A Genuine, Biblical-Quality Journey of Faith is Hard

            One of the most difficult and challenging things in all of human experience is to place our faith in the God of the Bible to help us through a crisis.

            The biblical narrative stories of faith have life-scripts that are filled with life-and-death challenges that are the direct opposite of the pursuit of a life-of-ease.

            In God-composed journey of faith life-scripts in the Bible, there seems to be an equilibrium between the progress achieved in an adventure of faith and the spiritual opposition that pushes back, and/or the challenges inherent in simply choosing to do the right thing when this is hard.

            Abraham and Sarah producing Ishmael, Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, Joseph enduring the difficult training program in leadership in Egypt, Moses and the Israelites trapped at the shore of the Red Sea as the Egyptian chariot army approaches to destroy them, Joshua discouraged by the height and strength of the walled cities in Canaan like Jericho, Ruth’s leap of faith in following her mother-in-law to the foreign land of Israel, Hannah’s dilemma in not being able to provide her husband with children, David’s difficult walking through the valley of the shadow of death in preparation to become king…not o mention Elijah, Jeremiah, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, and Paul to name only a few from the Bible.

            But why does Jesus the perfect and sinless Son of God encounter resistance from the very time of His birth?

            One reason is that His life must be a model for ours, in order to be real.

            If the life-script for Jesus was a clear life-of-ease, then this reality would be an unattainable model for the vast majority of people.

            But equally applicable, Jesus incarnate in a human body has the same adversary Satan that we do (Lk. 4:1-13).

            I may be that resistance is the only way that strength is created…like lifting weights.

            One thought is that life in this broken world cannot ever remove the counterforce of challenge, because this current environment is the perfect “boot camp” for discovering the genuine knowledge of good and evil when pursued through the redemptive salvation of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

            The parable of the rich fool (Lk. 12:16-21) describes the worldly unconventional approach of the biblical narrative stories of faith to pursue the higher ideal of a purposeful life that transcends above the mere pursuit of a life-of-ease.

            The only resistance-free environment is the spiritual kingdom of God in heaven, that awaits believers in the upcoming eternity.

            Trying to obtain it here and now is a fruitless endeavor (Mk. 8:34-38).

            Rare metals like gold and silver are purified in the heat of a furnace.

            Jesus did not need purifying or perfecting as He is the blemish-free Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.

            But He did have to model perfect faith and behavior in the face of opposition.

            Jesus had to exemplify in action the divine character of God as the Passover Lamb of God in order to qualify as the substitutionary atonement for our sins so that we could with impunity venture-out into an adventure of faith without our many mistakes counting against us.

            The brilliant program of redemptive salvation enables an adventure of faith following our God-composed journey of faith life-scripts amidst the resistance of the fiery furnace of spiritual opposition, but also the fundamental challenge of walking by faith and not be sight (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1).

            This reality is channeled and guided by God to produce lessons-learned that likewise qualify us through the blood shed by Jesus on the cross, and through His resurrection, to likewise be the children of God.

A Purely Materialistic Universe Does Not Fit Reality

            The original idea of a purely materialistic universe based upon processes that are mindless, indifferent, and undirected should have been dismissed out-of-hand as being nonsensically inconsistent with reality.

            A reality founded upon trial-and-error, random, and unguided processes would not and could not be the basis for the challenges, confrontations, divisions, and revolutions that are an obvious part of the human experience.

            People do not have to look for trouble.

            Trouble finds us.

            The obvious question fundamental to our worldview about reality is would a blind and indifferent Mother Nature, lacking purpose and upfront intention according to the materialistic mode, produce and environment that has continual chaos and challenge in human relations?

            The reality of human history must have a rational connection with blind and mindless causation, if the purely materialistic worldview is to hold water…is to stack-up consistent with the evidence.

            A world devoid of purpose and meaning would not and could not be saturated with purpose.

