Thursday, May 27, 2021

Growing Up in a Theater....and a Lesson on Justification


Awwwwww...dear Martyn Lloyd-Jones,

This is the story of Galatians.

The story of our JUSTIFICATION.

Thank you for the reminder this morning.


I lay awake for a lengthy amount of time on Sunday evening, stewing over my own disappointment in myself. 

Often I find myself in that place, knowing....

I could have said something a little differently, or more clearly, or...

I should have prepared myself more for...

I allowed myself to run off track so easily, and this could have been prevented by...

I fell short, because I...

I didn't quite measure up to the expected standard, and could have.....

Here's what I could have/should have done differently...

You might relate to these types of musings.

As I let that pot in my mind bubble and boil, just before it spilled over, a comforting reminder played out, as the Lord pulled from the movies stored up there in my brain a random picture-show.

I've mentioned before that I "grew up" in a movie theater. This one...

(Perhaps someday I should write an exposé on lessons learned...)

However, in the midst of my stew-fest, I found myself in the old projection room, upstairs, overlooking the theater below.

I didn't go up there often, as it could be a hectic place during those times my dad frantically switched reels (manually), making certain there wouldn't be any lag time resulting in skips or hesitations of the current movie.

(my dad also ran the movies in Point Barrow, Alaska where he was stationed in the Navy during WW2, circa 1944)

Cluelessly, those in the seats downstairs watched with no idea what went on behind the scenes.

But, Dad's skill and expertise kept their big-screen-experience humming.

Most of the time.

Occasionally, of course, glitches happened and chaos ensued...

...especially, when the film broke. 

When that happened, the reel of film would spill out all over the floor - piles of film, miles of "video tape" running rampant around that narrow space where the magic of the movies played out. 

(OK, so there's nothing comforting about this so far, but I'll get there.)

That's when Papa Jack might load up a cartoon he had on hand, as the folks waited for him to "do his thing."

After dismantling the lacerated film, he'd take the two reels to his work bench behind the two monster-projectors. 

There he would slice, dice, tape, and repair the problem.

Because each scene of a movie is comprised of multiple frames, once repaired, Papa could load that movie back up and resume with nary a missed moment...and the audience, while grumbling about the inconvenience of the pause, went back to their Friday/Saturday/Sunday night entertainment.

This is what was comforting...

As my dad gave movies a "do again," so my Heavenly Father offers me "do agains," too...

Sometimes there are glitches, breaks, inconveniences, and a failure to meet expectations in the current running movie of our lives. 

However, the Lord, the one who runs the projectors that are showing our life stories, can easily slice, dice, tape and repair the issues of our hearts.

He's a God of second opportunities...and He often gives us the gift of making things right (more for our sakes than His).

John 1:9 uses this word for the process:  confess

Confess - to speak a word of admission that's in agreement with another (in this case, the Lord); to admit or declare the ways in which one has missed the mark of God's standard...

That's the beauty of justification...when we confess, God (the JUST ONE) looks at us and says, "What sin?" 

All sin was taken care of (sliced, diced, taped, and repaired) at the Cross....

But for our sakes, we keep running to the Father, again and again and again, to be reminded of just how GREAT justification is. 

And over and over and over again, the Lord says, "Innocent. Yes, even this one was taken care of at Calvary."

And there in the projection room of heaven, the film continues - no skips, hesitations, or noticeable problems connected with the event that left all that mess piled up on the floor...

It's DONE! ✔

Thursday, May 20, 2021

When Hawaii is a Nightmare

Sometimes traveling to Hawaii can be more of a nightmare than a vacation to paradise...

Let me explain.

As I bumble my way through the morning news, I am starkly reminded of the biggest problem our world faces today.

It is not a global pandemic; not a broken immigration problem; 

not terrorism, nor threat of war;

not the out-of-control social media, nor the world's liberal media agenda;

it isn't a lacking educational system, nor is it the incredible plight and repercussions of poverty;

it isn't the dire need for clean water world-wide; and, it certainly isn't the lack of wise governing across the continents....

