When the Path Feels Lonely

 

oaktreedevotional41

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

Friends

oaktreedevotional40

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

 

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

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

 

 

Equal Justice

oaktreedevotional39

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16

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

 

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

Gary Abernathy

Making Sense of the World

oaktreedevotional32

James 4: 1-12…Submit Yourselves to God…”What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?

I both love and hate being on an airplane. I love looking out the window at the world below. It gives a perspective of life that can’t be gained unless looking down in such a way. The picture above was taken a month ago over Utah. All those snowy peaks I could never see from the ground, but from above, I see God’s grand work. Yet, I hate being on a plane because of how cramped and out of control it makes me feel. I fill up with anxiety, and I have the dreadful feeling of not belonging there. Isn’t that exactly how a spirit-filled person feels living on this earth, too? We stand in awe of God’s work and the majesty of life, but our soul knows this place is not our home. We are the “double-minded” that James speaks of in today’s word. We want to be friends with the reality of the world and what we see and where we live. Yet, the Spirit convicts us to understand and acknowledge the evil all around us. As Johnny Cash once said in his song, “In Your Mind” – “You’ve got one foot on Jacob’s Ladder, and one foot in the fire, and it all goes down in your mind.” James tells us the solution…submission. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Grieve. Mourn. Wail. Stop cheating on God with your worldly lust and desires. “You adulterous people.” Wash your hands and purify your hearts, you sinners. James doesn’t hold back.

How do we make sense of the world? Most of us do so by looking backwards. We select moments and people from the past where we felt something good…and we focus on it. “If we could only get back to how it was,” we tell ourselves. God’s human timeline only moves one direction and it’s forward. Looking forward with open eyes is scary. Death lingers out there. Chaos. So, child-like, we move forward while at the same time mentally staying in our recollections of past goodness. We hold those things like a security blanket as we plod forward into the unknown. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” That’s how to make sense of the world…to be lifted above it. Set apart from evil. Love. There the fruits of the spirit are experienced. Relationship with and trust only in our Lord.

The world is never going to make sense to children of God. We can try all day and night for the rest of our earthly lives, but no sense will ever be made of it all. Give it up. Christ has won the war, so these battles – “fights and quarrels” – only serve to do harm, both to us and to those still seeking. As crazy as it all gets, and as much as our worldly instincts tell us to fight, that’s not what Christ commands. We are to absorb…as the body of Christ…the same as Jesus absorbed. We are great warriors, but not anything remotely resembling the earthly example of such. Spiritual warfare is won by love, because God is…love. Nothing else. God’s love swallows sin and darkness. Love is not conformity to the world, but instead, it’s eternal truth. We stand firm within it…not the world. When evil sees us standing where we were created to stand, it runs from us. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

When the world is in trouble it always turns to God. Even those who deny their soul and God, will eventually bow to their King, Jesus Christ. Our souls turn to God like little children who’ve done wrong turn to their parents for mercy. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.” Will you be saved or destroyed?

Yesterday, I was deeply moved by an image I saw on social media. A young man who had accidently killed a popular local chef with his car during a wild party binge, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. When I saw his reaction to the sentence in the photograph, my soul instantly connected to his. Here’s the image…oaktreedevotional33

I’ve never met this man and I wasn’t there, but I know exactly what he’s doing in that moment. His heart is pleading with its maker. My soul mourns for him deeply, because I can feel his anguish like it’s happening to me right now. My eyes are tear-filled just typing it. It makes absolutely no worldly sense for me to feel mercy for this young man, right? That’s crazy. But I’m torn up over this image. THAT is exactly what I’m supposed to feel. It’s how Jesus mourns for us. All of us as guilty as this man. His soul is begging and pleading for mercy. It won’t find it here. But I’m 100% certain this young man will walk in the kingdom with me. I can see it in the truth of his anguish. Our Lord has already forgiven this man, and if he submits himself to God, he’ll be given the same fruits of the spirit we’ve been given. He might wind up saving many souls the next 30 years in prison as a light. I feel it.

