To Walk Among Giants

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(Photo of me at Muir Woods, California – Spring 2017)

Proverbs 4:23…”Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

What are your ambitions? Your dreams? If you could achieve just one thing to a high level, what would it be? For me, I want to walk among the giants. I want to leave this earth having made a Godly difference in a giant way. I once believed that ambition included fame, adoration, my name…known all over. God relieved me of that belief. When I asked him to make me good soil for his word to be sown (the mantra of this site), the very first place he brought the plow was to my massive ego. He determines my steps, so I don’t know what’s planned for tomorrow, but for today, none of those things are in the cards for me. So can I still walk among the giants?

I study Billy Graham like he’s a laboratory. Same thing with C.S. Lewis. I comb their work seeking the essence of their messages. How do they communicate so effectively, one through speech, and the other through words? But I’m not C.S. Lewis, and anyone that’s ever heard me give a public speech, knows full well I’m not Billy Graham. I’m Gary Abernathy. God had to first teach me that I was made unique as are all his creations. I have a purpose. My job is to fulfill that purpose, and not to emulate the giants…but to walk among them. The definition of giant had to be changed in my mind. So my ego was churned up by the plow (often painfully, sometimes embarrassingly so), and the influence of worldly things that filled my heart were ripped out, and God made fertile soil for which he could begin to plant. “Everything you do flows from it.” I needed a heart transplant, and God’s been in surgery doing that for years now.

Being saved by the blood of Christ, we are eternal beings. Eternal. We are not complete in this temporary state. Neither was C.S. Lewis, and neither is Billy Graham. Acceptance of the gift of Christ, is to sign the waiver for construction to begin on your eternal destiny – perfection. To be fully Christ-like. We are 100% destined to be perfect in the sight of God, and so, we are already giants no matter our skills and purposes, our reach and scope. To begin to comprehend such is the beginning of finding true purpose. God sends this blog out to all corners of His earth. But when it reaches a reader in Malaysia, or New Zealand, Taiwan, India, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Russia, Peru, Mexico, or all the readers in the USA, it’s not my name being spread, it’s His seeds. We are sowing seeds. Growing giants.

What is flowing from your heart? Anger? Depression? Confusion? Addiction? Worldly influence? “Above all else, guard your heart.” What is being poured into us is what will flow back out. My favorite Billy Graham quote is this one:

“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

Our choice in this formula is in what we receive. The rest is pure function of how we were designed. Godly in, Godly out. Or, Garbage in, Garbage out. All of us have a certain degree of garbage flowing from us, and it’s our responsibility to test ourselves constantly for it, and to remove the impurities that were received. Tainted seeds die in the ground. Understand? This is not me preaching from the place of perfection, but explaining from the place of having learned and in process of doing.

If I’m to walk among the giants in the purpose of sowing seeds, what flows out from me to you must be of Godly quality. I’m wasting my time and energy if I’m tossing out dead things. Where do you wish to walk? Among the dead? Or among the eternal?

Gary Abernathy – Seed Sower

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Harvest

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Be Holy

1 Peter 1: 13-15…”Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ “

This weekend my wife blurted out a sentence that struck fear into me…”Do you want to clean out the garage today?” I know very well what my garage looks like. It’s a storage building for 20 years of being together and 17 1/2 years of being parents. It’s all the boxes, all the decorations, all the junk, all the toys, all the…stuff…that an American family accumulates over time and has no idea what to do with. If our garage was a metaphor it’s this…The spoiled excess of the upper-middle class American lifestyle that fills our souls literally with junk so that we’re so cluttered the thought of cleaning ourselves up is far too much work…so we just sink into rot and decay.” That’s the metaphor. Sorry for being so deep with it. Truth can suck.

So, my wife, like most wives, got her way, and we began the process. Begrudgingly I went along with this exercise in garage humility. The organization plan was to have 3 piles.

1 – Keep

2 – Charity

3 – Throw Away

Overwhelmingly, the throw away pile was the big winner. (2) full van loads of stuff we’ve been holding taken to the local dump, and another full load still to be taken tomorrow, because today is Sunday and apparently the dump observes the Sabbath. When we started, you could barely open the garage door or side door. Fully stuffed. When we finished, not only did the riding lawn mower and giant smoker grill go back in easy, there is ample room for an actual car to be parked in there now. That’s how much was discarded and how little was kept. On a side note, I kept thinking of one of my favorite Billy Graham lines…”Just because you’re born into a Christian family that doesn’t make you a Christian. You could have been born in a garage, but that doesn’t make you an automobile.” What really makes that line funny is his very distinct accent when he says automobile. Classic. But I digress.

