The Flickering Light of Hope on the Frontlines of Hell in Mosul

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Psalm 27: 1-3…”The Lord is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

I read something tonight on the Facebook page of Reverend Franklin Graham that has compelled me to do something I’ve yet to do on this devotional site – use someone else’s words as the message. My words after reading this are silent. They do not belong in this testimony. I’m fully aware of what has been taking place in Iraq and Syria these last many years. I’m aware of the utter horror of it all. But this testimony comes from within the horror…within the chaos/darkness/evil…no word does justice…of man’s darkest capabilities. My prayers go out nightly for those in this…what is it even…this unraveling of man’s very soul. They have for a long time now. But nothing has ever been shown to me in my safety in the west quite like this. You must read it if you claim the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior. You must know.

This letter was written by a staff member of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Trauma Hospital on the ground in Mosul, Iraq. A land that time after time in God’s word continues to surface. It was integral to Assyria. It is Nineveh. One of the very first acts of ISIS after taking the region was to destroy the tomb of Jonah. Blew it up. That was a message sent.

Here are the words…

—My first day at the emergency field hospital just east of Mosul, Iraq was very much like my last day. Mortar strikes on civilians, children bloody and broken, black bags to hold the dead. The slow, solemn walk, cradling a ten year old in my arms, counting the steps to the morgue. Laying someone’s son down on cold gravel, reading his name one last time on the death certificate taped to the body bag.

Time of death 18:17.

Patient #855.

I’ll never forget the sounds of his dying. The rattling and the gurgling. I’ll never forget the songs we sung over him, the prayers strangled by grief and sorrow. The tear stained cheeks and our righteous anger. I’ll never forget the faraway look on his precious face. I’ll never forget his face. What was left of it.

Many of us were strangers a week before, two days before. Strangers taking care of other strangers. One set from the west, a land of peace and prosperity, one set from northern Iraq, a region ravaged by terrorism and war. And now here we all were, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, translators, construction workers, administrators, and HR reps. One and all hearts turned inside out and taking care of the dying while other new friends fight for the living in mobile operating theaters a few hundred feet away.

That last night may have been the worst. The toddler with ribs exposed from mortar wounds. 9 children in one day. But there were other days, other nights when I thought my heart might die. The toddlers with their feet shot off. The whole families targeted by drone strikes. The burnt and blackened restaurant patrons, victims of a suicide bomber. One night in particular I carried five children to the morgue. It leaves you breathless, concussed. The mortar of sorrow, a direct shot to the soul.

I’m processing, I’m free bleeding my heart and thoughts here so I don’t explode and because I don’t have the luxury of denial. I cannot separate my belief in a good and sovereign God and the suffering of innocence. If there is no reconciling the two than I am lost. We all are. Especially Christians, fools to be pitied of all men.

But what we found there, behind those blast walls, with the ceaseless drums of artillery fire, the strangled song of the whine and wail of one ambulance after another, was that hope is not a thing you wish for, it is the only thing afloat in a raging sea of chaos. It is what you hold on to, what holds on to you so you do not go under the relentless waves of grief. And we found that you hold on to each other. And you pray like gasping for your last breath. And you plead with heaven, even when heaven is silent. And you raise your broken hearts together in a pitiful little petition, more whimpers than words, and you beg, unified in grief, “Jesus please…..”

The Bible says that suffering produces hope. A comical, sadist thought when the belly is full and the sun of our futures never sets, always shines on our glorious destinies. But when the night never ends, when the morgue is full, when evil seems to be laughing in every shadow, on those nights you somehow see it. Suffering produces hope in this way: when terrorism and hate and the cancer of evil spreads over all that is good with a blight of darkness, the light still does not go out. There is a flame in the hearts of those who have known the love of God. There is a song of praise that is not stalled on their lips, is not silenced. There is a light in the inner places of those who have heard the Word of Life and believed. This is the flower of hope that grows in the garden of souls by heaven’s Holy seed. This is the hope that springs eternal, because it has always existed, always will exist apart from the human stain, in the Holy heart of God.

