Free e-books on Kindle

For those of you who have a Kindle and are interested…two of my Christian books are free on Amazon…Friday 6/16 and Saturday 6/17:

The Second Half of the Cross

The Christian Church in the Last Days

For those of you who have read one or more of my books…would you be kind enough to carve out the time to write and post book reviews on Amazon.  For those of you who are self-published book writers…you know how important this is on the “blog-osphere.”

Thanks, Barton

Biblical Journeys of Faith are Different

This post is a response to a comment made in another Christian reading group on the internet.

It is all about self-sovereignty or God-sovereignty.

The Bible, Old Testament Judaism, and Christianity are the only things in all of human thought and experience that make that distinction.

As Abraham walks from the city of Haran towards Canaan…with each step he takes God is displacing the normative life Abraham would otherwise have lived in Haran…with a higher life-script Abraham could never have dreamed up in his wildest imagination.

No other worldview has this…not Islam, not Buddhism, not Hinduism, and certainly not atheistic materialism.

There are dozens of scriptures in the New Testament that talk about the salvation assurance for Spirit-born Christians.

This has to be the case in order to set up the conditions for the transition from the old covenant…where God calls people to become prophets and kings and deliverers…to the new covenant where every believer will know God from the least to the greatest.

No rational Christian would pick up their cross and follow Jesus into a risky journey of faith if their eternal salvation was contingent upon and in jeopardy upon the quality of our personal performance.  No one would take that risk…and God would not expect us to.

The shift from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty is the most difficult thing any human being can do…God knows this Himself from personal experience…see Jesus the Son of God in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

The new covenant…following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…allows every Spirit-born Christian to experience a slice of this distinctive God-sovereignty that we see embedded in the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Peter, and Paul…to name but a few.

I am not saved one week, then lose my salvation for a few days, then become saved again for a few more weeks.

I can confidently enter into a risk-filled adventure of faith (and am in one) having the real possibility of the falsifiability of Gods plans and promises for me…and the inevitability of my own failures along the way…with the scriptural and inner assurance of my salvation in-tact so that I can pick up my cross and follow Jesus anywhere (David’s Psalm 23).

There is a lack of assurance of salvation in Islam.  In Islam, salvation is based on our good deeds…plus the will of Allah.  This is just another version of self-sovereignty…plus some future element of unknown determination.

It is easy to lump together Islamic terrorists, David Koresh, Jim Jones, the Crusades, and the Inquisition as moral equivalents.

Muslims claim that a violent interpretation of the Koran does not represent their true religion…and point to past bad actors and bad actions by so-called Christians for a corroborating likewise argument.

But my point in this post is that Muslims are still stuck in self-sovereignty…salvation being based upon our own good deeds according to our performance…plus the will of Allah on the judgment day.

Biblical narrative stories of faith transcend above all of this back-and-forth debate because these comparable misdeeds all occur in what I like to call the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

Biblical narrative stories of faith transcend far above the conventional because they all contain the cross of Jesus Christ…God displacing our way with His higher ways and plans.

This simply does not exist in Islam…or in any other form in any worldview.

This in my opinion makes a compelling argument that the Bible has a divine origin.

And it places the biblical narrative stories of faith…by reason of the utter unconventional nature of the cross of Christ…as contrary to humanism as can be…and entirely different from self-sovereignty as night is from day…far above critical reproach.

He that Doeth the Will of God Abideth Forever 2

Intelligent design is the only rational explanation for the existence of highly complex and originally imaginative point-B goals that create the context for faith 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 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.

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 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.

He that Doeth the Will of God Abideth Forever 1

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 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 inexplicable departure from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that is an integral component of every biblical narrative story of faith.  The distinctive novelty of this feature in the Bible 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 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 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 of walks of faith into the experiences of mankind…God is displacing the worldly conventional lust of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life…which are temporal and pass away…with 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. 55:8-9; Lk. 16:15; Eph. 3:16-19).

What is uniquely distinctive about the biblical narrative stories of faith is that the goals…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 philosophies of materialism and naturalism based on the physical properties of matter and energy alone.