Mankind. There are rules God has established. We don’t follow them. None of us. So, the penalty for that is death. After death, there are ample descriptions and visions of where a soul goes being found guilty without redemption at death. I’ll leave that there. Jesus Christ is our redemption. Because we cannot, God sent his Son here to live the life we aren’t capable of living, so that we might live (our eternal soul). If we believe and accept that, we are offered salvation and washed clean of our guilt (sin). MANY accept that invitation by proclamation. However, the heart is lacking. The heart is all that matters in this equation. Peter speaks to that in the above scripture. We were brought out of ignorance and given salvation. Given the Holy Spirit. A truly reborn soul can’t help with the spirit within them to feel the pull of what Peter’s words allude to in their life. The command issued…”Be holy, because I am holy.” Though we fail daily to fully live up to that, our hearts feel our failures, and our soul always seeks rebuke and correction so that we may each moment move towards a truly holy state of being. Anyone you see as a “Christian” obviously not feeling that pull and seeking repentance, has missed something.

There is a great harvest underway. A separating. A division. Just like the piles my wife and I created. There are His that shall be preserved and saved. There are those hanging in limbo not with the Spirit, but hope still remains they will call and Jesus will send the Spirit to rescue them. Then there is the junk to be tossed away. In scripture it’s described as being, “tossed in the lake of fire.” Which is what happens in a harvest. You burn the chaff. There will be far more chaff burned than wheat collected in the final harvest. Christ will sit on his judgment throne and say to many…”Go from me, I never knew you.” How can you be sure to be wheat in that moment?

You’ll know because your entire existence will begin to transform. What you’re passionate about, what’s important to you, how you love, how you view others…it all changes. Not instantly, but also not too slowly either. When you are reborn in the Holy Spirit instantly the process begins of ripping all the junk stored up inside you out…and replacing it with the holiness Peter speaks of. It’s a very ugly process. Be prepared to cry a lot. Be prepared to try to hold onto for dear life the sin the Spirit is ripping from you and having a whole lot of rebuking placed upon you for it. God punishes his like any good parent does a child. It’s a progressive form of punishment. It’s learned pretty quickly that you do not want to go to the hardest forms. If it’s necessary, God will completely break you down to heal you. David being a prime example. I’ve pushed the Spirit to the limits of him getting very serious. It’s not pleasant…at all. Repent. He cannot use us in an impure state. So we will be made pure at any cost.

If that paragraph above is not something you understand immediately when you read it…well…go to prayer. Get in scripture. Plead for the Spirit. It’s all that matters in this small time we are here. When the harvest arrives…chaff will be burned. 100% guaranteed.

Wheat…shall live.

Gary Abernathy

 

Amnesty – Forgiveness of Sin

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1 John: 5-10…Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness…“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

Americans have three or four of everything. Even most of our poorest citizens are wealthy compared to a large portion of the world. Cups overflowing? You bet. My own home is a 2 story building with closets and drawers all over. There isn’t a single spot to store anything else. Every drawer and every closet filled with stuff. 90% of which my family will never touch again. We make regular sweeps of clothes, toys, furniture and other items, and give them away to charity, and still…the cup overflows. Most Americans live this way even if they don’t realize it.

I was watching an old Billy Graham Crusade from Tacoma, WA in 1983. Within it Billy had this to say about America’s waste: “You could take our garbage in America and feed a great deal of the world. We’re all getting too fat. We’re trying to stop eating and they’re trying to start.” That was in 1983. It’s only become worse 33 years later. In 2016, even our pets live better than most human beings on earth. My dog has a healthcare plan. He literally has better coverage than I do. He eats $50 bags of the best dog food. The one with the buffalo on it. We’ve lost our minds.

We’re sinful not only in our excess and waste, but we’ve also become dismissive and blind to the suffering all around us. In another devotion on this site, “Jesus is the First Responder,” I told of my experience in a Target story where a little girl was lost from her mother and sobbing. I witnessed (2) moms with children stroll right past that little girl without blinking an eye. Where was their instinct to notice a distraught child right beside them? I submit that we all have become blinded in this way here in America to the suffering all around us. We live in bubbles of utter delusion.

