God Asks Too Much 1

Along our God-composed journey of faith…at some point in time…we discover that God asks too much of us.

This is a truism that will resonate with Spirit-born Christians engaged in a genuine adventure of faith…actively pursuing some type of Christian ministry or calling…following the leading of Jesus Christ.

The fact that this is a reality in our lives, and that we see this recorded in the biblical narrative stories of faith…is a compelling argument for the existence of God and the divine origin of the Bible.

God asking too much of us through the interaction of a life-script calling or mission-plan not of our making…outside of our origination but instead coming to us through revelation…that stretches us beyond our seeming capacity in a divinely initiated relationship with God that has the trajectory of God-ward toward us rather from us-ward toward God…as asserted by atheism and skeptical unbelief to be human literary fiction…to be a product of humanistic thinking…is nonsensical.

A personal relationship between God and people that reached this level of intimacy and commitment…of God asking too much in our calling or mission…is beyond human literary invention as a made-up characterization of God or of a biblical narrative story of faith…because such a fictionalization falls completely outside of the normalcy of worldly convention and thinking…and would not stand up to the empirical scrutiny of human experience for any length of time…as has already been briefly argued in this book.

No one would ever invent this reality of God asking too much of us…because fictionalized religion would never get that far.

One explanation why God asks too much of us is that He has a lot to give usHe has a lot of territory to cover.

In a biblical narrative story of faith…not only does God have a lot to give us…but through the working out of the events of a journey of faith…these biblical characters have a lot to give to mankind…God giving through them to other people…and to us.

It almost seems in these biblical narrative stories of faith that God skips over the reasons “why” for a particular storyline…and jumps immediately into actualizing the events as if the “why” is not that important for the time being…or is beyond our current comprehension of the “big picture.”

It is as if God is saying to the biblical characters of faith: “trust me for now…I know exactly what I am doing…even though to you it is not entirely clear at this moment in time.”

The idea that God would use the biblical characters of faith…as a means to give what God has…through them to us…using the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1 while bypassing collaboration as to the “why” of their specific and varied callings in life…is a singularly unique and specifically innovative concept in the broad marketplace of ideas…in the breadth and width of human experience.

A look at several of the biblical narrative stories of faith would be helpful here.

Acts 23:11 records Jesus visiting Paul at night, saying: “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

After being violently rejected by the Jerusalem populace while giving his defense and witness from the steps of the Roman garrison castle (Acts 21:31-22:30)…and again violently rejected by the Jewish religious and political leaders of the Sanhedrin council…by the very home-town crowd Paul used to be in-tight with before converting to Christianity…the discouragement must have been overwhelming.

But I do not think Paul was ready to “throw in the towel” and give up on his calling and ministry…but Paul may have entertained the notion that God was asking too much of him.

Paul could not see ahead down through the upcoming twenty centuries to our current time…when his thirteen letters to the churches (including Hebrews) would strengthen and inspire tens and hundreds of millions of Christians in the “church age”…and establish orthodox Christian theology for the benefit of countless numbers of believers.

On that night in the first-century following these two enormous setbacks for Paul…Jesus does not explain all of the fine details of the “why” to Paul as to what is happening in the moment…but confirms Paul’s calling and ministry once again with His divine presence and encouragement.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

I think this verse can…and does…apply to the unimaginable sights and sounds we will discover in heaven.  But it can also describe God having a lot to give us…and to give through us…in the short length of time available in a human life-span.

God asking too much of us may simply be the product of the richness of what God has to give us…and the imperative of using the most brilliantly concise combination of events and circumstances to convey the “all truth” of John 16:13 to us in the most creatively insightful way imaginable.

The mission of Abraham on Mount Moriah may be the most difficult thing anyone has been asked by God to do (Gen. 22:1-14)…but also had the highest and purest benefit to us.  God saw the mature and developed faith of Abraham…as God had intended…that Abraham believed that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19)…and said to Himself: “yes, this is the biblical faith that will bless untold millions in the coming centuries and for all eternity”…earning Abraham the priceless moniker “the father of faith.”

But equally important…the entire scenario of the ram caught in a nearby thicket…that Abraham then uses as a replacement for Isaac as a sin offering to God…informs us of the timeless foresight of God in being able to craft countless similar scenarios large and small for our benefit and for the benefit of others…scenarios containing the highest, best, and most elegant outcomes imaginable.

Abraham could have said to God: “in this that you are asking me to do with Isaac my only son…God…you are asking far too much.”

