There is so much difference between a walk early in the morning and a walk at dusk. There is a quality to the air where even the noise of cars going by is muted. This morning as I crossed the bridge on my daily walk, I was amazed at how much more noticeable the things of nature were.  Cares of the day had not yet set in. There was no need to hurry. Thickets of wildflowers lined the near banks of the river, and I wondered how God could have known what colors to use to delight my eye. 

Looking up the river, I marveled at how the water could be so still, belying the fact that there was abundant life underneath its glassy surface. The river stretched to the horizon ahead of my gaze, lined by deep green trees on either side of it.

The bridge, with its metal guardrails seemed ordinary enough, but a glint reflecting the morning sun caught my attention. As I looked closer I could see a phenomenon almost as old as time. 

Between each rail was an ornate spider web, each one easily ten inches around, the beautiful pattern repeating itself in concentric circles. Move a slight bit forward and the web was invisible. Move back, and I could see this marvel. I was reminded of Charlotte's web, a book that had been read aloud to me when I was a child. 

I walked slowly past each spider web, making a cursory glance at some, stopping at others to admire them closely. It was as if I were viewing an art show. I wondered at how much smaller a spider's brain must be from my own, yet there was no possible way I could duplicate its talents. Some of these webs held a snack to be saved for later; most were in good repair. One spider wrapped its prey as I watched. 

Some scientists say that a single strand of spider silk, as thick as a pencil, could stop a 747 jet in flight. A famous warrior, Gingis Kahn, used armor said to be woven out of spider silk. It is said that spider silk is the strongest and most elastic material on Earth. It was not hard for me to compare these innocent looking snares to the web of deceit woven by our foe, Satan. Strong threads — fragile silk, stretching like the sinuous grasp of a python — only broken by God and His Word.

Webs are sticky on part of the snare and silky smooth on other parts. Insects climb onto the web and find that this high wire act is safe. They become complacent. Ah, but one step further, and these insects are goners. In fact, when they struggle, they only become more deeply ensnared.

Isn't Satan a lot like that?

Doesn't he catch us unawares, when we tiptoe around the edges of his web?

Many of us fail to see him coming; then, a paralyzing bite, a quick spin of the silk, and we are left waiting to die, now comprehending our folly.

A sure sign that we are treading in dangerous territory is when we venture out alone. Maybe we remove ourselves from the family of believers. Maybe we shirk the fellowship by showing up at worship less and less often. Maybe we are involved in conflict between members. Maybe we are wandering onto the edges of sin. Maybe we rely on our own memory of scripture, instead of reading the Bible. Yet we know that each time we read, the Scripture is broken open for us, sometimes in a way that we had never understood it. We may say "This is not so bad, it's not a real sin, I can pull myself back in time." We forget to lift each other up. We forget to notice our brother's hard work. We forget to tell people what they are doing right.

Satan loves it when we go it alone. He loves when we become separated by misunderstanding. He loves when we hate the sin and the sinner. He loves when we deny that we still sin. He rubs his hands together with glee, wraps the silk around us a little more tightly, and watches us squirm.

And what is most important? What is the thing we must agree upon, wholly and completely?

We agree that Jesus died for us on that cross, for the big and little sins we all have, will have, and ever have had. Is God finished with us? Have we arrived? We know we have not; and if we DON'T know this, we are placing one more foot on the edge of Satan's web.

No wonder the apostle Paul told us, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (Ephesians 6:11) No wonder he talked about his evil and deceptive schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Timothy 4:1)

Satan loves it when we go it alone.
When some of us fall away, members of a community must be willing to help that person, and accept them as a member of the family that is just "away." If we see error, we must gently rebuke them. If they feel unloved, we must remind them of God's love, and our love, for them. 

In my depression, I had stopped going to church. My minister met with me and listened much. He always had the right Scripture to call to my attention. He did not lean upon his own understanding, but called upon the Word to enable my healing. He answered my desperate emails, even though often I was despairing of the same old things. 

One member continued to call me and encourage me to attend our "small group" sessions, and listened to my woes. She prayed for me and let me know that I could come anytime I was ready. 

I also received almost weekly emails from another church member who once said, "I know of a really good church, out on 302, next to the drive in. You are most welcome there." And of course, that was my church. He also would use Scripture, and it was apparent, even in my debilitated state, that God was working through the Word and through him. This man continued to consider me a member, no matter how far down the road I might have gone. They sought to reclaim me as an away family member who needed help to come home.

Ah, we would do well to admire God's intricate handiwork. The water, the trees, and the wildflowers all remind us of the Father's love. Even the quiet deception of the spider's web reminds us of the love the Father has for His most troublesome creation ... his human children.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts ... (James 4:6-8)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)