Laying Down Our Lives for Our Friends

John 15:13 reads: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

No greater love than giving our life for our friends…is a self-existent moral principle.  It is independent of us.  We did not invent it.  It is a part of the natural moral law that governs all right behavior.  We cannot claim the credit for its existence.  It is just there…part of reality.

We do find varying degrees of expression for this character trait within the broad, expansive zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…in the self-sacrificing bravery of risking one’s life for others found within the bond of the “brotherhood of soldiers” in warfare…or the person diving into a raging river risking their own life to save someone from drowning.

Other examples on a lighter and non-dangerous level might be found in team sports when players sometimes give up their own individual glory for the sake of the overall team win…or as commonly seen in the “soccer mom” sacrificing her own time and interests by shuttling her children from one activity venue to another day-after-day…and in the father giving up his time on weekends to coach the little league baseball team or to be active in his son’s Boy Scouts troop.

As Abraham travels from the city of Haran towards the Promised Land of Canaan…with every step he takes his normative plans for life back in Haran are being displaced by a new and higher plan devised within the imaginative mind of God…above and beyond anything Abraham could or would have come up with.

Within the higher ways of God…Abraham will grow in character to become the “father of faith”…having a close personal relationship with God…and through faith Abraham will give physical and spiritual birth to multitudes of descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky (Gen. 15:3-6).

As Abraham travels from Haran to Canaan, and much later in his life on Mount Moriah with Isaac, God inaugurates through Abraham a theme for living…the cross of Christ…”not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42; Jn. 5:30)…that ingeniously blends a personal relationship with God and the “no greater love” of laying down our lives for our friends.

Within this God-composed life-script for Abraham is the cost of leaving behind “worldly conventional normalcy and thinking” in Haran.  Integral with each step Abraham takes towards Canaan and away from normalcy in Haran, Abraham unknowingly is “laying down his life for his friends”…the future multitudes of people who would likewise engage with the living God through the coming centuries.

In the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Luke, and Timothy…to name only a few…this component of laying down their lives for their friends…after the pattern of the cross of Jesus Christ…is integrally interwoven into the fabric of their lives.

It is vitally important for Spirit-born Christians today to recognize that in the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts we find recorded in the Bible…the precise circumstances and situations are designed by God to actualize in our lives the context for the “greater love” to find expression…way above the level of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In every biblical-quality adventure of faith then and now…there is an element of the cross of Jesus Christ that materializes into real action…this giving up of our lives for our friends.

God writes into our life-script this elevated character trait so that we also can experience a portion of divine, self-sacrificing love (Eph. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:9).

A journey of faith God-script for our lives is written for us…and for the people God can minister to through us.

A God-composed adventure of faith for our lives takes this attribute of self-sacrificing “greater love”…and lifts it ingeniously and brilliantly to a higher point on the vertical graph-line spectrum of goodness and light …above what is found and experienced within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This entire scheme of reality is above and beyond what humanistic thinking and contrivance could or would imagine or self-orchestrate…in terms of being interwoven into a precise life-script of complex, ordered, and detailed events and circumstances having purpose.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script is for us…ourselves and others…as a gift from God to us in keeping with the same self-sacrificing love when God gave Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ to the world:

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk. 2:13-14).

This very real discovery of the “greater love” of laying down our lives for our friends…interwoven into the life-scripts of every biblical narrative story of faith…patterned after the cross and the resurrection in the life of Jesus Christ the Son of God…is inexplicable other than as compelling and persuasive evidence for a divine origin of the Bible.

What possible frame of reference within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking could produce the origin of journeys of faith following the living God…beginning with the “father of faith” Abraham sometime around 2,200 B.C.?

This concept of God displacing our ways with His higher ways…the essence of the cross of Christ…is not even fully understood or taught in orthodox Christianity today.

Every day across the globe…Christians are challenged by the difficult transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty…which is the essence of a genuine walk of faith.

What random assemblage of life experiences, therefore, would or could inspire the first Jewish writers…at the time of the Exodus…to invent this radical concept of a living journey of faith following the real God…built around the unconventional theme of “not my will, but thine, be done” of the cross of Christ…that did not actualize until approximately 1,450 years later in the capital city of Jerusalem in the first-century (Ps. 22; Isa. 53)?

If we grant the notion that we were not created as robots…and if we concede that the depravity of man is clearly seen in history and in current daily events around the world…then it is reasonable to postulate that the intelligent designer who crafted people with the innate capacity for experiencing personal relationships and for moral reasoning…would in fact insert into this world an alternative way to actualize our created potential.

That way is a God-composed journey of faith life-script…as patterned for us in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Bible Studies 101

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”                                                     (Jas. 1:17)

Another typical approach of skeptics and critics to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament…to attempt to divide-and-conquer…is to point out clearly amoral actions in the Old Testament…and then incorrectly imply that the Bible’s honest recording of bad human behavior is tantamount to endorsing such behavior.

Anyone taking Bible Studies 101 as a general elective from the Religious Studies Department in a college or university will quickly learn the standard biblical interpretation concept…that merely because the Bible records an action does not mean it endorses that action.