Only God has the foresight to see down the long centuries in time to a lonely hill in Jerusalem displaying three crosses of execution…the center cross bearing the divine Son of God Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sin.

Abraham could have said to himself as he and Isaac traveled to Mount Moriah: “all this is working against me”…and it was.

Biblical narrative stories of faith have the uniquely novel goal…not found anywhere else in all of human literature or experience…of removing going our own way from our life-script trajectory.

God’s plans seemed to work against going our own way in this incredibly difficult task of Abraham letting go of his way to make room for God putting into action His higher ways and thoughts in-the-moment…Abraham not knowing that God would shortly shout from heaven “Stop…I myself will provide”…inferring from that time forward that only God Himself could provide a candidate worthy enough to be a human sacrifice for sin…Jesus Christ the sinless, blemish-free Son of God on Calvary Hill.

Journeys of Faith are not “Religious” 3

Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen…and many similar books written in the same genre…appear on the surface to be positive, uplifting, and inspiring…but they are as unbiblical as can be.

The “name it and claim it” preachers also have a message that is unbiblical.

The huge gap between the “your best life now” according to the prosperity gospel…and the biblical narrative stories of faith…that are the direct opposite…is another commonsense apologetic argument for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

Mere material particles and energy would never create the subtly complex temptation of the counterfeit deceptions of these false religious programs…aside from what some people might otherwise think of the relative merits of their messages pro and con.

From a philosophically materialistic viewpoint…this contrast between two opposing worldviews is too complex, too far apart, and too sophisticated to arise from within a purely naturalistic reality.

Nowhere in the biblical narrative stories of faith…is the theme about acquiring wealth and prosperity through faith in God…part of the through-line…the moral of the story.

The only place we find this concept being proffered is in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness…in which Satan offers to Jesus all the wealth and power of this world…which Satan must do to capture a prize like Jesus the Son of God…if Jesus will only fall down and worship him (Lk. 4:5-7).

What is instructive from an apologetics standpoint is that in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…neither religious rituals and practices…nor the successful pursuit of worldly material possessions…personal gain…are found anywhere within the storylines.

The only notable exceptions might be Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the 613 laws, and the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle (involving religious rituals and practices)…and Peter being instructed by Jesus to go fishing and pull a coin out of the mouth of the first fish he catches (involving money)…to pay their taxes (Mt. 17:27).

Male circumcision beginning with Abraham and Isaac would also be a major religious practice.

What is also fascinating and instructive here is that what establishes a compelling, commonsense, biblical argument for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…also at the same time automatically dispels and refutes all other false teaching.

Truth really is exclusive.  Or at the very least the introduction of truth calls into question and analysis the bad outcomes of false teaching.

For example, “name it and claim it” assumes and implies the totally unbiblical idea that we would know independently what is best for us…apart from our Creator God…in claiming some things and rejecting others for our lives.  Here we are right back in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve had no idea about the long-range, ripple-effect implications of their wrong-headed, impulsive decision to disobey God’s command to not eat the forbidden fruit.

According to the worldly conventional list of normal wants and aspirations described above…this faulty approach of “name it and claim it” once again places us in the undeserved and unqualified position of being junior gods…occupying the role that belongs to God alone.

The biblical narrative stories of faith cannot claim any connection to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…outside of “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13) in that these stories of faith have goals and mission-plans that are supernatural…that are unattainable through humanistic means.

Nothing could be further from “name it and claim it” than the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts in the Bible…having Hebrews 11:1 as the definition of biblical faith.

The idea that Abraham would “name and claim” becoming the “father of faith”…or that Joseph would “name and claim” becoming the governor of the foreign nation of Egypt…or that Moses at the burning bush would “name and claim” the near impossible and inconceivable task of delivering the Israelites…or that upon first meeting Jesus of Nazareth that Peter would “name and claim” becoming the first major leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem…or that Saul/Paul would have even the slightest advance premonition about converting to the Christian faith…which occurred after Damascus…much less “naming and claiming” his extraordinary calling and mission…all of these things according to the prosperity gospel of “your best life now” and “name it and claim it”…are unbiblical, absurd, and nonsensical.

Biblical narrative stories of faith have God actually displacing our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)…the diametric opposite of the concept of our “naming and claiming” our preferences, desires, and wants…according to short-sighted, uninformed, and misdirected goals and aspirations.

All of this is way too complex and coherently functional to be the product of the worldview philosophy of naturalism…or to be the product of the imagination of human literary invention.

What if God’s alternate and non-worldly definition for “your best life now” were the narrative stories of faith as recorded in the Bible…there now in print for around 3,500 years?