            The spinning of the narrative of reality in human experience to be part of the survival of the fittest to fuel and energize small-step, incremental development is an incorrect half-truth. 

            It is a bad interpretation of the evidence.  It I a false skeletal explanatory framework upon which to hang the individual facts.

            The Bible starts (Gen. 3:1-6) with a malicious actor entering into the peaceful harmony of the Garden of Eden, introducing rebellion in its most profound form as autonomous individualism apart from God.

            This initial event is exponentially too deep for a mindless, indifferent, and purposeless Mother Nature to be the explanation for its origin.

            Yet there it is entering into the open marketplace of ideas at the dawn of contemplative analysis.

            Soon thereafter Cain murders Abel because Cain wants to practice “religion” his own way.

            The land of Egypt rewards the good service of Joseph leading them through a great famine, by having a future Pharaoh enslave the Hebrews living in the land for fear they will eventually outnumber the native Egyptians…an ancient version of the immigration debate in America today and the recurring theme of nationalism throughout human history that has been the rationale for countless wars and conquest.

            It takes the divine intervention of God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt through Moses.  The Jews must then militarily conquer their Promised Land by force and through the miraculous help of God.[1]

            This is already way beyond a blind, mindless, and purposeless Mother Nature, and this is only the events occurring in the first books of the Hebrew Bible, the Protestant Old Testament.

            This sudden leap into the depths of the subtleties of the broad array of moral concepts contained within the knowledge of good and evil is as abrupt an entrance as the instantaneous creation of the universe at the Big Bang.

            It is as sudden as the leap from zero DNA to 3-billion bits of genetic DNA coded language at the origin of single-cell bacterial life on earth.

            The introduction in human recorded history of the concepts of good and evil, and right and wrong, is a sudden leap like the Cambrian Explosion of new complex life-forms, having no transitional intermediate precursors.

            This reality of disruptive challenges and the universally experienced upheaval of confrontations through invading armies of “foreigners” bent upon geographical and political conquest, makes sense within the world of animal instinct, the biodiversity of predator/prey relationships, and balanced ecosystems.

            But this makes no sense when extended into the human capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning.

            Parsing and dividing good conduct from evil conduct, and the fundamental judgments of right versus wrong behaviors in human relations…has no correspondence to a blind, mindless, indifferent, material-only based universe.

            When purpose and meaning are added to the equation, then the calculus eliminates naturalistic materialism as a viable worldview.


[1] See on You Tube: How Archaeology Supports the Bible: A conversation with Joel Kramer, streamed live on Jan. 21, 2021 on Dr. Sean McDowell, and 20161030 The Oldest Yahweh Inscription 2 Kings Joel Kramer published on Oct. 30, 2016 by Lighthouse Church-Twin Falls, at Joel Kramer Archaeologist.

Ye Shall Be Free Indeed

            When Jesus “ate” with “publicans and sinners” (Mt. 9:10-13), He knew they would never become morally perfect people incapable of making mistakes.

            The “greatest” people in the Bible were never morally perfect people.

            “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mt. 5:6).

            When Paul says in Romans 6:4 that Christ’s resurrection enables us to “walk in newness of life”…he does not mean moral perfection (Rom. 7:15-8:4).

            There isn’t anything anywhere in the Bible that infers or intimates that walking with God in this life will produce perfect performance on our part…in either good-works or unwavering faith.

            The blood Jesus shed on the cross covers my sins past, present, and future so that I can learn by my mistakes with impunity…without the jeopardy of threatening the eternal security of my salvation through my less-than perfect performance.

            This reality is initiated and sanctioned by the first, last, and only authority that counts…by God Himself.

            If God says that He wants me to acquire the knowledge of good and evil through the first-hand lessons-learned of experience in the rough-and-tumble life on earth, then the redemptive salvation that He has provided by grace through faith in Christ…issues the timeless safe-conduct to go out and with my best effort listen in the Spirit and follow the life-script He has revealed for me.

