From The Christian Church in the Last Days
It is the precise and intricate ways and purposes of God that enlists our own in-built facility for purpose, which can be integrated by God into any set of current life circumstances and events. Whether we are a heart surgeon, congresswoman, appellate court judge, school teacher, auto mechanic, pastor of a small-town church, writer of Christian books, or housewife raising children, God can overlay and integrate His higher ways and purposes into our lives if we will surrender and yield our self-wills to Him in faith and trust. The deliverance and salvation of God within the challenges of life, expressed so beautifully throughout the Psalms, takes place within the plans of God, and not our own.
Innate purpose translates into reality at the highest most glorious level when orchestrated and directed within the framework of a God-composed journey of faith.
Sometimes purpose and worldly conventional normalcy do not mix. Sometimes we cannot have both the risk-filled pursuit of truth and the security of conventional normalcy simultaneously within the dynamics of this broken world. Jesus, the Lamb-of-God sacrifice for the sins of the world can only die and be resurrected if His generation rejects and crucifies Him. Only God can knit together a meaningful and purposeful tapestry of the commendable aspects of the Protestant work ethic with the worldly incomprehensible, biblical journey of faith through the cross of Calvary.
All of the people of faith in the Bible gave up some measure of worldly conventional normalcy in following God’s life-script for them. This separates out and elevates the quality of purpose and meaning into a higher zone that only God can orchestrate. This highlights the wisdom of God in the area of purpose, and like the scriptural example of God composing a life-script for Jesus that contained challenging difficulty for our consolation, it reveals an imaginative creativity that is at the edge of perfection regarding brilliantly directed purpose. If even our hardships work an eternal glory in us that we cannot fully understand in the present moment, orchestrated, managed, and moderated by a loving and brilliantly wise God at the limits of perfection, this should bolster our faith and confidence when outward appearances seem close to hopeless.
The narrative stories of faith in the Bible tell us that God knows precisely what He is doing, dovetailed perfectly with the type and measure of purpose He has placed within us. Laws, rules, precepts, psalms of praise and encouragement, prophetic warnings, and historical events all occupy their place in the revelation of God to man. But the biblical narrative stories of faith demonstrate in action the will and ways of God within life-events to reveal His craftsmanship in the management of our journeys of faith and discovery.
At the advanced Christian end of the spectrum of purpose and meaning in life, God will ask us to place our own personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. Isaac is not just Abraham’s son. Isaac is the son of promise. Wrapped up in Isaac are all of Abraham’s commendable hopes, dreams, love, and care. Isaac does not represent some bad character trait or secret sin that Abraham must surrender to God.
If the purpose and meaning of life were just about smooth sailing through calm seas, then Abraham and Sarah could have started a large family upon correctly obeying God to leave Haran and journey to Canaan. But Abraham and Sarah wait for Isaac, and Abraham is maneuvered by God through long-range circumstances to this pivotal moment on Mount Moriah, for a monumental reason.
The lesson for the “father of faith” (and all of us) is that he must completely and totally rely upon God and give up any remaining residue of self-reliance. This is one part of the Bible that cannot be manufactured by man through conventional thinking. This was the God-manufactured reality in Abraham’s life that qualified him to be called the “father of faith,” initiating a new, higher way of life with God. As Abraham lifts his knife up to thrust it down into his beloved son Isaac, Hebrews 11:19 reads that Abraham accounted “…that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which also he received him in a figure.”
No ordinary person conquers death. Through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus conquered death…our last great enemy. We are raised to new life in Christ because Jesus was raised from the tomb by God the Father. This is the central message of the Bible. God can and will do for us in a better and much higher way what we cannot possibly even imagine for ourselves.
The most painfully difficult, yet liberating, faith-producing events in our lives are when God maneuvers our circumstances to the point where we willingly make the decision to let go of our own plans, schemes, self-efforts, and even our personal hopes and dreams in a particular area. As God shouts to Abraham “Stop!” as he is about to plunge his knife down into Isaac, Abraham has totally let go of all self-generated assistance regarding helping God out toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
God would not and never has unjustly asked anyone to take the life of someone else. The sacrifice on Mount Moriah was a foreglimpse, a “type” of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill two thousand years later that would go forward to full consummation in the death of God’s own beloved Son. The foundational example of a biblical journey of faith, starting with Abraham, begins with Abraham placing his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice…and God taking this unconditional faith and trust and literally turning it around into life from the dead.