From as far back as I can think, ingrained in me is the essence of the real problem:

The sin that resides in the hearts of mankind.

It is an "anthropos" problem (Greek word for man-faced). 

Put simply, if you sport the face of a human (and, surprisingly, this horrific affliction does not show partiality), you are diseased. 

Defined, sin is knowing what to do and not doing it.

Conversely, it means I know what not to do and still do it.

Illustratively, sin is attempting to swim the distance from the California shores to the Hawaiian islands... THAT WIDE!

It doesn't matter if you are Mark Spitz, Caeleb Dressel, Adam Peaty, Regan Smith, Katie Ledecky......or Peg Forrest -

None of us can swim the distance. 

We all fall short of the goal. 

The "anthropos" goal and the solution for our problem has been set before us in Scripture. 

Our man-faced solution came to earth with a man-face (!), dressed in flesh and blood, and lived a sinless perfect life.

His name was Jesus.

Every so often, what Jesus achieved on my behalf flattens me. 

The gospel story never gets old.

It drips into my soul like coffee into an old fashioned drip-pot, until it is so full coffee spills over.

That was my story this week.

It came simply, as mentioned, one drop at a time, until I saw again the beauty and the magnitude of this simple little theological word: 


Sometimes I am blinded to its significance.

Sometimes I stand on the shores of Cali and look toward Kauii and think to myself,"I betcha with just enough training, I can swim there...." 

(Not really; NOT EVER!)

But, that's what I'm saying, when in reality I think, "I'm not so sinful...I'm not THAT bad...I mean, I'm no terrorist; and, I do some pretty good things!"

(by the way, that's not just me...all of us minimize our sinfulness, trying to "justify" ourselves in our minds....)

This week, though, the weightiness of my problematic heart descended into my soul. 

It arrived as a GIFT from above, a glimmer of light, reflecting in the corners the cluttered debris that I shoved there - very much like the junk that used to hide under my bed as a kid (until I moved out of my childhood room). 

And as I stood looking at it all, I heard a commotion.

Turning, I saw myself in a courtroom, the judge entering, the court attendant saying, "All rise..." 

I was on trial; and, there I stood condemned, my "filthy anthropos-heart" uncovered for all the world to see...

When someone held it up right next to the perfect anthropos-heart of Jesus, I knew damnation - moreover, I knew exactly what that meant.

The judge, the RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, raised the gavel in His hand, ready to strike....

When someone said, "Wait!" 

Jesus stood in front of me, blood ran red, spilling over me...and, in that moment, I believed as never before that what exploded from His broken heart was ALL I NEEDED to be cured of my man-faced-disease.

I heard the gavel land from up on the bench; and, I heard the words of the JUDGE, though I couldn't see His face for Jesus grounded between us, "Sinner, you who have believed on my Son, you are RIGHTEOUS!"

Go in peace... (Romans 5:1)

It was an immediate and final transaction....

...that all might know, but especially me....I am INNOCENT! 


There will be no penalty - ever.

Here-in is the solution for us all.

No matter who tries to minimize sin with their pretty words...we need JUSTIFICATION.

Even if the most influential person on earth tells us sin is NOT THE PROBLEM, believe that it is! 

We can never swim to Honolulu.

Justification is not just a pardon.

Not just forgiveness.

It is the righteousness of Jesus imputed to me...

No grounds for punishment, for the temple that is my heart was swept clean - a fit and Holy Place for the sweet Spirit of the Lord to dwell. 

And, I know why Paul's heart so strongly beat for the gospel to remain pure; why he fought so hard for salvation by grace alone through Christ alone in faith alone. 

Without Jesus, Hawaii is just a nightmare - not a dream! 

(hope you catch the metaphor...)

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Looking Ahead Through All the Fog...

Thursday rolled in this week rather like the fog used to roll in to the Oregon coast as I was growing up...