How do you make sense of it all? Do you conform to the pattern of the world, or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? Romans 12:2. When your mind is renewed…you, too, will see what I see in the face of that young man.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Spiritual Happiness

oaktreedevotional31

Romans 12: 3-8…(Apostle Paul Speaking) “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Peace and joy are the primary ingredients that make up what every human ever to live seeks – Happiness. Merriam-Webster defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Isn’t this what our Lord promised in sending the Holy Spirit to us? Romans 15:13 states…”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Throughout the New Testament we are promised these wonderful things…joy and peace. Do you feel them?

The answer many give is: No. We are also promised a rough road to traverse. A cross to bear. A roaring enemy stalking us and setting traps. Do we feel those? Overwhelmingly, yes. Where is our spiritual happiness? If the Holy Spirit is indeed dwelling with you, it’s right there too. Guaranteed. We are just still holding onto to our worldly existence, and peace and joy are not allowed to be brought forth by our own misunderstanding of it all. Contentment is not something we excel at is it? We are taught by culture to want…to envy…to create our own dreams and plans…and to stop at nothing to attain them. We are taught these are the qualities of the justly ambitious and best among us. The exceptional. Who is planting those seeds? Christ or the enemy?

Even in our places of worship contentment is considered a foul word. They must be grown. They must have more. We must keep up with others. What God has provided is never enough. God’s direction is ignored and replaced with man’s direction…who claim to speak for God while they give it. The structures within our churches push their flocks for more and more. Give more, do more, say more, lead more, take up more…do, do, do…for Christ. You owe our Lord this. Lies. That’s the world talking, not our Lord. We are one body of Christ serving many different functions, just as Paul described, and he actually was divinely inspired to speak on God’s behalf. In short Paul is saying, “Do what you do best and don’t try to do too much. Stay within the gifts God has given you for his purposes and glory, and give them your best.” Is that the message you hear in your churches and groups?

In all my years of involvement in the church, I’ve said no to hundreds of things, and yes to only a few. Why? Am I a malcontent, selfish Christian only wanting to do what I want to do? Nope. I’m doing exactly what Paul told me to do. What are the gifts loaned to me by grace? I communicate well through writing, so I write on his behalf…without asking for compensation. I play percussion well so I serve my churches in that way…without asking for compensation…and have done so for nearly 20 years. I’ve been given the ability to recognize suffering and need that comes in my path, and God gives me the ability to offer encouragement. I do that every time I’m led to see it. Without asking for compensation. And God has blessed my family with resources that enables me to share…so I give generously to where I’m led. Those are my gifts, and they are all given to my Lord’s kingdom. No, I’m probably not going to go on a 10 mile walk…because that’s not my calling. I’m not going to agree to lead groups where I’m not qualified to lead them. I’m not going to serve this ministry and that ministry, because my function within the body doesn’t mesh. But do and will I support each and all? Absolutely. The body is one and we all work in unison. Know your role. Contentment follows.

There exists a billion dollar plus industry that caters to God’s people and their desires to find peace and joy…happiness. Christianity in America has largely become the world’s largest self-help seminar. This is why our nation’s faithful confuse and anger so many on the outside. Everyone has a book to sell, a bible study series to peddle, a viral video to expose…and they all have the secret. But nobody is happy. Why? The Holy Spirit isn’t present. No Spirit equals no joy…no peace…happiness nullified. When courageous church leaders and pastors do step up to their flocks and speak God’s true words to them…congregations recoil in horror. “That’s not what our church is about!” “That’s not what we believe!” “You’ve lost your mind!” “You’re pushing political agenda!” No, dear faithful, they are just telling you what God’s word actually says. The Spirit dwelling within them requires they not add or subtract a single word. They are to teach what God has instructed. Period. Want to see a big ol’ controversy in modern churches? Preach the gospel. It got Jesus hung a cross, and it still has the same effect today.