Bible critics cite the examples of some bad decisions made by Abraham, some huge moral failures in David’s life, the obvious moral outrage involving the Levite and the concubine in Judges 19, among other examples, as flagrant cases of the moral shortcomings of some key biblical actors…impugning the overall character of the Old Testament and thereby the God of the Old Testament…Jehovah…as if God should only select and call already upright and perfect people.

The mistake made here by skeptics and critics is fundamental…and has no application in an argument for or against the existence of the God of the biblical Old Testament.

The Bible honestly identifies and records the shortcomings of mankind…even in the lives of the people of faith…which the Bible calls sin.

Abraham is called the father of faith, not the father of righteousness.  The biblical record of human redemptive history is not whitewashed or sugar-coated with the false pride of the modern nonsense of “I’m okay, you’re okay.”

We all have the free-will capacity to make choices that can potentially produce a great amount of good…and conversely to make choices that can produce a great amount of evil and suffering.

The Bible faces the reality of good and evil head-on with foursquare honesty…not electing to sweep under the rug the faults and failures in human life…precisely because the Bible boldly and unapologetically has the one right answer…the solution… to the problem all of us face…which is sin.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script is divinely designed to produce genuine character growth.  Nowhere in the biblical narrative stories of faith is perfection of performance assumed or expected out of these real-life human actors, except in the singular sin-free life of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

I cannot think of a more down-to-earth, hard-boiled, realistic approach to human nature than the honest portrayal of people on their journey from purposeless, under-performing self-autonomy…to becoming new, improved people within their uniquely predestined, God-composed journeys of faith.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Attacks on the Bible Undermine Journeys of Faith

“…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”                                          (Jn. 14:9)

Skeptics and critics of the Bible attempt to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, using the strategy of divide-and-conquer.

In attempting to impugn the character of Jehovah, for example, by citing the God-directed military tactic of the complete destruction of certain groups of peoples and cultures during the Israelite conquest of Canaan…one indirect, by-product casualty of this critical interpretation…is the undermining of the moral authority of the biblical narrative stories of faith in the Old Testament.

I find this particular line-of-argument in biblical criticism to be short-sighted historically, and simplistic in its naïve appraisal of human nature.

Looking backward in history as recently as World War II, few people I think would critically question the military tactic of the Allied forces—British and American—of conducting day and night aerial bombing of the major cities of Germany toward the end of the war…indiscriminately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians…in a concerted effort to bring the conflict to an end.

If sympathy and compassion for civilians tempered and scaled-back this aerial bombing campaign…adding possibly 6 to 12 months to the duration of the war…allowing Hitler to perfect an atomic bomb, destroy the cities of London and Moscow, and change the outcome of the war…the verdict of history now in hindsight would be most severe.

One particular episode in the Victory At Sea documentaries chronicling WWII shows scores of stranded Japanese sailors floating in the Pacific Ocean, shipwrecked following a major naval battle, fanatically refusing to be rescued by an American ship.  Elsewhere in these documentaries, as Allied forces moved north up the chain of South Pacific islands toward Japan, defeated Japanese soldiers left behind and stranded on these islands…refused to peaceably surrender.

Is it reasonable, out of a misdirected sense of humanity, to ask American, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers to risk their own lives to “rescue” fanatical Japanese soldiers who refused to lay down their guns and surrender?

The correct tactical military calculation was made at the time to leave tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers behind to die of starvation and disease on these isolated Pacific islands…rather than to expend thousands of Allied soldier’s lives and to tie-up needed resources in a costly effort to “forcibly” get these enemy soldiers to surrender.

The evil of fascist domination of the world…originating from spiritual darkness…was totally expiated by the overwhelming defeat of World War II Germany and Japan.

Both Germany and Japan today are strong allies of the free-world.  But would a remnant of undefeated Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japanese regimes…still in existence up to our present day…be allies for political and economic peace and security for the free-world…given their initial worldviews of domination and oppression of freedom?

The history altering conflict of WWII was fought over restoring and maintaining the essential free-world principles we value and cherish.

I understand the bias of unbelief that does not think the God of the Old Testament exists.  That cynical bias is expected.

It is the weakness of this particular argument railed against the God of the Old Testament that is surprising…given the clarity of the very recent global struggle of WWII in terms of moral absolutes…to thoroughly and decisively rid the planet of the threat of tyrannical fascism…a struggle my own father participated in as a B-17 crew member of the American 8th Air Force…flying bombing missions over Germany, stationed out of England.

If we value our way of life…as opposed to dictatorial fascism…to the point of justifying the massive aerial bombing of civilian cities in Germany to avoid the unimaginable evil of Adolph Hitler possessing and using atomic bombs to perpetuate his regime of terror from 1945 onward in time…due to not diligently prosecuting the Allied war effort to the fullest extent…would it be unreasonable to allow the morally and culturally advanced Israelites and their armies the same benefit-of-the-doubt in prosecuting their war effort to the fullest extent in Canaan…to continue their way of life?

Bible skeptics and critics blithely assume that the Canaanite folks were all reasonably good and kind fellows posing no threat to the existence and survival of the monotheistic culture of the newly forming nation of Israel…approximately 3,200 to 3,400 years ago…with its beautiful Mosaic system of laws.