Are We Ready?

If we extend and apply the concept of the initiation of God’s callings…to the contemporary Christian church…what might this mean for Christians in the upcoming end-times?

If the Christian church is not raptured pretribulation…but instead is raptured at some point in time after the colossal end-times spiritual battle begins…Christians will find ourselves right in the middle of the Joel 2:28-29 prophecy that says God will pour out His Spirit upon the earth.

At Pentecost, Peter did not prepare in advance his speech to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem that day…that converted thousands of people (Acts 2:41).  This speech was already inside Peter waiting to be energized by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, Peter and John did not foresee the miraculous circumstances that led to their standing before the august and intimidating governing body the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem…and therefore had no opportunity to politely excuse themselves or to otherwise wiggle their way out of what turned out to be an explosive and pivotal moment of Holy Spirit boldness that severed the new Christian church from the old leadership in Jerusalem (Acts 4:5-22).

Certainly Stephen did not premediate what he was going to say before this selfsame Sanhedrin council some short time later…as he is carried away into totally liberated and self-abandoned boldness of speech that is characteristic of this time period in the formulation of the early church…and that is described as the latter rain to be poured out upon the earth during the end-times (Joel 2:23; Zech. 10:1).  Stephen had these words already within his mind and heart…waiting to be expressed at the right time and place (Acts 6:15).

When the end of time actually arrives…when human redemptive history comes to a close at a definite point in time…worldly conventional normalcy has no relevance.  The commendable and admirable instruction to “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13) that has applied for past centuries universally for all Christians…no longer has meaning and purpose.

When the actual end of time is in view…the salvation of lost souls becomes the immediate imperative.  Evangelism is the first priority for Christians in the end-times (Mt. 24:14).  What color to paint the kitchen, who to elect city mayor, and where to go on vacation next summer all become superfluous…for Christians and non-Christians alike.

This end-times prophecy of God taking the initiative…like He does with all of His callings…to pour out His Spirit upon the earth according to Joel 2:28-29…may transform every Spirit-born Christian on the face of the earth into bold evangelists like we find in the early church…carried along by the energy of the Holy Spirit and unable to contain themselves like the prophet Jeremiah described (Jer. 20:9).

So the question is…are we ready?  Have we done our part?  Do we have a testimony to share of God’s grace and mercy in our lives?  Do we know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord?  Do we have a walk of faith with Jesus, and can we point to a transformed life as our evidence for the presence of God in our lives?  Do we spend time reading the Bible…memorizing scripture…mastering the issues?  Do we possess the basics that the Holy Spirit can move upon in an instant to craft powerful words of life to give to the final lost souls on earth as the clocks ticks towards the final end-point in time…and the surrounding cascade of momentous events of biblical-proportion escalate and intensify?

This concept of the divine origin of journeys of faith…containing the cross of Christ embedded at the core of every storyline…speaks volumes as to what we can look forward to from a biblical perspective of what God can do and what believers can accomplish…above and outside of the limited confines of skeptical unbelief found within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This is one of the main themes in the Bible that argues for its divine origin…and should therefore be expected to continue at an even more accelerated and enhanced rate…anticipated by waiting and watching Christians (Lk. 21:28).

The Gap of Time and Promises 2

The point here is not to suggest that human fictional writing cannot be as ingeniously inventive as the biblical narrative stories of faith…although the Joseph novella in Genesis (c. 1450 B.C.) predates Shakespeare (1600 A.D.) by roughly 3,000 years.  The contention here is that the designated point-B’s in the biblical life-scripts are so supernaturally outside of human manipulation and contrivance to resolve…so far outside of the conventional norms of self-sovereignty, self-reliance, pre-planning, and foresight…that the introduction of a faith-journey where the living God displaces us on the decision-making thrones of our lives…is beyond the contemplation of human literary invention.

The idea of the cross of Jesus Christ (Lk. 22:42; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:1-3) that would and could displace our own plans with God’s higher ways and plans…after the pattern of Abraham leaving Haran and heading off toward Canaan into a new and novel journey-of-faith through the calling of God…will not be found in any literature or thinking in any of the great human fiction writers…or in any other religions, philosophies, or worldviews outside of the Bible.