Suffering produces hope in the same way bomb blasts produce the broken bodies of children. It is the inevitability, the cause and the effect of universal laws. But only one will remain. Hope will swallow grief one day because Love will conquer all. But Hope is inevitable in us only when we trust, against our own instincts, in the goodness of God and allow ourselves to be taken deep into our own human frailty, far past vulnerability to the point of despair. And in that wasteland of our utter uselessness, in that wilderness of our unraveling, God is there, He is faithful, He alone, as He has always been, is holding the universe together and simultaneously holds us in the palm of His hand.

That is the only hope: that God holds His own in the palm of His hands while they yet suffer. And that the insatiable hunger of the mouth of Hell cannot devour the ragtag, broken band of believers called the church.

In the picture above I hold in my hand a 50 caliber bullet taken from the body of a pre-teen boy. An ISIS sniper shot him because their’s is an ideology of fear. They target the weak, not just because the weak are a low-hanging fruit, but because most of us are weak. Most of us are trying to live our simple lives in peace. ISIS needs capitulation. They need submission. A sniper bullet in the side of a child reminds us the world is not at peace and things are not simple. It reminds us that suffering isn’t a concept, that no abstraction paralyzed this young man. It reminds us that we are fragile and vulnerable. It reminds us that to walk the way of love our hearts will be obliterated by suffering.

And so against all hope we hope, that Love will one day conquer all. But not human love. Only God’s selfless love, for with it carries His perfect all-powerful justice and the promise and ability to make all things new. Godspeed that day. Especially for the precious children of Mosul.

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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

 

 

The Company We Keep

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Mark 2: 1-12…”A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ “

The company we keep matters. It matters a whole, whole, whole lot. From my very first memories, until this moment right now, I can recollect a friend placed in my life that in one way or another, led me in the direction of Christ. The first was a neighbor named, Laurie Newsome. We were 4 years old and best friends. The two of us attended a neighborhood children’s bible study together. Those are my first memories of having a friend in Christ. Moving forward, there is a steady stream of various friends that would come into my life. The bulk of all those relationships having nothing to do on the surface with direct involvement in church, bible study, or anything of that nature. But when reflected back on, it’s easy to trace. The kids above in the picture (myself and 3 best friends) playing large roles in that. We were truly brothers.

The scripture I gave today from Mark’s gospel showcases a band of friends just like mine in childhood. A wily bunch of dudes loyal to each other…and crazy. A few years ago I watched a sermon from Pastor Mike Glenn of Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. I love that guy. He has all the degrees, pedigrees, this and that’s you want from a pastor in authority, but when he’s speaking from the pulpit, he delivers in simple ways that are engaging and fun, while still being highly thought provoking and purposeful. In short, he speaks to me. And a few years ago he did a sermon on this scripture that hit true friendship right on the head – those dudes in this scripture are exactly the type of friends you need to have in your life.

At this point in his ministry, Jesus has the juice. He’s got the buzz. Everyone is talking about him and all are curious and excited to see him. There wasn’t even room outside the door to listen to him speak this day. Meanwhile, somewhere in the vicinity lives a paralyzed man. He surely must have been beloved, because normally that figure in the bible is alone somewhere with nobody to help him. But this guy was, or had been, keeping the right company. Because they heard Jesus was coming, and they knew that this was their friend’s best and probably only shot of healing. What follows is a series of events that sounds exactly like something my friends and I would have done back in the day.