            That I can fall-on-my-face in failures and shortcomings is the only real and authentic way I am going to be able to win this knowledge of good and evil for myself.

            The biblical narrative stories of faith are the pinnacle of the highest level of good leadership in pushing power downward to create people who can discern the right and the good, and voluntarily choose the good for the right reasons.

            This creates people who are internally motivated, responding positively to the love, confidence, and supportive trust divinely extended to them…that validates their high worth and value in the sight of God.

“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).

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36).

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.

Worthy to Escape 3

I believe there are currently millions of Christians on the earth today who, if given their preference, instead of being immediately raptured today, would rather continue for a few more weeks, months, or even a year or two longer to complete the ministry-in-progress that God has given them.

I believe there are tens of millions of Christians on the earth today, who for whatever reason are not engaged in committed Christian service, who would appreciate one last opportunity to be mightily used of God, under the power of the Holy Spirit as prophesied will be poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28-29), for one, two, three, four, or even five years into the tribulation, before they are raptured or martyred for all time into heaven.

I believe that every born-again Christian, if they had all of the various alternatives explained to them in terms of their eternal import, would choose the fullness of the cross experience through the great tribulation if it meant the possibility of converting additional family members, friends, and neighbors to salvation quality faith in Jesus Christ, despite whatever the continued personal cost and hardship to themselves.

I do not believe that Christians have to accept uncritically the viewpoint that it is the only healthy, sane, and rational choice to want to be spared the tribulation.

We are not obligated, as an article of faith, to accept this teaching.

An early exit is not the only and obvious choice here.

Being spared trials, struggles, and tribulation is not the normal biblical pattern.  So what if Christians live under the threat of death during the tribulation for spreading the gospel message of good news?  The apostles lived daily through the persecution and tribulation of the first-century, and experienced martyr’s deaths.

The New Testament scriptures and the New Testament church were born out of persecution and tribulation (Acts 14:22).

Why would we think it would be any different for the end-times church, successfully engaged in Joel 2:28-29 evangelism, for at least some portion of the tribulation?

Luke 21:36, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and 5:9 can just as accurately apply to some point in time part-way through the seven-year tribulation, as they might apply at the beginning of this tribulation period.

The same positive attitude we have in hindsight for the evangelical spirit of the first-century Christians is equally commendable on a going-forward-basis for the end-times Christian church as well.

A curious thing about the Left Behind books and movies is that they tell us that the tribulation period can be a difficult but positive experience for Christians.

Instead of making an air-tight case for a pretribulation rapture, they unintentionally (from a pretribulation advocacy perspective) shed light on the possibility for genuine spiritual growth through shared adversity in confrontation against the Antichrist.

The main characters in these books and movies actually become mature Christian warriors through the experiences of the tribulation, in harmony with the pattern of God beneficially capitalizing on spiritual opposition, revealed in the Bible and as discussed in this book.

This is a common theme we find in every positive character in the Bible.  God-directed and God-managed adversity separates and delivers us from self-sovereignty.

This same proven methodology could conceivably benefit the larger- sized main Christian church on a macro-scale just as easily as it could a smaller- sized contingent of “tribulation saints,” simply by shifting the rapture forward a few years into the tribulation period.

This would not change the concept of the imminence of the timing of the rapture, or alter the need for watchfulness on the part of Christians.  This would not in any way affect the differentiation between the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-53) and the Second Coming of Christ (Mt. 24:27).  It simply means that the time-gap between these two distinctive events would be shorter than seven years.

Most of the eternal truths we learn in our Christian lives come about through some form of tribulation.  Christians, like everyone else, learn the hard-way through first-hand experience.

If this is true, then the pretribulation rapture teaching may in fact not be biblically sound.  We can’t have it both ways.  The spiritual lessons that can be learned through the trying experiences of the tribulation…will benefit someone.  Will it be the main body of the Christian church, as yet un-raptured off the earth at the beginning of the tribulation…or will it be a post-rapture smaller-sized group of “tribulation saints?”

