Can You See Invisible Things?

A straight-forward, scientific approach to life rips the heart out of reality.

One man notes that his scientific-minded wife thinks that “love” is just a question of bodily hormones, etc. acting on the brain. Those who subscribe to this religion think everything can, or eventually will be, explained under microscopes, in test tubes and by mathematical formulas.

Is existence neatly described by what we perceive with the five senses? If you can’t see it, taste it, smell it, hear it, or feel it, does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Something deep within man knows that is wrong. We struggle to make sense out of what we can’t understand—and testtubes and scientific formulas only provide a partial answer.

For instance: war is a horrible thing. We recoil from death and maiming. But, some of our poets have reached beyond what we can see to seize some sense out of the senseless.

Listen to Alfred Lord Tennyson describe a moment in the 1854 Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. A brigade of English Calvary has received the order for a suicidal charge against the enemy.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!” Continue reading

Rear-ended by a Tomato

The humorist Garrison Keillor told a story that happened when he was about ten. One hot summer morning his mother made him go to the garden to pick tomatoes.

He didn’t want to and drug around as long as he could, but finally he could stall no longer. As he entered the garden his industrious 17-year old sister was already hard at work, head down bottom up.

At about the same time he saw an enormous tomato among the vines, already starting to rot on the bottom. With his first burst of enthusiasm that morning he picked it then aimed at his sister’s bottom.

Just at that moment his mother saw him and yelled. He weighed the joy of obedience against the joy of hearing the giant tomato splat against sister’s rear end and … well, you can guess which voice won out.

Bullseye! The kid took off at full speed but his sister was much faster. The enraged teenager caught him and was just going to even the score when their mother yelled again.

His sister wrestled within her because she really wanted to rearrange his face but the voice of obedience won out in her.


But somehow you want to say, “If there is any justice in the world she would have hit him. Little brothers are royal pains and they deserve what they get.” (Big brothers, on the other hand, are kind, loyal, intelligent, trustworthy, etc.)

I Deserved a Smack

You know what? You want to say that if there is justice in the universe, God would have smashed me. I was a sinner from the womb of my mother, but worse, I sinned all by myself, expressing the rebellion that was in my heart.

“… we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2 :3, NIV)

“Objects of his wrath?” Sinner before a holy God! Looks like we’ve had it, huh. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death and it’s not just talking about a little trip to the funeral home. It speaks of an eternal death, horribly separated from the presence of God. Anyway, we were already dead spiritually.

Is God going to crush us?

In this situation we wait for an explosion of God’s righteous anger. “I put them on a perfect world and look at the now—war, abuse of the land—they don’t even want to obey me. They abuse their bodies; they scoff at my laws. They’re mean, sometimes even violent!

“So, it’s finished! I’ll slap them like mosquitos; I’ll crush them like flies!”

That’s would seem the logical way for God to act. But this sorry story of Ephesians 2:1-3 is followed by two of the most powerful words in the Bible.

“But God …”

It seems like I always understood God’s anger. If God was mad at me, He was right. I can remember lying in bed at four years of age thinking, “I’d like to go to heaven, but I think I’ll probably go to hell.”

I didn’t understand God or his love.

“But God …”

He isn’t like me. His great heart of compassion beat painfully. He’s rich in mercy. Those who think God is a huge tyrant haven’t even begun to understand Him.

It was this love and mercy that drove Jesus to the Cross. We underestimate the horror of our sin. It’s like someone said, “If there had been another way to settle this debt would you have sent your son to the Cross?” The weight of our sin cried for an unprecedented sacrifice.

The price He paid was both horrible and beautiful—beautiful beyond description.

We deserved God’s wrath but it fell on his Son instead. His righteousness and his love fell on us.

There’s nothing left to pay because Jesus erased the debt against us. And our reaction to that?

Because we’re new creatures by our faith in Christ, we work to help others in His name and we proclaim this Good News everywhere in the world.

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!” (Eph. 1:1-5, The Message)

Hmmm …
“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham

The Grumpy Old Lady

In Luxembourg, someone told a little story that supposedly happened many years ago (probably not). It concerned a parish priest, lost in the countryside, looking for a certain village. He ran across a grumpy old lady walking along the road and enquired of her how to get to the village he was looking for.

“What!” she exclaimed. “You try to tell us how to find our way to heaven and you can’t even find the next village?”

Fortunately, today we have GPS (sharp-tongued old ladies still abound anyway).

Actually, it is a pretty important question. How do you get to heaven? Most people tell you to just be good. That should do the trick, huh?

Once I visited a young man in Texas. The visit stood out for two reasons—one was the mean-looking dog that he had the hospitality to shut into another room while I was there. That was good because I don’t like huge dogs salivating and looking at me as if I were a Big Mac with lots of onions.

The visit also stood out because of his response to a question I posed to him.

“If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’, what would you say?”

He hesitated then replied, “I’ve done some good things and some bad things …” His voice trailed off. Evidently, he was hoping that the good things would weigh more than the disobedient ones.

The problem is those bad things.

Excuse me for repeating myself, but I’ve thought a lot about that illustration of the inner turmoil of Mother Teresa we talked about a few weeks ago. Probably few humans could boast of as many good works as her. She healed a lot of hurt and lived her life sacrificially.

But her heart wasn’t settled.

I’m not judging her in anyway because it’s God’s job to judge each of us. All the same, we’ve got to realize that’s it’s not what we do that saves us. It’s what God did in Jesus Christ on the Cross and what He does in us when we simply put our faith in him that causes the Father to write our name in the book of eternal life.

If the number of good things we do on earth determines our entrance into heaven then Jesus died on the Cross for nothing! In that case, we earn our ticket to heaven.