Which leads me back to finding spiritual happiness. Want it? John 14:6…”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Those are the words of Jesus Christ – King of Kings, Lord of Lords. Philippians 2: 9-11…”Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus is Lord of all creation. To find spiritual happiness, as part of that creation, submission to that must occur. God the Father, whose Spirit provides that peace and joy, cannot be reached, but by Jesus Christ. Few will do so. Few will ever sincerely submit. Want to know peace, joy and happiness? Eternal life? Jesus tells us we must enter through the narrow door. The narrow door is truth. Few accept it, most reject it, and all exploit it.

To conclude I offer the words of our Lord from the gospel of Luke. Seek the narrow door.

Luke 13: 22-30…”Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Call on Christ to come rescue you. He will send the Spirit. Listen to Him. Submit. Repent. Live.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Bible Prophecy

oaktreedevotional30

Psalm 16…A miktam of David…

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’ Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 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.”

If you ask me, this Psalm of David is prophecy for all the faithful. This is where the redeemed should be looking when they seek answers to the unknown…to the fearful sights, actions and paths of the world. It isn’t just David worshipping…this is David giving us the answer to what shall be our lot. This is living word. For us, God’s children, there is a “delightful inheritance.” We do not run after other gods seeking their assistance. We do not offer sacrifice to them for safety. Apart from God, we have no good thing. We are counseled by his Spirit…even in our sleep…and the path of life is made known to us. Joy is the prophetic word that belongs to us…because we are already, and forever shall be, in his presence.

My very first recollection of Godly teaching stems from around age 4 or 5. My family was in church when I was born, so God was being made known to me already, but this is my first memory…a neighborhood children’s bible study my mother sent me to. It was led by a woman in our neighborhood and we met at her house. I vaguely remember she was young with dark hair. I remember her giving us all children’s bibles. I also remember she scared me to nightmares. She was teaching us Bible Prophecy. The only memory I take from that event was her telling us that Jesus was coming at any moment…and one would be taken and one would be left. In my child brain, that boiled down to either me or my brother. I had no idea if I was supposed to want to be taken or left. I just knew she scared me to death. I never went back. Isn’t this the effect that most “teachers” of biblical prophecy have? It’s fear porn. And it’s a huge moneymaker worldwide.

I guess psychologically, that first learning stuck with me, because I’ve been interested in prophecy and the ties of world events to it ever since. It’s almost like she put a dark cloud over my head and I kept waiting for it rain for many decades. That is not how a soul reborn in the Holy Spirit sees the prophetic words given to us…we see them as 1) The promise of hope and justice; and 2) Tools of warning to non-believers. It’s within number two that “teaching” often goes astray. Put those tools in the wrong hands, and that’s how you wind up with a 5 year old scared in his bed at night that some mysterious person from the sky is going to yank him away from his family.

In my late 20’s when God was pulling me back away from the world and home towards him, it was once again prophecy that was used to get my attention. I was a young married dad feeling God’s call on my heart, and a television prophecy huckster, Jack Van Impe, started showing up in my orbit. “Y2K will destroy us all,” was the basic premise. “God is using the computers to usher in Revelation.” I might as well have been 5 year old Gary again. It wasn’t going to be me ,”left behind,” I’ll tell ya that. Into deep study I went…and I never missed Jack and his wife every Friday night. My wife watched too. What I wasn’t really noticing was Jack and the bride sure had a whole lot of merchandise to sell during their half hour doomcasts. The for sale merchandise is where you got the “whole story” you see. I did however start to get drawn in, and I even bought myself a “Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible.” It’s very nice. All the doom is highlighted for you. I was learning a lot about Jack’s particular version of the “End Times,” but I wasn’t being drawn towards the gospel…I was being taken away from it…by fear. How you can physically bring a soul into Matthew’s gospel, but yet never teach them a thing about Christ’s love and hope, takes a special kind of talent. But God had sufficiently gained my attention. I began to question my Pastor, Chuck Wilson, about why he never talked about these things in church. Didn’t he know that Y2K was going to cause Russia’s missiles to malfunction and start Armageddon? For the love of Pete, man, warn your flock! I was way off base, but what did I know? God was teaching me a particular talent that he puts to good use with me now. I can discern “situations” on a highly skilled level. It took sorting through a giant mess of deception for years to learn that trait.

