Palm Sunday – Seeking the Kingdom

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(Photo taken by me @ Graveyard Fields, NC – June, 2015)

Luke 17: 20-21…”Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ “

I have always loved Palm Sunday. I love the spirit, and I’ve written about it plenty over the years. Though Jesus understands what he’s riding into, the people don’t, and they are so overjoyed to see the humble king riding his donkey into “the kingdom.” The greatest parade in world history. It wouldn’t take long for the crowd to begin to turn, once they figured out what they thought they wanted wasn’t going to happen. We know the rest.

Do you understand the mystery of the kingdom of God? If so, please reply with full explanation, because the rest of us are dying to grasp how to get there. It is “in your midst,” Christ tells us. While on the surface I do understand the concept, spiritually, the divide of the dimensions is a wall that few penetrate. I had a friend ask me yesterday, as we talked about the woes of the world and the influences of society, how do we teach the kingdom (goodness) to our kids? My reply was listing the fruits of the Spirit. All those things that flow from the Holy Spirit living within us. Jesus in our hearts. That’s the kingdom in this dimension as far as I can understand it. And that’s where we (Christians) are to live. If only we could let go of what we know and see. For me, that’s the biggest stumbling block of full transformation. It’s everyone’s stumbling block to full transformation.

C.S. Lewis, in his work, “The Weight of Glory,” dives into this subject. He writes…

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis cuts right to the matter. “Desires not too strong, but too weak.” “Half-hearted creatures.” “Fooling about with drink and sex and ambition.” “Ignorant child in a slum.” Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday bringing the covenant of “infinite joy,” and days later the ignorant children are choosing the thug criminal, Barabbas, to be set free over Christ. Because they couldn’t see with their spiritual eyes who they were looking at, and they certainly couldn’t see past their too weak desires. They wanted their earthly king. NOW. They wanted the Romans gone. NOW. Completely missing the “staggering rewards” Jesus had promised. Blind to it all.

I submit that we are not one bit different, and place us in front of Pilate in 2017 given the same choice, we, too, would overwhelmingly choose Barabbas. Because we are ignorant slum children that can’t see beyond our current circumstances. I understand that’s harsh, but can it be denied?

What are you holding onto that prevents you from existing in the kingdom right now? On this Palm Sunday, and during Holy Week as we lead up to the Cross, that would be an excellent question to stew on as we consider all these things. I will be. Why are my desires too weak? Why am I fooling about with this or that, when I could be there? The Spirit given to me knows only one direction, and to there is where it is always leading. The only thing preventing that – is me.

Tomorrow on Palm Sunday as you smile and enjoy the spirit of the day…Consider these things. Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom!

Gary Abernathy

Resurrecting Consciousness

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(photo taken by me at Calvary Baptist Church of Banner Elk, NC – February 2017)

Matthew 17: 14-20…Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy…”When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’

‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’

He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ “

This particular scripture from Matthew’s gospel gnaws at me on a continual basis. Jesus is not only condemning the lack of faith of his disciples. He’s condemning ours. Mine. The last time I tried, I still can’t tell a mountain to move from here to there and it moves…and I’d sure love to do that. I live in that flats of Florida. A good hiking mountain would be greatly appreciated around here! That of course isn’t the point…

I’m writing today from the place of spiritual pondering…wondering…examining…and not from pure theology. That needs to be clear. These are open-ended thoughts that I consider and pose as questions and theory. Let’s take a fact first – Jesus presents to us that our faith, that we seemingly can control given his annoyed admonishment, gives us unlimited power if we only understood how to draw upon it. In fact, he states emphatically that faith as small as a puny mustard seed gives us the power to move mountains. There’s our fact to work off.

The end game of my pondering here, is trying to determine how to further awaken my eternal conscious that was resurrected by the Holy Spirit after accepting salvation. Just as God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam and rose him up, the Holy Spirit breathed upon our eternal soul and awakened it after acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing I start to consider is this – Are we created (began) as eternal beings at human conception, or, are we already eternal beings that existed before human conception, and certainly exist past human death? That’s an important question. We don’t know.

If we return back to the fact that I’m not telling mountains to move and they do it, it’s logically assumed that my faith must be even smaller than a mustard seed. I don’t feel like my faith is that small. It feels much greater. I believe. Do I doubt? Yep. Do I ignore? Yep. Do I forget? Yep. But do I believe? I most certainly do. Furthermore, I feel like I know…not just believe. I’ve always felt like I know. There is a holy consciousness that resides within me. And I consider that possibly this is what Jesus is making reference of in his statement. If you were even just a little bit awake, “you unbelieving and perverse generation,” you could do all this and much, much more. Unbelieving and perverse. That’s the NIV translation. However, in the King James translation it reads: “O faithless and perverse generation.” In the Greek it translates – “Through you want of faith.” I think the word – unbelieving – used in the NIV, might be misleading. It’s not our lack of belief…it’s our lack of awareness. The world’s deception has perverted our ability to see clearly.