4 of them carry this man to the place. Carry. Him. Do you have friends that would carry you even 5 feet? These fellas carry this man who knows how far to get there. That in itself is a tremendous act of love. Only to find out they can’t get anywhere near Jesus. Like the secret service has the area sealed and there is not a snowball’s chance of getting in. Normal people say, “Oh well, dude, we tried. Maybe he’ll come back another time.” Not these guys. You can just imagine the conversation that took place between them. Pastor Glenn is quite hilarious in his rendition. I won’t attempt it. Suffice it to say, somebody came up with the oh-so-insane idea of somehow getting this paralyzed man on the roof of the building, managing to cut a hole in the ceiling large enough to fit him through, and then lowering him I assume by rope down in front of the Son of Man. Not only did they pull off all the above, but they wound up having the entire whacked out plan being recorded for the remainder of time in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was so impressed by this effort, and I love to imagine him stopping in mid-sentence as he notices that a man is being lowered down from a hole in the ceiling above his head and breaking out in laughter, that he proclaims to the man on the mat, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now this tells us that – 1. Whatever had paralyzed the man was due to sin. 2. Jesus wanted everyone in attendance to know that he had been given authority to forgive sin. 3. That if we come to Christ in sincere faith no matter what the weird circumstances were that got us to him, we can and will be forgiven. This all ends with the massive crowd aghast at what they’d just witnessed, and the once paralyzed man picking up his mat, and walking out the door in full view of all. The keepers of the law appalled at the “blasphemy” of Jesus declaring the authority to forgive sin. I’d love to have seen the reunion with the friends once the healed man got back outside. “Dudeeeeeeeeeee! That was unbelievable!!!” They’re all high-fiving and falling all over each other. “I can’t believe that worked!!!!” Laughing, smiling…and so happy their friend is healed. Those guys? That’s the right company to keep.

The teenagers in the picture above were I think in 9th grade when that picture was taken. It was by the basketball court at my home we were usually found hanging out at. I’m the shaggy-haired skinny guy on top of the pyramid. The guy below me I’d met when I was in 2nd grade. He was my first friend in a brand new neighborhood. We met in school and he invited me to sleepover at his house. I was scared to death. Seriously! I can be a little shy at first, and I didn’t know what I would possibly have to say to him for that long. I was still so innocent that my room was full of stuffed animals. (Note of honesty – I STILL keep stuffed animals around me and I’m 50 years old. They comfort me. Sssshh. Don’t tell anyone else that). I knew just from manly instinct that taking my beloved Pooh Bear with me would have been a death blow to that friendship. He didn’t seem like the stuffed animal type of guy. Super friendly, but that wasn’t his gig. So I decided the cool move that would accomplish me “having a friend” along for the ride, but not look stupid was…and I really did this…taking a stuffed Fred Flintstone doll with me. To this day, and it’s now been over 4 decades since…he STILL gives me heck about that. And I of course don’t blame him…soooooo lame. But if we went right back to that moment right now, I’d do it exactly the same way. That’s who I am. You want to be friends with me…you get the real Gary. To his utmost credit, and despite what I’m sure was against his better judgment after something like that, we wound up being the closest of friends all through high school graduation and beyond. In 8th grade I introduced him to the girl that would go on to be the love of his life and the mother of his 4 children. She’s now a well-known internet bible study leader for women. The first time they kissed was in my backyard. We have a lot of history that guy and me.

The 2 guys on the bottom? Oh, they weren’t that important in my life. I only made music with them in a band for the better part of 3 decades. They were my best friends for most of my life to this point. People came and went in the various forms of that band over the years, all of them special and important, but the core of us 3 never changed. It was our band. Our family. Our friendship. Those 4 guys in that picture? They would have carried each other to see Jesus if it meant healing was possible. We were those guys. Though time, families, life and distance separate us now, I still believe in my heart we still would for each other. I know I would. And I’d bring Fred Flintstone with me.

The company we keep? Matters. Cherish those brothers and sisters in your life that love you the same way Christ loves you – exactly as they find you. And sure as the sun will shine…they will make you a better person.

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?

 

Finding Your Happy Ending

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Peace and Hope

Romans 5: 1-5…”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

This scripture leads me to my near 19 year old niece. This weekend, in a moment of wonderful personal triumph, she stood upon a platform as a diver for the University of Houston, and received silver and bronze medals that helped lead her team to their first conference championship in school history. The program began in 1975. She’s been at that school for just a little over a month. My niece, a fiercely private person, wrote on her one social media account that is was “the happiest day of my life.” A happy ending. I’m so proud of her. Because I know the road that led to that podium.

This isn’t an unauthorized biography, so I’ll skip all the details that many of us share of hardship in childhood. The bottom-line is she’s suffered like all the rest of us, but she’s also had a large, dedicated and loving support group surrounding her since birth. As part of that, she’s been introduced to Christ and long ago accepted his invitation. She’s a practicing and devout Catholic, in a family full of Protestants, but it makes no never mind to me. I know her heart, and it belongs to Christ. When that’s the case…we are going to suffer. The question is…will we find it within ourselves to persevere? If you trace the timeline, her athletic woes began to surface about the same time her faith began to flourish. In other words, God began testing her.

