"The Great Exchange"

It is that which holds such sheer magnitude, making it impossible to ever fully comprehend. While, perhaps, something that may be understood in finite form, is utterly incapable of true, full comprehension. And is, perhaps, why it is labeled as a "mystery".


The blood ran over the edge of the knife, as his breathing becomes labored. His face is smothered by a dark, gloved hand to prevent his screaming for help. Glancing up he can barely make out the cold, gray eyes of his attacker. There is nothing but hate in them. The pain is spreading now as his body relaxes. His legs stop kicking; he can feel the sticky blood running down. His blood. His nostrils flare as the scent of death begins to form. His attacker removes the hand and stands up, wiping the blade clean on his pants. He tries to yell, but instead chokes on the blood and vomit that rises up in his throat. He feels himself slipping now, his eyes are rolling back. The blood runs down his chin as he slumps to the floor. He breathes his last. He was murdered.


She can taste the metal of the gun in her mouth as it is pushed harder, deeper. Her eyes can't make out his face through the tears. Her arms ache from where they are being pinned. She twists and tries to roll; he is bigger, stronger. With one hand on the grip of the gun, the attacker reaches down. Finding clothe, he rips and tears until it is only flesh left. She shakes her head violently as he touches her. She blinks, clearing the tears just enough to make out the attackers eyes, gray and ice. She shudders as he forces his way into her. She prays for darkness to come. The attacker stands up, and turns to leave. She is bleeding and torn. She blacks out. She was raped.


They had never been so cold. Could not imagine it getting worse. Their attackers could. They are stripped naked as they are pinned against the wall, held motionless at the end of the rifles pointed. Their bodies begin to shake as they had not eaten in days. The cold of the wall is pressed into them as they feel the searing pain ripping along their backsides. They are devastated by belts, rope, chains. They are then shoved, pushed, and whipped as they are forced to move forward. One by one they are told to lie down. They soon feel the tear of flesh as their stomachs are sliced open, fashioned in the form of the broken cross. The symbol of their attackers. The stench of their intestines rises as they are then forced on their feet and made to enter a dark, brick room. As they reach down, gasping for breath, they hold their stomach in place. The sound of a rush hits their ears. Their eyes are clouded by a fog. Their hearts pound faster. They drop to their knees, their guts spilling on the floor, as they hear the laughter outside the room. They fall motionless, inhaling the poisonous fog, a door opens. They see, with fading vision, the vicious, gray eyes of their attackers. They draw their last breath. They do not exhale. They are all dead, hundreds of them. They are the Holocaust.


He had never known anything like this. With the snapping of the tendons and nerves in his arms, the pain was beyond anything he'd ever experienced. His legs go numb as he struggles to force himself up. He can barely make out the feel of the blood that is rapidly running down his body. He cannot control himself as he urinates all over; he can smell the filth of his excrement dripping down his legs (1). There is a sharp snap in his chest as a lung collapses. What was once near impossible becomes fully so. He is unable to breath. He gasps and tastes the blood and dirt in his mouth. There is a jolt as nerves are exposed, sending violent shudders through his body. And here it comes. He feels it slipping in through the scraped, ripped, destroyed flesh of his back. It smells, the filth and stench, centuries old and rotting. It finds it's way into his body, and courses through his veins. He feels the tightness in his chest, as it replaces his quickly beating heart. He looks down and can just see the eyes of his attackers. They are gray. As his body grows cold, the skies cloud over. He knows now. It has him. It is him. The crowd below gasps in shock. Slowly closing his eyes, he feels it. Going cold all over, his torn, ripped, bloody body shakes violently against the tree. He is now separated. As he screams his final words, he hears no response. No one is there. Not yet. He can feels the stabbing of the knife. In fact, he plunged it in. He is a murderer. He tastes the cold metal of the gun. In fact, he held it. He is a rapist. He breathes in the gas. In fact, he released it. He caused the holocaust. He feels the shame, disgust, and repulsiveness of who he suddenly is. What has been done. What will be done. It reeks, the filth, the stench, the wounds, the pain, the agony, the separation. There is no need to open his eyes anymore. He knows. He feels it. Despises it, but knows. This is what must be. His final breath passes from his lips. His head drops. Behind his closed lids his eyes go dark. They are cold. They are evil. They are sin. They are gray...if only for the moment.


The big idea here is what has been referred to as "the great exchange" by Martin Luther. It is one of the most overlooked, misunderstood, and often air-brushed doctrines is Scripture. Theologians call it the Doctrine of Imputation, and is only one aspect in the highly involved Doctrine of the Atonement. The gist of this doctrine is that upon Jesus' death on the cross, all sin, our sin, past, present, and future is placed in and on Jesus as his righteousness is then placed upon us. The magnitude of this transaction is truly mind blowing. Let's first examine what Scripture tells us about imputation.