The current days are a mega-dream for those who wish to distort God’s word for profit and deceiving. The king of Christian prophecy writers, Tim LaHaye, has TWO books in Amazon’s top 6 Christian best sellers as I type. Business is good, brother. In case you don’t know who he is…Left Behind…and all the books that followed. Don’t get me wrong, Jack Van Impe and Tim LaHaye might be God’s greatest messengers…who am I to say? But what they do isn’t in accordance with Paul’s teaching from anything I discern in the New Testament. Speaking as one who was enamored with the work of both of them…none of their works ever led me to anywhere but having less money and a great deal more worry. The fruit is rotted coming off those vines.

So are the words spoken by Christ in Matthew 24 true? Is all of it true…the prophecy found cover to cover in the God’s word? 100%. Matthew 24: 6-8…”You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” That’s Jesus answering the disciples question as to what the signs will be of his returning. “See to it that you are not alarmed,” Jesus says, right before telling them…“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Matthew 24:9. See to it I don’t worry? That sounds horrible. This is where the dividing line of understanding comes in. The reason we aren’t to worry is because our faith assures us that what Jesus has spoken to us is infallible. Though some of us may even be put to death, he promises not even one hair on our head will be harmed. It takes the spirit within you to understand what that means. The peace that promise brings despite facing a whole world that hates us and wants to kill us…can only be supplied by the spirit of God. If that spirit is not present, then the vault is open for fear to be exploited in a mighty way…and that’s what so many have and still do. Jesus goes on in Matthew 24…“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Deception…something man is extremely adept at. Read the entire chapter. There is a lot more. It is our call to know these things. Jesus speaks in Matthew 24:42…“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Which brings me to why I was taught the things I was taught…How to be his watchman. So I am. And what I can report to you on this day free of charge, and with no extra merchandise for the rest of the story, is this: We don’t know when he’s coming. That’s the truest statement anyone will ever say to you. You can purchase all the material you wish, written or produced by people far more educated than me, but at the end of the day all it says is…”We don’t know.” But they make it very compelling and interesting getting to that point…I’ll give them that.

So, if you want my little opinion, and you’re reborn in the Holy Spirit and saved by the blood of Christ…go to David’s words. Read a Psalm every day, and read a chapter in Proverbs every day. One teaches you how to get along with God, and the other teaches you how to survive in this world righteously. Do those two things…and no matter if a volcano swallows you, a marauding band of Christian haters attack you, a friend betrays you, a war engulfs you, an earthquake rattles you, or an asteroid falls on you…not one single hair on your head is going to be harmed. “See to it you are not alarmed.” That’s the role of bible prophecy.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peace of God With Us

oaktreedevotional28

Philippians 4: 4-9 Final Exhortations…”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

 

