perfect in His elevated estimation of our value and worth…demonstrated in His self-sacrifice on the cross at Calvary for our sakes.

This is a key element of the real Christian life…as articulated for us throughout the biblical narrative stories of faith (Rom. 15:4).

A God-Composed Journey of Faith Transcends above the American Dream 1

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”                                                                                               (2 Tim. 2:4)       

The American Dream…in modern terms might be defined by many people to include things like going to the finest college, earning an advanced degree, getting a high-paying job we enjoy working at, having a happy marriage, successfully raising a family, buying a large mansion in a great location, driving a Bentley or Aston Martin convertible automobile, having good friends, enjoying hobbies, playing sports, having good health and a long life, sending our children to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, or other prestigious colleges, having a healthy stock portfolio, taking European vacations, enjoying our grandchildren, and having a secure retirement.

What could outwardly appear…on the surface…to be more popularly sensible…more conventionally appealing as goals, dreams, and aspirations in life to aim for…than the list of things described above?

Yet the narrative stories of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are entirely different…in terms of goals, dreams, and aspirations…from any imaginable ancient version of the American Dream…translated back to a previous period in time.

This observation…however offensive and bewildering to the humanistic philosophy of some people…should at the very least stand-out as a waving red-flag to us within the modern marketplace of ideas…but we miss it…in part because most people concentrate on the worldly essentials of keeping our jobs, paying the bills, fulfilling our personal duties and obligations, and carving-out any remaining space for personal time…to have any space leftover to seriously contemplate entering by faith into a God-composed journey of faith…a personalized calling…written just for us (Mt. 6:33).

This is one of the unique facts about the Bible that argues for its divine origin…because this transcendence above popular conventional thinking…would never originate from popular conventional thinking.

This observation…counter-intuitively…is one of the most positive features of the biblical gospel message of God’s very real and rational offer to us of an alternative choice…into an elevated, purposeful life on a higher moral, ethical, and spiritual plane.

To become a willing enlistee of God into a divinely-composed journey of faith life-script…full of risk and adventure…actualizes into having the most profound meaning, purpose, and fulfillment imaginable for human beings.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6)…not only because He is the Savior, Redeemer, and Light of the world…but also and of equal importance…Jesus Christ is the only person in all of existence who can compose divinely-crafted  journey of faith life-scripts for every believer in the Old Testament…in the New Testament…and for Christians today…that are an attractive, alternative option that transcends above popular conventionality…yet may encompass…along the way…some of the goals and outcomes of the otherwise commendable American Dream listed above.

One of the key biblical concepts that is still partially missing today in contemporary orthodox Christianity…that has not yet been fully recovered following the Protestant Reformation…is that the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…have little or nothing at all to do with the American Dream…modern or ancient…as the primary thing to aim for in life.

The genuine reality of human life…the validation of our creation and existence…is not found within the autonomous individualism of a pursuit of the American Dream.

The true purpose of human life is found on the higher plane of God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts in pursuit of our created destinies.

The calling of Abraham…the “father of faith” as long ago in history as 2,200 B.C., recorded as beginning in the 12th chapter of Genesis…the first book in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament…as well as the callings of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David…all the way through the Bible to the calling and ministry of the apostle Paul…are not anything like the America Dream as outlined above.

On the surface, this is a compelling evidence for the divine origin of these unconventional life-scripts.

As Abraham walks from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step he takes God is displacing whatever conventionally normal life Abraham might have lived in Haran…with a completely different, elevated life based not upon the American Dream…but upon an entirely unique walk of faith…that opens up the context in which to get to know the real living God on a personal basis.

Instead of becoming the city mayor of Haran, or becoming its international trade ambassador, or serving on the school board, or coaching an ancient version of a youth soccer team…and thereby exiting quietly from history as an unexceptional person living an unexceptional life…Abraham’s calling and life-mission as brilliantly composed by God…was to become the singular “father of faith” example of an elevated life.