"Him who knew no sin he made [to be] sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him". -1 Cor. 5:21

"...and Jehovah has laid on him the iniquity of us all". -Isa. 56:6b

-Rom. 4:5-8, 23-24; 8:3-Ga. 3:13

As eternal God, one of the members in the Trinity, Jesus was there from the beginning (John 1). He was present for the first sin, that of the arrogant pride of Lucifer, the direct disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden, the murder of Abel, etc. As Holy God, Jesus had a front row seat to all the bloody, disgusting, stench-ridden lust, murder, greed, lies, thefts and many other atrocities. Jesus saw sin disconnect man from God. Sent on a rescue mission, to save us from this kindling world, Jesus enters humanity as one of us; with one major exception. He is sinless. Perfect. Fully divine and fully human. He never knows the touch of relationship-destroying sin. But he also knows what must be done. He knows that he is sent not only to be our example, but to be our Saviour and Lord. He is sent to wage victorious war over Satan, sin, and death as Christus Victor. He is sent on a mission to be our substitutiary atonement, propitiating God's just wrath, and, through imputation, providing justification for us. Most undoubtedly this is the primary cause for his anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. His blood-sweat is a result of the extreme stress (2), the knowledge of what was to come. Surely, the physical pain he was to endure was a factor, but even more than this is the dread of being in the foreign position of having sin alive within him. As Jesus hangs on the cross, he feels, experiences, that which he had only seen prior. Through the death of a perfect, sinless man/God, he becomes immersed in the sin of the world. Your sin. My sin. This is not a mere semblance of sin or it's affects. It is not an echo of sin. This is the raw, festering, stinking rot of sin in it's totality. Can you grasp this? All that is evil, disobedient, countering any and all of God's good law; this is sin. Murder, rape, theft, lies, homosexuality, gossip, lust, pornography, drugs, occult, witchcraft, greed, adultery, fornication, selfishness, pride, self-righteousness, religion, morality, etc. It and all it's effects are placed on Christ. Jesus becomes the very essence of sin.

To top it off, Jesus, on the cross, not only feels the repulse of sin he's never known, but for the first and only time in history, is separated from God the Father. Where he had previously been in constant, on-going community and union within the Trinity, he now finds himself separated, cut off and alone. His Father turns his back on him. The life of the perfect one is now fully corrupt. And here's the thing. His former righteousness, that sinless perfection, gets passed to us.

This is the exchange. That our sin flowed to Christ as his righteousness is now ours. God treated Jesus as though he had committed every sin, and us as though we had lead a sinless life.

It truly is incomprehensible, the reality of what happened at the cross. We may attempt to dissect, analyze, figure out the totality of the Atonement, but all that really matters is that we now live in light of this reality. Through the imputation of our sins and Jesus' righteousness, we must allow this new life to direct our steps. There is no room for sin; no "messing around". Not at this price. We must have humility, repent, and subsequently pursue our new, regenerated lives with passion. As ambassadors of Christ, (2 Cor. 5) may you now take the reality of the cross and it's paradoxical beauty to all.

The mission of the gospel declared, must be the ends we seek. The means has already been accomplished.


Justice Dries The Tears (Excerpt from "Blue Coupe Theologies")

Curiously, through all this has been the reminder, not solely of God’s love for His children, rather I find it as an exordium to the testament to the Justice of a holy God. As I can only imagine the deepest sort of pain that God Himself feels at us, His children’s departure, truer still is the faint cry of a justice that has yet to be fully satisfied. This truth has appeared to me in several different avenues.

The first being the incredible patience, coupled by the subsequent, righteous wrath of God. For it is solely by God’s great grace and patience we are not fully consumed where we sit. The fire that must burn just beneath the merciful exterior of a holy Being! The disgust that must be felt as such a tremor; at every abandonment, snub, turning away of His beloved. The sickness of a broken heart is on familiar, an in this I, we, may find some semblance of comfort. If it is not enough for the Father to be torn at the swaying of His children, the apex came to at the cross. In this is the most wonderful paradox! It is in the heat of a Father’s pain that said pain is pushed even further, taking the wretched form of sin placed upon the Father’s begotten Son. This is the doubling of torment in that the folly of the adopted are made miniscule in light of the cancerous sin that once coursed through the veins of a perfect Being. It is in this true hell into which Christ the Son descended; that being made to take in the fullness of our cursed ways, and to have the One in whom there is no darkness turn His eyes.

And while this ultimate picture of pain is configured as a fashion statement, beneath and beyond the wonder of Agape, is the knowledge of the impending justice that must come forth. This, for me, has been a life line. For as I cling to the truth of grace and love, I grasp towards the hope, nay, the surety, of the Just.

What a comfort to know that the very pain we feel, the pain that inflicted our Savior, will not go unanswered. Unfinished. For it is found in the final words of our dying Lord, “It is finished”. It is found in the action our resurrected Lord, who formerly had been laid with such a burden, found release as it trickled down a rough, wooden tree. It is this resurrection in which we glory, for it tells all. It speaks of the final life, the restoration of all that was once marred and stained. It cries out for all the downtrodden to take cheer; all will be set true.