One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is in the trial, in the struggle, in the suffering, in the fiery furnace, and in the victory with us.

God the Father did not remove the cup of suffering…the crucifixion as requested by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But God the Father was in the crucifixion and in the resurrection along with Jesus the Son, for the good outcome of salvation and spiritual re-birth for all of mankind.

How can God be in the fiery trial alongside the church during the end-times tribulation, if the main body of the church is not even on the earth?

Without the catastrophic events of the end-times pulling out the rug of false security from underneath the feet of the firmly entrenched contemporary world, combined with the clearly evil worldwide spectacle of the persecution of Christians by the Antichrist…the last remaining stubborn lost sheep at the end of the ages might never re-think their wayward condition, and make their final decision for salvation through Christ.

If the biblical interpretation outlined in this book is accurate, then the Christian church needs to change its mindset quickly.  Preparation for spiritual battle (Eph. 6:13), not preparation for the rapture, needs to be the order of the day.  Christians need to begin an intimate walk of faith with Jesus Christ as our guide now, so that faith and trust in God has a chance to establish deep roots of experience to withstand the storms ahead.

Faith and trust in God, built upon an experiential foundation that contains a genuine element of risk, is one of the most difficult and challenging accomplishments in all of human life.  If the church is not raptured pretribulation, but experiences a portion of the tribulation period…working in the final harvest for a few tumultuous years…then the Matthew 7:24-27 verses about building our houses on top of solid rock, with deep foundations, applies as never before.

For the last-days Christian church, I believe the question of spiritual preparedness is one of the great issues of the age that none of us can afford to get wrong.  Christians need to come to know their God on a very personal level now.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 4

Finally, if Jesus was the leader of a small band of warriors like David, when He stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, the townspeople would never have reacted with such outwardly violent opposition to His words (Lk. 4:28-30).

The townspeople would have respected His worldly power and feared His military might, keeping their opinions to themselves.  Jesus is led by the people of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff to be thrown over to His death because Jesus has no worldly influence, honor, or respect to intimate anyone.

The townspeople in the synagogue in Nazareth ask: “…is not this the carpenter, the son of Joseph?”  The growing reputation of Jesus as a prophet came from areas outside of His hometown (Lk. 4:14).

Jesus had no reputation as a “somebody” in a worldly sense to be feared and respected.  Jesus was an outcast and lowly among his native town.  He did not fit-in in a worldly sense.  Otherwise the people of Nazareth would never have thought they were free to be offended with Jesus to the point of throwing Him off a nearby cliff.

Jesus is the perfect, sinless, Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for our transgressions within a worldly-free package having no pedigree, wealth, social standing, or outward appeal.

Jesus did not resort to appealing to worldly power.  Jesus lived a spotless life amidst no worldly influence, material success, or cultural acclaim.  Yet Jesus purchased through the cross and the resurrection the power to give eternal life.  Jesus has the power to effectuate the second birth of John 3:3.  Eternal life through the Son of God comes through zero worldly stature or authority.

This means we can live godly lives “in Christ” pleasing to the Father, likewise with or without any worldly acclaim, influence, or stature.

But more importantly for the discussion in this chapter, the complete lack of appeal to worldly influence in the life and ministry of Jesus tells us that Jesus as King and Ruler is the diametric opposite of hypocrisy.

Jesus does not have to resort to worldly acclaim, influence, and appeal to impress the world.  Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice despite being devoid of outward worldly appeal.

By contrast, the son of perdition of 2 Thessalonian 2:3…to be shortly revealed by the upcoming events and circumstances of the great tribulation…is the negative attack-ad character-assassin specialist…is the vilest hypocrite.  He promises peace and safety according to a modified version of the promise of worldly power he made to Jesus of Nazareth in the temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13), without the lightest intention or capacity to offer anything other than destruction and ruin for all who choose to follow him.

