What Do Others See in You?

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(Photo taken of my band in 1996 – I’m the guy wearing glasses)

Philippians 1:6…”Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Recently my wife and I sat down with one of her oldest friends that has known her far longer than I have. She was a career mentor and good friend to my wife starting at quite a young age. Lisa (wife) thinks the world of both her and her opinion. Separated by time and distance, we don’t get to spend too much time together with her and her husband, but it’s always a pleasure when we all get together to really chat. This time was no exception. Yet on this occasion, it was me she was interested in learning more about, and the experience left me pondering a very important Christian question – What do others see in me?

When I met the woman that would become my wife and mother to my children, I was the guy in that picture shown above. We met early in 1996. My basic persona if you didn’t know me, was a shaggy-haired rock drummer in a band enjoying success in very small increments. I wasn’t exactly a Hallmark Movie Dream Hunk Prince that a woman would love to show off. In fact, I was pretty much the opposite of that…outwardly. Inwardly, and my wife saw this from the start, I was far more complex and full of dreams and aspirations. Lisa loved that guy, and he loved her right back. We both still feel the same. But to others, I always suspected we didn’t make much sense as a couple. She was this rising corporate business star, and I was this creative/strange type that people like her only happen across if I’m playing the bar they are socializing at in the moment. The night she met me I offered her a ride to late night breakfast, and my small car was loaded with my drums. I made just enough room to add her, and she had fun playing with the chimes from my set all the way to the restaurant. I had no idea at the time what she did in life, I just remember being really drawn to her spirit…the real her…and she was the same with me. We played pool together and got along like we’d known each other from the start. It felt natural. It’s always been that way with us. And we created this bubble of existence that our relationship lives in, that shelters out what other people think and whatever advice they think we need about ourselves. God put us together, we truly believe, and from the earliest moments of our relationship, in unison we put Christ in the center. He began a good work in us.

So we sit down with her friend, and she wants to know how I’ve come to grow into the person I am today. She only knew of me back at that time, but now through my writings and the wonders of social media, she knows more of the true me. Just by how the question was asked, I could tell she was comparing what was sitting in front of her now with the imagery of who she thought I was at the start. She wanted to know how the shaggy-haired drummer grew into this man. “I mean, you’re everywhere now,” she stated. The answer is easy – “Jesus started a good work in me and construction is ongoing.” But that’s not what I said. I had come to the get together expecting to talk about my wife, not me, so it kind of threw me off-guard. So I went on a lengthy history lesson of mentors God put in my path since that time (Pastor’s Chuck, Clark and Ernie), as well as other men like George Woods and Bryan Davis, and weaved a path that led to current me. All of that was unnecessary. I’m still the same guy that gave Lisa a ride to breakfast in my heart. I’ve just lived longer and have experienced a great deal more through His teaching.

Jesus started a good work in me, and Lisa, long before it was ever time for us to be placed together on the same path. When others looked at me then, Christ was unrecognizable, both in deeds and words, but He was surely already there. Anything they see in me now, is merely the progress that has been made by the work of Christ. The process of continual transformation. I’m really happy that her friend sees me now as worthy of what Lisa deserves, but both then and now, Lisa saw it, and I in her, and it really makes a person ponder – What do others see in you? What do we see in others? Here in this moment.

Consider the people that are surrounding your life. Who are the ones that are only window dressing with no substance behind it? Who are the ones that are His even though you, or even they, might not see it yet?

Proverbs 21:2…”A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

What does your heart reveal?

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joyfulness of a Man

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(Photo by me on a tight rocky trail in the NC Mountains – Oct 2016)

Psalm 16: 9-11…”Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

A few nights ago my family ordered Chinese for dinner, and there were the usual batch of fortune cookies tossed in the bag. I opened mine and it read – “The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days.” Being a man who reads Psalms and Proverbs on the daily, I instantly recognized the sentiment as Biblical truth. Throughout the teaching of scripture, joy is presented as a primary (and eternal) result of God’s gift of salvation. If we truly understand just what it is that’s happened to us in accepting Christ, we couldn’t possibly be anything but joyful. The Apostles speak to that constantly in their messages. Paul giving us the ultimate example as he sings praise in prison chains. Yet, we live here in this world, and it’s forever bringing us back down to its dreadful level. We lose sight of the light as we continue on God’s narrow path. Darkness creeps in on us without warning sometimes. When it is said to – “Put on the Armor of God” – we get this imagery of being a warrior fighting off obvious foes and their seen weapons. In reality, it’s our joy that’s most often left unguarded, and it’s by stealth it comes under attack.