  1. Rejoice. Emphasized again so we are to be perfectly clear – Rejoice! How are we as Christians doing with that one? I can only speak for myself and what I see in others. We fail every day to simply rejoice in the work of the cross and the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We complain, we bicker, we worry, we spread angst…I’m world class at those things. I do however rejoice as well in my Lord daily, but am I fully transformed in that joy? No. I have a long way to go. So do you.
  2. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do people see you as gentle? For me, I think it very much depends on who is answering and in what setting. By nature, I’m a pretty gentle soul. But I’m also very cunning and have the ability to tear things to shreds that I feel need torn…and there is nothing gentle about it. Is my gentleness evident to all? No. Is yours?
  3. The Lord is near. Do we feel his constant presence in our lives? Me…absolutely. Christ is at the forefront of my thoughts and my actions. Why I still act against instruction I do not know. It’s extremely difficult to discern God’s will in each moment. I often feel as though I’m acting in Godly accordance, but then in my daily scripture study, I’ll find a contradiction to what I thought compared to what God commands.
  4. Do not be anxious, but instead in every situation, pray with a thankful spirit, and present your requests to God. In my transformation, I’ve become very good at this. I’m on my knees most days thanking my Lord just for the moment I’m in…good or bad. For the opportunities to serve him…good or bad. And always seeking his direction. I’m also far less anxious than I once was. How are you in these things?
  5. The Peace of God that transcends all understanding. Is this something when you read it you say, “Yes!” Have you felt that moment where chaos surrounds you and you should be chaotic too…but you’re not? You can’t explain why…but at the height of confusion, you’ve never felt more at ease? I know this. I believe it’s the Holy Spirit that dwells within me.
  6. Whatever is True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy. Think about those things. Is this where we place our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions…our hearts? I surely try to. It goes back to learning discernment deeply and intensely. This is the guide. They aren’t always obvious and easy to spot. We have to dig deep for these things. We have to tear past the delusions and illusions…the facades of the world. Peel back all those layers…and we find these things. Do you peel, or do you just accept what the world places in front of you as its or His? Satan is powerful on this earth, and most times it comes with a smile and a friendly hug.
  7. Do we put into practice the things Paul has left for us in word and example? No. We do not. The world would be a completely different place. It would be the Kingdom that is to come. Are we trying and transforming? I am. How about you?

With God’s peace, we are capable of “evolving” far past the existence we think traps us in these human shells. Paul had it through the process of receiving the Holy Spirit, and then putting into practice the strict discipline required to reach such a place. That place…Is the kingdom we all seek that is promised. Few will get there. Paul has left us the directions. What will you follow?

Gary Abernathy

The Harvest

oaktreedevotional26

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

 

Building the Foundation of Eternity

oaktreedevotional15

Matthew 13: 37-43 (Jesus Christ speaking)…”The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be a the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Not many pastors dwell among these words from Christ when speaking to their flocks. If you want to run someone off quick, start explaining things like this and you’ll be preaching to only the few remaining faithful. That doesn’t fit into the church growth model. Into the outreach expansion goals or the exotic mission field desires. So they leave the devil, fire, and blazing furnaces tucked away in the gospel they know most of their flock aren’t going to read on their own anyway. Over time this has led to the worldly image of Christ as nothing more than a friendly hippie with some wise and nice things to say.

Jesus Christ came to build the foundation of eternity – His kingdom. “I came to bring fire and how I wish it was already time,” Jesus said. Luke 12:49. God is the creator. He builds things. When he came to earth, the Son of Man was first a carpenter. He built things. As his ministry began, so did the ultimate and final project – the kingdom. We are in that process now as he is growing us from his seeds that have been sown. We are mixed together with the weeds. How do we know which is which? How are we to be sure?

Examine our hearts. Where do our passions rest? What are the motivations that drive us? What do we fear? Where do we place our hope? If Christ isn’t the driver to the answers of all those questions, it’s a very good chance we’re weeds. Weeds eventually are bundled and tied, then tossed into the blazing furnace. Don’t be a weed.

To be clear, we are all deserving of being burned with the weeds. At the same time, with the work of the cross and the resurrection, we all can become good seeds that will bring about the final vision. However, it’s not enough to accept salvation because it’s free or from a sense of survival, and then go right back to being a weed. A great many are in the field waiting to be harvested without a clue they are actually weeds. Their eyes never in the word that is our daily bread, their hearts steeped in worldly sin, and their passions given to shortsighted earthly ways. Their knees never bent in prayer asking to be taught, forgiven and transformed. To the good seeds…the Holy Spirit guides, rebukes, disciplines, and transforms. For the weeds…they are left to the fickleness and playful torture of the devil, who can rise up and destroy any time it suits his fancy or purposes. This is not written as a condemnation of the reader…it’s written from experienced knowledge. I was once an unknowing weed with the confidence of the saved. The Spirit came to me and woke me up from the delusion I was under. The intent of this writing is to wake you up from the same.