In my opinion, the Christian church has to participate in the exposure of this vast contrast between the genuine King and Ruler of the realm, and the counterfeit impostor who would like to overthrow God and assume His position.

The only Person in all of existence smart enough to outmaneuver and trap Lucifer in his deceptive lies and hypocrisy…is God Almighty.

But for our benefit, for a discovery of the knowledge of good and evil to reach its full extent, the Christian church will be engaged in the middle of the action as previewed in every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 3

Offenses Must Come (Matthew 18:7)                                 

The question can reasonably be asked, why did God not openly expose Lucifer in the Garden of Eden?  Why did God not thoroughly and irreparably expose Lucifer during the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century?  Why does God allow Lucifer to continue this hiding-game of deception even to this day?

Why will Lucifer be able to continue as a formidable deceiver and a liar, apparently part-way into the great tribulation, before he is finally exposed and revealed according to this 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse?

Why does God allow what amounts to the equivalent of an open forum process, where unbelief, rebellion, and deception have a viable platform, to continue unabated to express their destructive worldviews under the cover of high-minded, good-natured, and well-meaning debate?

Why does God allow people the total freedom to continue to make eternally decisive, self-destructive wrong choices?

Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement in the Garden of Eden reads: “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” (Gen. 3:5).

Mankind, represented through Adam and Eve, sadly swallowed this massively deceptive temptation “hook, line, and sinker,” without requiring the slightest backup evidence or character references from Lucifer to qualify him to be able to make such cleverly disguised, yet boldly critical statements about God.

One answer to the question why God has not thoroughly exposed Lucifer is contained within the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion, and the subsequent fall of man.

Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of God’s management of the affairs of the universe.  Lucifer wanted God’s seat of power…pure and simple.  Lucifer’s rebellion was a raw power-grab.

Lucifer offered himself as a credible leader in place of God based upon appearances rather than substance.

Like Absalom’s rebellion in the Old Testament against his father David’s reign as king…no attempt at high-minded debate regarding competence, credentials, or agenda was made.

Like Absalom, Lucifer depended upon good looks, appealing charm, and persuasive smooth-talk, leaving out any specifics as to how things could be done better under his rule.  Absalom rode upon the coattails of his father’s existing beneficial reign as Israel’s King, with Absalom’s supporters uncritically assuming that Absalom possessed the same high quality of character and leadership abilities as David, yet in a more popular and outwardly charming package.

Lucifer, like Absalom, offered himself as an improvement in place of the existing ruler God, rather than offering an improvement in the ideological agenda to replace the existing policies and leadership regime.

Lucifer’s rebellion was an attempted coup, a change of personnel, not a reformation of ideas.  Lucifer has no ideas of his own, no positive agenda, other than to steal and corrupt God’s existing program.

Lucifer by nature is a destroyer, not a builder, with the fatal character flaw of insatiable ambition.

God lovingly created mankind with a need for fellowship with God, and Lucifer cleverly hides within religion, inserting himself into the very seat and object of worship where God should rightfully reside.

This is the really dangerous and eternally threatening part of Lucifer’s rebellion…contained within the subsequent fall of mankind.

A brilliantly executed negative attack-ad campaign by Lucifer against God, combined with deceptive good looks and charm, do not make a qualified god who can effectively and capably rule the universe.

But this approach almost enabled Absalom to topple his father David from the throne of Israel.  This approach did actually bring about the successful temptation in the Garden of Eden.  We see the negative consequences of sin as objective fact every day in our newspapers and on the nightly news.

This cleverly and cunningly devised challenge to God’s rulership and authority, even though it contained absolutely no substance and had no positive agenda of its own, nonetheless required an equally well thought-out and executed counter-response from God at the highest level.