The fantastic singer-songwriter, Lucinda Williams, has a song titled, “Joy,” that I thought of when starting this post. “You took my joy – I want it back.” She’s going all over looking for her joy that an abusive man had taken from her. It’s worth a listen on YouTube. The piece Lucinda is missing is she’s looking for her joy here and she’s never going to find it. We must go to the source. The Shepherd is our joy. Lasting, eternal – joy – only derives from the Spirit. Ask any mega-lottery winner how “joyful” they are a few years into their winnings. Earthly things cannot and will not provide lasting joy.

“The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days,” said my cookie. Proverbs 17:22 says…”A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If you do a Google search of – “What does the Bible say about Joy” – you’ll receive a long list of links. I prefer the website, Open Bible, as they provide all scripture links related to a search topic. This is a good assignment for both believer and non-believer. Do you have a cheerful heart or is your spirit crushed? Learn why to either answer.

I’m just like most everyone else and I do not enjoy being unhappy. For a great deal of my life I didn’t know I had a choice in the matter. I’ve learned, by the gift of the Spirit, that I not only have a choice, it’s already been made for me. If I’m not filled with joy, it’s only because I’ve allowed the world to temporarily take from me what it cannot produce. Misery loves company. I had wandered from the safety of my Shepherd. Many a lost sheep aren’t aware enough to turn back off the path they’ve taken. But we are to run back to the shelter of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is He with an easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11:30). It is His pure love that provides true joy. His Spirit, living within us, is the only source of – Joy.

How do we gain eternal joy? By continually pouring provided joy outwards. Hint…The source well is bottomless.

Gary Abernathy

WheWMMav The joThe

 

 

 

 

 

When Christian Teachers Fall

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(Photo taken by Me – May, 2017 – Church of the Cross – Bluffton, SC)

James 3:1…”Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

Teaching the Gospel, teaching scripture, teaching God’s Word…is eternally serious business. So deeply serious in fact, that several months after beginning this blog in 2016, I stopped writing completely for months because I found myself teaching instead of relating. I put myself in time out. I’m not qualified to teach you those things. I am a pilgrim just like you walking down the narrow path. I expect to reach Him. This site is about the stories along the way, and not me placing myself up as the role of – Teacher.

Our common enemy is nothing to take lightly. The stronger in faith you grow, the more perilous your standing becomes. He, it, that thing…whatever the enemy is…will be gunning for you guaranteed. What’s your weakness? Where have you left a hole in the armor? That’s where it will come and it will come hard. When you’re a highly effective Christian teacher, it will be an onslaught. Batten down the hatches, cover up the holes, spend your time in prayer, because you, Sir or Madam, are in spiritual warfare. On top of that, you’re under Godly command to do it all correct 100% of the time. No mistakes. As James warned, not many of us should become teachers.

I know a lot of these teachers. If they’re real, they know full well what I’m talking about, and if they’re in it just for the fame and glory, that’s going to be found out sooner or later. You can fake the world at its own game all day long, but when it comes to the truth – Jesus Christ – it’s not going to work. Billy Graham was famous in his heyday for never allowing himself to be caught alone with a woman other than his wife. The group surrounding him had strict rules about that sort of thing. It wasn’t because Billy didn’t trust his own ability to control whatever human instincts he might feel, but because of the imagery that it presented. Early in his career the media tried to portray that he was bilking money from the collections of his gatherings. That experience taught him the valuable lesson that he was always going to be a high value target to bring down, so don’t make it easy for the enemy to lie about you. Far too many men of God have been brought down by the “adulterous woman” that lurks throughout the teaching of Proverbs. Billy wasn’t going to be one of them. He put on the armor.

One time a few years ago I found myself in a pickle from something I’d done wrong many years ago in much weaker faith, and two people (one male, one female) I highly respect had been sent to give me a “talking to,” as we southerners would describe it. They wanted to hear my side of the story, see if I would be honest about it, and gather all the information they needed to make a judgment. During this talking to they made the point to tell me that they themselves (both high profile Christian teachers) had driven in separate cars to the meeting. They work in the same building, left the same building at the same time, and were both driving to the same location. Yet, they took separate cars. Why? You can’t give the enemy any room to work. Both of them are still highly effective Christian teachers. May God protect them.