My niece was a high level gymnastics state champion of North Carolina at one point. Talent is not lacking in that one. On top of that, she excels at the highest levels academically. She plays to win. Everything. Then came the injuries. Cracked this. Broken that. It all led to a doctor one gloomy day telling her she couldn’t compete in gymnastics anymore. Too dangerous for her injuries. Devastation number 1. Her entire existence was built around the gym. But she plodded forward nonetheless. Her grades not falling. Her determination unaltered. Her faith unquestioned. Then diving was suggested to her. The talents required for competitive diving are the same needed in gymnastics. You just add some water into the equation. Off she went.

She got really good really fast. The scouts started coming around as she progressed in high school. Then devastation number 2. Her mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in the lymph nodes. My niece and her mom are two peas in one pod. She adores her mother. It did not look good at all. Surgery. Chemo. Hair loss. The cancer drill. Still, she kept plodding forward. Nothing slipped, even as the heart broke and the fear struck. I’m happy to say, her mom is in full recovery and doing well for now. It was a scary time that far too many women go through. Many don’t make it.

Senior year. Time to decide on a university. Her grades allowed her much flexibility. Her talent many offers. She’s a valuable asset to any program. She chose James Madison because of the coach. They had a bond from the beginning. All was set. Then James Madison fired the coach. My niece was thrown into turmoil of how to proceed. Eventually, she backed out because she wasn’t getting the program she signed up to join. Recruiting season was over. High School Graduation came, and I watched her receive her diploma, and unlike almost all great students, she had no set plan in place for where she would go in the fall. Then Auburn invited her down. They had no scholarship they could give, but she could be a walk-on to the team. She loved the school, loved the campus, and all of us (the loving support group) were real excited. You could hear us chanting, “SEC! SEC! SEC!” Then…Devastation number 3. She failed her physical exam given by the conference. They are more stringent with walk-on athletes than scholarship athletes, and her past injuries spooked them. Auburn? Kaput.

Still she persevered. Character must have been building like gangbusters if Paul’s outline is correct. Off she goes to the local community college to start her education. She just didn’t stay home for the semester and weigh her options. She kept on with it. I’m sure it’s the Spirit-driven hope she’s been given that did that. Finally, recruiting season opens back up, and the University of Houston came a-knockin’. I now know why they came knocking. They were a piece away from winning their first championship. My niece? The piece.

She started classes in January after winter break, and a little over a month later, she’ll be forever enshrined at that school with her teammates as the first champions ever in the sport. In her always humble words…”So thankful I got to spend the best day of my life with this amazing team. WE ARE CONFERENCE CHAMPS! #gocoogs” Happy Ending.

Until the next test. Which is coming. For all of us. The real happy ending will be forthcoming when it’s time. For those that understand that? All this earthly stuff is just another day to get better in His glory. Amen.

I love you, my sweet niece. Keep on truckin’ 🙂

 

Gary Abernathy

 

Seeking the Kingdom

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The Armor of God – Ephesians 6: 10-20…”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me (the writer – Paul), that whenever  I speak. words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

That’s quite the exciting imagery Paul puts forth in that letter. Swords, helmets, breastplates, shields extinguishing flaming arrows…the full armor of God! Be ready to stand your ground! It’s the stuff of heroism that fills the imaginations of most people. We want to be that brave soul. The righteous one. Oh my how we fail so utterly at doing and being so. Our world is overflowing with self-righteous zealots, and Paul was one as well before being blinded by the glory of Christ. We summon all we believe to be right into a fiery ball of rage, and we set out to conquer the wrong in this world. That’s the story of the entire timeline of man – the quest of righteous justice in the perceived minds of man. Cain kills Abel and off it goes. Has never stopped. The trail of blood that leads in all directions to the cross.

