Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Web of Deceit

Your reaction to this picture will depend on how you feel about spiders.  While, I am not the least bit fond of the creatures, I have to admit there is a certain (creepy) beauty to this black and yellow argiope aurantia -- yes, that is the true name of this female Writing Spider -- as she is more commonly known. 

This particular lady was sitting motionless in the center of her web in my flower bed.  I chose not to disturb her because she is fulfilling her purpose of catching other insects, like mosquitoes and flies.  And how does she catch those insects which turn out to be her next meal? 

One thing this spider does is construct a thicker, white curly dangle of silk that is thought to attract insects to her nearly invisible silken web.  Once the victims blunder into the web, they're caught up in the sticky stuff clinging to it and they're stuck.

If you think about the construction and purpose of a spider web, you can see that it is a nearly invisible, sticky net intended to capture and ultimately destroy the unwary victim.  It's meant to trick the victim and to lure the victim in until it can't escape.

I'm sure you're already seeing spiritual messages in this scenario.  Webs have always been a picture of Satan's trickery in the world -- of his nearly invisible, sticky net of worldly pleasures that he uses to lure his victims until they can't or won't try to escape. 

In Isaiah 59, God is speaking to the wicked whose "hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt.  Your lips have spoken lies..."  He says of these people, "They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider's web."  He goes on to describe a people who "are swift to shed innocent blood, their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways."

The Bible has much to say about deceit, which is defined as "the act or practice of deceiving; misleading" -- words that could also be used to describe the web spun by a spider.  But, in these cases, the web is spun by Satan and his designs are far more deceptive and deadly than any spider. 

Satan's web lures his victims into his silken net with promises of riches, fame, power, and even love.  The sticky substances of lust and self within his net captures his victims in their sin and before they know it, they're stuck.  Even our own hearts deceive us:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"  Jeremiah 17:9.

We need to call out to God to protect us from being lured into these nearly invisible webs.  As we grow in the Lord, I believe Satan's webs will become more visible to our spiritual eyes and we'll, by the power of the Spirit, be more able to avoid them.  We need to pray as did the Psalmist:  "Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips and a deceitful tongue" 120:2.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Have you ever seen so many locks??  I have to say, I'd never seen so many in one place, ever.  This weighty display of locks is attached to the Pont de l'Archeveche, a bridge over the Seine in Paris that is just behind Notre Dame Cathedral.  Couples from all over the world visit this bridge, pledge their undying love to one another, attach the lock and throw the key into the river below.  It's quite a phenomenon these days on numerous bridges all over the world.

Do you think that attaching a padlock to the side of a bridge would make you feel more loved?  Or, would increase your feeling of security in a relationship?  While the act certainly has a neat element of romance and excitement, I don't think it would really affect your first two answers.

We all long for love and security in this world we live in and, hopefully, you have a family who gives you these things, but what I want to talk about is the love and security offered to each of us by the Lord Jesus Christ -- whether there is a family in the picture,  or not.

First of all, God loves us so much that "He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" John 3:16.  That's a powerful love -- to give the life of His only and beloved Son in order to save you and me from destruction.  Whether we realize it or not, the love of God eclipses every other love always and forever - period.  So, in truth, you and I could never feel more loved than we do by God -- and it's not just a feeling, but a firm reality as well.

Then, there's the security thing.  Some of those padlocks on that bridge are really secure.  It would take some kind of massive cutting tool to snap such a lock.  When it comes to the security God offers us through His Son's sacrifice, there is nothing on this earth or beyond this earth that could ever snap that lock -- not ever!  And we have numerous wonderful verses that assure us of this truth:

"I write these things to you who believe in the name
of the Son of God so that you may know
that you have eternal life" 1 John 5:13
"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. 
He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put
His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing
what is to come" 2 Corinthians 1:22
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who
sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed
over from death to life" John 5:24

What an amazing truth we as Christians enjoy -- the firm assurance that we are always loved and the equally firm assurance that we are eternally secure within the safety of the arms of Almighty God.  Our Saviour has a loving lock on us that will never be broken. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Church in Ruins

Although these Gothic ruins have a certain beauty to them, it's a sad state of affairs that a church, begun to the glory of God, fell into ruin before it was fully completed.  These stone walls in St. George, Bermuda, form the shell of a church begun in 1874 and intended to replace the older St. Peter's Church (built in 1713 and still in use).