Let’s look at an example of possible eternal consciousness. My favorite numbers just by instinct have been for as long as I could mouth them – 7 and 33. Both holy numbers. My other favorite number is 58, but I know the reason for that and it’s purely human based…it’s the number of my all-time favorite American football player, Jack Lambert. But 7 & 33 are pure instinct. Why? 43 is another instinctual favorite number of mine that I’ve used a lot in life for no particular reason other than it feels good to me. And earlier this morning, and what really inspired this rambling today, is that I was reading Ezekiel, and came to the part where God instructs him to lay on one side for 390 days to bear the burdens of Israel’s sin. Then God says he is to lie on his other side for 40 days to bear Judah’s sin. Calling him (Esekiel), the “Son of Man,” the entire time. Mind blowing stuff put in full context. When I do the simple math of 390 + 40, we get – 430. And there is my 43. That’s a huge stretch I understand, but it deepens my thought process.

We know that by bloodline we are connected to one created eternal being. Adam. We trace our roots this way. We carry forth characteristics and traits through that bloodline, though still individuals and unique to ourselves. Adam was, at his beginning, what we are striving to get back to. What Jesus restored the possibility of us once again becoming. Given the words of Jesus in the scripture from Matthew, we don’t have to wait to leave these human shells to attain the original status of Adam. “If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you can.” He doesn’t say after you pass from human life. He says…you can. Now. You perverse generation.

The Holy Spirit has resurrected our eternal consciousness. It’s why scripture states, “You do not need anyone to teach you.”

1 John 2: 24-25…”As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

See how that ties back to what Jesus stated? “You unbelieving and perverse generation?” We are led astray by Satan. The delusion. And that same delusion is why what we could be…right now…is so stunted and small. So how do we “see that what we have heard from the beginning remains in us?”

Keep your snout and eyes in God’s bread – His word. And absorb. Daily. Guided by the Holy Spirit, that is indeed your awakened eternal consciousness.

Sooner or later…I’m moving that mountain.

Gary Abernathy

The Mercy Cross

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(Photo taken by me at Greyfriars Kirk – Edinburgh, Scotland – July 2016)

Lamentations 4: 5-11…”Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearances like lapis lazuli.

But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.

The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations.

This devotional blog goes all over the world. It’s been read on every inhabited continent on earth. Brazil, Italy, India, Philippines, Australia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Canada, United Kingdom, Haiti, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia, Ireland, France, Angola, Japan, Bosnia & Herzegovina…the list goes on. Not in the millions, but by the ones, twos, and threes. The inspiration of this site is Mark 4:20, which is posted on the home page – “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

I have faith that God uses what he puts into me that comes out here, as seed sown across his creation. I pay no search engine fees, I request no extra features, and I don’t know any tricks. It is God that leads these words to where they wind up. How I would love to visit all the places my site has gone. To meet those souls on the other end. We’re all in this together. All entered through the narrow gate. So, I ask you on this post this most important question – Do you understand what the cross has spared you from? Do you honor and remember? “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Here in these first few months of 2017 I’ve been taking a couple of different academic angles to deepen my understanding and awareness of Christ. The cross. The resurrection. My salvation. One is an intellectual angle by studying the works of C.S. Lewis. The other is by studying the Old Testament and the path that leads to Jesus on the Cross. All supplemented by daily readings of Psalms and Proverbs, which I’ve done in a repeating pattern for nearly 3 years. The latter I do as Godly bread  that fills my soul, instead of filling with the world’s deceptions. It works.

Those studies led me to Jeremiah and then to Lamentations. It matters not whether Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations. The content stands terrifyingly alone. A small portion of which I offered as today’s devotional. I considered my country of the United States in comparison. I considered your countries. Our sin reaches the heavens the same as those to whom the wrath was poured out on. Are we different somehow? Only in the one way – the Cross.

“With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.”

Mothers. Cooking. Their. Own. Children.

Jesus, on the cross, His body broken and His blood poured out – for us – to pay the price. The same price that Jeremiah horrifyingly witnessed before the Messiah came to save. Do you get that? We deserve no less than Jeremiah’s people. It’s our rightful portion for the crimes we commit. With nails driven into his flesh and bones, Jesus Christ took God’s full wrath meant for us.