In our current culture of postmodern relativism regarding truth, World War II argues contrarily that being in the right means something…that there is such a thing as goodness in this world and that it is worth fighting for…to borrow a line spoken by Samwise from the movie series The Lord of the Rings.

Why is this line of discussion important to Christians?

If journeys of faith are indeed factually supernatural creations of God first inaugurated through Abraham (Gen. 12:3), then the last thing that “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12) wants is for people to enter into their predestined, God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…as the divinely crafted, functional vehicle leading to the discovery of the all-truth of John 16:13 and the liberated freedom of John 8:36.

If the false notion that Jehovah in the Old Testament is not of the same high moral caliber as Jesus in the New Testament…as a result of biblical interpretation biased by radically skeptical unbelief…this notion will permeate our culture and seep its way into the Christian church…undermining the value and worth of the narrative stories of faith in the Old Testament as powerful examples for stepping out into God-led adventures of faith today.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

A Delicate Balance in our Journeys of Faith

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”                                                                    (Prov. 3:5-6)

Genesis 3:4-5 reads: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5 violates a fundamental reality of the natural moral law…coming from two directions.

First, God is slandered and mischaracterized by Satan in the most subtly deceptive way…through the character assassination of unsupported, untrue innuendo.

Second, Adam and Eve violated the natural moral law by not exercising commendably patient and inquiring faith, confidence, and reliance upon God and the truthfulness of His word…not giving God the benefit of the doubt…in essence calling into question God’s character and moral integrity.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…”

Salvation through Christ, and a subsequent Holy Spirit led faith-journey through life…solves our failing half of the Genesis 3:4-5 problem for all eternity…because it places our faith, confidence, and reliance in a person…God…who merits and can capably sustain the high quality of this trust relationship for all time.

It is the divine quality of the object of our faith and confidence…God…that solves our half of the fall in the Garden of Eden.

This helps us to clarify and to understand John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

A faith-journey that establishes a relationship with God…to know Him…protects us from the temptation of autonomous rebellion (Isa. 53:6) in the kingdom of God for all eternity…possessing forever after the free-will capacity and seasoned good judgment to follow the leadership of God…rather than disastrously going our own way.

The certainty of absolute knowledge produced by Jesus walking into the temple after His resurrection…for example…extending down through the centuries to modern times…does not support or equate into a faith-journey into the “all truth” of John 16:13…because we could still remain in self-sovereignty sitting atop the thrones of our lives…even while having this certain knowledge.

The possibility of success or failure within a journey of faith does not exist within knowledge that is certain (Heb. 11:1).  Trust and faith generated within a personal relationship needs the uncertainty of lived experience…having risk…thus the need for a delicate balance of belief and unbelief.

In my own journey of faith following Jesus Christ, my problem is not that I do not have faith in God…my problem most of the time is that I do not have faith in myself.

My doubt…in the middle of a personal challenge…is that my own faults and shortcomings will sabotage God’s will and way for my life…that I can somehow manage to mess-up the straight and narrow way that I know is in my best interests.

There is therefore not only a delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the outside world as a whole…in accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior…but there exists also a fine-tuned, delicate balance between belief and unbelief in my personal journey of faith with God.

This is a zone of active inquiry…divinely set-up by God in a delicately balanced, dynamic relationship between two people…a person and God…wherein we can obtain a knowledge of good and evil that could not possibly actualize on the cheap by impulsively eating some fruit from a tree in the Garden of Eden.

Human nature strives to create stability and security in our lives.  We want to work in one career…preferably for one company, build-up a “nest-egg”…saving enough money for retirement, live in the same home in a safe community, have a happy and stable marriage and family-life…within a long and healthy life-span free from external political turmoil, natural disasters, and the threat of foreign wars.

These are all commendable and praise-worthy goals in compliance with the commandment to “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13)…but that can never generate the tension between belief and unbelief in our journeys of faith that will unearth the subtle issues underlying good and evil.

God does not reveal the entire details of His life-script for Abraham…in crafting Abraham into the father-of-faith for multitudes of people as numerous as the stars in the night sky…including the long wait for the birth of Isaac and the culminating challenge of faith on Mount Moriah.

God does this for the best and highest of long-range reasons…not out of malice or ill-intent.

The two dreams of Joseph as a teenager in Canaan (Gen. 37:5-10) did not specify…left out entirely…the thirteen-year period of apprenticeship for Joseph in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison…in preparation to capably become governor in Egypt during a great famine.

I would posit the notion that all of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible have this element of incomplete revelation of information… so that God can set up and maintain the tension between belief and unbelief in our relationship with Him.

This brilliantly and skillfully produces the delicate balance between belief and unbelief that will lead and motivate us into the discovery of all truth…a possession of individual discovery in joint-venture with God…of incalculable value we can enjoy forever.

If we have the entire program upfront…all of the details of the playbook…of our God-composed life-script…then the “leading” part of the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth (Mt. 16:13) falls downward a level into the unexceptional and unremarkable category of mere factual knowledge…a program of “paint by the numbers” self-works to earn salvation…rather than the eternally beneficial process of getting to know God…like Paul in Philippians 3:10…that will set us free from the temptation of autonomous self-rulership for all time to come.