This brings me to the sad revelation I read earlier this week on FB about the high-profile, Christian teacher, Lysa TerKeurst. She’s a best-selling Christian author, in-demand Christian speaker, and founder of the online bible study ministry – Proverbs 31. She’s a big deal Christian teacher. Lysa revealed that her marriage will be ending and that she’s filing for divorce. Now let’s be real, this happens all over America hundreds of times every week. Her marriage is not unique in that it will be ending. Except for one thing…who she is. Lysa cited that after long, intensive counseling, her husband refused to stop sexually cheating or deal with his substance use. She’s had enough. Completely understandable to any reasonable mind. However, his side of the story hasn’t been told, and I’d be interested in hearing what the man had to say.

I don’t know Lysa TerKeurst. I do however know, for a very long time, one of her more prominent writers and bible study leaders. I’ve known her since 8th grade, when I introduced her to the boy who would become her husband and father of their 4 children. They are still married. I know first hand the heart of that person, and I know she’s the real deal. I know the work she does for Proverbs 31 is blessed. Is Lysa the real deal? That I don’t know, but she certainly had the wisdom to hire my friend. That circle Lysa walks in is as dangerous as it can get for a Christian teacher. Big time publishers, image makers, marketers…the Christian book and music business is every bit as scandalous as the secular one, and certainly as lucrative. When you’re at that level, you’re walking in the enemy’s prime territory. Make me a star.

At this point, there’s no reason to believe that Lysa is anything but who she claims to be – a sincere woman of faith on a mission to reach women “where they are,” and introduce them to the healing of Jesus Christ. She named her ministry Proverbs 31. The husband in that proverb is nothing at all like Lysa’s. The enemy strikes again. If it couldn’t get to her, it appears the enemy got to him. Both need our deep prayers. We all need the same prayers in our own lives and marriages. The enemy is ruthless.

When Christian leaders fall it gives great power to those who seek such things. It gives them the ability to point and say – “See, those judgmental Christians are all liars and fakes.” It’s devastating to our faith when this happens. Not many of you should become teachers. I certainly do not wish to be one. What you’re getting from me is my open heart, my experiences, and my hopes and prayers that I shine a light that leads you to THE TEACHER…our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I’m just a pilgrim. So are you. Keep walking down the road.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

If You Struggle to Believe…

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(Photo taken by me June, 2017 at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrell’s Inlet, SC)

1 Peter 2: 9-10…”But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

In much detail, I’ve described my experiences with the Holy Spirit the past 3 years here on this blog. If one is getting to know me by this site only, they may get the impression that I’ve been that certain way my entire life. Completely false. My human life has largely been spent far away from the Father in rebellion, yet my soul has indeed acknowledged the “pings” of his presence for as long as I can remember. God chooses us, we don’t choose him, and when we are ready, the time and place is at his disposal to offer the one thing we do choose to accept or deny individually – Salvation via the Son, Jesus Christ. If you struggle to believe, if you’ve read scripture and it lay dormant on the pages, and your heart is far away from God, but yet you still feel his “ping,” do not be discouraged. I’m of the firm belief that if your soul receives those reminder hints in the midst of your otherwise denial, that you are God’s possession. It’s just not time.

I recently read a great example of this in the autobiography of, Jack Barsky, titled – “Deep Under Cover.” If you’ve ever watched the television drama, “The Americans,” which is one of my all-time favorite shows, Jack Barsky’s story is a real-life version. Born and raised in Cold War East Germany, he was brought up in the atheist-communist system of the Soviet-bloc, and eventually became a spy within the KGB. He spent 10 years undercover for the KGB in America as a computer specialist named – Jack Barsky. A totally assumed identity. He would later defect to the FBI and eventually assumed that identity as his real one. It’s a fascinating book and worth the time. However, there’s a much larger piece to the Jack Barsky story, and it’s exactly what I’m talking about here in this post – God’s hints during the path of our rejection of him until the day of reconciliation.

Jack’s parents were both school teachers and he loved every bit of the process of learning. When he was in 3rd grade an optional class named – Religious Instruction – was added to the school’s curriculum. That by itself I found intriguing to learn, as this was the mid-1950’s during the time of Sputnik and the Space Race, and religion all together was considered as nothing but “opium for the masses” according to strict Marxist doctrine. Total malarkey for simpletons. Nonetheless, they began offering this class on Saturday’s at the end of the regular school day. Jack wanted to check it out. His father said no.