What if God created human beings with the inbuilt, elevated capacity for unselfish service to others…actualized within a loving marriage…in a supportive family life…as a small town pastor of a church…as a foreign missionary evangelist…as a professor in a Bible college…as a plumbing contractor…a stay-at-home mom…the owner of a restaurant…a mechanical engineer…a heart surgeon…an insurance agent…and a Christian book writer…to name only a few examples?

What if the biblical narrative stories of faith…composed by God…and yes, containing costs and sacrifices…were designed to bring-out and to actualize our true capacity for a best life now…potentially applicable to every person today who will choose Jesus Christ as Lord and Master…and pick up their cross to follow Him (Mk. 8:34-35)?

What if “your best life now” according to the prosperity gospel…and “name it and claim it” were both a move downward on the vertical continuum line of goodness and light…an actual settling for much less than our optimum destiny?

What if “your best life now” and “name it and claim it” at their very best could never take the measure of our souls like the challenging elements of a God-composed life-script?

Would not the absolute necessity for our Creator God…the “adult” in the area of godliness…to write the life-scripts for our lives that would ingeniously blend divinely timeless foresight, our innate abilities and talents, and our free-will choice within the four dimensions of space and time now…would not this unconventionally alternate reality be a compelling evidence for both the existence of God…but also at the same time reveal the right way for living (Jn. 14:6)?

The sometimes difficult but hope-filled truth from the Bible is that God will do what He knows is best for us…even if this means waiting 25 years for the birth of Isaac…for Abraham…or spending 13 years in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison…like Joseph…or any of the other unconventionally challenging but divinely elevated storylines experienced by the people of faith in the Bible.

This again is a compelling, commonsense, apologetic argument for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

Journeys of Faith are not “Religious” 2

We do not see first, second, and third-graders in elementary schools out in large numbers picketing their schools on the weekends…with signs reading: “Down With Division”…or: “No More Multiplication”…or: “Forget Reading…Play Video Games”…while shouting chants of “Unfair” and “Heck No…We Won’t Go!”

Children at that young age have no idea of the importance of reading, writing, and mathematics for their upcoming adult lives.  Grown-ups set the agenda for our early childhood education…and as children we go along with this through childlike faith placed in our parents…our teachers…and in grown-ups in general.

There exist no other practical options in childhood education.  Adults are by default simply in the position to know more than children…to have the knowledge and the facts…in this critical area of what we need to learn as children…to get from where we are as children to where we need to get to…as we grow up into adults.

How is it that we would then assume to know anything about godliness?  Godliness belongs exclusively to God.  It is not found anywhere within conventional human living and thinking.

Godliness must come from top-down…not from bottom-up.

Godliness is defined and actualized through the biblical narrative stories of faith…coming from the singular perspective of God.

Biblical Narrative Stories of Faith are not “Religious”

An amazing thing about the biblical narrative stories of faith…for the most part…is that they are not religious in nature.  This should also get our attention.

The Old Testament lists 613 laws…including the Ten Commandments…and has religious observances and celebrations like the Passover.  Male circumcision begins with Abraham and Isaac.  The Old Testament has the animal sacrifices in the temple conducted by the priests.

The New Testament has the Lord’s Supper communion for believers.

But the biblical narrative stories of faith themselves are not built around anything like pilgrimages to “holy sites,” or the veneration of relics, or the sale and possession of paper documents like indulgences insuring salvation, or elaborate religious rituals like a universal practice of praying toward a geographical location every day (Dan. 6:10).

The biblical narrative stories of faith provide no opportunity for salvation through the self-effort of “good-works” and the “self-realization” of religious practices and rituals.

Through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…God goes boldly into the realm of human life…cutting across the grain of the conventionality of our standard dreams, goals, and aspirations…according to His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness it is recorded in Luke 4:6-8:

6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

7 If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.

8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

“Worshipping only God”…tells us that the world still belongs to God.  Worshipping only God is the correct optional choice for human beings…and it is an option we can willingly choose.

God can craft life-scripts having events and circumstances that cross-over into human life in any way that He chooses in order to set up the context for biblical faith to actualize.

Judging from the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…this novel and innovative approach goes much deeper than the religious rituals designed for worship.

Becoming the “father of faith”, the governor of Egypt during a great famine, the deliverer of the Israelites from bondage as slaves in Egypt, becoming a godly (yet imperfect) king of Israel like David…being a prophet like Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or one of the “minor” prophets, restoring the walls around Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple…like Ezra and Nehemiah…becoming the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem like Peter…or being called-out to be the premier evangelical missionary to the first-century Greco-Roman world like Paul…all of these things fall right in the very heart of human living…yet transcend above and outside of  “religion” in a way that is entirely unique to the Bible.