I would urge you to read Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations. Read all the prophets. It’s not enough for me to write it here in a report. You can only feel it truly while inside His word in sincere relationship. Allow Him to teach you what it means.

And then sow more seed.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does God Love His Creation Unconditionally?

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John 3:16…”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The above is the most famous scripture in the New Testament. That’s the message. It’s everywhere. “For God so loved the world…” But does God love His creation unconditionally? That was a question put before me earlier today.

The above picture was taken back in February of this year by me at E.H. Sloop Chapel in Crossnore, North Carolina. I was on sabbatical in the area, and I’d heard of the work of this chapel and school, and about this fresco pictured,  and decided to check it out. It’s a fresco by, Benjamin F. Long, IV, titled – “Suffer the Little Children.” It’s relevant to this discussion because of what I experienced when viewing it. I had entered the chapel on the other end of the building and I proceeded straight for the altar. It was completely void of other people at that time. Just God showing me what he wanted to and me following the prodding. The first thing I did was kneel on the first step and pray. When I was finished, I looked up above and saw Psalm 121 -“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?  My help comes from The Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  I nodded in agreement, as the Spirit was giving me one of those hugs that it so often does in moments like those. Then I stood and turned around.

My eyes took in this enormous and magnificent piece of ordained artwork. But they were quickly drawn to the bottom left hand corner onto the dark haired child with bangs. His eyes were looking directly into mine as they are any viewer of this work. But there was a twist. That child was me. As I stood there gawking alone in this chapel, it was as if myself rose from its two dimensional limitations and became whole to greet me. The child looks exactly like me at the same age. My mouth was gaping. And in my head and heart, the Sprit was impressing loudly on me – “You’ve always been His.” I’ve strayed far and wide in life, but my first memories are of children’s bible studies in my neighborhood around 4-5 years old, and this experience took me right back to then. “You’ve always been His.” The kid in the picture is standing back, looking at us and not Christ, and seems to be asking, “Is this guy for real?” I was given an answer to that in E.H. Sloop Chapel.

Does God love us unconditionally? When that question was posed, I raised my hand, “Yes.” I was then instructed I was wrong, and that the correct answer is, “No. God doesn’t love us unconditionally. Scripture provides condition after condition.” I don’t agree. All I see in scripture is a God that is nothing but a bottomless sea of unconditional love. Otherwise, he would have ended with the flood and washed his hands of the matter.

It’s funny, because I’ve been struggling mighty lately with the concept of – Free Will. Because everything is centered upon it. Figure out free will, and the doors start opening one after another in God’s great mystery of creation. In our thinking of such, we go all the way back to the garden. God creates man to be the caretaker of his creation, and then he creates woman to be his partner and companion. It’s the paradise we all wish were our existence. They’re strolling around naked, Adam is naming animals, and all is wonderful. And this is key – God is WITH them in the garden. Genesis 3:8…”Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

God is IN the garden walking “in the cool of the day.” The entire point of the cross is to redeem us to that state to where we can be in the presence of our God. To understand free will, we have to go back to what was before Adam’s fall. In God’s perfect unconditional love, he didn’t create man to be a puppet to His whims. He wanted man to love him because man chose to do so. That’s the law of love. It can’t be forced or fabricated. He had to create the means to choose this perfect existence. Genesis 2: 16-17…”And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ “

And there it is. Man, and woman, have perfect existence in the presence of God. Everything is at their fingertips. No disease, no violence, no sadness, no tears, no death…perfect existence. But God gave them a choice. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. “If you love me, and want to be with me, leave that tree alone.”God had to put that tree there to satisfy unconditional love. I know that sounds ridiculous. It’s literally a condition. “If you love me don’t eat from this tree.” That’s a condition. But it has to be there, or else there is no basis for unconditional to begin with. They would just be programmed that way. Man and woman decide to eat from the tree of good and evil. They decide to disobey God. Free will.