“But, why not?” I asked. “Albrecht” (Jack’s real name), my father said with a glance at my mother. “The stuff they teach in that class is mostly fairy tales. It’s not good for you.”  I looked at him quizzically. “Fairy tales are not good for me? I just finished reading the entire Brothers Grimm, and I like fairy tales.” My father seemed annoyed by my precocious argument and tried to explain further. “The Christian fairy tales make people believe in things that are not good for them. In the past, this has helped the rich to suppress the poor. I don’t want to explain anymore – just believe me, this stuff is bad for you.”

That strange denial only made the class seem more appealing to Jack, as now he saw it as dangerous and was even more curious. So, he and a friend snuck under a half-opened window, and listened in on the teacher.

Indeed, the teacher seemed to be sharing a fairy tale with the students, but instead of using the Brothers Grimm, he used a book called – The Bible. We listened with rapt attention as the teacher told a story about three kings who went on an arduous journey, riding camels through the desert, guided by a bright star, to visit a newborn baby by the name of Jesus.

After being discovered by the teacher and shooed away, Jack went home and engaged his father in conversation once again.

“Dad, do you know anything about the Jesus fairy tale?” His face showed instant disapproval. “Where did you hear about Jesus?” he demanded.

From that day forward, his father required him to come straight back after school. But a few months later while visiting his grandfather during Christmas, which they celebrated purely in Pagan tradition, he happened upon a bookshelf and found a title that caught his eye – Die Bibel. He knew it was the book that contained the Jesus fairy tale. He noted that his grandfather was the “only adult in our family who seemed to like me,” and that he was a kind man. “It seemed strange to me that my father was his son.”

My heart picked up a beat as I turned the pages of this forbidden book and began reading from the beginning. I didn’t see any mention of Jesus. By the time I reached Genesis 10 and 11 and the lineages of Noah and Abraham, I had yawned enough times that I decided to close the giant book. I didn’t open another bible for the next forty-five years.”

From there Jack would go on into his work spying for the Soviet Union in America largely unconnected to Christianity. He later looked back in retrospect that God was protecting him from harm all those years, though he never acknowledged such a thing. After his defection, he achieved a very successful career in corporate America, but his personal life began to crumble. His marriage became dysfunctional and his children had all grown and left home. “I came to the painful realization that I was lacking a spiritual anchor, and there seemed to be no refuge for what had become a lonely soul,” Jack discloses in his personal testimony on the site – http://www.outreach.com

Despondent, Jack wrote in an email to a friend – “All that is left for me is to become the best person I can be. I did not really know what ‘best person’ meant, nor did I know how to get there. With the benefit of hindsight, I now know that this email was my first prayer for salvation.”

God knew I was ready, so he answered my (non) prayer. Within three weeks of sending out the email, I hired a new administrative assistant. What impressed me most about this young lady was an incredible peaceful glow on her face and certainty about all things in life. “How is it that you have arrived at such a marvelous inner peace?” I asked. The answer was eye-opening, but at the same time hard to believe: “I take my strength from Jesus,” she said. “How can one take strength from somebody one has never seen?” I thought to myself. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and one month later I was baptized.

 

 

Talk to your Father.

 

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

I Believe in the Good Things Coming

Matthew 7:9-12 (Jesus speaking)…”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I had returned to the place where my life had been turned by God’s own hand 3 years prior. There I stood in the shadow of Mt. Pisgah in the “big boy” hills of North Carolina as I call them, staring at the mountain I had climbed in an agonizing vertical way. Chanting as I huffed and puffed in near collapse – “Jesus first, Jesus in the middle, Jesus last.” That was a different day, a different purpose, and a rescue of my soul by my creator. I’ve written of this early on in this devotional if you care to seek back, but today, as I stated, was another day. There would be no Mt. Pisgah. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever climb it again….but if I do, it will be with my wife. No, today was something else entirely. But what?

In the shadow of that great mountain stands another grand formation nicknamed – Fryingpan Mountain. And upon it stands an abandoned old ranger station that used to serve as the perfect watch point to spot possible wildfires in the Pisgah Valley below. Today it’s a rusty relic that very much resembles a very large creation of the erector sets I played with as a boy. It’s not exactly a rock solid fortress, but despite the harsh winds and weather it endures, there it still stands waiting to offer an adventurer a view unlike any other he’ll find. It could also offer him an urgent need of a tetanus shot if he’s not careful. I was going there.