The word amnesty has been made into one of the most reviled words in America by media pundits. Day after day, week after week…people paid large sums of money to give their political opinions shout the word amnesty in the same light that we hold the word, holocaust. If you say amnesty in political circles get ready to duck. People recoil in fear first, then they are conditioned to go on the attack and tell you why it’s so horrible. Amnesty in America means the idea of pardoning the tens of millions of illegals living on our soil. No one knows the official numbers of this huge issue. Somewhere between 11-35 million living and breathing human beings are illegally in America. The people want them caught. They want them punished. And they want them thrown out. We’ve fought as a nation about this for a very long time. Meanwhile as we fight with no solution ever implemented, the border has never been more open. Living beings of God continue to pour into the deluded bubble of America. Nobody is stopping it. Apparently we will live with that, but do not dare say – Amnesty. We (as a people) have made this group of people in our minds nameless, faceless and something less than human. That’s not how God sees them.

In the same Billy Graham 1983 message speaking to a crowd mostly under 30, he was trying to impress upon them that God sees each and every one of them as an individual. To that he spoke: “The bible teaches that God loves you as an individual. You’re not just a person lost in a crowd here – You’re an individual before God. You’re standing or sitting before God as an individual. He sees you as if you’re the only person living.” He’s correct. Does the same God not see the millions of illegals in the same way? Did he not send them to our shores for his people to care for? It certainly appears that way. We walk right by them and pretend we don’t see it. Then we shout for their removal. They might take our stuff. The trouble is…God keeps sending more. If we are indeed the people walking in the light and truth John writes of in today’s scripture, how are we to justify our actions? The word amnesty is defined – Forgiveness without penalty. Does this concept sound familiar?

This sort of thing is not a new thing to man. Since Cain and Abel man has been at odds with other men. We separate, we divide, we conquer, we oppress…we kill – all to show our own dominance, doing so completely in defiance of our creator. Speaking on his work in Civil Rights, Billy Graham said this to the young people that night about racism: The story of the Good Samaritan is really a story about the race question. The Jewish people of that day had very little to do with the Samaritans. They were of a different ethnic background. And this is the story that Jesus tells directly to teach who our neighbors are. Our neighbors are people of a different race or cultural background, and we’re to love them. When Jesus went back to his hometown in Nazareth he was well received, until he spoke about the race problem. When he spoke about that…they tried to stone him.” – Billy Graham, Tacoma, WA Crusade 1983

Here’s a sociological experiment I’d like you try – Spend a single day on social media inserting yourself in conversations involving border control and illegal immigration. Take the pro-amnesty stance side of the conversation. Watch what happens. As I stated…duck. They will try to stone you just like they did Jesus. Keep in mind that most of the people you’ll be debating identify as Christians. They count themselves washed clean by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Their debt paid in full by grace. Amnesty. Then they will turn around and stone you for daring to bring up the same concept for fellow human beings. It will open your eyes.

I offer this devotional today not to stir up conflict or create strife. I offer it from my heart with the message….America’s power is bamboozling us. Its pundits and talking heads are doing Satan’s best work. They are teaching us to revile THE central aspect of faith that we all cling to as our one hope – Forgiveness of sins. Consider it.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Bowl Crown

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1 Corinthians 9: 24-25…“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Charlotte, NC is one of those types of places that everyone that was born there is very proud of where they come from. At least they are from my generation born in the 60’s and 70’s and before. Mid-size cities are often this way, such as, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and other similar sized places. We want people to know our city exists too and that it’s a great place to be. I’m not sure of the psychology behind that, but I’m willing to guess that it’s akin to Napoleonic complex because of being rivals with nearby larger cities. Charlotte has grown such now that it’s losing that quality, but for those of us who are natives, we’re extremely proud when good things happen to it. Which leads me to the Carolina Panthers NFL football team.

We (Charlotte) were awarded an NFL team that began play in Charlotte in 1996. The first year was spent playing in Clemson, SC until our brand new stadium in Uptown Charlotte was completed. Uptown instead of downtown is another story all together, but it goes right back to that striving to be unique and special. The very first event held in what is now called, Bank of America Stadium, was a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy of course being one of those proud Charlotte natives, and he is also a fan of our football team like the rest of us. If you listen to past messages of his you’ll hear his love of NC and Charlotte come forth quite often. 20 years later that stadium and the city of Charlotte will be hosting our very first NFC Championship game between the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals. It’s kind of a big deal.