Matthew 6:19-38, in the Sermon of the Mount, beautifully encapsulates the departure from worldly conventional normalcy that is the demarcation point into a “risky” zone of discovery…when Christians take up their cross to follow Jesus.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33)…is the core, basic root of every adventure of faith in the Bible.  It is the diametric opposite of “seek ye first your own way” and take care of “me, myself, and I”…first before anything else.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the practical, everyday working-out of the details in our personal walk of faith following God…again is a transcendent reality that validates the divine inspiration of the Bible…and a God-composed journey of faith.  It is far outside of the reach of human creative invention and imaginative contemplation.

That this concept of the delicate balance of belief and unbelief…in the outside world as a whole and in our Christian adventures of faith…could or would be the product of a naturalistic explanation…is an issue worthy of exploration.

But in my opinion, any naturalistic causation here falls far short of a rational worldview…when taking into account our innate, transcendent capacity for moral reasoning.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

For those interested…my book Inspirational Thoughts for Christians…a book making apologetic arguments for the divine origin of the Bible…is a free Kindle ebook on Amazon on Friday 1/11.

A Journey-of-Faith is Beyond Human Origin

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

A God-composed journey of faith life-script…of God displacing our ways with His higher ways…has to be considered supernatural…non-natural…because the way of the cross lands so far outside of worldly conventional thinking.

The novel idea that we would see the cross of Christ (Lk. 22:42; Mk. 8:34-35) internally positioned within every narrative story of faith in the Bible from Genesis through Acts…a way of the cross utterly in conflict with worldly conventional norms (1 Cor. 1:18, 23)…and that this unconventional concept would be the creative invention of human writers attempting to start a new “religion”…is unthinkable.

That the cross of Jesus Christ falls far outside of the acceptable norms of conventional worldly thinking is clearly and unmistakably evidenced by the execution of Jesus Christ by Roman crucifixion…as the epitome of adverse reception…of worldly rejection…in the most lethally emphatic and utterly final method  of communicated rejection imaginable.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ clearly expresses what the conventionally normative world thinks of the risk element of a God-composed journey of faith life-script (Jn. 11:47-48; Josh. 1:7)…a journey of faith demonstrated at the divine level of quality…acted-out to perfection through the life of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

This rejection component of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ clearly and emphatically validates…in a totally unexpected and incontrovertible way…the supernatural origin of the way of the cross we see in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The way of the cross exposes the strength of the tight grip that our claim to autonomous self-rulership holds over the human race…otherwise the first-century challenge of the teachings of Jesus Christ would have been nothing more than a typically collegial, inoffensive exercise in intellectual debate rather than the deadly, worldview threatening conflict it became. 

Here in the geopolitical and theological terrain of first-century Israel…the way of the cross in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible, and the actual cross situated on Calvary Hill…intersect into an overlapping picture of such ingenious composition as to be totally outside of human inventive imagination.

The concept of God displacing our ways with His higher ways (Isa. 53:6; Prov. 3:5-6)…in direct contradiction to the pride-driven, universal humanism of autonomous self-rulership…is seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of an adventure of faith…blending together the unlikely combination of God’s sovereignty and human free-will (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:12-13) that could not…nor ever would…conceivably be the product of human invention.

If the way of the cross is an inseparable through-line of the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah through Peter, Paul, James, Mary and Joseph, Barnabas, and Silas…inexplicable by humanistic origin as evidenced through its thorough and complete rejection at Calvary…then the anti-supernatural bias of philosophical naturalism is turned on its head. 

If the way of the cross in the Bible cannot be explained by human composition…because it falls far outside of the creative contemplation of human nature…falls far outside the boundaries of any conceivable thinking motivated by the typical self-centeredness of worldly conventional norms…then the source of its origin must be supernatural.

Why is belief and faith so important?

When we exercise faith in someone else…a wife or husband, child, friend, or subordinate at work…and this brings out the best in them…inspires them to “rise to the occasion”…this is a commendable character trait in the person extending their faith…that resides at the top of the natural moral law (that C.S. Lewis wrote about).

So, in setting up faith-journeys as part of our relationship with God as we take up our cross to follow Jesus (wherever that leads in our individual lives and callings), God is allowing us to first exercise commendable faith directed towards Him…to put into practice this invaluable character trait…which cannot possibly actualize if our faith is solely pointed inward…in ourselves alone (Heb. 11:6).

This is one reason why every adventure of faith in the Bible and in the church age up until today is supernaturally composed.

We do not possess the capacity to imaginatively create an adventure of faith scenario that would involve ourselves as the main character, and then be able to integrate our life-script cohesively with millions upon millions of other complex life-scripts all leading toward a coherent overall plan of salvation.

Skeptics and critics of the Bible must be able to explain away the presence of the way of the cross integrally embedded in every biblical narrative story of faith from Abraham through Paul…all of which comes together into perfectly focused and coordinated alignment with the historical cross…planted firmly in a definite place and time on Calvary Hill in Jerusalem in the first-century. 

This simply cannot be done using the narrow, short-sighted, time-limited lens of human creative invention…given the factor of the extremely negative reception of the way of the cross culminating in the actual cross of Calvary recorded in history…which essentially eliminates the possibility of human inspirational invention in the formulation of the biblical message.