Like all Christians, I have experienced trials, tragedies, and heartbreaks in my life. Although excruciatingly painful at the time, I would not trade these experiences for anything. When shaped, orchestrated, and moderated by God, they make me into a better person. Could one of the things that conventional, worldly thinking chokes on and stumbles over so badly…the presence of suffering and periods of hardship in this life…be an important ingredient that produces the continue-on-at-all-costs, come-what-may, get-up-and-carry-on resiliency of character that can overcome any life-challenge that comes our way?
I cannot discover the inspirations to write this book unless I allow God to lead me through a personal guided tour of life’s valleys and mountaintops to demonstrate to me His faithfulness and His management skills. The partially hypocritical “do-as-I-say”…moves closer to the absolute ideal of “do-as-I-do”…when divinely-guided purpose is actualized within a God-composed journey of faith.
Purpose and meaning are inextricably connected with this concept of Jesus walking alongside us through the most challenging of life’s circumstances. The purpose in the cross is all over this encouraging reality of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the hills and valleys of life, ironically fulfilling in the most commendable God-scripted way the tempting seduction of Lucifer in the Garden: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
As King Saul’s deadly pursuit of David is on several occasions within a hair’s breadth of succeeding, David must think to himself whether God’s promise to him through the prophet Samuel will ever come true. Joseph’s own attempt to get Pharaoh’s butler and baker to speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh and hopefully procure his exoneration and release from prison, falls flat.
When the Israelites are trapped up against the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian chariot army in deadly pursuit, it never entered the minds of the Israelites as a plausible solution that God could open up the Red Sea. If the Red Sea bordered on a forest, some small number of people might have used drift wood as floatation devices to swim safely on top of the surface of the water to the opposite shore. But this body of water was in the middle of a desert…there were no trees or driftwood. Some daring people might have considered attempting to swim across the entire width of the Red Sea. Opening up a dry land passage through the midst of the waters was something that only God could even imagine, much less actually accomplish.
Upon first hearing God’s plan to successfully defeat the opposing army, we can imagine Gideon asking God “Did I hear you correctly…you want us to do what?” Esther throws all personal caution to the wind in seeking an uninvited audience with the king, in an extremely tight set of deadly circumstances forced upon her by the expediency of the crisis, not at all of her making.
Even on Resurrection Day, as the two disciples are walking toward Emmaus and speaking with the as-yet unrecognized Jesus, after some of the disciples had already reported discovering the empty tomb, they still did not understand the magnitude of the power of the resurrection. They say about Jesus that He was “a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19), and that “we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21). They did not realize that Jesus, a “prophet mighty in deed and word,” had that very day conquered the great final enemy of death and hell for them, through His divinely empowered resurrection from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.
Most of us did not fully understand the second half of the cross…the surrender of the sovereignty of sitting atop the thrones of our lives as self-autonomous kings…when we experienced believer’s water baptism. When we were submerged briefly below the surface of the water, and then assisted up into a vertical standing position representing resurrection into new life, we grasped the basic outlines of the cross and the resurrection.
Only after some length of time in our journey of faith do we begin to comprehend in some measure the depth of God’s purposes, patterned for us in the narrative examples of faith recorded in the Bible. This concept of placing our personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice so that God can insert His higher ways into our lives, will crystalize into a major theme for Christians as we enter the last-days to close out the long redemptive history of mankind. This is another key to our success as the Christian church in the last-days.
Just as the cross and the resurrection conquered death in a way that was beyond our capacity to accomplish for ourselves, the second half of the cross is a divine creation beyond human imagination or creative literary invention. The narrative stories of faith in the Bible, and our own personal experience of salvation and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ, will be a calm harbor of refuge and a sturdy anchor of protection through whatever worldwide turbulence lies ahead.
A journey of faith through the second half of the cross is at the pinnacle of divinely inspired and revealed orthodoxy, as orthodox as orthodox can be. This is the part of the message of the Bible that is designed to illustrate the Spirit-born transformation that takes place within a person, from having merely an impersonal knowledge about God, to a personal, purpose-filled, new covenant adventure of faith following Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31-34).