I love the game of football both college and pro. I loved playing the game with my friends as a kid. I didn’t so much love playing organized football, and the giant kids that played against us that must have lived by a nuclear power plant. That’s when I discovered there was a limit to my love of football. Ha. That said, I’ve been rabidly obsessed this year with the Panthers best season in our history. Going into the championship game we have 16 wins against 1 loss. It’s been a beautiful sight to behold. When I attended the playoff game last weekend with my family, I began to wonder if me directing all of this passion at the Panthers was a correct posture from a Godly standpoint. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope bordering on idol worship. Often times, the most seemingly harmless activities are the things drawing us away from relationship with our Father. Is that what is happening to me? It’s a very serious question.

So I began to put this against what the Apostle Paul wrote comparing the spirit of earthly competition with the spiritual responsibility that comes with eternal salvation. Competition and games existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles the same as it does now. He mentions racing in the quoted verse, and later he mentions boxing if you go on reading the chapter. Paul does not condemn these things, but instead he uses them as an example for us to adhere for a much higher purpose. “They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

This led me to honestly assess my life from the stance of am I as “sold out” (I really dislike that Christianese term but it fits here) for Jesus as I am the Carolina Panthers? Not that many years ago that would have been a for sure no. But I’m a much different man in my transformation than I was 5, 3, even 1 year ago. My life revolves around Jesus now in all phases. Even football, because I’ve never even considered this to be an issue before, but now the spirit has brought it to my attention. This is what happens when the spirit of the living Christ dwells within us. It was brought to me to consider for a reason. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy all of this creation and the other humans God has created and the great things mankind does, but we must at all times remain with both feet on his narrow path. Eyes forward. If the Panthers lose this weekend I’m going to naturally be disappointed as to what might have been, but my life will instantly go on. I’m in my own race. I’m seeking the crown that is eternal. The Super Bowl crown will fade to dust when mine still shines with his glory as I lay it at the feet of my Savior.

Billy Graham, if he is able in his condition, I’m sure will be watching the game this Sunday. I’ll be there with my family once again, making the 1200 mile roundtrip trek to be in that moment with them. The picture above is one that I took just a few weeks ago while at his library in Charlotte. It’s a signed helmet from Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, to Mr. Graham, “his friend.” It’s a great moment for the team and for the city of Charlotte and all that love it. But I’ll also have these words from Billy in my mind as I temper my enthusiasm with spiritual reality…“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

I’ve grown much closer in likeness to the Lord over these many years, but I still have much more growing to do. How about you? Are the things you give your deepest passions to surpassing the passion you give to serving and growing in Christ? Serious question indeed.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

Keeping Christ’s Perspective

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Luke 12: 49-51 – (Jesus Speaking) “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

One of the great misleading narratives of Christian faith in the modern world is that of a neutered, hippie-like, Jesus. I’m ok – you’re ok – let’s all go get high (on materialism, immorality – the breaking of all God’s law). This has created a superhighway of mislead believers going down a path away from the cross instead of towards it.

Jesus is the harvester sifting out (dividing) his that he calls wheat, from Satan’s, that he calls chaff. The chaff will burn in the resulting fire. That’s what he is saying in this passage of Luke’s Gospel, and he’s yearning to do it even before he’s gone to the cross and resurrected from the tomb. That is Christ’s perspective. To be fearful (mindful) of that daily is of highest importance.

When we are low, when we hurt, when we are in danger, our first instinct is to call for His help. It sure is for me. That’s a good thing and it’s exactly what we should do in those moments. Just as the psalmist David did, we do the same. But what about when we are doing well and feeling strong? Is our Christ perspective still intact? Are we praising him, mindful of his blessing, and giving credit (glory) where it belongs? This is something I’ve struggled with my entire walk with Christ. Ego and ownership of life.

In that same gospel of Luke, Jesus spells out the responsibility of those given much. (Jesus Speaking) “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”  While I am certainly not rolling like a Bill Gates, I have no room to complain about what I’ve been given in life. I’ve lived comfortable, and at the moment, God has me living very comfortable, and he has also entrusted me with some pretty large platforms. I fall smack dab in the middle of that warning from the mouth of Christ. I have failed it many times. I lose my Christ Perspective by the deception of my comfortable circumstances. Because he loves us, God will always rebuke his own when this happens, the same as we do to our children as parents. Some of those rebukes of me have been pretty harsh, but nothing compared to what he could have done. The spirit comes to me in warning, and where I once would ignore that warning and the rebuke would eventually follow, I now listen…very intently. Sometimes it takes the threat of losing everything that truly matters to us to get a person’s full attention. He has mine. My perspective is squarely on Jesus and his pitchfork. Am I to be wheat or chaff? I never was very fond of intense heat.