There is no plausible explanation for the capacity of mere material particles and energy to come up with the complexity and sophistication underlying the amazing dichotomy of these two opposing directions to choose from…a journey of self or a journey of faith…at the very core of our lives.

The existence of unconventional journeys of faith…with the cross of Christ integrated into every biblical narrative storyline…argues at a fundamental level for the divine origin of the Bible and its message of liberation and salvation now and for all eternity (Jn. 8:36).

The Gap of Time and Promises 1

Hebrews 11:1 reads: ”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

This describes a gap…a space…an interval in time or in the course of events…of things hoped and things not seen yet…between point-A and point-B…between where we are and where we need to get to…that offers a context for a demonstration of biblical faith to actualize that is not found anywhere else in all of human thought or experience.

Certainly within the vast region of secular pursuits there is an equivalent gap between where people are and where they would like to get to.  This reality is what motivates people to pursue a college degree, advance in their careers, save up money for a European vacation or their future retirement, explore the natural world through scientific investigation, and search for the cure for cancer.

It is also the gap that enables us to recognize our fallen nature…and our need for a Savior.

But in the biblical narrative stories of faith the point-B goal or outcome is outside the reach of the human capacity to resolve, contrive, or facilitate.  The gap…the space…the interval…within the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1 is some time-length of patient waiting or some series of unique events leading to the fulfillment of a promise of God…which is unattainable by human means…which is totally outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking to procure…by deliberate and premeditated design.

In the biblical narrative stories of faith…getting from point-A to point-B by human means is removed as an option by divine beneficial intention.

The novel and innovative imagination that would create the worldview reality of an adventure of faith in pursuit of innumerable, varied point-B’s that are outside of our innate, natural abilities to procure on our own…is a divine insertion into our world of complex, specified, divinely crafted information that parallels the action of creation in the words: “And God said”…recorded in Genesis chapter 1.

The fact that a journey of faith…containing the cross of Christ that displaces our way with God’s way…is not found anywhere in world religions, philosophy, or literature…except in the Bible…tells us that worldly conventional normalcy and thinking is incapable or unwilling to put into play…in actually is blind (Mt. 15:14) concerning the recognition of a journey of faith following God.

The counterfeit that worldly conventional normalcy and thinking offers in place of a journey of faith is a journey of self…in pursuit of material wealth and worldly acclaim that by themselves…apart from biblical faith…leads to destruction (Mk. 8:36-37; Mt. 7:13).

Infertile couples like Abraham and Sarah cannot produce their son of promise Isaac…on their own.  This is a gap from point-A to point-B…from the promise of God to its fulfillment…which is not reachable through human resolution.

The idea that Pharaoh in Egypt would have a disturbing dream minus the necessary interpretation…which is then divinely given to Joseph…propelling him into the leadership position of a foreigner becoming governor during a great famine…is a seemingly impossible point-B to reach…much less imagine…even with his earlier two inspired dreams as a teenager back in Canaan foretelling a future remarkable destiny ahead.

The means by which Moses, his wooden staff, and his brother Aaron deliver the Israelites from Egypt through the miraculous ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea…now at least hypothetically and philosophically acceptable in our modern culture after the discovery of the near instantaneous creation of the universe out of nothing in the Big Bang…articulates a point-B for Moses that was not anywhere within his contemplation before he killed the Egyptian and had to flee into exile for forty years in Midian.

Even the perfect life and ministry of Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world…has a point-A to point-B gap to cross in terms of time and mission.

In Luke 22:42 Jesus utters words that are so far out of the realm of human invention they stand alone at the highest level of goodness and light as is imaginable for all eternity…past, present, and future.  “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”…tells us that God is so creatively brilliant that He can even craft a life-script for Himself that challenges His own perfectly divine nature…in the precise and exact area where we need the most help…in the shift from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty….from a life of self-rulership to a life of following the living God.