If we are looking for a humanistic explanation for the origin of the Bible, the way of the cross removes that option.

The way of the cross in the Bible and the actual historical cross of Christ come together into a superimposed, clear overlapping focus…in a premeditated plan of salvation and true religious experience…soaring far above human literary invention.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

The Divine Origin of the Bible

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”                                                 (Col. 3:1-3)

God is the architect of one of the most unlikely of creations…the delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment.

Balancing belief and unbelief in our world, so that one does not overpower the other…is one of the great spiritual engineering feats in all of human history…yet one we do not normally recognize or attribute to God.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief is also surprisingly calibrated…landing midway in the rare zone of falling just beyond the reach of human inventive imagination and contrivance…but also falling just short of the demarcation line of fully revealing its supernatural origin, along with the carefully hidden requirement for periodic, fine-tuned adjustments.

The most unlikely of creations, because most of us would assume that the God of the Bible…a personal God we can get to know intimately through a journey of faith (Jer. 31:34)…would take every opportunity to tip-the-scale in favor of belief over unbelief…in terms of factually persuasive, irrefutable evidence in nature and through divine revelation…in favor of belief in His existence.

But this is not the case within the human decision-making zone of belief and unbelief.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief…the ability to freely engage with God in a fully-scripted adventure of dynamic faith having the risk, from our perspective, of possible success or failure in-the-moment…or to freely push God away in skeptical unbelief to entirely go our own way…is a true masterpiece of creative ingenuity precisely because of its balanced neutrality in this area of unforced belief or unbelief.

For example, on Monday or Tuesday of the first week after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ could have added to His already busy agenda to openly walk down Main Street in Jerusalem and right into the Temple sanctuary, in clear view of everyone (Lk. 24:13-32; 36-43; Jn. 20:19-20), validating forever thereafter…without any doubt…His claim to be the divine Son of God.  Like Thomas (Jn. 20:26-28), people could touch his hands and the wound in His side…and believe based on the factual evidence (Jn. 20:29).

But then the delicate balance of belief and unbelief would also immediately disappear…forever thereafter.  Recognition of Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6) would not be an open option that could go in either of the two opposing directions of belief and unbelief…but instead would be a strictly obvious fact like the daily occurrence of the rising sun, or that two-plus-two equals four.

This balance of belief and unbelief offers compelling evidence for the divine origin of the biblical message of redemptive salvation by grace through faith, because the mere existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…that is the prerequisite foundation for the exercise of faith…is so transparently neutral…so free of the taint of coercive human bias weighted in favor of one direction or the other…that it could never be mistaken as the imperfect conceptual product of human literary invention.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment has a supernatural origin…because a humanistic explanation for its creative ingenuity…and its functionally balanced longevity over time…is nonsensical.

The existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…of willfully entering into a risked-filled adventure of biblical faith wherein God displaces our ways with His higher ways…opposed to pushing God away and going our own way according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…is a transcendent reality that could only come from the divinely imaginative mind of God…way beyond the initial set-up capacity of humans to invent, adjust, and sustain over its 4,200 year history beginning with Abraham.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

If you have  Kindle and are interested…my book Inspirational Thoughts for Christians is a free Kindle ebook on Amazon Thursday 1/10 and Friday 1/11.

Stretched Beyond Our Capacity to Self-Orchestrate 2

The difficulty component of biblical faith…outside of our ability to compose or self-orchestrate…shows us the character of God that is utterly contrary to the slanderous character assassination endured by God in Genesis 3:4-5.

The distinctively unique route of a God-composed adventure of faith…takes us into a knowledge of good and evil that is real, robust, costly, and directed with a laser-sharp focus…to match any of the fine-tuned mathematical constants we now understand in the cosmos such as the strength of gravity and the carbon resonance we find within stars, or the specified complexity of information we discover in the molecular DNA in living cells.

That Jesus Christ came to earth…and died and rose from the grave…to procure for us “life more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10)…which includes some measure of difficulty, challenge, and even tribulation (Acts 14:22) to open up an understanding of absolute good…and the reciprocal by-product of an understanding of the lack of good which is called evil…to gain an appreciation for choosing absolute good like God does…will be a blessing of incalculable worth lasting throughout eternity (Rom. 8:18).

This I believe is a part of the sharp-edged sword of truth that Spirit-born Christians can wield with confident assurance (Eph. 6:17), for those who can see and grasp the concept of the cross of Christ element within the biblical narrative stories of faith…which then becomes an essential apologetic component of the liberating gospel message of salvation to all of the world.

The vertical distance between absolute good…and something less that falls short…creates the space or gap to neatly divide into two opposing worldview lifestyles…self-directed self-sovereignty sitting atop the thrones of our lives attempting on our own to close the gap from where we are to where we want to go…through our own independent, limited and short-sighted efforts…or instead joint-venturing with God along an entirely different path through a God-composed adventure of faith tailor-made by our Creator God to lead us into a mature knowledge of good and evil in concert with the “all truth” of John 16:13.

At this point we return to the initial question asked earlier in a previous section: Why is faith difficult and not easy?  Why do we continue to struggle with faith during a new challenge, when this challenge is a similar repeat of a past challenging set of circumstances wherein we achieved victory?  Why does James emphatically say at the beginning of his opening chapter to Christians to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (Jas. 1:2)?