The path to the ranger station leads up an old gravel road the ranger trucks would use. It’s about 1 1/2 miles up a much kinder slope than Pisgah, and generally an easy walk. The month of May was closing out but the weather was still quite pleasant, ranging in the upper 50’s on top, to the upper 60’s where I walked on the path. The jacket I was wearing was quickly removed and tied around my waist. I knew I’d need it later. I had my trusty walking stick I named with the creativity of a 5 year old – “Staffy.” I had bought that stick to get me up Pisgah. He and I have seen a lot together…good ol’ Staffy. So we walked and admired. Yellow wildflowers in bloom, smells of this and that, and best of all, only 1 other person that I knew of up there besides me. I had intentionally given him a big headstart so he’d be coming back down when I was going up. I wanted to be alone up there. That planned worked to perfection. As we passed on the road I asked, “Is the view worth it?” He just smiled and said, “Absolutely.” As I turned a bend, I came to an opening that provided a clear look at Pisgah and I was deep in thought about that day. Staring at the big mountain I asked God, “So, what are we talking about today, my Lord?”

Unlike 3 years ago, there was no turmoil in my spirit. God wasn’t yanking me up a mountain by my ears, and the name of my King wasn’t being drill-marched into my worldly existence. Today was a celebration of the good things He had promised and delivered if I’d only listen. I did. He had. Just a few minutes after I asked that question aloud, I came to a gate that blocked off another old ranger road. It, too, was rusted and decaying, and local kids used the metal and wood to spray paint various messages. The first thing I saw was – “Stay Gold” – except the “G” was on a falling piece of wood and separated slightly from the “old” and I thought it read – “Stay Old.” My sense of humor kicked in and I asked God, “Stay old? Is there another option, because I’d like to hear it?” Then I saw the G. Now THAT was pretty cool. I wasn’t the greatest student as a young man by any stretch, but it was never from a lack of intellect, but always from a place of rebellion. The same kind that got me dragged up Pisgah. But I did read a great deal in those days, and one of my all-time favorite books was – “The Outsiders.” “Stay Gold, Ponyboy.” I knew that fictional character personally in many ways and it was a big influence on me. “Ok,” I said to my Lord. “I can see this is going to be a good day.”

With a smile and peaceful feeling I continued my casual march to Fryingpan Tower until it came into full view. Sitting on a clearing atop the mountain was the giant erector set fire station. I get so excited about things like that. I would assume that technically nobody should be allowed on it. My wife is a master in insurance and would have a fit at the liability isssues alone. Who cares.  I’m going up. The only portion boarded up and blocked off is the actual station room itself. You can climb to the very last landing just before it. The view is phenomenal. As good as Pisgah’s with a whole lot less effort. I sat up there as the wind howled and the cool air demanded my jacket I wisely brought, and for a good long bit…I never wanted to leave. It just felt so nice. To be in God’s right graces. All that has transpired in these 3 years. The things I’ve been taught. Shown. Given. Taken. It’s impossible for me to calculate it all. I was just simply thankful sitting there.

Leading up to Pisgah was when I first became aware of the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t getting it. My heart wasn’t right. My actions not in line with the man God needed me to be. God’s patience was wearing thin. As I slept in my office at home where I normally write on the little futon, the Spirit came and there was no joking about it. The message in essence can be summed up by this – “You’re going to change…NOW.” And events unfolded from that point that gave me no option but to adhere or be ruined. When scripture says God is the Father, and he loves us as such, it’s a real thing. My Father was fed up with my side-saddle faith, and wasn’t going to allow me to fall into ruin. My soul is eternally grateful, though the cure was not at all pleasant or easy. Yet, everything I needed to get through was provided…as promised. And there I sat redeemed in the shadow of the mountain where Gary met his Father.

Funny, for the past 2 years the Spirit isn’t speaking to me like it did when I was blindly in trouble and it was sent to rescue. But I do hear from the Spirit, and all it ever says…very clearly…is – “Great things are coming.” I’ve told my wife this many times when it happens, and I’ve told trusted friends the same. “The Spirit keeps telling me that great things are coming. I trust the Spirit.” So after I reluctantly decided to leave my perch on Fryingpan Tower, I made my way all the way back down the rusty old contraption. When I turned around to take one last look up at it, I noticed a written message on a lower rail. It read – “I believe in the good things coming.” Whoa. There’s more of us out there? You bet there are. We know. Do you?