And it is this point on which I reach the second avenue upon which my peace is placed. The Justice that awaits the pain. How glorious the day when all that is done against me is thrown aside? How beautiful the face of the One that knows, feels, sees, and comprehends the very struggle that so often besets His children? The day is coming where that which kills will be fully destroyed. This is so wonderful. This is truth.

The third and final avenue on which we must travel is, perhaps, the most incomprehensible. That being the moment where all is wiped away; all pain, destruction, tears.

On a personal note, I have clung so heavily upon this promise. For all the fears I have, the biggest is for the soul of my sweet Jersie. How much I fear the worst. I know the truth. She is a sinner, by nature and choice. So, I plead for the sovereign God to elect, to pursue, to regenerate, to give preached grace, to permit converting grace, to spur on sanctifying grace, to provide empowering grace, and to hold all the way until glorification.

I have marked upon my body my deepest prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, let not my iniquity be passed but rather grace, not my judgment but rather mercy, not my scars but rather beauty, for the life of Jersie I pray. Amen”.

And this is where I must hold fast. I know my God desires to be with her. He longs, He cries out, He pursues. I also know that her eternal destiny is known. The crux is the knowledge of knowing she may grow and yet never know the beauty of a new life. This frightens me beyond words.

All I may say is the final point. Somehow, at some time, in some place, even if I find myself eternally separated from that which I love beyond all life, somehow…that wonderful, beautifully scarred hand of my Refuge and Strength will reach out. In the hands that crafted man, in the palms that were pierced, in the touch of He who swept the blood from His brow in the Garden, with the fingers that held many a hammer before being disfigured by nails, with the rough skin of one who is familiar with labor, yet gentle as one who caresses the face of the woman who anoints His feet, somehow…..He will yet reach to me. He will reach to me. Touching my eyes, causing them to dry. My Savior, my God will wipe the tears, and somehow…somehow, I will be ok. I will spend my days simply gazing into His face, walking with Him, listening with my whole being. And I know I will be ok.

I will look into the eyes of the creator of my daughter, and somehow, I know I will see her. For He loves her. And I love her. And I love Him….and I will be ok.


Crop Signs (from "Blue Coupe Theologies")

In the middle of the Cascade Mountain range is the small opening at the peak of civilization appropriately named Lookout Pass. I never could decide if the name was placed as a warning for travelers, or simply because in the daylight the view is absolutely breathtaking. Both seemed fitting. Even at night, it is incredible, humbling. During the light of day, one is faced with the panoramic view allowing you to see down into the Montana wilderness to the East. Gazing west you spot the rest of the Cascade family, dressed to the hilt in evergreen. A formidable mountain range, the brown earth is steeped with gigantic boulders jutting up out of the dirt and surrounded by an accessory of trees, which in the winter months are robed with the white of snow, crisp and cold. The top of the range is framed all in white, creating a blinding visual in the midday sun, as a reminder of God's greatness and His ability to put to shame all the artists of the world. It all has the appearance of a slumbering giant, a volcanic range, ready at the drop of a pin to destroy everything in its path.

Lookout Pass has a way of making you feel small. Very small. I always get the sensation that I am riding the world’s largest rollercoaster, stretching up, up, up. You pause at the top, for only a moment, taking in the wonder of the starlit sky, the dark of night settling around you, until you plunge down the other side. The dark road is complete, only lit by the few courageous travelers and their headlights. I feel the cold, stronger at this elevation, pressing in on us, battling against the vehicles heating system. I smell the brakes of the eighteen-wheelers creeping down the steep grade, as the little car flies past them. I roll the window down, cupping the air in my hand, feeling the stinging cold, making me feel very much alive.

I always knew somewhere deep down in my mind that it would happen to me at some point. Always wondering when it would happen created a sort of obsession in me. Not to say that I don't enjoy a good adventure, a challenge, but this one event for some reason always caused a sort of trepidation. Not because it is the sort of affair that causes one to fear for one's life, or even a happening that induces doubt, but rather just one of those times that creates an awkward moment in existence. Having just crested the top of one of the greatest passes that the Cascades has to offer, Jesse and I find ourselves deep in thought, when the sound of my friend's voice breaks the silence.

"I would say that if we happen along a gas station, we should take advantage of it....soon." He says quietly.

Leaning over across the console to take a peek at the petrol existence indicator, or as most commonly referred by, the gas gauge, I notice the arm suspiciously below the bright, orange E. "I don't see the gas light at all, we should be fine until we find a station...Look, there is a town about 4 miles away." I state, pointing at the green sign indicating the position of salvation, I nod my head to reassure myself that we will be ok. Placing it out of our thoughts, knowing that we would be safe in a matter of minutes, we resume our silence, watching the dark form of trees zoom past.

And there it goes. The exit we needed.

Shortly followed by another sign stating the next town was 5 miles down the road.

Again, no gas light, putting both our minds at ease that we would be able to continue our road adventure without a problem.

Unless, of course, you call our ability to spot exits from the highway, which lead to life-giving fuel stations a problem, because several minutes later, it happened again.

