From the Pastor's Pen
If It Ain't Crooked, Don't Bend It!
It's boring! It's hard work! It's bruised and skinned knuckles! It's dusty and dirty! It's a no-brainer!
But it is one of my hobbies. I am talking about making walking canes. Rather, I don't make the canes. That is the Lord's work through nature. I just scrape off the bark, cut out the tangled vine, and then smooth the whole thing up with sand paper.
Yes! It is a no-brainer but I enjoy it. After hearing the woes and problems of people, feeling the pressure of my work, thinking through issues and needs, it is refreshing to cast down into low mode.
These walking canes I mentioned are a work of nature's art. A honeysuckle vine grows up around a small tree and almost chokes the tree to death. Not that the tree doesn't put up a good fight. The tree tries to grow out around the vine in its effort to survive.
The result is horrifying to the tree. It is gnarled and withered. The tree will never amount to much because it has become so deformed.
What a lesson for us!
Sin, that missing the mark God set for us, that trespassing onto ground that has been declared off-limits, gnarls and deforms us emotionally, physically, and most of all, spiritually.
We don't believe sin is all that bad. That is why we are so prone to do so much of it. We make light of sin and justify our wrongdoing by saying, "Everybody else does it, too!"
Never-the-less, we are twisted and bent and deformed. We feel broken and hopeless. For many, they simply give up-that is, give up on God and things spiritual. They feel so unworthy to enter into the presence of a Holy God.
There is bad news in all this! Holy God cannot tolerate sin in his presence. He will judge and punish it. For those who justify their sin and continue living in it instead of living in the power of God, there will be eternal separation. You and I are helpless to deal with our sin and failure. Much as we try, enduring it won't make it go away. Much as we try to make amends, nothing changes our torn relationship with God.
Thank goodness there is good news! The God of heaven, who cannot tolerate sin, has provided a way out for us. While He said sin must be punished, He took the punishment upon Himself. God sent his only Son, Jesus the Christ, into the world to make things right between us and the Father in heaven. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore the punishment of death you and I deserve for our sin. When He arose from death, He offered the dynamic, living power of God to us so we could live a restored life. Once back on God's plan, life comes together for us.
Jesus Christ forgives us our wrong even though we don't deserve it. He creates within us a new desire to love and obey God and His plan for our lives. He sends us the Holy Spirit to comfort and help us. And, he places us in His body, the church, with other failed people, live a life together in community.
When I look at those twisted walking canes, I am reminded of my own splinters and deformities. But I take hope in the words of the Apostle Paul, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." The broken deformities are still there but Christ is in the process of making me (and you if you will allow him) whole.
Clarence E. Byerly, Pastor
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Updated November 14, 1999