If God is the King and Ruler of heaven for all eternity, then surely the advance training in preparation for becoming faithful followers, servants, and “friends” (Jn.15:15) of God in the upcoming future life in heaven…makes perfect sense during our lifetime spent here on earth.

But this is only part of the answer.  The explanation for the challenging element of faith-journeys goes much deeper.  There is something commendable about the exercise of biblical-quality faith…of giving God the benefit of the doubt in inviting Him into our lives and continuing to exercise trust in Him throughout our journey of faith…that imputes righteousness to us…like Abraham…apart from and above “the works of the law” procured by our own efforts and compliance (Jn. 15:24-25; 16:3).

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Stretched Beyond Our Capacity to Self-Orchestrate 1

One of the all-time classic themes of the Bible…that is a main theme explored in this book…is that the God-composed journeys of faith recorded in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…must be above and beyond our capacity to contrive…or even to imagine ahead of time.

As the Creator of everything and everyone, God alone knows our individual attributes and abilities…and thus has the singularly unique starting point for divinely composed life-scripts for an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul.

Walks of faith, journeys of faith, and adventures of faith…because of their supernatural origin…stretch people to achieve more than they could have imagined possible.

God-composed adventures of faith are purposely designed to be beyond our reach to invent or self-orchestrate.

Adventures of faith reveal that God knows us inside and out…by the uncannily precise matching of our challenging adventure of faith that brings out talents and abilities…and nobly moral characteristics…that we did not even know ahead of time we possessed.

If we could go back in time and interview the people of faith in the Bible, they would tell us to a person that they initially had no idea they had the innate ability to go as far as God took them…through their individually crafted adventures of faith.

I think it would be reasonably safe to say that Abraham did not see himself as the future “father of faith” as he walked from the city of Haran toward the land of Canaan (Gen. 17:18).

Although Joseph probably had a good sense of his innate leadership talents, it is doubtful that he ever imagined that he would someday become governor of Egypt while he labored in Potiphar’s house and languished in Pharaoh’s prison.

Moses certainly has no way of seeing into the future the great deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, as he tries unsuccessfully to talk God out of the immense calling at the burning bush that Moses now feels he is no longer a qualified candidate for (Ex. 3:11).

Gideon objects to God’s calling for him to deliver Israel from the oppressive occupation by the Midianites, saying that he is the least even within his own family (Jud. 3:15)…and comes up with his proverbial “fleece-test” to confirm that he indeed is correctly understanding God’s intentions.

As Ruth the foreigner follows her mother-in-law Naomi back to Naomi’s native country Israel, Ruth has no idea that she will capture the attention and affection of the wealthy, noble, and godly Boaz, and be included within the royal lineage that produced King David and culminated…roughly a thousand years later…in the birth of Jesus Christ the eternal King and Savior.

Elijah complains to God that he is all alone in his opposition to the evil king and queen…Ahab and Jezebel (1 Ki. 19:14).  Jeremiah protests to God that he is too young to be a prophet (Jer. 1:6).  We detect in both Ezra and Nehemiah an underlying, suspenseful trepidation just below the surface…in their difficult callings to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple.

Certainly Peter is utterly clueless as he goes out of the courtyard of Caiaphas to weep bitterly over his failure to courageously stand by Jesus during His night trial…which would possibly result in Peter occupying a fourth cross on Calvary the next day…not realizing that the crucifixion of the Son of God for the sins of the world was preordained before the creation of the universe (1 Pet. 1:20)…and that Peter’s role was not at that time to be a martyr for the faith, but to instead be a leader of the early church in Jerusalem.

Being a leader of the early church required a quality of courage and fidelity that Peter painfully discovered in the courtyard of Caiaphas that fateful night…that Peter did not possess on his own without the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8-12).

Certainly as Saul/Paul approached the city of Damascus to arrest Christians, he had no idea that he would soon become the foremost champion of the very faith that he started out opposing with such fearsome persecution.

At that precise moment…before the supernatural light of Jesus Christ shined down from heaven upon him…Paul had no idea that he possessed the inner capacity to become the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world, to be able to compose the divinely inspired letters to the early Christian churches he helped form, to develop the love for other people that could write First Corinthians 13:4-8…now famous throughout the modern world…and to develop the people skills that would produce the intimate relationships revealed in Romans chapter 16.

All of these people…along with every person of faith recorded in the Bible…would testify that the higher plans that God had for them in life stretched them beyond anything they could or would have imagined (Psalm 23).

This difficulty component of biblical faith…that is a stretch beyond our ability to imagine or contrive…is an element that argues for the divine origin of the Bible.  This is not armchair philosophy, because no human could or would invent it through contemplative imagination.

Atheistic critics of Christianity and the Bible today completely miss this biblical faith component in the narrative stories of faith…incorrectly interpreting as myth what in actuality is beyond the inventive imagination of humanistic conventional thinking.

Blinded by materialistic and naturalistic philosophy, skeptical critics of the Bible entirely miss the “cross of Christ” difficulty component of biblical faith…which validates its divine, supernatural origin because it falls so far outside of human creative invention.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

On Thursday 1/10 and Friday 1/11 my book Inspirational Thoughts for Christians is a free Kindle ebook promotion on Amazon.