Before I write these posts, or any of my writings elsewhere, I kneel at my altar steps from where I sit, and I pray that I’m given the correct words so that they may reflect His will, His purpose, and His glory. Paul asked for that prayer, and thus so should we. Why? Because anything that comes from our own mind is automatically tainted with the spirit of that river of blood flowing towards the cross. We all have our motives. My own particular weakness in that regard rests in glory. I want it, but it doesn’t belong to me and it never will. It’s a battle I’m often fighting against. And when the armor is missing a piece or two, that’s where I’m most often attacked. The one who defends the kingdom must be stripped bare of his own will, and covered fully in the righteousness of the Lord. There is no way for us to fill in pieces of that armor ourselves. It’s all his, and when removed, we are right back to the feeble sinner state we began with.

I was watching an old Billy Graham Crusade earlier today, and he spoke to this in that unique way of Billy that breaks down complicated things into simple terms. I love him for that. It’s the gift God gave him that allowed him to reach millions in such an enormously impactful way. This is a direct quote I jotted down from that message in Chicago, Illinois in 1971. Billy Graham…

“Ya know, some of us Christians live as though Jesus is dead. He’s not dead. He’s alive! Oh, you’re going through your troubles, and your trials, and your temptations, and your testings, and your pressures, and you’re under satanic attack all the time…constantly. You know, I think in many ways, in some ways, it’s easier not to be a Christian in this world. Because the devil may leave you alone. The moment you receive Christ as Savior, you’re in for it. Unless you live on your knees and live in the scriptures, and keep your guard up, and your spiritual armor on at all times. Because if you let down even one day as a Christian you’re in trouble. The moment you receive Christ all the world is going one way, and you turn around and start against the tide as a Christian. And that’s hard.”

Yes it is. Very hard. One of the primary confirmations of the truth of Jesus Christ to me is the fact that I now experience exactly what Billy Graham said there quite often. I used to go merrily on my way doing all sorts of things not intentionally seeking harm, but leaving a trail of destruction behind me nonetheless.  A worldly life lived within (mostly) the laws of man, but far outside spiritual law. Receiving Christ convicted me of those sins and forced repentance, and in turn, caught the attention of the devilish pied piper that I had stopped trailing along. Billy said as soon as you receive Christ you’re in for it. No doubt! Every weakness of our existence can and will be used against us. Anger, sexual temptation, pride, envy, jealousy…all the classics. I know I’m important to Christ, because I’m surely important now to the adversary. The armor of God. Can I order that on Amazon Prime?

Unfortunately no. To live in the kingdom in tranquil peace and security, there is no shortcut to be had. We are under a constant state of transformation where piece by piece of that armor is being instilled upon and within us. As each year passes by, I have a few more weapons at my disposal, not so easily knocked down as I was before. Moving from place to place along that narrow path of lessons, testings and temptations. But I’m not fully armored. Some of the shots get through with regularity. In particular when targeting my want of glory or prodding my wrath when I’m distracted into putting down my protection. But…I now know where to seek shelter. I know exactly where to retreat. Into the word. Into prayer. On my knees. Seek my hero. And that’s what it’s all about.

Submission of our will to his authority. Once you figure out you actually can’t be defeated no matter how devastating the attack, then you can begin being armored. The victory is already won, but most of us are wasting our time nonetheless still trying to win it. Our Lord needs us to move on. To submit to that victory so that we can be taught to live in it. When we do that others will follow. Heroes of the Living Christ within us.

My eyes are fixed upon the kingdom. The armor I have been given is on and I’ll gladly receive and seek more as it’s given. But my eyes gaze on that path, even when storms and attacks knock me from it. That’s not me capable of doing that…it’s the Holy Spirit. Praise God. Are you beating yourself up and living in defeat, or are you running to your victorious hero for shelter? You can’t do this alone. The wolves will eat you for breakfast every single morning, and come back at night just to laugh at your condition.

Take this serious. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

In Regards to Relationship…

img_1103Hebrews 11:6…”And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

That verse is lifted from a chapter of scripture titled, “Faith in Action.” It references the actions of faith by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Jews passing through the Red Sea, the falling of the walls of Jericho, Rahab, and then goes on to mention many more. Faith by relationship expressed via action.