...meaning, way too fast, covering the landscape around me. 

There was no fog horn of warning.

I woke up and all I saw was gray vapor.

It's been a busy week, and I've had no clarity on this morning's blog, and now that Thursday is here (sure enough), I can't see the "Son" for the fog hovering around my brain...

So, I've silently waited for the Holy Spirit to "brood over the waters (see Genesis 1:1-3, TLB)" of my finite mind and bring some sort of light.

As I begin to type, there's a small sliver of it, just barely beginning to break through...

I reckon we'll see if it's brightness actually burns the fog away...or not.

In the meantime, it seems I'm typing blind...


I continue to be surprised (and, not in a good way) at the new "twists and turns" within the Christian faith. 

After reading to Bay, yet one more post, from the heart of a young woman with whom I'm acquainted, we  verbally ping-ponged back and forth about what the best approach might be when we come up against this new branding in Christianity.

In Paul's letter to the Galatian churches, Paul mentions that when another "new brand" tried to influence the gospel in Antioch, Peter seemed to get sucked into the drama even though he knew better. 

The Lord had already given Peter a vision freeing him from dietary restrictions years earlier;

...nevertheless, those who wanted the Jewish law to be included in salvation, totally affected Peter's reasoning, and Paul called him out on the fact his behavior DID NOT match his convictions. 

So, to his face, and in public, Paul opposed Peter for his inconsistency. 

After all, the preservation of the gospel was at stake.

Considering other passages in this little letter, I'm certain Paul called Peter into question with affection (Gal 4:12) and with an anguished heart (4:19).

I'm convinced, he followed his own instructions (Galatians 6:1-3), attempting to restore Peter quickly, by rebuking him in a "spirit of gentleness....and, in humility," being filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord (Gal. 5:22). 

Interesting (yes?), to think about rebuke, gentleness, and love in the same context...

But, true love often needs to use that effective tool of rebuke to garner attention.

In these days, "love" would never rebuke; because loving means agreeing. 

So, for this reason, Bay and I both decided, we can state our convictions with honesty and kindness (a "spirit of gentleness"), but not much good would come from "opposing" - at least, not in the Apostle-Paul-sense. 

Peter, by his very nature, tended toward impulsivity. 

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may just not have thought about the consequences of his actions - 

It probably didn't cross his mind that others might be led astray down a dangerous path....

Or that his decision to no longer eat with the Gentiles, for fear of the Jews, might send a mixed message and hurt others in the process...

I can't say the same is true in progressive circles.

Overall, those I've talked with, and asked questions of, sincerely believe they've found a better way...and, that those who still lean "evangelical" are trapped in bondage and shame. 

With both sides deeply and emotionally ingrained, it's difficult to dialogue openly; and, when said and done, any discussion would end at a frustrating impasse... 

So, if we cross off our action-list the word "oppose," then what's an evangelical, Christ-follower, supposed to do when the gospel is in jeopardy of losing its preservation? 

The answer isn't quite as foggy as my Thursday morning began. 

Instead of attempting to change minds:

We take the Word of Truth to those who are coming behind...

We look to the next-gen, bringing the simplicity of the gospel to them... 

We make course corrections, as needed, and be Jesus to those who are still listening... 

We prepare to answer questions - no matter how confusing or difficult - to those who are asking...

We walk alongside those who are hurting...

And, above all, we pray, pray, pray for the Lord to do as He's done bring revival..

I've set an alarm on my phone to do exactly this.

Every day at 4:00 PM, it buzzes and a notification reads:

"Pray for the next-gen." 

What if we all did the same?

So, as I began today's random "just a thought," praying that the Spirit of the Lord would brood over my heart and mind, as He did over the waters at the beginning of time, speaking light into existence, I end somewhat the same way. 

I'm asking the Lord to break through the fog hovering over this world:

"Oh, Spirit of God, be active!

Oh, Spirit of God, breathe life!