This is the through-line theme of every biblical story of faith…repeated in unique variations-on-a-common-theme for the beneficial impact of successive generations…as the divinely created new normal for all relationships between people and the living God…starting with Abraham’s walk of faith…to our present day.

The Real Christian Life 2

This is precisely why God invented time in conjunction with the atomic particles, energy, and the laws of science at the Big Bang…so that we could experience the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1…spread-out over time…so that we can learn the “hard way”…so that we can experientially learn by our mistakes and failures.

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

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

That not of yourselves…not of works…because human good-works cannot get us from one end of the spectrum-line…self-sovereignty…all the way over to the other end of the spectrum…God-sovereignty…that is the essential core feature of the real Christian life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good human literary fiction is based upon conventional human experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why God invented time.

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

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

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

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

The Real Christian Life 1

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

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

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

If God is the scriptwriter behind the detailed, biblical narrative stories of faith…from Abraham in the book of Genesis to Paul in the book of Acts…this gives us God’s perspective of what He thinks today is The Real Christian Life…what is productive, genuine discipleship.

How we best live our Christian lives…is powerfully connected to this one question of whether or not the biblical narrative stories of faith could be merely human literary invention…or instead could only come from the mind and heart of a God possessing divinely timeless foresight, brilliantly creative imagination, and a gift for proactive preplanning at the highest level of coordinated multi-tasking.

But before moving on to make commonsense arguments in more detail for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and how the biblical narrative stories of faith relate to the real Christian life today…in this Introduction I should disclose my theological biases and presuppositions…that have a direct bearing on the logical consistency and strength of my arguments.

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

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

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

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

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

God is the only person who could blend seemingly contradictory concepts together within the events and circumstances of the numerous biblical life-scripts of journeys of faith…bringing together the unmixable ingredients of God’s will, our free-will choice, God’s timeless foresight, and the intentionally designed benefits of our four dimensions of space and time…slowing events and circumstances down into short-term and long-term experiential lessons that lead the people of faith in the Bible…and modern Christians today…into the “all-truth” of John 16:13.

As I will argue many times in essays throughout this book, this is a compelling apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…because the novel and innovative quality of the biblical narrative stories of faith is too worldly unconventional to have originated from a humanistic worldview perspective.

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

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

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

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

This doctrinal issue bears directly upon the real Christian life…because clearly the biblical narrative stories of faith from Noah through Paul entail their assuming the highest imaginable risks upon first entering into their God-composed callings.

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

The Heart of the Debate 3

For Holy Spirit filled and empowered Christians during the tribulation, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5) does actually come true for human beings, but in the narrowly right way in divine loving self-sacrifice as patterned for us by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.

This unexpected outcome is to the eternal chagrin, consternation, and judgment of Lucifer the archangel who wanted to become god for all of the wrong reasons (Isa. 14:12-17; Rev 12:12).

God is so imaginatively creative He can bring the destructive words of the temptation in the Garden of Eden back full-circle upon Lucifer’s own head.  God pouring-out His divine power and grace in demonstration of self-sacrificing Christ-like love through end-times Christians would place an emphatic period at the end of the final chapter in the long story of human redemptive history.

Human efforts to create a better world are rife with failure and shortcomings.  The narrative stories of faith in the Bible are the only sure examples of success having eternal benefits.  When God joint-ventures with us in an adventure of faith we have the potential for large results on an unimaginable scale.

God has to initiate drastically enhanced worldwide circumstances one last time to attempt to break through the stubborn rejection of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  For many people adversity is the only thing that brings focus to our shortcomings that leads to seeking heartfelt repentance toward God.  We therefore need God to set-up the precisely targeted conditions on earth whereby the task of salvation is completed and the church becomes the light of the world.

We need God’s divine help to finish the job at the end of the ages.