I’m no less a sinner than any other reading this post. I deserve to be on the cross. So do you. My sins may differ from yours, or we may have the same weaknessness, but sin we all do, and condemned we all are, minus the sacrifice of the lamb and our acceptance of that eternal gift. So, I was warmed, surprised, perplexed, thrilled, scared, and overwhelmed yesterday while I knelt in prayer at an altar in a highly special place. The words, “I am pleased,” were whispered to my soul. My spirit heard it and understood why. The same reasons as the above. My humanness, however, thought…”Me? You’re pleased with me? You know all my thoughts. You know who I am. You’re pleased? How can that be?”

Relationships. We spend all of our lives chasing relationships. Nothing we do in life, not one thing, is not somehow in accordance or in conflict with our human relationships. The ones that matter to us…our family, marriages, friends, careers, and the like, we take great care in nurturing. When we don’t they fall to pieces. But in our faith, we often leave the one relationship that actually does matter – with our creator – as a one sided affair. We expect him to come to us. How well does that work in your daily life? If your marriage is one sided it’s going to end or be unhappy at best. If your parenting is one sided (not engaging your children) the kids are going to be lost. If you treat your friends like that, they eventually stop coming around. Relationships only flourish when two people are making the effort for it to grow. It’s the same thing with God. When what we consider a relationship with God is calling out to him only when we’re suffering in some way, then we are not in a relationship. We’re in a worshipping the idea of a genie in a bottle fantasy. God is not going to answer.

Faith in action. I find myself consumed often in seeking him. In his scripture, in the words and thoughts of his great teachers, in the fruit of my labors, and his voice when I strike out searching for the place where he’d like to meet. This time it was in Crossnore, NC, many hundred miles from the place he has me call home. I’d never been there. Didn’t even know it existed. Yet, I was drawn there to find the Holy Spirit in abundant presence. At a chapel named, “E.H. Sloop Chapel,” I was shown a remarkable thing, on top of being told he was pleased. I saw myself in a great work of art. Mr. Sloop and his great works are another story, and I recommend you Google it and learn for yourself what was and is done. Holy, holy, holy…all of it. I’m standing alone in this chapel after prayer staring at this magnificent fresco titled, “Suffer the Little Children,” and in the piece there is a child in the bottom left hand corner staring back at the viewer. In that moment, to me, I felt intensely that the boy was me. I kept staring at his eyes and they felt so familiar. Then I noticed his hair looked exactly like mine at the same age, and then his whole image kinda leaped from the art. It was incredible. I teared up.

It’s a real relationship to me. My faith is not token. It’s earnest. And it spurs me to want to be with him. When that feeling starts to fade it scares me. I act.

Where is your relationship with him? If you compared it against the effort you put into your most important human relationships, would it exceed it? I can’t tell you what is right, or how you’re supposed to do it. They are unique things…relationships. I only know how mine works with him. But I can tell you that the first step to building it…is action. On your part.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

When the Path Feels Lonely

 

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Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8……A Time for Everything……”There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

At one time early in faith, I was full of idealistic thoughts and impressions of God’s people set apart from the world. Everyone that is child-like in faith is like that. Even though I knew I was wretched, they weren’t, and I viewed all of them as if put up on a pedestal of maybe not perfection…but goodness…righteousness…the right people. I submitted to them. I gave right away to them. I listened. I bought in. Then I matured. I found they were just like me – wretched. I remember the first time I had that revelation. A young husband, young father, new believer…I was serving our church playing music as a then pioneer of contemporary services. I was partnered with this big, wonderful, musical soul who played keyboards, sang pretty badly but with all his heart, and taught me a great deal about playing music on the fly. Our new experimental service was on Saturday nights. My wife and I loved it. She sat with our infant daughter in the sparse congregation, and I served on stage playing a horribly cheap electronic drum kit. We loved our Saturday nights. A new Bob Evans restaurant had opened just down the road and we’d go eat there when church was done. I’d get steak and sunny side up eggs every time. Happy times. Cherished memories. Then our pastor left.

I’d never seen a church power struggle before. I idealistically believed churches were run totally by happy people with nothing but gleeful intents and purposes. Wrong. The teeth were shown, the fangs unleashed, and it was ugly. The new pastor sent was a female with only administration experience under her belt. She was a paper pusher. The situation called for strength…she was the opposite. They ate her up. One night at band rehearsal I was sent to go make copies of the music for the night. I didn’t know where I was going in our large church. Never made copies there before. So I opened a door that I thought was the copy room, but instead was a board room and inside were all those same wolves. They made it perfectly clear I was not welcome and that I was an idiot for thinking the copy machine was there. I slinked out with my head down. That moment has forever stayed with me. Trust broken. Faith matured. Man – sucks.