These journeys of faith inexplicably have little connection to religious practices and rituals…an odd and elevated feature which looking back in hindsight we might expect to find in life-scripts leading toward “spiritual adulthood”…composed by a “grown-up” God for us…who obviously knows more about godliness than we do…and has set-out a course for life and for study for each of us…taking us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ…through the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14…described in The Sermon on the Mount.

Divinely Timeless Foresight

Instantaneous revelations of the truths of John 16:13…”he will guide you into all truth” do not allow for first-hand experiences that are spread-out over the time intervals described in Hebrews 11:1…”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and inferred in John 16:13.

God is in a timeless reality (Isa. 46:9-10).

Psalm 22, Isaiah 9:6, and Isaiah 53 require divinely timeless foresight.

God created time at the Big-Bang beginning of the universe along with the laws of physics, chemistry, and mathematics…and with the material particles and energy that form our galaxies, stars, and planets.

God created time so that He would have a context…an environment…wherein He could compose life-scripts for us that enable us to have a personal relationship with Him…but also enable us to experience first-hand the lessons of a knowledge of good and evil…through durations of time having events and circumstances…rather than split-second, instantaneous revelations of “all truth.”

Where the confusion comes in is when we try to understand the timelessness of God from our perspective of our four dimensions of space and time…brilliantly and lovingly constructed for our benefit.

Abraham in his God-composed journey of faith life-script has total free-will choice…he can quit at any time…as can we…otherwise Abraham is in part a mechanical robot.

The resolution of the two seemingly unmixable realities of divine timeless foresight…and our lack of foresight as non-divine beings yet possessing the free-will capacity to love God…is found within the biblical narrative stories of faith that only God could compose and orchestrate to positive outcomes.

That God could blend together these seemingly disparate realities…His timeless foresight and foreknowledge…and our free-will…within the biblical narrative stories of faith and our Christian walks of faith today…is actually a compelling apologetic evidence for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the truth of Christianity.

In my opinion…when articulated in this way…this seeming conflict disappears.

Journeys of Faith are not “Religious” 1

Another compelling apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…is that the biblical narrative stories of faith starting with Abraham in the Old Testament…do not align with what we normally want in life according to worldly conventional thinking.

But equally revealing is that the callings of God in the Bible are not “religious” in nature.

According to modern conventionality we want a great education, a good job that we enjoy working at…with a high salary…so that we can afford to travel and take vacations…and to purchase the things that we want.

We want to buy a house in a good location, have a loving marriage, raise a family, have friends, enjoy hobbies, play sports, have good health, drive a nice automobile, send our children to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, or USC, have a secure retirement, and avoid warfare and natural disasters.

There is nothing wrong with any of these goals and aspirations.  They are commendable and admirable when translated into any culture starting in ancient times…progressing up to today.

But these goals, dreams, aspirations, and sentiments are not anything like the underlying themes of the life-scripts of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

This should raise some red-flags…get our attention in the apologetics debate now centuries long and still going strong…in determining the origin of these biblical narrative stories of faith.

Becoming the “father of faith” by traveling from one city to a new region that in the future will be called the Promised Land (Heb. 11:8)…according to the promise of God to Abraham that He will start a new nation of people through Abraham as numerous as the dust of the earth…does not fall anywhere within any ancient version of the list of what we normally want in life…described above.

Being sold into slavery into ancient Egypt…in order to begin a novel and innovative graduate MBA program lasting 13 years in business management and leadership training for Joseph within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…that eventually leads to becoming a capable governor of Egypt during the crisis of a great famine…again does not come anywhere near the list of normal goals and aspirations listed above.

How about the backstory of the uniquely innovative preparation for the calling and mission-plan of Moses…initially trained and educated at the highest level in Egypt…yet spending 40 years in exile as a shepherd of sheep on the hillsides of Midian…prepared to become the deliverer of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt…and the “shepherd” to lead his people across the desert and to the boundary edge of the Promised Land?

We will not find this life-script theme of unique end-goals and grandeur-of-mission on any conventional list of things we normally want in life.

Would anyone normally want to be the king of Israel in ancient times like David…if it involved the arduous route of 13 years of near-death escapades fighting the Philistines and evading the deadly opposition of King Saul?  We might if we were David…but the narrow way God designed for David is not on the list of things defining a conventionally normal life.