The entire course of biblically recorded human redemptive history…down through the preceding roughly seven thousand years…might be partially characterized as God allowing the consequences of unqualified ambitious rebellion to demonstrate its ill effects through real-life situations and circumstances.

The platform of information that makes up God’s qualifications and positive agenda, which is deceptively by-passed in a beauty contest based solely upon outward appearances, and which is ignored altogether in a cleverly conducted attack-ad campaign, God has nonetheless managed to submit into the human experience through the four dimensions of space and time.

The credentials and qualifications of Lucifer to be able to criticize God, which should have been required upfront and carefully examined in the Garden of Eden, but which were gullibly accepted by mankind without question, are now being exposed and scrutinized in agonizing detail through the long course of human history.

Lucifer can say whatever he wants using words alone.

But the difference between the disaster that occurs when man sits atop the throne of his life as a spiritual rebel against God, contrasted with the glory of redeeming character transformation that rescues people from personal destruction through repentance and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord, is acted out every day through the medium of this current life on earth.

The real truth regarding the credentials and character of God are being discovered every day in the progress being made in Christian apologetics, in the field of intelligent design, in Christian service to the world, and in individual journeys of faith following Jesus Christ.

God could alternately choose to write across the sky this afternoon with large flaming letters for everyone on earth to read, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the outward expression of the Triune nature of God, and to worship only Him.  But then the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief would also end this afternoon.  And a journey of faith voluntarily following Jesus Christ through this broken world, having real consequences and eternally valuable spiritual lessons, would also come to an end.

Mankind’s corporate enlistment by Lucifer into his rebellion against God does not excuse our individual rebellion.  Each of us has individually sinned against God in our own rebellious ways.

When we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, He forgives each of us individually.  God places His hand upon our shoulder, looks into our eyes, and says: “I forgive you.”

But even though God completely and thoroughly forgives us, we are still in the same vulnerable, uninformed position regarding the nuances of deception…as were Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Even though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, we still have the issues of Lucifer’s successful temptation in the Garden of Eden to resolve.  For the remainder of our Christian lives, we still have to wrestle against this self-centered fallen nature we inhabit (Rom. 7:23-25).

This is why God created the vehicle called a journey of faith, and why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

This is why God inspired the writing of the Bible, recording the adventures of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments as patterns and examples of His correct interaction with His followers.

This is why the current environment of our broken world is the proving ground for truth and error to be a demonstration in action.

This is why God allows belief and unbelief to operate side-by-side in opposing tension in our world, not decisively exposing the ultimate pros and cons of truth versus error, for the time being.

Christians have to experience first-hand for ourselves the truth or falsity of this enormously destructive attack-ad by Lucifer, first proposed in the idyllic Garden of Eden so long ago, that our happiness somehow lies in being our own gods atop the thrones of our lives, apart from God.

For Christians to become spiritually wise, mature, and savvy regarding the knowledge of good and evil, these first-hand experiential lessons must be out-there and in-play within the context of real-life situations and circumstances.

One of the important questions explored in this book, is whether or not this all-important journey of faith, which is a God-led tour into the discovery of the fundamental issues that are the basis for eternal happiness and peace, comes to an abrupt halt for Christians at the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period through the rapture of the church?

If the seven-year tribulation is a culmination of the theme of the story that God has been writing over the last roughly seven thousand years…through the Bible…through the nation of Israel…through the church age…and through the journeys of faith that Christians are currently experiencing…then the natural conclusion would lead a person to think that the church would be a major participant, rather than an absentee raptured bystander, in this final chapter of redemptive history.

The tribulation is the crisis-filled environment of events and circumstances capable of bringing the substandard qualifications of the deceiving, negative attack-ad specialist Lucifer out into the open.  God has perfectly timed this absolute and final exposure of truth versus error, of the demonstration of pure love versus self-centered ambition, of the characters and motivations of everyone, to be revealed for all to see at the close of human redemptive history.  The universe and our natural world were created for just such an explosive final ending.

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