But God says we have to repent of our sins and turn towards Him, putting our faith in His grace and mercy.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV)

Eugene Peterson expresses it like this:

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.” (The Message)

When we do good things, it’s just the overflow of a thankful, obedient heart. We’re so glad of what Jesus did for us and in us that we give Him our whole life. He gave His all for us, we do the same for Him.

There is a way to eternal life in heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.



Commenting on those who affirm their “freedom” in Christ to justify certain actions Erwin McManus asks, “Why does your freedom in Christ look so much like my bondage before Christ?”


I used to have this embarrassing dream–I would be at school and suddenly realize that I was in my underwear. Panic! You kind of wonder how I could leave home and not notice a little detail like that, but things don’t have to make sense when you’re dreaming.

The worst is that it feels like you’re really in that situation whether you actually are or not.

So the rest of the time I would try to put on my pants, or find my pants, or whatever. I hated that stupid dream. Not too many of us care to show up in a public place clad only in our skivvies.

I never actually went to school in my undies, though I did rip an embarrassing tear in the seat of my pants, when I was in high school I think it was. My solution was to take my coat and tie the arms around my waist, effectively covering the embarrassing area. You might think that would be a tip-off to all the jokesters in my class that something was goofy but we weren’t really classy dressers in my school and no one really said anything.

Except my math teacher …

This lady had a piercing voice and a sharp tongue. As she passed me in the hall, she said sarcastically, “What happened? You tear a hole in the seat of your pants?” Grrrr… I gave her a sheepish grin and a non-committal answer, and understood anew why I didn’t like math.

No one likes to be exposed like a plucked chicken in front of others. You want to know something that scarier than that, though? God sees us without any kind of feathers. Listen:

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Heb. 4:12,13

Ah …

Adam and Eve sinned and tried to hide from Him but you might as well try to hide from the air. He’s everywhere.

Who can stand the scrutiny of a Holy God? He knows all, sees all, understands all. There’s no hiding from Him. We’re guilty.

So what to do?

Put some clothes on, but make sure they are the right ones!

I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isa. 61:10, NIV)

Instead of trying to “dress up” by our own efforts why don’t we just let God dress us? When we put our faith in Jesus Christ to be saved from our sins and to receive the gift of eternal life, he gives us this new suit of righteousness.

We really look sharp in the presence of God the Father, clothed in the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ.

But without Him, we’re naked in the searchlight of His holiness.

It’s no dream because we’re all going to stand before Him. God calls us to turn from our sins, ask forgiveness, and put our faith in the Lord Jesus. Then you get your righteous suit. Lookin’ good, buddy!

And you’re no longer naked before Him—you’re clothed in Christ’s righteousness and the Father accepts you gladly.
“Don’t be embarrassed to try and fail. Be embarrassed to fail to try.” Unknown


This week’s Coffee Stain is actually a “flash from the past.” Most of you haven’t seen it though.

“Haircut!” The word strikes fear in me
. It probably stems from the fact that a fellow only has a 50/50 chance to look better after leaving the barbershop. (You’ll look better if you were really ugly when you went in).

I remember dreading going back to school after a periodic shearing. I knew my friends would laugh at me (I must confess that I made a few wisecracks at their expense too. Hey, they looked funny).

At one time I even went to a barber nicknamed “Gappy.” Guess why. He was cheap. One thing bothered me, though. After sitting for a long time watching great clumps of my hair fall to the floor, I cringed as the barber went back to work on evening things up.

When you are in that chair, every time the scissors snap shut it sounds the same, whether he’s cutting off big clumps or two hairs.

You imagine yourself getting balder and balder. In the background you hear a ghostly sound of friends laughing while the barber goes, “snip” then “snip” then “snip”. It feels like he is going, “slash, rip, slash, slash!” You think he’s finished then he finds another place, “snip, snip.” “Auugh! My hair!”

Will he never finish?

When Jesus died on the cross He did the job once for all. He paid the price for our salvation in full, not just partly. He didn’t buy our eternal life on the installment plan, a snip here, a snip there. He doesn’t make monthly payments on heaven, and neither do we. It is finished.

One sacrifice was all it took because that gift was so incredibly precious and expensive that nothing else tacked on to it could possibly add value.

Jesus died once for all. Some teach that his death was perpetual, and every time we take communion, we’re taking part of one sacrifice that continues and continues and continues until He comes back, I suppose. In a sense, for them, He’s still on the cross, still dying.

But Jesus did his job once for all. He died then He rose again. The price for eternal salvation has been paid. When we believe, we enter into what He has done for us and He saves us from eternal death.

Others try for salvation on the “150 hard-payments” plan. They can never quite believe that what Jesus did was enough so they’re always adding their good works. “Snip, snip.” Good works are wonderful and natural–from people who know the Lord and want to please Him. But unsure people who try to add their good deeds and their abstinence from certain things to what Jesus did in order to be right before God are just “snipping.”

Others seek a certain spiritual feeling to believe they are saved. “Snip, snip.” We know we’re saved because his Word tells us if we repent of our sins and put our faith in Him, He will do it. He’s not a liar. My feeling change. He never changes.

It’s done! Enter into it by faith.

“because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14, NIV).

Salvation is done, while sanctification, that process of being changed daily, more and more into His image, continues until the Lord comes. “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.” In a certain sense the culmination of our salvation is future when we arrive in heaven. But the act has already been done in our soul, once for all.

There is no sense here that the sacrifice is continuing, though it certainly has a continuing effectiveness in our lives. The entire idea of this passage is that it’s something that the Lord has finished, and we can’t add anything to it. We just accept it by faith and live our lives for Him in consequence.

Just put yourself in the hands of the Divine “Barber.” You’ll look better when you walk out of this “shop” than when you walked in. No snickers in heaven.