The life of the apostle Peter is a great example of the contrasting dichotomy of self-sovereignty according to worldly conventional normalcy…versus a totally different life-script according to God-sovereignty.

Jesus sees the future potential in Peter to lead the early Christian church in Jerusalem…just as God sees a hidden potential in all of us…because He created us.

But after the resurrection of Jesus…and before His ascension…Jesus does not instruct Peter, James, and John…and the other disciples to sign-up to attend rabbinical school in Jerusalem and then fit-in with the Jewish religious community.

Peter is called to stand up on Pentecost to powerfully preach Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah to thousands gathered in Jerusalem…through the power of the Holy Spirit…at the risk to his life in the very city where a short time ago Jesus was crucified.

Peter and John are then enlisted…through the cascade of events following the miraculous healing of the crippled man at one entrance into the temple called the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:2)…to stand and testify before the august and intimidating Sanhedrin Council in Jerusalem…again at the risk of their lives…and boldly proclaim Jesus as Savior, King, and Messiah…to the very religious elites who rejected Jesus and instigated His death on the cross…only weeks earlier.

This is not horizontally conventional normalcy, recommended for human living…by any definition.

The calling and mission-plan for the apostle Paul is about as far from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as is possible.

The incredible mixture of high scholastic erudition…being taught by the renowned rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem…and the contrary ingredient of radical humility obtained by Paul in the supernatural revelation of Jesus as the Christ…in a blinding light on the road to Damascus…producing an indispensable ingredient of humility in Paul’s evangelical mission to the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world of the first-century…is premeditated, advance preparation that has the end-goal of creating new Christian churches…and writing his New Testament letters…that does not exist anywhere within the contemplation of ordinary, commonplace, worldly conventional aspirations (1 Cor. 4:9-13).

None of the callings of God recorded in the Bible are on the list of things defined by worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…as things we want in life…as things that people are normally pursuing in life.

Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment?” (Mt. 6:25).

This is a commonsense Christian apologetic argument for the uniqueness of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which actualize…in some measure and on some varied level…the altogether unique concepts of The Sermon on the Mount…above and outside of…and in many cases in total contrast…to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

These biblical narrative stories of faith would never be the product of humanistic literary invention.

How could…or would…a human literary genius invent the concept of God-sovereignty in the life-scripts of the positive people of faith recorded in the Bible?

How could any human being invent this unconventionality?  It must originate from the viewpoint…from the direction…of God alone.  Any other explanation is shallow and nonsensical.

Barely Making It

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity (coming out in about a week on Amazon and Kindle)

When we look at the Bible from the big picture…from a distance…in my opinion we are all missing one of the main points.

That sounds arrogant…but like the discovery…in this case the recovery of fundamental truths…this one came with a cost…which tempers this claim with humility.

The title of the book Your Best Life Now by the television preacher Joel Osteen based in Houston…is actually Joel Osteen’s Best Life Now…because he is making tens of millions of dollars from his own variation of the prosperity gospel…which again…in my opinion…is an unbiblical message.

“Our best life now” is not our best life…it is our best life according to God’s higher ways and thoughts…and on His terms.

This is what Jesus is telling us in The Sermon on the Mount…and throughout the gospels (Mt. 5:3-12, 5:20, 6:19-21, 6:25-34, 7:13-14).

The through-line in all of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…which we entirely miss…is that if we are living in a God-composed journey of faith life-script…at least for a period of time according to the biblical pattern…is that we will barely make it.

This observation is a compelling evidence for the existence of God, the divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith, and the truth of the Christian gospel message.

Barely making it within a God-composed life-script for us would never originate from the humanism of literary imagination rooted in worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.  It would never come from the optimism of the historical “Doctrine of Progress” of the last 400 years riding atop the dizzying advancements in science and technology that were a product of the Scientific Revolution and two Industrial Revolutions.

And barely making it in a God-composed journey of faith…after the biblical pattern…is the direct opposite of the “name it and claim it” and prosperity gospel message that is the product of modern-day false teachers.

Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God (Jn. 1:1-2, 14).  What Jesus is recorded as saying in the New Testament gospels is what counts…not what comes out of the imagination of people for the purpose of building personal empires of wealth, fame, and power.

Abraham the “father of faith” barely makes it…coming within a few split-seconds of killing his beloved son Isaac…as a sacrifice…on Mount Moriah…called-off by God by a shout from heaven at the last moment.