Great things are coming, readers. You can count on it as gold. God the Father is true to His word.
Gary Abernathy

What Can Be Trusted?

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(Photo taken by me in Savannah, GA May 2017 – Madison Square & St. John’s Church)

Proverbs 3: 5-12…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with your firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

I was standing on the balcony of the admission’s building of the Savannah College of Art & Design this past weekend, and across the way was the cross atop the gorgeous steeple of St. John’s Church in Madison Square. I’m like a young boy with these things, in that I still have that youthful amazement when gazing on such glory. In that space of Savannah there is a lot for the eyes and brain to absorb. It’s stunning in its nature, architecture, and history. But it’s the cross overseeing it all. I began thinking about – trust.

The headquarters of the infamous General Sherman are right beside that church. His “March to the Sea” ended in that square. Southerners revile his name, because his “hard hand of war” ruthlessly slaughtered many thousands to demoralize the Confederacy and bring an end to America’s Civil War. Yet, Sherman also liberated thousands of slaves along that same march. There are no good guys in war. Only winners, losers, and the innocents caught up in the game. Slavery in America co-existed with deep faith, and it was God who brought them a deliverer for their trust placed in Him.

Also in that same square is the first “Lodge of Perfection” of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, issued by the “Mother Council of the World” in nearby Charleston, SC. The creepy and mysterious 33 degree Freemasons. Albert Pike, the former Confederate General, who is the only Confederate with a statue of remembrance still to this day in Washington, D.C., and his gang of whatever they are. Trust them? No thanks. But still, I see that cross overlooking their doings, too.

Then there is the Sorrel-Weed House, considered the most haunted in Savannah, a city well-known for its spooks. The house first belonged to a wealthy shipping merchant named, Francis Sorrel. He fell in love with one of his slaves, a beautiful girl named, Molly, and the two of them romped around until being discovered by his wife, Matilda. Matilda leaped from the second story balcony to her death in the courtyard below. A few days later, Molly was found hanging from a noose in the carriage house. It’s said that even now, the two women haunt this home. What a sordid example of man’s most repeated sins – greed and sexual immorality. Trust in that? But yet, there is the cross rising above the home.

The history of this square goes all the way back to the Revolution, and its name is in honor of America’s 4th President, and framer of the Constitution – James Madison. In the square is a statue of memorial for, William Jasper, of the 2nd Continental Regiment of South Carolina, who was fatally wounded in the American and French failed attempt to break the British lines, which began at that square.

So there I stood on that balcony with my oldest daughter, named – Madison – overlooking all of the mind-blowing history of that one small area, and listening to her explain what she does for her work there as a student ambassador for SCAD. Staring at that cross and thinking about trust. She occasionally works sitting at the desk inside the doors of that building welcoming guests and potential students. I joked that she should say to those that need to wait, “Why don’t you go stroll around my square (Madison) and I’ll come get you when it’s time.” More proud of her I could not be, as she soon will enter her sophomore year. Madison is a performing arts major. She kinda likes the drama. I think God placed her in middle of one of the most dramatic squares in American history for a reason. I trust Him.

What can be trusted? We tend to assume that the times we are currently living are out of control, and all that came before might have been bad, but they weren’t as crazy as the present. Wrong. God is always in control as the chaos of man rages wild. That cross looking over this particular square symbolic of His ever present status.  In Proverbs, and many times in scripture, we are instructed not to put our trust in our own understanding, but to trust the Lord. There is a plan, and by submitting to his will, we will prosper within that plan. It’s the submitting where man takes issue. And places like Madison Square remind us of the tragedy we leave behind.

Today finds my family in ongoing trials and uncertainty. It also finds us prospering in God’s promise to our rendering trust in Him. In God We Trust. Amen.

Gary Abernathy

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the Right Place

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James 1: 22-27…”Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

A little over a week ago I was standing on a hotel deck by a fire pit overlooking beautiful San Francisco, California. Directly across from me in the distance was the island that was home to the infamous – Alcatraz prison.  It paints the perfect illustration for this devotional entry. Are you living in the right place? My family and I were staying in a gorgeous hotel that was created by transforming its former occupant, the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory, into luxurious 2 and 3 bedroom units in the city.  It was heavenly, and yes, the chocolate is still everywhere, too. I certainly felt like I was living in the right place while staring out at Alcatraz and considering what it must have been like locked up there instead. It’s a metaphor of course, and both are worldly prisons of different types, but in a simple way, it provides a good visual for the topic. To not be imprisoned by my fellow man, I have to choose to obey his laws. If I do not, I wind up in a place like Alcatraz. Your spiritual existence holds even greater stakes.