Now a sort of tension set in. I turn down the stereo, as we watch the twinkling of the lights illuminating the small town of where we should have been fading in the background. It is in this moment where one realizes that hindsight truly is 20-20, as we looked back, clicking our heels in an attempt to transport our vehicle to the exit we so desperately needed. Jesse joins me in peering into the distance, searching the dark night for any flicker, a glimpse of life, knowing that our survival was precariously close to the precipice. How strange we must have looked, staring hard at the windshield as though by our mere concentration we would be able to see further than what our headlights lit up.

It is at this point in the trip were I start to imagine all types of horrible atrocities, which I was sure would all come true if we lost fuel. Thinking of all the movies and books and songs out there that describe the calamities that abound when you are stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I don't think that I would be one that would be described as pessimistic, I have tried to learn the discipline of being positive, but my newly acquired self-talk, self-help thought process was quickly showing its flaws. It seems that man-made philosophies of positive thinking tends to show how sheer it really is, when you face the dilemma of being stranded in the center of the Idaho wild, in the very cold month of February.

We both felt the loss of power at the same time, Jesse quickly shifting the manual into neutral, pressing the clutch beginning to coast down the grade. Which, wouldn't you know it, was quickly flattening out, forming long, rolling hills that seemed to have many more ups than downs. Which is never good for folks in our position. Coasting to the side of the road, we spot a sign in the distance which showed the nearest town was a mere 7 miles away. Never did such a short distance seem so far away. Lucky for me Jesse is some sort of an automotive genius, as he gets out of the vehicle, unscrews the gas cap, replaces it and gets back into the car. This little trick of his, allowed the car to start back up, and off he shot, attempting to get as much momentum as possible before the inevitable took place again.

"You know, I have never ran out of gas before, in fact I always got teased for filling up anytime my gauge hits a quarter of a tank." I state. I had been told that I played it too safe, that I didn't live life on the edge. I was ok with that. I assumed the non-response from Jesse either expressed his annoyance at our situation, or was his way of saying there was a first time for everything. He glanced quickly at me, before returning focus on the road. Up and down we went, until the car failed to respond. As the car begins to slow down, we see the town up ahead, and both of us move forward in our seats, attempting to wish our vehicle to its destination. Looking around on the dark highway, we see nobody in sight who may be kind enough to help out two strangers. Other than the glowing lights of the town just outside of reach, there is no signs of life. The little car stalls again, and Jesse turns the wheel to move over so we are straddling the shoulder line, coasting. Every once in awhile Jesse is able to get the car to boot up, if only for a moment, but enough to get us up to the roaring speed of 15 mph. We can now see the exit we need, and we coast onto it, staring at the gas station just off to the right of the exit. This is where the little Subaru breathed its last breath.

As we both crawled out of the car, to begin our three-quarter of a mile walk to the gas station, I couldn't help but smile. Now things could have been much worse, we could have run out of gas back in the center of the downward slope of Lookout Pass, miles from anything civilized. Of course, it could have been much better as well, if we had been a little more observant...

"You don't have your jacket on, just hang out in the gas station. I'll get a gas can and get the car over here." Jesse grabs a can off the shelf. I decide that this is a good idea, and find my way to the restrooms in the back. We didn't have much money, and what we did have had to be saved for gas, but I knew we were both hungry. We didn't have time to stop for food, so we resolved ourselves to extra-small, gas station provided meals. Grabbing a pouch of peppered beef jerky, a local cowboy leans in.

"That Jack Link sure makes a nice jerky. Peppered. That's the way to go." He says."Yes. Peppered. That's what I have. Thanks." I say."You know he is the only one that makes a decent beef stick as well." Pointing towards the case of beef sticks, he adds, "They don't have his stuff here though. I only get Jack Link.""Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." I say, grabbing a bag of spicy, nacho chips before heading toward the counter. The man keeps mumbling to himself something about jerky. I give the man a little wave as I head out the door, looking for Jesse and the car.

People are interesting things, I think. I bet the folks out here will talk about anything, just to hear another human voice respond. Seeking validation that they exist, that their thoughts are just as important. Perhaps, they are seeking for something more, a connection, a friend. Which got me thinking about why we do that. There has been many a time, when I am on a long road trip by myself, where I will talk out loud, just to hear a voice. We weren't really created for solitude. It’s interesting to think about, that we are created to be in relationship, in community. It isn't good that we are alone. (1)

A large, well-lit sign indicated that we had now crossed over into the great state of Montana. By great I mean long and boring. Lest I make some native Montanians upset, I will say that the western side of the state is quite beautiful, very majestic with the fringes of the Cascades hugging the edge of the country. All tall and beautiful before giving up and fading into the desert wilderness. Nothing but slightly rolling hills, sagebrush, and a few farmhouses peppering the landscape. I had taken this very route some 6 or 7 times already, to and from my University in Virginia State and my parent's place in Seattle.I knew well what lay ahead for us in the wild of Montana.