During the thirteen years of MBA training for Joseph in Egypt from age 17 to age 30 when he stands before Pharaoh interpreting Pharaoh’s dream…it can be reasonably said that Joseph is barely making it.  Being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of attacking her…this sends Joseph inexplicably into Pharaoh’s prison…yet this in hindsight is a mere change in venue in Joseph’s God-scripted, advance preparatory training in leadership, management, and humility in interacting with the Egyptians as a foreigner.

During the ten plagues in Egypt…Moses and Aaron are probably daily on the edge of being killed any moment by Pharaoh.  As the Israelites are trapped at the shore of the Red Sea…pursued by the Egyptian chariot army…and God opens up at dry land passage through the waters right before their eyes…it is safe to say that Moses and the Israelites are barely making it.

Does Joshua come into the land of Canaan and militarily conquer it according to conventional means?  The answer is no…Joshua and the Israelites barely make it.

Joshua and the Israelites again miraculously cross on a dry land passage this time through the Jordan River…and then weeks later see the walls of the fortified city Jericho fall down after marching around it seven times…per the totally conventional instructions of God.

During the thirteen years of unusual and unconventional training to become king of Israel for David…like Joseph from age 17 to 30…David is barely making it within the life-script composed for him by God.  David could have been captured and killed by the jealous King Saul at numerous times during this period…David finding himself and his men fleeing for their lives just moments ahead of the pursuing King Saul.

The stories of Gideon, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, the three Hebrew young-men in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, Ezra, Nehemiah, and every other positive person of faith in the Old Testament…are stories of people barely making it for periods of time during their God-composed journey of faith life-scripts.

This is as contrary to “name it and claim it” and the prosperity gospel as can be.

I think it can safely be said that Peter is barely making it from the time of his denial of Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas…to his personal interview with the risen Jesus on resurrection morning.

Paul articulates the series of challenges in his evangelical missionary ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 and in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13…which can only be fairly described as barely making it.

One of the most fascinating things in all of eternity is that God is able to compose a life-script for Himself…for the Second Person of the Trinity…for Jesus Christ the Son of God…that according to the most brilliantly counter-intuitive storyline…includes this very self-same element of barely making it…incredibly for our benefit as a pattern and as an alternative “living way” (Heb. 10:20) to go through this life.

I am not suggesting here that God somehow “dumbed-down” His approach in procuring our salvation…so as to be in-line with what we must experience in barely making it in our journeys of faith.

I think that the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the pinnacle…at the highest boundary edge of what is possible in moral achievement.

But I think God is so brilliant in His creative imagination…that in coming up with the best and broadest solution to saving us out of our fallen condition in sin…that in the best imaginable solution within all possible solutions in the eternal expanse of reality…that the life-script that God composed for Jesus to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for us…that this also included the inconceivable commonality with us of God also barely making it within the events and circumstances of His walking the tightrope of perfection in the “journey of faith” of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Jesus is perfect in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion…and perfect throughout the ordeal of the next day in His trial, public humiliation, and crucifixion.

But in the most honest and forthcoming…in the most transparent way…God is telling us through the challenge of Jesus the Son of God…in Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion…in going back to pray “more earnestly” a second time…in sweating drops of blood…in being amazed at the heaviness of our soul…and in requiring the aid of a powerful angel from heaven for comfort (Mk. 14:39; Lk. 22:39-46)…through all of this God is telling us that confronting the mass of evil and sin as the Passover Lamb of God…was not easy.

Jesus is walking the high-wire tight-rope of having to maintain perfect character in order to qualify as the blemish-free atonement for sin…in our place…at the highest limits of creative life-script composition and moral reasoning.

In the most revealing transparency…unimaginably coming from the God who is all powerful, all knowing, and ever-present…God Himself is telling us that He can craft a life-script for Himself in which He is barely making it…lovingly for our benefit.

This places in context the high value of our sin and rebellion…and what it cost God in procuring our release from the darkness of the hold that sin had over us.

In my opinion…the reason behind this and the explanation for this…is that this is the simply the reality of this world…accurately identified by God and addressed in the highest and best way imaginable…in keeping with the highest moral standard.

Our best life now is demonstrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith…having direction, purpose, and meaning while living in the world but not being of the world (1 Cor. 5:10).

According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking:

Abraham and Sarah should have had a large family and “lived happily ever-after.”

Joseph should have been sent off to university in Egypt…excelled…and then promoted through talent and leadership ability to become governor.

The Jews should have grown in numbers in Egypt…contributed to society there in a non-threatening way…and occupied choice and preferred locations throughout the land of Egypt…living peaceably with the Egyptians.