So, what happened to the plans and all the money spent on what would surely have been a beautiful church?  A sign on the outside gives numerous reasons:  there was a congregational split which left the membership depleted; then, in 1884, another church burned down and money was used to rebuild that church.  In spite of the difficulties, by 1899, the roof was in place and the church was nearly finished.  Then, for some reason, work was abandoned and the people decided to repair the older St. Peter's Church down the hill.

Years passed and the beautiful, nearly completed church stood empty on its hill above the sparkling waters of the bay.  In 1926, a severe storm damaged one end of the church, the sign reads:  "the walls and floor suffered from neglect, storm damage and erosion."  Today, the ruins are preserved as a historic monument.

I see these ruins being preserved as a spiritual monument -- with a message to what can happen to a church that is neglected -- a church that is empty.

As we read the reasons the church was abandoned, let's look at scripture that speaks to each issue.
    First, the congregation split.  Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity" and Ephesians 4:3 - "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." 

    Second, there was no money for the work.  Proverbs 3:9 - "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops" and "Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    Third, they left the work when it was near completion.  Hebrews 10:36 - "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised" and "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

    Fourth, storm damage caused erosion (defined as wearing away the surface by water, winds, waves, etc) - an erosion in the Christian faith and in Christian churches is addressed in The Cambridge Declaration, which reads, "Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ.  As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith." 
    A verse in Acts 20:28 tells how to fight erosion and although Paul directed this to the church elders, I believe it is true of every member of a church:  "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood."

And, although I do not know any more about that congregation of over a century ago than is written on the sign outside the church, I believe their actions speak loud enough to be heard 139 years later.  It seems to me that the verse in Proverbs 29:18 is an applicable ephitaph for them -  "Where there is no vision, the people perish" and, I might add, so does their church.

Happily, God has said that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against His church, so even though that particular church has gone to ruin, your church can remain vibrant for the Lord, growing in His Spirit and power, to glorify His name upon the earth.  I have been praying that our church -- Biltmore Baptist -- will grow to His glory and to the edification and unification of the saints who worship there.  I would suggest you pray for your church with a similar prayer.  With the Psalmist, I praise God and say:

"How lovely is Your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! 
 My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. 
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" Psalm 84:1-2.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Noah's Ark

The church at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has many beautiful and unique stained glass windows.  There were perhaps four windows depicting the story of Noah and the Ark.  I chose this window to highlight because every time I think of the faithfulness of Noah, I am literally amazed!  Just think about it.

Noah lived on the earth about 1500 years after it was created by God.  In that length of time millions of people had been born -- and many of those people were still alive since most people in that era lived to be over 900 years old.  Sadly, nearly every one of those millions of people were living in sin.  Genesis 6:5 says, "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."  the Lord only found one man who was righteous and faithful to Him - only one!  That's even worse than the days we're living in.

Imagine you are Noah and you've been living amongst these wicked people 480 years.  One morning you get up and hear God say to you, "Make thee an ark of gopher wood..."  Then God proceeds to tell you there will be a flood to cover the whole earth and that only you and your family will be saved, and then He gives you the dimensions of a vast ship that He wants you to build, how you will fill it with animals and food, and how God will bless you and your sons -- and that you will be the only survivors of the entire earth!