Oh, Spirit of God, brood over the waters of our finite world,

and call into being new stories of redemption.

Oh, Spirit of God, breathe life!"*

*(Modified from Every Moment Holy, Volume 1)

Thursday, May 6, 2021

What Progressives Get Right

In spite of the many confusing points of Progressive Christianity, I'm attempting to not throw the baby out with the bathwater (that would be a big "whoops!").

As a self-proclaimed follower of the historic gospel, I know that daily examining my heart is crucial.

I continue to ask the Lord to show me, "Where am I wrong?"  "What needs to change in me?"

"How can I serve You better and promote Your Kingdom in this world effectively?"

I know there's plenty of growth still needed; 

and; I'm acutely aware that if others are exiting the evangelical church for something different (and many are!), then there's a problem needing fixing. 


There's something more attractive about this new-not-really-new philosophy (I can not bring myself to say religion, for it is merely a form of godliness)

If attraction is the reason for the leaving,

something is seriously wrong!

Nothing should be more attractive than the pure gospel of the cross and resurrection of Jesus!

So, along with the questions I've already mentioned, I've added a new one:

"What, then, do the Progressives get right?"

It's a simple one word answer, but, of course, I'll expound a bit.

The answer?


The followers of the progressive movement (at least the ones that I've been in dialogue with) have huge hearts for others. 

They are kind, thoughtful, compassionate, hugely sympathetic, and empathetic. 

They want to see the needs of the poor eliminated.

There's a longing for all people to feel included, accepted, valued and loved.

They strive for peace among all and justice to be meted fairly (equitably).

In fact, one of their strongest beliefs is this:

The way Christians behave toward others is the strongest and fullest expression of belief!

To be honest, I can't argue with the sentiments.

I do struggle with the underpinnings of how they want these things to be solved; but I can not argue with "loving our neighbors," "caring for the poor," "visiting the sick and imprisoned;" and holding out hope to all by sharing the GOSPEL of JESUS...

It's exactly what the early Christians did (probably why they were called, "Little Christs").

They took Jesus' words seriously; and, with His teachings sprinkled like salt throughout their lives, this message brought flavor to the followers of The Way. 

They were different.

People sat up and took notice. 

As a result, people flocked to the Church and "many were added daily."

The first great African theologian (known as the Father of Latin Theology), Tertullian, once attacked pagan beliefs as superstitious and immoral, using the actions of Christians as a morally superior way of life. He took note that as pagans looked on, they openly recognized and declared :

LOOK! Look how these Christians love one another...and, are ready to die for each other.

James, the step-brother of Jesus, expounds in his little book, 

"What good is it if someone has faith, but does not have works? Does he have a saving faith? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in food, and one of you says, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17)!"

Followers of Jesus care for one another. 

When Paul traveled to Jerusalem from Antioch in Acts 15, his mission fully centered on making CERTAIN he presented the only gospel taught to him by the Lord Jesus Himself, while in Arabia, and that it was the same gospel of Jesus' disciples. 

Called "The Jerusalem Council," these men, mainly, John, Peter, and James (Jesus' step-brother), affirmed Paul:  Paul's preaching was their preaching.

There was only one gospel!

They added nothing. 

No one was saved by good works.

However, they instructed (probably at James' recommendation), "Remember - keep in mind - the poor..."

Paul's response? 

I AM EAGER TO DO JUST THIS (Galatians 2:10)!

It's time to "eager-up" Church!

How can we do a better job of sharing the gospel...and remember the poor? 

It starts within our own congregations, helping one and sister for brother and sister.

Then it spreads from within the church outside the walls, taking the gospel to others, and caring for needs, making Jesus attractive.

First, we have to get out of our self-centered-mindset, and become more like "Christians" in the true sense.

THIS IS the way of Jesus.

So, it need be the way of His followers (and, might I add, not the responsibility of the government).

And may those watching us adamantly declare:

Look, see how they love one another!