He that Doeth the Will of God Abideth Forever

1 John 2:15-17 reads:

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

“He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”  This present world passes away.  The allures of the lust of the flesh and the eyes…of the pride of life…are temporary.  They do not exist in heaven.  They are not of the Father.  And the kingdom of God is forever.

The reality of God is the one that lasts forever.  The reality of this world is the one that passes away.

One compelling piece of evidence that argues for the divine origin of the Bible is the complete break…the worldly inexplicable departure from conventional normalcy and thinking…that is an integral component of every biblical narrative story of faith.

The distinctive novelty of unworldliness in Christian discipleship is what is expressed in these three classic verses penned so beautifully by the apostle John at the dawn of the Christian era in the first century.

As has been said already many times and will be repeated a few more times in this book…because it is a key concept for understanding the cross of Christ…as Abraham walks from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…inaugurating a uniquely biblical walk of faith…with each step he takes God is displacing the normative conventional life Abraham would have lived with a new and innovative life-script that Abraham could never have dreamed up in his wildest imagination.

In this opening introduction in human history…of the insertion of divinely crafted walks of faith into the experiences of mankind…God is displacing the worldly conventional lust of the flesh and the eyes, and the pride of life…which are temporal and pass away…with instead doing the will of God according to a life-script divinely composed for our benefit…at the higher level of the thoughts and ways of God that abide forever (Isa. 46:9-10, 55:8-9; Lk. 16:15; Eph. 3:16-19).

What has also been said previously in this book…that is uniquely distinctive about the biblical narrative stories of faith…of extreme importance justifying repeating again…is that the end-goals of the journeys from point-A to point-B…are at their initial inception beyond the reach of human beings to imagine, invent, or resolve. 

God-composed journey of faith life-scripts are nothing like self-energized journeys of discovery within the limited paradigm of self-realization.

The brilliantly imaginative introduction of point-B’s into the biblical narrative stories of faith that are unreachable and unsolvable by humanistic means…separates human experience into two diametrically opposed worldviews…the first being the lust of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life…and the second worldview doing the will of God which abideth forever.

This is an ingenious dichotomy of optional worldviews that could only be engineered by God.  It is a reality that defies any plausible explanation using the philosophy of naturalistic materialism based on the physical properties of matter and energy alone.

Intelligent design is the only rational explanation for the existence of highly complex and originally imaginative point-B goals that create the unique context for biblical faith (Heb. 11:1) to actualize…such as the promised birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua bringing down the walls of Jericho, Ruth entering the divine lineage of King David, Esther and Mordechai outmaneuvering Haman to save the Jews in exile, the three young Hebrews withstanding the flames in the fiery furnace, Daniel surviving the night in a den of lions, Peter becoming a powerful leader of the early church, and Paul becoming the premier missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

The two-worldview dichotomy is brilliantly ingenious because it separates self-sovereignty from God-sovereignty at the one point that is clearly demonstrable in both theory and in action…point-B goals and outcomes that not only fall outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as described above in 1 John 2:15-17…but also outside of the contemplation of human literary invention…and entirely missing in literary history…except in the Bible.

The point-B goal that is at the peak of the argument for the divine origin of the Bible…totally above and outside of the lust of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life…and in the realm of doing the will of God perfectly that abideth forever…is the life-script for Jesus the Son of God to become the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

John 15:13 records Jesus saying: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.  This is in direct contrast to the “me, myself, and I” agenda of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, Jesus utters the words that are at the core of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts throughout the Bible starting with Abraham’s walk of faith to Canaan: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42).

This amazingly tells us that God has the brilliantly imaginative capacity to write a life-script for Himself that challenges Himself in the precise area that we need the most help…in the transition from self-sovereign self-rulership…to God-sovereignty walking through an adventure of faith following Jesus Christ according to this worldly unconventional concept of Luke 22:42.

Jesus Christ being stretched to the limits of His divine capacity (if that is possible) in taking upon Himself the massive volume of mankind’s sin on the cross of Calvary…to the point of asking the Father to remove this cup and come up with an alternate plan…yet surrendering Himself to the original larger plan devised before the foundation of the world…without skipping a beat in perfect faith…is so far above humanistic contemplation and imaginative invention…that a naturalistic explanation using material particles and energy can only be described as nonsensical (Jn. 3:31).

This is one of the fundamental apologetic arguments for the divine origin of the Bible and its message…because it goes to the very heart of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The element of the cross of Christ integrally embedded within every biblical narrative story of faith…to a greater or lesser degree…is the distinctively validating proof of “God with us” of the Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6…and God inside us of Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 14:23, and Revelation 3:20.

This element of the cross of Christ…which divides human experience into two distinct worldviews on opposite sides of the spectrum of sovereign control, purpose, and direction in our lives…from an apologetics standpoint is unexplainable coming solely from within the paradigm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life of 1 John 2:16.

The “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” of 1 John 2:17…describes a worldview reality depicted in the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is too original…too imaginatively innovative…too complex, specified, and sophisticated in its information content…to be anything other than divinely inspired out of the mind and heart of God.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

Two Distinct Worldviews Argue for the Divine Origin of the Bible

One obvious yet subtle observation about the narratives stories of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…touched upon briefly in the Introduction…that strongly argues for their divine origin…is that it is God who takes the initiative in calling people into their varied missions.