The end-times great tribulation is not about what we would like or prefer.  It is about God closing out the human story of redemption in the highest and best way possible according to the extremely tight specifications of the final journey of faith patterned for us in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

It is about Immanuel…God with us…in the penultimate resolution in the pursuit of truth designed to benefit the people of God for all eternity.

It is the closing chapter of the story beginning with Abraham so long ago, of trusting God and letting go in a set of circumstances that divide truth from error in a way that is incomprehensible to the horizontally conventional world of skeptical unbelief.

The example of Paul aptly closes out this book.

In Acts 21, Paul is journeying toward Jerusalem for the last time.  Along the way, Holy Spirit inspired Christians forewarn Paul that he will face persecution, imprisonment, and possibly physical harm in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24, 21:10-14).

Paul is arrested in the temple, beaten by the populace, rescued by a Roman guard, almost interrogated by scourging, in danger of being “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin, and threatened with death through an ambush of forty men lying in wait, having taken a vow not to eat until they have killed Paul.

Yet in Acts 23:11, just before Paul learns of the plot to kill him and he is moved to Caesarea for safety, Jesus appears to Paul in the night and says: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

Jesus amazingly…and counter to all worldly conventional thinking… encourages Paul to “be of good cheer” in the midst of deadly opposition and the most unsettling of worldly events.  Paul goes on to witness before the Roman governor Felix, and King Agrippa and Bernice in Caesarea.  Paul then appeals to Caesar for a hearing in Rome, survives a shipwreck in route to Rome as a prisoner, writes his remaining four “pastoral” New Testament epistles, and is finally martyred by the Emperor Nero in Rome.

Is this example of the Apostle Paul the true foreglimpse of the selfless divine love that can go forward in the face of enormous opposition to accomplish the task of salvation for others through the enabling power of the “latter rain” of Holy Ghost evangelical fire?

Is a fully engaged Christian church on earth during some portion of the great tribulation the difficult but privileged calling that will define for all time the true nature and person of Jesus Christ the King of glory?

Is our blessed hope of Titus 2:13 the unbreakable assurance of Jesus with us…come what may?

God supplies Holy Spirit faith, power, and boldness when we need it (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 4:8).  The world wants to sweep the issues of sin, repentance, and our decision regarding Jesus Christ under the rug.  People want to be distracted from these issues by the everyday concerns of the world.  But the upheaval of the end-times brings these issues to the surface in the same lethally unwelcome way that forced the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the first century.

The cross element patterned for us in the journeys of faith recorded throughout the Bible, deserves our closest examination as we approach an understanding of upcoming end-times biblical prophecy.

A commendable bias of including the cross and the resurrection in our interpretation of scripture should become part of the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding we bring to our Christian worldview as end-times events begin to come into clear focus.

The cross in the end-times…of God brilliantly displacing our worldly conventional thinking with life-scripts beyond our imagination…is a huge issue.

God validating and authenticating His character and faithfulness is best discovered and demonstrated through the creative details of a God-composed adventure of faith.

The Cross in the End-Times is as large as any other issue at the close of human redemptive history.  The cross fully applied to our lives creates the most space for God to effectively work out His highest ways.

“Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 24:44).

The Heart of the Debate 2

What makes the end-times tribulation period unique is not the large volume of end-times prophetic information given to us in the Bible, or that our understanding of end-times prophesy becomes more clear by employing a literal interpretation of scripture as often as possible, or that a dispensational framework of interpretation allows for a confident placement of the rapture at the beginning of the tribulation.

What makes the end-times tribulation period unique in history is the drastic change in the context of the world environment, introducing judgment plagues, the worldly appealing initial introduction of the Antichrist, unprecedented worldwide persecution of Christians, and a monumental last-ditch outreach of the gospel message of salvation to the people who are still undecided.

What drastically changes during the tribulation is an extreme environment of narrowly focused, life-and-death issues and goals, in which every Christian alive on the earth will become instantly transported into the reality of an adventure of faith.