Gospel and Culture

Just as debates ensued in the Apostle Paul's day over traditionally held points of view; over such things as eating meat offered to idols, days of worship, diet, cursing, and circumcision, so we as the church and Christians must seek to differentiate between what is gospel and what is culture.
The problem arose when the gospel was presented to the Gentiles who began to question the cultural norms of the Jewish Christians. For the Jews they saw no issue for they had resolved these questions through their knowledge and practice of their traditional laws; the Mosaic covenant. Subsequently, the Jewish Christians were upset when the new gentile believers brought into question the normative principles that were being taught or even, sadly, being "added" to the gospel. The Gentiles saw salvation as it truly is; Christ's vicarious, atoning death alone, and nothing else. Practically what does this mean for us, now?

As the church we must first recognize the many, differing cultures that are present. We must be careful to never stereotype a culture and it's values at first glance, rather we must act as missionaries do upon their first visit to a remote people group. Observe, learn, discuss, grasp, understand the culture in which we are placed. Once this is done we must then strip the pure gospel from our cultural presuppositions, so as not to confuse and dim the beauty and power that is Jesus' gospel.

The fact is that as we seek to present the gospel, free from cultural mandates, questions will naturally rise just as they did in Paul's day. Only today the questions may be surrounding topics such as: do I have to go to church to be a Christian? If I'm talking about God with a friend while playing Frisbee golf, does this count as church? What about alcohol , including hard alcohol? Is premarital sex and/or cohabitation really forbidden, or simply an archaic rule? If I'm gay and have an exclusive, loving relationship, can I be a Christian? How does a loving God allow so much evil to happen, especially to good people? Isn't cussing a cultural thing not a biblical thing?
We must see, recognize, acknowledge the plurality through which most of these questions will be asked, and we must then use the universality of the truth of Jesus to answer, without blinking, the new question that inevitably rise from our cultures.

It seems a major dilemma in the pursuit of mission, for the church, comes in the forms of traditionalism or innovation. A proclivity for either should be repented of as sin.
Many churches and Christians would rather enjoy the nostalgia and look back at what was, because they are frightened at the thought of attempting to answer the new questions. Whether it is a distorted sense of Romanticism or naivete, many like to think that things were better, or more righteous, " back then." This mentality only lends itself to be used as an excuse for the lazy and those truly unconcerned about being faithful to Jesus' commission. I feel King Solomon knew what he was saying when he said, "Do not say,'why were the old days better than these!' For it is not wise to ask such questions." (Eccl. 7:10) The truth is no matter the age, the time, day, month, year, this world is filled with Satan, evil, sin, sinners, God's love, and commission work needed. The benefit of tradition is to examine the successes and failures of Christians past, in order to better prepare ourselves. At the worst level traditionalism will fail to differentiate between true principles from Scripture and the cultural methods through which the gospel is relayed. The cure for traditionalism that hinders mission? Repentance!

Although the nostalgic traditionalism is one enemy of mission, it is not alone. Equally as destructive is a propensity for innovation. Claiming that it is merely an attempt to be relevant, so many believers and churches seek to be so pertinent they fall into heresy of all kinds. So many times this is an overreaction to the frustration felt at the ineptitude of traditional or "contemporary evangelical" churches.

Now, innovation in and of itself is certainly not wrong, indeed it may be a useful tool for contextualizing the gospel, but it must be directly connected to truth! When the desire to be creative and relevant disconnects from the truth of Scripture, fails to call all to repentance, and does not preach the grace of God with tough words of love, it fast becomes heretical. The cure for heretical innovation? Repentance!

We Christians must seek to ever be faithful to Scripture and orthodoxy, while striving to creatively contextualize the truth of Jesus' gospel to see as many saved as possible. (1Cor. 9:19-23) We must be careful not to "perpetuate a tradition or embrace an innovation".
Let us seek to reach our ever-changing, fast-paced, pluralistic, post-modern, curious culture by walking our spirituality through Him, preaching in Him, repenting for Him, and empowered by Him.


A Brief Study in a Faith Viewed Economy

With the current unemployment rate reaching a 15 year high at 7.2 % as of January 2009, according to Wallstats.com, I begin to think I'm not alone. Although, needless to say, this does little to assuage the pain of being unable to accomplish everyday tasks such as paying bills, putting food on the table, and purchasing my morning Starbucks. Having found myself in an economy that is rapidly disintegrating, despite what the positive-thinking economist being paid to make us feel better say, I find myself searching beyond the stats, the figures, and the national news broadcasts for answers.

I moved to northern Minnesota about 5 months ago, and despite applying to over two dozen businesses, I have yet to land anything promising, having had a mere two interviews following the submissions of my resumes. Again, I am forced to look through the circumstances, because if I don't I fear I may falter. I have chosen to place my trust, ever more resolutely, in the God who has the "cattle on a thousand hills." (Psalm 50:10) Perhaps, He would need some help on His farm? After all, He did say that the "harvest is ready, but the laborers are few."(Lk 10:2) Though some may claim this as a fall back, I make the argument that, indeed, it should be our first choice for employment. Meaning, that if we claim to truly trust God to provide, to take care of His children, should we not first be seeking how to play our part in helping bring in the great harvest? We must believe that if we pursue what should be of primary concern, our needs will be met. This is not to say that we abandon all hope of employment by this worlds employers, for we are told to be good stewards, and are also informed that if we do not provide for our families we are "worse than unbelievers." (1 Tim. 5:8) However, while we continue to pursue to be godly men through employment, we must maintain our focus on that which is truly rewarding, the employment of soul-winning.