These paths we walk with God? There is a time for everything. Sometimes…in fact, often…that path is very lonely. There are moments that I feel like nobody at all has any clue what I’m talking about. No idea what I’m trying to say. I can be in a room of 100 people that all know me, and I’ll feel like I’m far away on another planet all alone. A time to be lonely. In the scripture above, we all relish the good portions of that list, but we also suffer the counters to them. This lonely thing isn’t fun. I don’t like it. But that’s the path. There is no Godly option of “Easy Path Only.” Then, as promised, the lonely is replaced by those connecting souls God puts in our path with us for seasons. None of us worthy…none of us good…but we walk in faith together on that path towards Him. And then we part. Back to the lonely trail. Knowing the Lord Jesus Christ is always by our side and in our hearts, but also knowing we must experience these things. The same way I needed to know that churches were just like any other place – broken people doing what broken people do. Does that make the church unnecessary? Absolutely not. It makes it irreplaceable. Can you imagine a world where we were no longer even trying to rise up to God’s calling for us? We’ve seen those societies on earth many times. They always end in death and destruction. The church survives because it represents hope.

If you find yourself on the lonely part of the trail, dive into his word even deeper. Hardly anyone dives in at all…another terrible revelation I’ve learned…but we must, and when we’re lonely, like David, we call out to our Father for comfort and understanding. What he will put in your heart, is that there is a time for everything. You are every bit as important as all the characters in scripture, and you’re living God’s continuing story right this moment. You’re the character. Your happiness, your suffering, your triumphs, your failures…this is God’s work in your life. Recorded. You’re David. You’re Saul/Paul. You’re Peter. You. God’s word is not past tense – it’s now. It’s eternal. Timeless. If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t fret, I don’t make a whole lot of sense to hardly anyone right now. <<< That’s a devotional attempt at humor 🙂 But, I make sense to my creator. And this is my story. Keep walking.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

Friends

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Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12…”Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

 

God has blessed my life with friends. All sorts and types of friends. Some forever friends, and some sent for important periods. Though for as long as I can remember back to childhood until now, I’ve always felt a sense of loneliness, God always provided someone to share it with. My first friend of memory was a girl named, Laurie Newsome. She lived next door to me. We were four. She was my first kiss. In my dad’s storage shed. I’ve had at least one close friend ever since. Usually many. Thank you, God.

One of them came to my house yesterday. We’ve been friends for well over 10 years now. He was coming to drop off his golf clubs for me to carry to Tennessee for him for an annual trip we go on together. That’s this weekend. He’s going through a major heartbreak right now – His mother is on her death bed. It could come at any time. It’s not a solid relationship because of her addiction. We share that bond in our mothers. For a time years ago, he and I were exactly what the other needed. For me, a good friend to spend time with in a place foreign to me. For him, an older friend to be an example on how to live successfully. We both got what we needed from that. We share a mutual respect for each other. His life moved into marriage, career, honors, and lots of travel. Mine moved into the places it is now. We get very little time together these days. This upcoming trip designed just for that purpose. Once a year. At least. There are many of us in that group – Friends for life.

When he arrived at my house I was in the driveway cleaning out my car. He pulled up and I had predetermined to be cheerful because I know he’s suffering. This is a guy with a huge heart, but a steely exterior, and he can be flat out cold as ice when he puts his mind to it. But around me, his friend, that shell always seems to melt. Both of his feet hadn’t even touched the pavement of my driveway before he started to tear up. He’s torn up about his mother. I’m his friend. He knows there will be no man-code silliness judgment from me. He controlled his tears, but they remained as we talked. I gave him a hug as he left and made sure he knows his friends are ready to pick him up. That’s as Godly a moment as it gets on earth.