When we choose to accept the gift of salvation – choosing to place our guilt on the cross with Jesus – we are agreeing to be reborn so that we may exist in His holy presence. Washed clean. Absolved. One of Billy Graham’s main points throughout his entire ministry was that the cross should be offensive to us. It should revile us. Why? Because it’s our  sin nailed up in torturous agony. It’s our punishment. He took the bullet for us. He made the path that we cannot make ourselves. He provided us the right place to live. James is talking about what that means in his first chapter.

Where are you living? I often find myself being tempted back into previous states of mind, or pulled into new directions leading me away from the home Christ has made for me. Just last night I was having a great conversation with 2 old friends and we were rehashing stories from many decades ago. We sure had fun together. I cherish all those memories of laughter and bonding. It would be very easy for me as a human just to stay that person I was back then. To not grow. To not transform. Just stay that guy and be that way. But in reality, that guy was a miserable train wreck always one step away from total disaster. I was free to have all that fun, but my soul was locked up in a place far worse than Alcatraz. Lost and rotting away. Directionless. Pointless. The relationships I am honored to have from it all the only saving grace. The stories…they are all nailed up on the cross with the rest of my sin. It’s not that it was all bad, because that’s not true whatsoever, and we were loyal brothers to each other…that’s always the best of goodness. But the actions that I alone am responsible for…they add up to quite a mountain. I’m thankful each moment of each day that I was rescued. That Christ found me worthy enough to come get me. To pull me out of all my misery, wash me off, and give me a true life. An eternal life. To show me the right place to live. Placing a beacon of light within me that won’t allow to go back even when my mind is tempted to go there. The light pulls me back to the mirror James talks about. The mirror that reflects who I really am. Who God made me to be.

There is a modest house that sits mere steps from the front door of the church I’ve attended for well over 10 years. I park my car on the other side of the fence that separates the property often. I did just that yesterday. When my youngest daughter was going to preschool there many years ago, she would say (almost daily) that she wished we lived in that house so we could be so close to church. She said that because she spent a great portion of her early life before elementary school in the church. It felt like her home. It was the right place for her to live as far as she was concerned. I look at that house frequently. Yesterday I arrived for pre-service rehearsal (I’m a drummer in the praise band) and parked in my usual spot. I noticed as I looked at the house that there was a Halloween-like skeleton decoration hanging from the wall facing the church. I didn’t know what to make of that. I took it as a sign to keep away.

The reason this house fascinates me stems from the fact that it is indeed so close to our doors, but as far as I know, its occupant has never stepped foot inside. That truly bothers me. If we can’t reach them, how can our mission work spread beyond that house? We have all kinds of services and activities that minister to the people of the surrounding community, which is in dire need of them, and they take full advantage. Praise God. But that one house refuses to budge. I’m pretty sure every pastor of the church (United Methodists rotate) has attempted to get them in. I did just that myself a few years ago. I am not the knock-on-doors type, but one day I took a bible I bought with my own money and went and knocked on the door. I wound up having a conversation with a woman that lived there on her front porch. She didn’t invite me inside. I gave her a simple invitation, presented her the bible as sincerely as I could as a gift, and the end result of the effort was her saying – “Well, we all do our own thing, right?” Which was her polite way of saying…”Buzz off, Jesus boy.”

I look at that house from the viewpoint of the same way I looked at Alcatraz from the splendor of my renovated chocolate factory. I’m standing in this magnificent glorious place (God’s House) and just across the way is a prison. Now at the Ghiradelli location, I can’t go get the prisoners and invite them to live in the right place with me. Fairmont is in the business to make money, and I can’t afford to pay the fee for all of these hypothetical prisoners. (Alcatraz long ago stopped housing real prisoners). But when I’m standing in real glory, my church, I most certainly can go invite others to come join me. It’s up to them to decide. The price of admission is free, because the cross that they will find paid the price for them. But even though…free still isn’t good enough for so many. They would rather just keep looking at the mirror that will keep lying to them. The one that will let them forget who they are.

When we allow ourselves to exist away from God, whether physically or mentally (pride, jealousy, envy, and all the classics) we are not living in the right place. The safe place. The true place. His place. So I’ll conclude with the same question – Where are you living?

Gary Abernathy