This has never been more clear, to me, than now. It is sad that it has taken this extreme position of desperation, but there it is. As so often noted, it is simply when we have no lower to fall that we finally look upwards. Graciously, our God is merciful, and is willing, indeed, even desiring, that we return to our labor no matter the circumstances in which we finally make that appeal to be involved in His service.

So, the question is what may we do while constantly pursuing "worldly" employment, to become a part of Christ's staff? I would say that we must return to the Employers' handbook to get our start. The beauty of this company, is that while it gives directions to be greatly heeded, it provides the freedom for us to implement the instruction through various means of our choosing. As far as I see it, the first command given is to "go and make disciples..."(Matt. 28:19). Again, a principle is given, and it is left up to us to figure out the means by which we may help accomplish this end. For many years the general consensus regarding this command was practiced by training, funding, and sending people to far away countries to become involved in a distant culture. While this is still greatly needed, for all need to hear the "benefits" that our "employer" offers, often the best market into which we may begin is our very own block, neighborhood, city. Initially told to begin in Jerusalem and them move beyond (acts 1:8), we may adopt this method for ourselves. In my opinion, one of our primary objectives must be to become actively involved the local "branch" of the universal "company", the local expression of the universal church. Why is this so important? According to Joshua Harris it is "...because as the visible "body of Christ" in the world, the local church is central to God's plan for every generation" (Stop Dating the Church, Multnomah Pub,2004) Simply stated, our local church is the neighborhood example of what the universal church represents. Though this may be a scary for some, considering the great blunders, mishaps, and outright sins that the universal church has been guilty of in the past, if we hope to have any impact within our new "company", we must embrace the quirks, the faults, and oddities of our local church and do our part to remain faithful to the first order of business, the making of disciples. Some may find a strong distaste in their mouth left from bad past church experiences, hesitant to get involved, though the importance of actually being involved in a local church has never been more accurately stated than by Charles Spurgeon when he said, "I know there are some who say, 'Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church...because I can be a Christian without it. Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's commands as by being obedient? What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick."

As good employees, it behooves us to not be a "good-for-nothing brick". Because there is much need for our "CEO's" words to be declared everywhere, and because we cannot be everywhere, we must make these words known by living faithfully and truly where we are at. Right now. The importance of this cannot be overstated. You and I must be involved in the local expression of the universal church, and we must remain faithful to the decree to make disciples. As this is our primary term of employment in Christ's work, will you join me in making it a priority? I hope you do...


Initial Thoughts Regarding Worship and the Regulative Principle

The other day I was privileged to be informed of the possibility of joining a group of church leaders and laypersons in a local discussion seeking to better understand and incorporate what is known as "intergenerational worship" into the local churches. The purpose is to discover, biblically, which direction these churches should go, in an attempt to set themselves up for success in the near future. If I am able to be in the area when this group begins to meet in a month or so, I would gladly join them, as it is something that is most desperately needed in this area. As a rural area, the local churches tend to be either traditional and institutional or contemporary and evangelical. I have yet to see any emerging and missional churches in the area, mostly due to the population and demographics. Deciding that if I am to be able to join them, I began studying the thoughts that are surely to be raised. If I understand the initial propositions of the group, the study is the begin with the topic of "Singing Worship." Although, the discussion group is to be primarily discussing this aspect of Church Service Structure, I think it important to fully define the term "worship" since the element of "Singing Worship" is merely a facet of the whole. Understanding the definition of the whole will better provide clarity for the individual facets.

"15Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Heb. 13: 15-16) Indicating that worship involves both adoration and action, a starting point for our understanding of true worship must include the concession that said worship must include both, they may not be separated. Although terms such as "Worship Service", "Worship Time", etc. are prevalent, they are, I believe, misnomers, as they seem to indicate that true worship has a timeline, a time limit, a beginning and an end. Many may say, and ,indeed, have stated that worship is not just "something you do, but rather something you are." I believe many would agree that worship is a lifestyle, not simply the hour we gather together for "church." True Worship includes both the times when we gather as a corporate assembly (Heb. 10:24-25) but also when we as a body scatter for witnessing, or more commonly, scattering to live our own lives (1 Cor. 10:31). It is something that envelopes all our time, surrounding our entire life, not merely the times spent corporately gathered.

“We cannot imagine that the church gathers for worship on Sunday morning if by this we mean that we then engage in something that we have not been engaging in the rest of the week. New covenant worship terminology prescribes constant ‘worship’” - Dr. D.A. Carson (Worship by the Book 2002, 24).