In the biblical narrative stories of faith…people uncharacteristically respond to God’s enlistment into unique storyline callings…rather than the other way around.

The life-script agenda of premeditated, purpose-saturated events are proactively set by God…not engineered by the actors themselves.

This enlistment by God into the dynamic vehicle of a journey of faith…composed and introduced outside of human imagination and invention…is the diametric opposite of a worldly typical journey of self.

Journeys of faith composed by God as recorded in the Bible… actually displace our free-will tendency to stubbornly go in our own direction…to do things our way (Isa. 55:8-9)…instead with the novel alternative concept of a life-script having an entirely new trajectory of events and circumstances…that now include faith and trust in God’s higher ways and thoughts…above and to the exclusion of our own.

By what stretch of the imagination would this unconventional dynamic be the sole product of human literary invention?

Obviously, we have the capacity within our human nature to respond to God and to enter into a walk of faith…otherwise there would be no narrative stories of faith in the Bible at all.

Without the in-built, internal ability to answer the callings of God and to follow His lead into adventures of faith…there would be no biblical narrative stories about Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Peter, or Paul…to name only a few.

But the fundamental question is: where did this singular capacity for God-sovereignty in our lives originate from?

Who or what actualized it into the reality of recorded experience…that it enters into the rational realm of human phenomenon to the point of being recorded in the Bible as an orderly and intelligible alternative worldview to the conventional worldview of going our own way…if not by or from God?

Discussion of either a divine or a human origin in this area…rises above mere uninformed circular reasoning and speculative conjecture…when the worldly unconventional element of God displacing our ways in our lives with His ways…is introduced as the main factor into the equation.

There is no frame of reference…no known reality of experience…within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that could possibly inspire the utter originality of either a real or even a literary fictional journey of faith…following the leading of God.

This concept of hearing the voice of God in the Spirit and following His leading into a walk of faith…does not exist anywhere outside of the biblical narrative stories of faith…or outside of the biographies of Christians living in the church age…in either ancient history or today in the 21st century.

This provocative concept will not be found in Shakespeare, Twain, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Agatha Christie, or in the recent historical fiction novel A Column of Fire by Ken Follett about the growth of religious tolerance in the middle to late 1500’s in Europe.

The concept of hearing God’s voice and following His lead…after the pattern given in the Bible…is not part of the great philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment…nor will it be found as a current topic of discussion in world history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, or even in religious studies classes in secular universities and colleges around the world.

Yet this concept…of God displacing our thoughts and life-plans with His higher thoughts and ways…starting with Abraham the “father of faith” as he walks from Haran to Canaan…is one of the most ancient, innovative, and brilliantly imaginative ideas in all of human experience.

Our capacity within human nature to follow God into a walk-of-faith life-script that displaces our way with God’s way…differentiates two distinctly opposing worldviews that separate out into the extreme ends of the spectrum-line…self-sovereignty on one end and God-sovereignty on the other.

Atheists and skeptical critics of the Bible assert that the biblical stories of faith are fiction…are part myth and part literary imagination…historically because these stories run contrary to the philosophy of naturalism which excludes the miraculous.

This is a paradigm in recent past centuries that was predominant in philosophy…but is now debunked by the theistic implications of the incredibly large amounts of complex and specified information in DNA, the Cambrian Explosion, the Anthropic Principle, and the Big Bang…complex and coherent systems of information inexplicable by gradualistic natural processes alone.

The big question here is how would a concept…of following God into a walk-of-faith life-script…which is so contrary to our other innate, natural tendency to go our own way…to do things our way…to be independent, autonomous self-rulers…how would this ever get started?

Within the closed-system of worldly conventional life that we observe and experience every day…what could and would introduce this second alternative side of our nature that brings to life this novel and innovative game-plan of a journey of faith?

As Abraham the biblical “father of faith” travels from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step he takes God is displacing whatever normative life Abraham would have lived in Haran according to its culture and conventions…with a life-script containing the critically new element of faith in God…a life-script Abraham would never have imagined in his wildest dreams.

And with each step Abraham takes towards Canaan and away from Haran…the atheistic starting hypothesis that this story is human invented fiction…that God does not exist and therefore could not have spoken to Abraham…is a door that is closed by reason of the sheer innovative novelty of the setting aside of autonomous self-sovereignty…that this storyline introduces into the marketplace of great historical ideas.

The start-up initiative here…the through-line in every narrative story of faith in the Bible…is with God.

People of faith in the Bible react positively to God’s enlistment of them into a scheme of events and circumstances that stretch them…in terms of a relationship with God and in self-sacrificing service to others…and that measures their souls…far beyond anything they could have invented or contrived on their own.

The creative origin of this concept…along with the imaginative unconventionality of the concept itself…is supernatural.

The concept of the cross of Christ (Lk. 22:42) embedded within the life-scripts of the people of faith in the Bible…starting with Abraham…that reveals our innate capacity to follow God into a walk-of-faith…is inexplicable within the atheistic philosophies of naturalistic materialism and scientism.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.

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