When Joel 2:28-29 commences, every Spirit-born, twenty-first century Christian on earth overnight becomes a “called-out” person, no matter who or what they previously were.  When the latter rain of Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:16-21 begins, every Christian on earth will become a called, chosen, and Spirit-anointed vessel for service, similar to what Jeremiah experienced and describes in Jeremiah 20:9.

An argument can be made that Christianity itself is based upon a violent and irreconcilable difference of opinion in first-century Jerusalem regarding the nature of the messiah.  Christianity is born out of a lethally violent disagreement.  Our salvation is based upon God’s working within a massively destabilizing first-century social upheaval and religious crisis of identity, truth, and right living.

This crisis produced redemption and salvation for countless millions of new-covenant believers down through the twenty centuries leading up to our present time.  All of the first-century early church participated fully in these events, according to their individual callings, abilities, and Holy Spirit empowerment.

God has shown us in the Bible that He is able to stand alongside us in the fiery furnace, in the lion’s den, and on the challenging road to evangelizing the Mediterranean world in the first-century.  As Spirit-led Christians, when faced with adversity, we do not fold up our tents and go home.

Godly men and women in the Bible, and Spirit-led Christians today, do not back down in the face of a challenge.

In Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples finally wake up the sleeping Jesus, and rather pointedly ask Him whether or not He cares if they perish in the storm at sea, Jesus counters by saying “Why are ye so fearful?  How is it that ye have no faith?”

Jesus is the Almighty Son of God and Creator of the universe.  Jesus cannot perish in a small boat in peril of a strong storm on a lake.  The Christian church can follow Jesus anywhere, even into the dreaded great tribulation for a few years…if need be.

Spirit-born Christians have the Holy Spirit residing inside them.  Nothing on earth can overturn the Christian who is rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:7).

Luke 21:36 can be applied to any appropriate time during the seven-year tribulation.  The fulfillment of Luke 21:36…does not have to occur before or at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period…in order to be a blessing, a relief, and a hope-filled motivation for continued watchfulness.

The Holy Spirit, living within the Christian, is not afraid of the great tribulation.  Jesus Christ securely enthroned in our hearts is not intimidated by Lucifer or the Antichrist.  The Bible tells us from beginning to end that God has complete mastery over spiritual opposition.  This is an extremely important concept to grasp as we approach the upcoming end-times events.

As Spirit-born Christians, if we find ourselves someday soon in the midst of Daniel’s end-times tribulation period, this means God pre-destined us for these times, and this also means we have the capacity through the power of the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ to step up to the challenge at hand.

If we find ourselves in the great tribulation, Jesus Christ will be there with us.

The tribulation can therefore be alternately viewed as the opportunity for the “ordinary” Christian to become a great hero of the faith.  Instead of something fearful to avoid, the Holy Spirit empowered participation for a period of time in the last great harvest of souls, amidst the tribulation, should be viewed as a privilege of inestimable value.

To be chosen and called…to “be purified, and made white, and tested” according to Daniel 12:10, is no small thing in the grand expanse of the history of the saints of God.

To experience the total abandonment of self-interest and self-preservation, lost through the loving outreach component of the power of the Holy Spirit like Stephen experienced before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15), is to become Christ-like in the penultimate demonstration of character…the sacrifice of the cross.

To overcome the “accuser of our brethren” by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony, and that we loved not our lives unto the death (Rev. 12:10-11), is something that will bring victorious closure to human redemptive history that would endure for an eternity.

The Heart of the Debate 1

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.”                                                                                         (1 Jn. 3:3)

As I venture out into my neighborhood and community, the prospects for massive Christian revival in the very near future have not improved much.

People are still going about their self-absorbed pursuits of obtaining material wealth and possessions, trying to display the prideful outward appearances of their merit and worthiness through the measuring scale of financial success, and showing little or no openness to their need for God in their lives.