According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…some Jews would have moved from Egypt back to Canaan and re-colonized portions of the land…seamlessly and amicably synthesizing into the surrounding cultures of the peace-loving and inviting Canaanites.

David would have demonstrated his God-validated capacity to succeed King Saul…being accepted in that role by Saul and Jonathon…and simply waited-out his time productively in service to King Saul and Israel as a team-player.

We can easily see where this line of reasoning is going.

When atheists and skeptics criticize the Bible…from the viewpoint of humanism…they are arguing from a reality that does not exist.

The argument made in this book…that the narrative stories of faith outline the true reality from God’s perspective and not ours…is that reality is not our best life now…according to our wants, desires, aspirations, plans, and schemes…but something much different entirely.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36)…tells us that we can pursue goals and aspirations according to the tenets of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and miss the mark…and come up short.

The Bible presents an entirely different and contrary worldview of God’s higher ways and thoughts for us…in this world as it actually is.

If God barely makes it within a perfectly composed life-script of Jesus on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin…and not instead leisurely sailing the Greek Islands in the Mediterranean Sea in carefree luxury…then the God-composed life-scripts for the biblical narrative stories of faith will also reflect the reality of this world…the simple reality of the “lay of the land”…and our barely making it.

Whether we want to argue the pros and cons of the participation and interventions of God in the biblical narrative stories of faith…and in the Christian church-age up to the present-day of Christians going about within their journey of faith callings…the mere innovative novelty and unconventional contrariness of the alternate option of God-sovereignty in the lives of humans…is a compelling argument for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the truth of Christianity.

Please forgive me if I once again say that this is beyond the creative imagination of human literary invention.

Election and Free-Will Choice

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity (my new book coming out in about two weeks):

In reading through this book, some people at times will think I am theologically a Calvinist…and at other times I am an Arminian.

I am not a 5-point Calvinist…nor am I a thorough-going Arminian.

Both viewpoints are derived from Bible verses that seem to be in conflict…but are not…in my opinion…in the same way that Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:17 seem to be in conflict…but are not.

The first point to make here is that the scriptures that support predestination, foreordination, and election…and the scriptures that conversely support free-will choice, the universal outreach of salvation, and the numerous (13) “whosoever’s” in the New Testament…argue compellingly for a divine origin merely on the grounds that their harmonious synthesis within the biblical narrative stories of faith…is too unconventionally complex to be the imaginative invention of human literary fiction.

The fact that these seemingly conflicting concepts come together coherently in a brilliantly crafted, uniquely ingenious tension in the biblical narrative stories of faith…argues for a divine origin in the same way that the coordinated integration of the complex elements work together in the initial Big Bang creation of the universe…in the same way that the extremely fine-tuned constants of the physics, chemistry, and mathematics are balanced on a razor’s edge to enable complex life to exist (the Anthropic Principle), and in the same way that the massive amount of highly specified information content in molecular DNA (the language of life) argues for an intelligent designer God…a transcendent, independent agent God pushing out into a previously empty void of non-existent outer space…all of the physical laws, information content, raw material particles, and energy of the natural world…creating our universe ex nihilo…out of previously nothing.

The worldly unconventional plotlines of the biblical narrative stories of faith…containing the humanistically inconceivable element of God displacing our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)…illuminates the exactness of purpose and premeditation in God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…having little or no wiggle-room for deviation…to achieve function…other than God’s allowance of grace for our flawed performances.

But on the other side of the coin…does anyone seriously doubt that Abraham fully maintained his free-will capacity for the entire duration of his called-out mission to become the “father of faith?”

Anything less than total free-will choice would reduce Abraham to an automaton…the equivalent of a mechanical robot.

Abraham’s carefully chosen words…articulated with care and respect to “the Lord” in Genesis 18:22-33 regarding the outcome of Sodom and Gomorrah…demonstrates beautifully in action this tension between God’s timeless foresight and Abraham’s free-will…in Abraham freely advocating verbally from Abraham’s viewpoint a case made to God on behalf of the few “righteous” inhabitants of these two cities.

Does anyone think that within the tightly scripted storyline of Joseph in Egypt…that Joseph did not possess complete and total free-will choice…to go forward in faith or to give up and quit?

The verbal exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush…is another example of the demonstration of biblical faith actualized through a divine mixture of God’s timeless plans and the free-will choice of Moses…spread-out over an interval of time according to the faith-program of Hebrews 11:1…from that moment at the burning bush to the final delivery of the Israelites forty years later at the doorstep into the Promised Land of Canaan…”the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…spread-out over time.