Not only is worship then defined by existing throughout our entire day, but it's also placed under the terms that God has deemed acceptable to Him, positions that are allowed, aspects that are pleasing to Him. It is evidently important to God that we worship according to His words, both through proper external methods as well as having correct internal motivations. In Scripture we see God judging those who have sinfully brought detestable forms of external worship (Lev. 10:1-2; Ezek. 8-9) and those who have had impure hearts (Gen. 4; Isa. 1:11-17; Jer. 7:9-10; Mic. 6:6-8). We know that Cain's offering was unacceptable due not necessarily to improper methodology but rather due to the internal condition of his heart. As several are struck dead by God when coming forward sinfully, it would seem that the matter of true worship is indeed a priority.

Now there are several elements of worship that appear biblically prescribed for the corporate church gathering those being: 1) Preaching (2 Tim. 4:2); 2) Lord's Table (1 Cor. 11:17-34); 3) Prayer (1 Tim 2:1); 4) Reading Scripture (1 Tim 4:13); 5) Financial Giving (2 Cor. 8-9); 6) Singing and Music (Col 3:16). Though there are these commanded orders for a church to abide by, there is no mention of a methodology or a practice form to follow. Along with silence in Scripture, we have not been provided, as of yet, an example of early, 1st century church liturgy. Because of the lack of example, the question naturally arises of whether or not elements not mentioned in Scripture are to be incorporated into the Church gathering. Some of these elements include creeds, special music, music style, service order, length, time, seating, technology, instruments, announcements, architecture, and clothing. These are objects which must be held against Scripture and decided upon with the assistance of conscience, the Holy Spirit and common sense, the latter which is provided us through common grace. Two trains of thought have emerged in an attempt to answer these very important questions. These have come to be known as, or defined as, either the "Normative" or "Regulative" Principles.

The Normative Principle holds that Corporate church worship services must include all the elements that Scripture commands and may include others so long as they are not prohibited by Scripture. So, that what is prescribed in Scripture must be adhered to, while what is forbidden must be rejected, and anything that falls in the between may be permissible.

The Regulative Principle holds that Corporate church worship services must include all the elements that Scripture commands or are a good and necessary implication of a biblical text and nothing more. So, that the prescribed elements are the only items that a church may implement, anything beyond what is strictly mentioned is forbidden.

There are several "pro's and con's" to each argument, the positives for the Normative being that it shows that the Bible provides principles not methods, for the truths must span generations and people groups. (i.e the Bible says sing, but does not tell us how, what language, what form, etc.), it also allows for cultural contextualization (extending the gospel in a method most fitting for the current culture, NOT that one changes doctrine and truths, but simply adjusts the shapes in which this truth comes out), it also considers both "gathered" and "scattered" worship the same. (It is most curious that some will act under one set of rules come Sunday morning, but live by another set of rules the other 6 and a half days of the week! Real life is lived under freedom, not legalistic regulation. We must live our whole lives consistently, faithfully, both for the evidence of truth in our lives to others, as well as for our spiritual health, not pluralistically.) Some weaknesses are evident though, and we must be aware of these possibilities in order to stay faithful to God's Word. These weakness are that it may allow too much, leading to pagan syncretism, it can also make our enjoyment rather than God's glory the priority, it may also elevate unbiblical element thereby pushing out true, biblical elements (such as man-made events like drama, skits, poetry, art. If these cut into the time given for true biblical practices like Scripture reading, Prayer, Lord's Table, etc., then the former must go.)

Some positives are certainly found in the Regulative as well, those include: seeking to define worship by God and His Word, not by us and our words, it also really, honestly seeks to glorify God, even if only in theory, and finally it also gives a strong delineation between the church and "the world", that is syncretism and paganism are definitely not allowed. Though the line may be a little too strong at times, it does a great job at staying faithful to what God says. Some weaknesses to be conscious of are that the Regulative does tend to differentiate between the "gathered" and the "scattered" forms of worship (as though upon walking into the church, you are ruled by a different set of rules than when you stepped out of your car in the parking lot. As though Jesus is not "ruler over all"), it also is not adequate in answering all questions such as what to do with technology, seating, announcements, it also can be legalistically applied such as stating that "we do not allow instruments" or even only certain instruments like the organ, when the Bible is rife with instruments, God, Himself, hands out harps upon our entrance to heaven. Now it is obvious that there are "hard" and "soft" Regulativists, and when the "hard" regulativists state that they are "just being biblical", one must wonder what they do with verses stating that it is proper for the raising of hands in worship, clapping, the lifting of hands by men during prayer, singing a "new song", etc.

For my initial response to these arguments, I would state that both are needed. The church is to be Regulative in that it must remain faithful to the Word of God, it must draw a firm line between pagan and foreign concepts being allowed to enter the church, however the church, I believe should embrace the positive Normative principles as well. That is that we as the church are ordered to "become all things to all people in all time, in order that we might save some." The Normative allows for this, providing a context in which to be culturally relevant, while holding tight to the truth of the biblical commands for the Church. Another strong benefit that is desperately needed in the church, is the erasing of distinction between "gathered" and "scattered" worship, that is that we must live with consistency, that we should see Christ as Lord over all our lives, not solely for an hour a week. Living by His rules and commands extends to our every breath, minutes, and life.