Who are the people in your life that you depend on? Your friends. Do you make sure they know you love them? Do you give them the same friendship in return? Too much giving…too much taking…is not friendship. The ones that consist of mutual ebb and flow…those are your real friends. Love them. This world is awful lonely even with them. We need each other. “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Gary Abernathy

(The above picture was taken in the early 1980’s in my driveway. I’m still friends with all 3 of them.)

 

 

Equal Justice

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Proverbs 11:1…”The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.”

God provided man with free will. Since the beginning, man has used that free will to exert dominance over each other starting with, Cain and Abel. “Oh, God finds you more favorable huh? Ok. I’m just going to kill you. Solves that.” And on we’ve gone. All of human history is an ongoing story of who dominates who and the inevitable judgment to follow. What’s truly fascinating, is that each new generation of would-be dominators believes they’ve invented something new. This current age in America a prime example.

Equal Justice has never been known in the world. It’s a fantasy in a worldly sense. Justice is extremely real spiritually. There is equal justice and it will be applied. For that, we can be absolutely certain. The cross was the judgment. Christ took all of it. Our salvation. But still, despite the ultimate gift, man’s free will prefers short-sighted, ignorant, worldly fantasy. Spawned by the sentiment of Genesis 16:12…”He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” There are over 100 references in biblical scripture to “weighted scales.” Do a Google search using that pairing. You’ll receive them.

Recently, I witnessed a young Puerto Rican man and a young African American man, friends, performing in a skit of improvised quick wit. The one kid, in complete innocent humor, referenced the enslavement of the other kid and his would-be selling on the block. Because of the preferred status of the 2 races in play, the joke was absorbed by all as simply – awkwardly acceptable from whom it was given. I made no outward expression at all. It was a trap of the most deadly kind. The psychology at play was that currently, it’s quite ok for race defamation of even the lowest kind, as long as it’s the races who’ve most recently seen evil persecution placed upon them doing it. That’s not equal justice…that’s just the next form of persecution rising. But nobody sees that. Man does not wish to see that. God’s equally weighted scale doesn’t operate in that fashion. Evil does not repay evil on human terms. Justice belongs to God alone.

Man is simply obsessed with these shells we’re in. The flesh. All evil revolves around the desires of something that lasts but a breath and then returns to the dust from which it came. We are not flesh and bones. We are eternal souls. Pastor, Max Lucado, posted on Facebook the day of this writing the following insight: “When God sees you, he sees his Son, not your sin.” That’s the identity of the believer. Jesus. What shell that believer happens to be in on earth makes no difference in any possible way. It’s a shell. God sees either a soul bound for judgment or a soul that’s been redeemed. All of those souls equally guilty under spiritual law. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp; we just simply don’t want to. God’s Kingdom is the coming equality. Man will never achieve it. Man will just continue on the cycle of replacing dominance with dominance. In a modern sense, consider rival street gangs. If one kills a member of another, the other kills two of it in revenge. This cycle never stops. Who will dominate who? This is all that man’s sinful heart cares about. Today’s equality warriors, cloaked in all their self-perceived robes of righteousness, are only in truth seeking revenge on the past generations of dominators. Then they will exert themselves into the same role and become the enemy they were fighting. It’s the work of Satan. Not their desire for deserved justice, but their gall to believe they have the right to administer it.

Seek your creator. In the wisdom and knowledge of, Proverbs, God gives us the map of how to ‘get along’ in this world. Study that book daily. Absorb the call most will ignore. The path is tiny and few will enter the Kingdom. Proverbs teaches us what the path looks like.

Proverbs 16

  1. To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
  2. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
  3. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
  4. The LORD works out everything to its proper end – even the wicked for a day of disaster.
  5. The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
  6. Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.
  7. When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.
  8. Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.
  9. In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
  10. The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth does not betray justice.
  11. Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making.
  12. Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.
  13. Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.
  14. A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it.
  15. When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.
  16. How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!
  17. The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives.
  18. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
  19. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.
  20. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.
  21. The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.
  22. Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.
  23. The hearts  of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.
  24. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
  25. There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
  26. The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on.
  27. A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
  28. A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
  29. A violent person entices their neighbor and leads them down a path that is not good.
  30. Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity; whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.
  31. Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.
  32. Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.
  33. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

 

Jesus is King. Justice belongs to the Lord. Listen. Believe. Live.

Gary Abernathy