Gideon’s inspired test of the fleece…to validate God’s calling of him…demonstrates free-will choice in action…the logic and rightness of this exchange between Gideon and God…not questioned or challenged by God in the slightest.

In none of the biblical narrative stories of faith do we see a robotic response to the callings of God.

In every case…free-will choice to follow the leading of God is assumed within the events and circumstances of the called-out mission…even when it is not directly expressed within the verbal exchange (audible or in the Spirit) between people and God.

As Spirit-born Christians today…we have the freedom to press forward in faith…or to give up and quit at any time.  Some Christians do give up and quit.  But as I said in the section “What is in this Book?”…earlier in this chapter…I believe in the eternal security of salvation…that we cannot lose our salvation…a viewpoint which I believe is strongly supported in scripture and absolutely essential for entering into a walk of faith with God.

God exists in a timeless reality.  Isaiah 46:9-10 reads:

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.

In Acts 15:18…James is quoted as saying: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”

All prophecy in the Bible implies the timeless foresight of God.  The biblical narrative stories of faith require timeless foresight.

God invented time at the first instant of the creation of the universe at the Big Bang…precisely so as to initiate the biblical faith defined in Hebrews 11:1…”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In heaven, Jesus is the light that permeates everywhere.  In heaven, the good character of God is apparent to all…and no longer requires a journey of faith to establish (Rev. 21:23-27).

There are no journeys of faith in heaven…because time does not exist there.  The light of God exists everywhere…and is obvious to all.  Biblical faith as defined here in our present world will not be the reality in heaven.

There cannot be an interval of time…a gap from where we are to where we need to go…in a timeless reality.  This divinely created phenomenon of the dimension of time only exists in this current reality.

A journey of faith like that of Abraham or Paul…is not possible in heaven…because time does not exist there.  The substance of things hoped for…the evidence of things not seen…as worked out within biblical narrative stories of faith to create a personal relationship with God…cannot happen in quite the same way in a timeless reality (1 Cor. 13:12).

This is one reason why the biblical narrative stories of faith are so important.  God resolves the seeming conflicts between His timeless existence, entailing the timeless features of foresight and foreknowledge…within God-composed journey of faith life-scripts that also include human free-will choice spread-out within the Hebrews 11:1 dimension of time.

God knows all about time…He created it.  God knows exactly what He wants to accomplish within journey of faith life-scripts.  This explains the precision…the lack of wiggle-room deviation…we see in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

God also knows about timeless existence…because that is the reality in which He lives.

Only God is in the unique position to functionally mix together these seemingly disparate concepts of election and free-will choice.

But God is also the only person in a position to even be able to recognize the need to resolve these issues decisively within the biblical narrative stories of faith…being the only person in existence who is fully aware of these two realities.

God pulls together the timeless foresight He alone is aware of and familiar with…and the four dimensions of space and time He invented…for the express purpose of initiating journeys of faith.

That only God could or would do this…is a commonsense apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

We have one-hundred percent accurate and truthful scriptures coming from the viewpoint of a God who lives in a timeless reality…thus possessing the feature of timeless foresight…that would be described to actualize predestination, foreordination, and election from God’s unique and true perspective…which can unfortunately deteriorate into the incorrect concept of deterministic fatalism when viewed from the human viewpoint…within the dimension of time.

And we have one-hundred percent accurate and truthful scriptures coming from the viewpoint of a totally different reality of living within the limitations of the dimensions of space and time…lacking the all-important feature of divinely timeless foresight.

This reality would describe free-will choice, the human capacity to believe and exercise faith in God, and the universal outreach of salvation…with an unknowable outcome from the human perspective of who will believe and be saved…and who will not believe and be lost…all the way to the end-times (Dan. 12:10).

These two classic dichotomies found in scripture…election versus free-will…are not an embarrassing conflict in the Bible or in Christian theology.

This turns out to be a strong evidence of the divine origin of the Bible…and of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…because only God could and would successfully blend these disparate components into the brilliantly conceived and actualized journeys of faith recorded in the Bible…and experienced by Christians today…including this Christian writer.

The only other option open…the imaginative contemplation of human literary invention according to philosophical naturalism…seems entirely nonsensical.

Through the biblical narrative stories of faith…God provides evidence for His existence by resolving into one what only God could resolve into one…the timeless foresight of election and the time-bound reality of human free-will choice…one of the greatest intellectual achievements in all of independent, rational thinking.