God could have ended it right there. Right? We have no idea if we are just one tiny little speck of God’s massive creations expanding to universe after universe. We don’t know. But we have to assume that after that decision in the garden, God could have just wiped it away as if it never were. He didn’t. He never has. If that’s not unconditional love, I don’t know what is. From that point forward of free will given to man being used to turn on his creator, it’s been nothing but disaster after disaster…all caused by free will. And a God that refuses to give up on us, continuing to call out to us – “Let me save you. I love you purely. Please come home.” No matter what God did, man continued to choose that one tree. Time after time. Read the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Listen to God speak through them to man. It’s terrifying. But even so, it always comes back to God’s sentiment of, “I should fully destroy you because it’s exactly what you deserve. But I won’t. I will spare enough of you to continue on.” UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

I can’t speak for our Lord. I made the mistake of adding my thoughts 2 paragraphs ago as being His, and he messed up my writing program. True story. I had to get rid of it and start again without that. But I can speak to how I feel the process might have looked like – God, having tried everything and realizing man wasn’t going to turn, finally decided, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That’s Jesus Christ. That’s why He came. That’s who He is. God. God’s perfect unconditional love coming to earth to live one perfect human life. And in doing so, reconciling us (all of us) back to Him and the conditions of the original garden. It’s a GIFT. Not a condition. We must believe that our Lord did this. All that do so will not perish but have eternal life. Is that a condition to the gift? God tells us it is not. It’s a reaction to the gift. The correct reaction.

So what about all that came after the resurrection and Jesus leaving the earth? What about Romans 6 where Paul describes “Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ?” This…When the Shepherd (Christ) comes for his lost sheep (us) and the sheep accepts his gift of salvation, we are given an all-new life. Our true life. We are born again by the Spirit of God placed within our soul. That’s exactly what happened to me. Old Me, the one that God blew into my nostrils and gave me earthly life, is still dying as was determined by the decision in the garden, but the New Me, is eternal. Old Me is still here, dying, capable of the same sinning he always was, but New Me that began as an infant in understanding, is growing and expounding by the day. Killing what was and transforming to what IS. I have no control over that. It’s written on my soul. Compelled by the Spirit in my heart and mind. Anyone that knows me can testify to the changes within in me. There are still plenty of changes yet to come. It’s a process. But it’s not me doing it. It’s the Holy Spirit. I was told, “You’ve always been His.” I am. His. Because of my own free will, I chose to come home.

By the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection – You can make that choice, too! Why? Because our Father, our perfect Lord, loves us all unconditionally. Always has.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

Delighting in Weakness

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2 Corinthians 12: 5-10…”I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I love the story of Palm Sunday. If I’m being honest, it’s probably my favorite moment in the gospels. I’ll explain why. We are told and assured that Jesus, the word made flesh, experienced every human emotion, every temptation, that we have or ever will. When you consider the scope of that, it’s very hard to fathom, yet that is the provided truth. This means that our Lord felt the same loneliness and fear we all do. The same feelings of exclusion. The same temptations of conformity to alleviate it all. “Go along to get along.” I wrote in my previous posting about the narrow gate and the wide gate. Above the wide gate where the multitudes flow through, surely there is a plaque that reads, “Go along to get along.” It is a compromise of faith that is probably our greatest temptation, when properly laid out in comparison with the millions of others. It is a horrible feeling to stick out like a sore thumb in a way that does not glorify our own egos. In the ways that bring scorn and not praise. We all want to be liked…to be loved. For me, that is the thorn in my flesh…my messenger from Satan that brings torment. But I can’t pull that thorn out, unless I walk through that wide gate of human conformity. Unless I compromise His words to be more pleasing to the ears of others and myself. It’s a devil of a pickle.

Rob Bell, the “pastor” most famously known as Oprah’s spiritual advisor, is the most high-profile example of that kind of “faith.” His stature, his fame, his wealth, his acceptance (false love) by the Godless, is built on a foundation of scriptural quicksand. “You don’t like the reality of Hell? I’ll take it away.” “You don’t like the guilt that comes with wrongdoing? Let’s change the rules.” And recently he decreed, by his own plowing path through the wide gate, that “2000 year old letters have made the church irrelevant, and that to better serve the people of today, we probably need to stop looking to the bible.” (paraphrased but on point). The scripture above, lifted from a letter written by Paul, to be included in that trashing. That’s all I’m going to say about Rob Bell. This post isn’t, nor will any others, ever be about him.

So, that all leads back to Palm Sunday. One brief moment of his entire ministry when he could exhale for just a second and just be loved. John 12: 12-13…”The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Of course, Jesus knew that in just a couple of days, those same people would be demanding that he be killed. That they would even choose a murderous lowlife like Barabbas to live, just to make sure Jesus got the death they clamored to see. But for just one moment, Jesus got to feel the blissful (but always temporary) rush of human adoration. It makes my heart happy for him when I read that…when I consider it. The smile it surely put upon him, as he side-saddled that little donkey up the road.