Where do you stand in keeping your Christ Perspective? Are you calling for his mercy and help when you are low, and are you praising when you are high, and doing his work of the sharing of your many blessings?

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.” Billy Graham

Pray for and work on building your character every single day. He is coming. Sooner than you think.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

The Act of Obedience

James 1, Verses 22-25: “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.”

It was June of 2015 and the sweat was pouring from my entire body. Step after step, rock after rock, the incline seemed to only get more steep the higher I climbed. The cigarettes had been sat down for a year and a half never to be touched again, but decades of them saturating my lungs had done their damage…my chest was exploding and I gasped for air. I found myself hugging one of thousands of trees surrounding me as I traversed the narrow pathway towards the summit of Mount Pisgah, NC. This mountain given that name in honor of Moses and his last view before God ended his work. The summit sits at 5,721 feet and I was a few hundred feet short of it.

It had been a very special day already by this point, and dusk was creeping slowly but ever steady. I had started this physical act of obedience towards God by hiking several miles in a mind blowing place called, Graveyard Fields. A valley of trees twisted and thrown by high winds at 5,000 feet, and a landscape that at times resembled a tropical rain forest, and in other areas, the remains of the apocalypse. In between, beauty upon beauty of God’s finest work. There has been very few moments where I have felt as alive as I did at Graveyard Fields. Next, I made my way to a place called the Devil’s Courthouse. The path to the summit was nearly as vertical as Mount Pisgah, and it took a lot of the remaining energy I had to make it. Symbolically, I viewed this as an act of ending my worldly-minded life. Mount Pisgah would be the birth of my new God-centered obedience. My adherence to the words of James quoted above. By the time I had made it back to the parking lot, a storm had come up and I had to retreat to my room at the Pisgah Inn.

It was after 6 pm, I hadn’t eaten dinner (and the Pisgah Inn has one of the best restaurants anywhere in the area), and the storm had left everything wet. I flirted with the idea of waiting until morning to conquer Mount Pisgah, but God led me out the door. Because of the weather, the parking lot was empty in what normally would have been a busy site on a late Spring day. Minus the young couple I would encounter coming back down the mountain at one point, I never saw another soul the entire event. I did however constantly feel like one of the many black bears in the area could pop out on me at any moment, and I had nowhere to run if one did. Strangely, I liked that fact, and I trusted God in how that would go. I heard some wild noises in those woods, but I never saw their sources. With a single bottle of water and adrenaline as the fuel, I made my way. Step after step, rock after rock.

As I hugged that tree and desperately attempted to catch my breath, taken from me by addiction and rebellion, I felt like there was no way I could make that last final push to the top. I was praying nearly continuous all day, and at that moment I was pleading for his help to get me there. The spirit put in my head as clear as day the words, “Jesus First, Jesus in the Middle, Jesus Last.” So I started chanting it. Loudly. If there were any bears around me, I’d like to think they were chanting it too. Every step, every agonizing switchback, every rock to scale…chanting, “Jesus First, Jesus in the Middle, Jesus Last”…as I would dig my wooden staff into the ground and push one more step. I was full of every emotion a human is capable of those last many steps. Everything was pouring out of me both physically and emotionally. Then I saw the steps to the summit.

I was spent. My body collapsed on the wooden platform found on the summit, and I lay flat on my back for a very long time just gasping and wiping the salty sweat out of my eyes…and praying. God taught me a great lesson that day that will live with me eternally. Obey. I am his and my soul he will forever hold without fail. I was at one time that man James warned of that heard the word but failed to act upon it. I believed, but I didn’t want the responsibility that came with my salvation. I ran from it. On this day, God led me to him and my spirit was transformed. I’ve changed in so many ways since that moment and the transformation continues. It’s difficult. It’s scary. It places me in uncomfortable positions when the world wants the old me and can’t find him. It’s everything I thought it would be and ran from – and I don’t regret a second of it.

Billy Graham, a man I admire and study intently, once said…”I have never known a man who received Christ and ever regretted it.” I testify to that truth. Chains really do break…setting free really does happen. Have you experienced it? He is waiting for you. Go.

Gary Abernathy