Several things were probably confusing to Noah at that moment:  first of all, there had never even been rain on the earth thus far, everything being watered by gentle mists; secondedly, as of yet, he had no sons (his three sons were born to him when he was 500 years old); thirdly, the massive ark was to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high -- that's as long as 1.5 football fields -- and he would have to cut down every single tree himself.  So, how would you respond to such a command?

Scripture tells us in verse 22:  "Noah did everything just as God commanded him."  I'd say that's about the most amazing picture of faith in the entire Bible. 

It took 120 years of cutting trees, dragging logs, planing wood, lifting heavy loads, and putting up with derision and mockery from the rest of the population, but Noah - and his sons as they grew -- worked faithfully on that boat until it was finished and ready to fulfill its part in the first major judgment God visited upon the earth and its people.

Hebrews 11:7 commends Noah for his faithfulness, saying, "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen..."  Things not yet seen -- now, there's the rub.  That's what we're asked to do today as well - to believe in things that are not yet seen -- not an easy task.  That's the definition of faith - "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see," Hebrews 11:1.

Faith is what God asks of each of us.  He doesn't ask us to understand, just as He didn't require Noah to understand how he would accomplish all he asked of him.  He just expects us to have faith and obey.  That old hymn is as true today as it always has been:  "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Butterfly Wears Sunglasses

Here is something you have probably never seen before -- and chances are, you will never see it again -- a butterfly with sunglasses and a smile.  We won't mention the fact that it's not a real butterfly.  This Monarch is a super fly as well as being totally unique.  I love it!

In case you don't recognize her, that's my daughter Sara making herself into a lovely butterfly during a visit to the Outer Banks.  You might ask, what possible Spiritual message can you wring from such a picture? 

I see the light of God's love shining so brightly on this butterfly that she has a smile of joy on her lips and has shielded her eyes from the brightness of God's glory.  2 Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who said 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

God has blessed us so abundantly and let His loving face shine so brightly upon us, His children, that if we would just look and see how good He is to us, why, His light would be shining so brightly we too might have to shield our eyes from His amazing glory and goodness -- and our joy would soar on wings of eagles - or perhaps even butterflies.

I like the verse in Job 37:22 where it says, "...He comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty."  I believe that golden splendor might refer to the golden sphere of the blazing sun.  There are just not enough superlatives to describe God's awesomeness or to offer Him enough tributes of praise or to acknowledge His infinite mercy and grace toward us.  He shines brighter than any light we could possibly imagine.

Although words fail us when it comes to praising and thanking almighty God, we can obey the directive of Jesus when He said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glrify your Father in heaven" Matthew 5:16.

I will end this with the words God spoke to Moses to be used as a blessing over His people:  "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace" Numbers 6:24-26.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lamp Jewelry

I have now invented "Lamp Jewelry" -- just know that you saw it first on Sandra's blog!  After my Mom died in December, we girls went through her extensive collection of costume jewelry.  Mother rarely threw anything away, so many of her nicest looking necklaces would be considered vintage - in other words, they're old and they just don't make 'em like that anymore. 

Although these pieces had originally been inexpensive, they were still well-made and very pretty.  But, what to do with them?  They were too pretty and unique to get rid of, and they were special to our Mother, but then, no one wears two, three and four strand necklaces like these anymore.  So, I came up with the idea of hanging these lovely ladies on my lampshades as you see above.  This way, I can enjoy them on a daily basis.  I'm quite pleased with the results and may even pin my idea on Pinterest. 

Of course, I can't write a piece in my blog and not see at least some spiritual message in it -- after all, there really is a spiritual message around every corner - and even on lampshades -- if we'll just see it.

In this case, I can't help but think how God can use anyone and anything to be useful to Him and to adorn His kingdom.  He frequently uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and that which is insignificant to be of great significance to Him.  Didn't God use an insignificant shepherd boy named David to kill giant Goliath with his slingshot, one smooth stone, and as David himself said, the power of "the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel" 1 Samuel 17:45.