That’s the same feeling I get when the Holy Spirit “hugs” me in prayer. Do you know that feeling? It’s a tremendous rush. I’ll be kneeling at the altar, tears down my cheeks, rubbing the salty liquid in the wood in front of me, and the Spirit will envelop me in embrace. Jesus…delighting in my total weakness. The body of Christ made strong, by the powerful faith in our weaknesses given over to him. The endurance of those painful thorns in our sides because his love is so much greater.

The people on Palm Sunday were correct in their assessment of Him – He is indeed their king. Our king. But when they found out it wasn’t a kingdom for then and there…”Crucify this blasphemer!” Jesus would answer their anger by explaining that his kingdom is not of this world. They still don’t understand. Still demand the passing through the wide gate.

But for us? The sinners redeemed and given a piece of him to lead us home safely? The sights and sounds of every day life become more painful to endure each day transformation takes us further and further away from belonging to it. I’ve got to the point where I only feel somewhat at peace in just two places – 1. With my wife and/or daughters in rare moments of pure time together. 2. Alone in nature where I feel most closely connected to God.  The rest is just one long bout of homesickness. The pushing of will to do the tasks and things our Lord will have us do and perform. Don’t get me wrong…my heart rejoices in the moments of breakthrough, in the times with true friends, and all the pleasures of life, but now that I know what waits for me next…given example of feeling by those spiritual hugs…that’s where my heart is. I want to go home.

I took the picture above last summer in London watching all the grand pomp in front of the royal palace. That picture reminds me of the Palm Sunday spectacle as they welcomed the true King. The humble Christ on his little donkey. Nothing humble about England’s spectacle, but it’s quite a marvel to behold. In all its wide gate glory. But for this man…I’m just the donkey on this earth. But one day…and for all eternal…he has gone to make a place for me. A donkey no more I shall be.

What gate will you choose?

 

Good Friday 2016

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Luke 23: 27-31…”A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ ”

I’ve watched the “Passion of Christ” many times. It was always hard to take, but I’ve viewed every scene multiple times. I was watching as an observer…and outsider…though thinking I was inside. Tonight, minutes before it became Good Friday in the Eastern Time Zone in America, I tried to watch it again. It has been a good day. A really good day. There was meaningful time spent with good men and friends in bible study during lunch. We discussed James 3 and the power of the tongue. That’s critical teaching to a man that does the things I do. There was quality time spent with my mother-in-law and youngest daughter at my church for Maundy Thursday service. I was honored to help lead the music with my 2 friends, Charlie and Kelly. My pastor gave a purposeful and sincere message. We worshipped. We ate ice cream after. It was a really good day. Then I turned on this film.

Mel Gibson’s masterpiece, “The Passion of Christ,” is the most realistic visual account we are ever going to get as to what the crucifixion of Jesus was like. Good Friday. It’s unbelievably brutal and cringe causing.  Yet, I’ve always been able to watch it despite the cringes and tears. But this time was much different. All of the things I’ve written about so far on this devotional…the baptism…the mountain…the transformation…stem from the Holy Spirit that came to me. The Holy Spirit that wasn’t living within me in all those previous viewings. He’s there now. I wasn’t seeing this as an outsider…an observer of a man being brutally murdered. The way the overwhelming majority view this moment. I was seeing it from the inside. The pain boiled inside of me. It’s me that’s supposed to be chained to that post being ripped to shreds. Flesh torn over and over again. It’s me that is supposed to be condemned. My body tensed and slow tears rolled. I was seeing my own punishment. I had never seen it before. My eyes couldn’t close tighter. Then I opened and he was on the path carrying my cross. I turned it off. I know what’s coming next. My nails. In one hand. In the other hand. Bones crushing. Pain searing. Screams. My screams. Then the feet. Placed on top of each other. 1 long rusted nail driven into them both. My nail. My feet. I couldn’t. I already know. He lives in me now. It was real. I was there because he was there.

I sat in the dark in my chair. A cross above my head. I sat there for a long time in a different place than the physical. We mourned together. The picture posted above is when I came out from that moment and wanted to write it here. That’s not a pose. It’s a capture that was needed for this post. The scripture from Luke I posted for this is not often spoken of in this story. They are words directly from the mouth of our Lord. It’s a dire warning.

Thank you, King Jesus. There is no way for me to ramble out meaningless words of detail, because none could ever suffice for what you did for me. For us. For those you come to rescue and send your Spirit. Thank you. I pray for those who do not understand. The one like me who thought he understood, but is just an observer on the street watching a man be killed with everyone else. I pray they call upon your name. I pray you come find your lost sheep and rescue them. I pray you send them your Spirit. I pray they one day have the moment to mourn together with you at their own crucifixion you took in their place. Thank you. Hosanna in the Highest.

Gary Abernathy