People rebuff attempts by Christians to share the gospel message with them, as if this outreach of love was a direct personal insult to their ability to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.

Accepting Jesus Christ into their lives means to many people a retreat into character weakness, having to lean upon God’s help “as a crutch.”

Without some cosmically drastic negative change in this outward worldly environment, the status quo of difficult evangelical outreach in developed countries would continue on its current slow pace right up to the very edge of the end of time.

I believe it will take major acts of God, as described in the biblical end-times prophecies, to create the quantum shift in the world environment that will be required to shake-up people’s current comfort zone to become receptive to God’s final outreach of redemptive love.

The current context of life issues must be turned upside-down for people to replace their self-centered pursuits with a serious consideration of the offer of a new eternal life through Jesus Christ.

To reach deep into the self-centered group of people currently going about their own way without any regard for God, it will take some drastic shake-up in the world’s social, political, economic, and/or natural environment to get their attention.

When this occurs, what are we actually describing?  Are we then talking about the beginning of the actual seven-year tribulation, or are we looking at a series of preliminary warm-up events on a gradual upward incline of chaos and upheaval leading up to the start of the tribulation?

We cannot control the upcoming natural disasters and judgment plagues of “biblical proportion” that are described in the Bible to occur in the tribulation period.

These great tribulation events will topple proud and arrogant people off the pedestals of their false confidence of being gods on the thrones of their destinies.  Some people will fall to their knees and cry out to God to save them amidst the unprecedented chaos.  Others will continue to shake their fists at God in stubborn defiance.

The great end-times message is that we are not gods.  We were never created to be our own gods.  We have no business being a part of Lucifer’s rebellion against God.

The basis of Lucifer’s recruitment of mankind into his rebellion was a lie.

This end-times message is not new.  What will be new in the end-times is that the world will be coming apart at the seams.  What will be so powerfully new in the last days is the close correlation of this message to repent and step down off our thrones…with the realization of our utter helplessness to affect or control the outward manifestation of catastrophic natural events of a magnitude entirely new to the planet (Mt. 24:21).

The end-times message will closely correspond to unfolding world events.  The upheaval of the tribulation period will compliment and accentuate the end-times message, that we are not gods and we are not self-sufficient kings.

The end-of-time tribulation will set-up upon the earth an environment that will clarify, with powerful finality, the separation between the limits of our capacity as human beings…and the role that Almighty God must responsibly assume in the physical, ethical, and moral management of the universe.

Counter-intuitively, the most loving and thoughtful thing that God can do for us is to allow this temporary and disposable world to fall apart at the end of redemptive history, to reveal to us for one last emphatic time the catastrophic result of our thinking that we are gods capable of living independently apart from Him…in spiritual rebellion.

At first glance, therefore, what may seem like only a surface difference in timing between a pretribulation rapture and the thesis of this book, that the rapture will more likely occur a few years part-way into the tribulation, now separates into two very distinct outcomes.

A pretribulation rapture removes the Christian church off the earth and out of any possible participation in the momentous events of the tribulation.  A pretribulation rapture erases any possibility of Immanuel…God with us…in the midst of issues that will define God’s claim to rightful leadership as King and Ruler…for the remainder of eternity.

But an as-yet un-raptured Christian church on the earth during at least some of Daniel’s final seven-year tribulation, utilizes the unprecedented narrow gate environment imposed upon the entire planet, creating the biblically patterned context for “called, chosen, and faithful” commitment to service for each and every Christian alive on the earth.

The unprecedented combination of the total loss of any option for normalcy as a result of worldwide persecution and the start of the judgment plagues…with the selfless fervor of evangelism empowered by the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh according to Joel 2:28-29…enlists and transforms even initially reluctant Christians into life-and-death service to Jesus Christ that they will be grateful for, for all eternity.

The pattern of the cross of Christ contained integrally in the adventures of faith…recorded throughout the Bible…lies at the heart of this debate.