Words From Our Pastor

THE MASTER ARTIST

I'm sitting outside the church early on a beautiful morning.  Nature seems to be greeting me on every level; birds are singing on the North and the West, insects flying all around, ants crawling up a tree, a spider has made its web on my driver's side mirror and now it crawls out and it falls to the ground.
I am surrounded by life.  Life explodes onto my senses.  It is literally EVERYWHERE!  And I think to myself, "Why is there life on Earth when there is none on the planets around us?"  The Moon is barren, Mars is lifeless, Venus is hotter than our hottest ovens on Earth and is not a place for life to propagate.

I think of the beautiful verse in Genesis, "In the beginning God..." And it all makes sense.  Life has it's origin in God.  He loves living things.  He can't live for Himself.  He has to create.  He is an Artist, the Master Artist!  But His art is alive, literally!  Look at the intricate design in a leaf or a flower or an insect.  Study the engineering that goes into a bird's wing design.  
Two people can look at all of this life and come up with opposite views on the matter.  One believes in evolution and the other believes in that a greater power created it all.  Yet the question haunts us: "Why is there life on Earth when there could have just as well been none?"  

A song comes to mind: 
Master Designer, Whoever You are,
All of this beauty both near and afar 
can’t just have happened.  
The odds are to great.  
There must be a plan. We are not left to fate.


WHITE AS SNOW

I looked out my window this morning.  The ground was covered with snow, glistening with the whiteness of God.  As I focused on the snow I was impressed at the purity of it all.  There was not a spot of impurity, not a bit of dirt, not a minute bit of foulness.  I was in awe as I beheld the picture.
 
Then the words came to me, “Though your sins be as scarlet they will be as white as snow, though they be as crimson they will be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
 
This scene shot into my mind and heart the thought that the righteousness that this verse is talking about is certainly not ours.  For the scripture says, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”  Isaiah 64:6.  
If even our good deeds are unacceptable before the Holy God then what about our evil deeds?
 
Are we without hope?  Can we ever please this perfect God?
 
The answer falls down to us from heaven, from God’s throne in the beautiful picture of freshly fallen snow.  It is not our righteousness that is acceptable before God.  It is His own righteousness that He provides to us in the gift of His dear Son, Jesus.
 
It is Christ’s righteousness that is acceptable to God.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior then God accounts all Christ’s righteous acts as though we did them. It is a strange trade: our dirtiness for Christ’s purity, our foulness for His spotlessness, our sinfulness for His perfection.
 
The snowfall brings a message of hope and peace to our sinful heart.  Though our hearts are contaminated with sin, Christ offers us His spotless perfection so that we can stand innocent before God’s judgment throne and be accepted in His righteousness.


THE SPIDER’S WEB

I’m looking out my bedroom window at home and am intrigued by a miniature battle going on outside the windowpane.  A large black-winged ant is trapped in a spider’s web.  A small light-colored spider with a large abdomen is nearby spinning its web onto the frightened insect.  
I’ve read that a spider’s web is stronger, pound for pound, than steel and so I understand what this bad luck ant is facing in its struggle to free itself.  It is literally in a struggle for its life! Click here to see a short video

This miniature struggle for life makes me think of the real struggle between good and evil in our lives.  Many of us struggle with temptation, unhealthy habits, poor self-image, abuse of others and the negative self-talk that some call “stinking thinking.” All of these tend to trap us into a false view of ourselves and of God.  "The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare him. The cords of his sin hold him firmly."—Proverbs 5:22 World English Bible

As I witnessed the poor ant struggle for his life, it dawned on me that each of us is in a spiritual struggle that will determine our eternal destiny.  I was saddened to see the poor insect finally accept his fate—death.  "Could that be our destiny as well?” I thought to myself.  Are we left alone to struggle with our habits and sins?  
The people of Israel had a similar struggle. “The people did not understand the sinfulness of their own hearts. Feeling that they could be saved through their own righteousness, the people said, ‘we will do everything the Lord has told us to do. We will obey him.’ Exodus 24:7 [NIrV] . . .. Only a few weeks passed before the people broke their covenant with God. They bowed down to worship an idol. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken. And now the people saw their sinfulness and their need of pardon [forgiveness]. They were brought to feel their need of the Savior shown in God’s promise made to Abraham.”—Adapted from Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 371, 372.

Sin has a powerful hold on fallen human beings.  We don’t realize the depth of depravity of our sinful nature.  The great leaders of the Reformation called this “total depravity.”  Isaiah stated it this way, “From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head there is no healthy spot left on your [body]- only bruises, sores, and fresh wounds. They haven't been cleansed, bandaged, or soothed with oil.”—Isaiah 1: 6, God’s Word Translation

The prophet Jeremiah diagnosed us correctly when he said, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”--Jeremiah 17:9 New Living Translation

The human heart is in denial of its true fallen condition and strives to correct their defects by self-help seminars, counseling sessions, volunteering and donating but though these are good in themselves, they cannot change the heart.  Christ told a self-righteous ruler, “You must be born from above.” The proud man was shocked that his punctilious rule keeping was not enough to save his soul.  Jesus diagnosed him as a lost man. Yet he could find salvation in another way.  Look to Christ, your Rescuer.  As the snake-bitten Israelites looked to the snake in the desert and lived, look to Him and live. Don’t look to yourselves for deliverance.  You will twist and turn in the web that your sinful nature has spun, as the insect ineffectively struggles in the spider’s web.   

Yet God wants to free us from the web’s of lies.  Jesus promised, “I am come that they might have life and may have it more abundantly.”  He longs to free us from these strong webs that hold us captive.  

It is Christ alone who can free us from the strong webs that bind us.  First, He takes our guilt away by paying the debt we owe to God.  Every sin has been paid for.  When we accept his death on the cross, God treats us as though the debt were paid in full. We are perfect in God’s eyes because of Jesus’ death.  We are forgiven and our names are now entered onto His Book of Life.

Next God changes our hearts by giving us a transformed heart.  “You must be born from above (born again).” It is impossible to accomplish either of these achievements by our own effort, since only God can transform a completely depraved nature like we have. “For it is by undeserved favor that you have been saved through faith; and even that faith is not your achievement.  It is God's gift, and is not on the ground of merit—so that it would be impossible to boast about our salvation!”—Ephesians 2:8,9

So now, let’s not swing in the wind, struggling in the web of our sinful habits and fallenness.  We are freed by God’s power alone.  No need to fight friendless against the darkness of our own guilty hearts, for Christ has died to rescue us from ourselves.  When we accept this gift, God promises to give us another gift, a new heart.  And amazingly, we then, like a beautifully transformed and powerful butterfly we will fly from the webs that bind us into the sky of a new and beautiful life in Christ!

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