As mentioned in the title, this is merely my initial thoughts sprung from the brief study I have conducted so far. I plan on digging into this topic further as time progresses. Let me close with a quote that I find extremely helpful in our attempt to define worship, embracing both the Regulative and the Normative.

"All of Christian Life is ceaseless worship of God the Father through the mediatiorship of God the Son by the indwelling power of the God the Spirit; doing what God commands in Scripture, not doing what God forbids in Scripture, in culturally contextualized ways for the furtherance of the gospel when both gathered together for adoration and scattered for action, in joyous response to glorious grace." -Mark Driscoll.


(credits to studied topics belong to Pastor Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle.) Dr. D. A. Carson "Worship by the Book", and John M. Frame ("Worship in Spirit and Truth", "A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle", "Some Questions About the Regulative Principle"), and Harold M. Best "Unceasing Worship". )


Beauty and True Sight (from the journals)

It is all thought provoking, this thing of Beauty. It is all at once physical, external, sensual, and yet, there is some point of it all that touches inside, internally. I know it must be our recognition of that which is greater, beyond ourselves. Surely, for such beauty to move us there must be a reason, and what would cause us to turn away from our pursuit of knowing this?

How dastardly and ugly is sinful flesh that would make us "love darkness rather than light." How completely dark it must be, how incapable are our eyes that we would blink and turn? I know the argument that in order for one to appreciate fully that which is beautiful there must be a thing that is dark and ugly. We are not able to note beauty unless there is a foil to hold against it. Yet, how was it that at first creation man and woman saw it all as perfectly good? Was it, perhaps, not that there was a dark force contrasting the light, but rather a purer light through which it was all viewed?

The light that is to light all the world in the end must surely have been there at the beginning. Perhaps, this light is the only filter we truly need. Does this life-light provide for us the vision to see it all as beautiful? The light that must emanate from the One who "was and is and is to come", the glow from this Holy must be so pure and true that we crave to know it just from our taste of beauty we find on earth, now. What must the world have looked like for the first humans, the ones who had this light even in front of them, walking side by side in "the cool of the day." And how terribly clever and awful is the enemy that he may deceive even those with this perfect sight?

I shudder to think of the change in tones, colors, perceptions and understanding that came with the fall. I do not blame them for hiding, not wanting to show their strange, now seemingly disfigured bodies to the very One who purposed their existence. I suppose this is a partial answer to why we "all fall short", why we love "darkness rather than light" for deep down, despite what intellects say, we are broken, torn, marred. We wish not to be seen. How I long for the day when we are all renewed, restored to a place of old. A day where we can once again see that which is truly beautiful, perceiving the creation at is was purely meant to be.

How lovely it will be when I am in heaven, or with my Saviour for many reasons, but one in particular. This is not a unique reason, nor is it original thought, for if you were to ask this of most any believer they would state the same. I so desire the understanding to provide an answer for why.
As I sit now in my life, I do not, nor will I ever fully know the "why's" of it all, and I, indeed, try to focus rather on the "how." That is "How" this can be used for my sanctification. Once I am in a place of being able to stand while being given the answer, I long to know why life is the way it is. Why have I made my sinful decisions when I knew full well that they were causing me to depart from the Way. Why did my love leave? Why has this life caused so much heart-ache? Why has life allowed the separation of my daughter and myself?
It is one thing to "know" or have a "knowledge" of life such as the finite understanding of a sovereign God, a faith that holds onto that which I can never fully grasp. But, if possible, I want to know the purpose, the plan behind it all, as it were. I suppose it is a thought that it is all for me, that is that these are lessons to set me in a proper place of Sanctification, which is fine. I wonder at the union than of a Father and his child.
If these life lessons are training tools for me, the father, where does it come into play for the benefit of the daughter? Of course, I have yet to fully live out my life, and this may still be answered, but it would be a lie to say it does not affect me now. It is so difficult to understand it's purpose right at this moment.
I do not mean to complain, for many great things have come to be for me, in my life. If it all allows my to serve my God by better means, than it is worth it. If it brings about salvation for others I know it is good. I also know that the best I can do is to set myself in a position of walking properly with my Saviour, and this I am attempting to do, but it does not much to make me wonder at the plan for my little Jersie. Perhaps, it is not how I should think, but I cannot help myself. I think almost every hour of my love, my daughter.
Love songs have taken on a new message, not for me and a woman, but for me and THE WOMAN, my Jersie.
Is this odd? She has become my whole love. Short of my allegiance to my Lord, she is my purpose, my reason, my life.
I hate the feeling that must come from the enemy, that I am not a good father, that I am not doing enough. I loathe this feeling. I pray that this feeling will leave, that God would occupy my mind in order that I would know and even feel that I am doing my all. I desire so much to be with her, and I know that my separation is not my fault. Even this is a thought spread by the destroyer, the accuser. I must not give in. It was not my doing, my will or desire....