You might ask, what has that got to do with lamp jewelry?  Only that, as I see light shining through the lampshade, causing the beads in this inexpensive necklace to shimmer and glow and give off a beauty previously unseen, I'm reminded how just the right light and creativity can make all the difference.  When God's light shines through our lives and His creativity causes a previously unseen beauty to glow and shimmer in us, He has taken something insignificant and made it infinitely significant in His Kingdom. 

Who knew a seemingly worthless necklace draped across a lampshade could be so beautiful?  I think my Mother must be getting a hoot out of what we're doing with all the jewelry she left behind.  After all, with gates of pearl and streets of pure gold, she's enjoying the real stuff in her new home!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Giant Crab of Fear

The headlines might read, "Woman Attacked by Giant Blue Crab!"  Caught between its sharp, pointy legs with pinchers ready to attack and wide mouth in position to do great bodily harm -- this is the stuff nightmares are made of!  Lucky for me it was only a painting on the wall of Frog Island's seafood store -- but, I do get a kick out of mugging for the camera (:

Pretend danger can be fun and exciting -- it's the real stuff, however, that can keep us awake at night, add gray hairs to our head, and cause our stress levels to rise several notches.  There's the fear that grabs us when we hear that one of our grandchildren might have a health issue, or one or our kids might have major problems, or we ourselves might start experiencing an unexplained pain or start having memory lapses -- or, we hear that a loved one or friend is suddenly in trouble.  These are the real things in life that make us shudder fearfully  and make us realize how vulnerable we are as human beings.

Both real and imagined fear is rampant among us -- ready to grab us with its painful pinchers.  The only way to gain victory over this entity that wants to devour us is to turn to the One who is in total control of everything we might possibly be fearful about.  He knows the situation and the outcome -- and He loves us.  It's important to always remember the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7:  "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Since God is not the one giving us the spirit of fear, we know the culprit is the one who makes a giant blue crab look harmless.  Satan delights in dumping fear on us by the cartload.  If he can't find a real situation to create fear in us, he'll just make something up and throw a black cloak of imaginary fear over our heads.  He's a wiley one and he knows which buttons to push on each of us.  Even though the evil one is strong and powerful, Almighty God is far more strong and infinitely more powerful - as we read in 1 John 4 that, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."

So, when you sense an attack of the giant blue crab of fear is about to grab you, stop and call out to Jesus and ask Him to keep you safe in His loving arms, to erase your fears and to take care of your every need.  He will replace our spirit of fear with, "....power and love and a sound mind."  Our great God is Master of all things - praise His holy name!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Storms of Life

I've always gotten a kick out of this photo.  It was taken when Hurricane Ernesto was pounding the coast of the Outer Banks in North Carolina and we happened to be there for our timeshare week.  Holly and Derek had come for a few days and here they were pretending that the wind was about to carry them off into the angry surf.

Holly looks terrified as she's being pulled out toward the boiling surf and Derek looks to be holding on for dear life and painfully determined to rescue his beloved from the stormy water.  It would be a fearful thing to actually be caught in a storm and be in true danger.

How often in life are we caught in a storm?  Sometimes its a consequence of our own actions, and other times we're just caught up as collateral damage, so to speak.  Whatever the reason, it's not the place most of us want to be.

There are numerous Christian songs referring to storms with lyrics like:  "Hold me close 'til the storm passes by," and "It takes a storm now and then to remind me to depend" on the Lord.  And then there's the pathos in Casting Crowns, "Praise You in This Storm," as Mark sings, "I remember when I stumbled in the wind; You heard my cry; You raised me up again..."

Just as storms rake across the earth from time to time, storms also rage through our lives at times.  As unpleasant as storms are, they are a fact of life and the best way to deal with them is to ask God for help and safety as we weather their effects.  None of us want storms in our lives, but oddly enough, they are what can eventuallly make us stronger in the Lord -- and more joyful as well. 

The Psalmist describes a Christian going through a storm and coming out safely in chapter 107:28-31, "Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"