Hurry and stir. The harvest nears each hour.

Gary Abernathy

 

Green Pastures

oaktreedevotional22

Psalm 23 (a psalm of David)…”The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love with follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Faith = Trust. Trust = Right Path. Right Path = Abundant Life and Peace…eternally. That’s the formula. If we are to be honest, most of us hold a shaky faith and we never move to trust. We can’t complete the first equation. We are stuck in fear behind a rock in the darkest valley. After rescue and we find faith, trust holds the key to all that we dream we could find. Why can’t we grasp that hand? Why did Peter sink on the water instead of just trusting? Matthew 14: 28-31

David in his psalm spells out to us where God wants to take us. Green pastures beside quiet waters. Our enemies (the things blocking us from God) silenced. Refreshed like a perfect blooming flower. Taken to His glorious place we were created to dwell in. Fear abolished from our soul by trusting his perfect wisdom – His Son. Abiding by the guidance of Christ to find true peace and joy. Our cup literally overflowing with goodness and love for all eternity. That’s where the good shepherd, the Lord, wants to lead us. Who in their right mind wouldn’t go? Why did Peter hold onto the world just like we do? It’s a mystery.

My Grandfather died in his 60’s from diabetes. Before a heart attack took him away, he had lost both legs, one at a time, and a once proud man full of life and laughter, had been reduced to rubble. It was a mercy killing at the end. I have much in common with my grandfather. I was cut from his mold…in my sense of humor, my habits of roaming, and my diet…my intense love of food that isn’t the best for us. I’m soon to turn 50 years old. I have a beautiful wife and (2) teenage daughters. There is much life left for me to enjoy. The future holds great achievements, weddings, grandchildren, and wonderful special moments with my bride. Legs and feet would be useful for these things.

A few weeks ago I walked into an empty room at my doctor’s office. I was handed 3 pieces of paper to review before the doctor came in. The results of my blood work a week earlier. The reading wasn’t too bad at first. I had improved in cholesterol since the last time. Then I got to page 2. My fasting blood sugar level had now moved into a diabetic range. The first image in my mind was my legless grandfather in a wheelchair try to hug his 8 year old grandson. I was just a kid that didn’t understand of course, but I still hold a sadness seeing him that way. I knew what he had been. I knew the both love and fear I had of him. My brother and I spent a great deal of time there, and we would sleep at night in the living room of my Grandparent’s house. We had all kinds of games we would play when were supposed to be sleeping, including my favorite, sock baseball. It drove my PawPaw nuts. He would take as much as he could stand before he would come storming out of his room yelling. That was our cue to actually go to sleep. Intimidating as he was though, he never once laid a hand on me except with those of love. He was a great man.

So there I sit with this paper in my hand telling me that before me is the same future. It’s not like I haven’t been repeatedly warned. I like my doctor. He’s a young, enthusiastic guy and he seems to genuinely care. He’s also old enough to know these things don’t usually turn out well. He said as much. I have a window of opportunity to reverse course. “Eventually the pancreas gets fried and there is no turning back from that,” he spoke to me. He told me what to do to lower this blood sugar level before it’s too late. He looked at me with eyes saying he didn’t have any faith that I would do it. He sees this every day. Jesus sees us look at him with the same eyes. Full of doubt and skepticism. “You of little faith,” Jesus said to Peter, “why did you doubt?”

Trust. This is where I am. Will I trust him to take me down the right path and eventually the safe green pastures I should be? It seems so simple. Why hold tight to the world when I can have that? Do you understand? Are you in the same type place? I believe most of us are. The shaky faith we hold we believe is enough. It’s not. We must believe. Truly and trusting…believe. Less…we sink…just like Peter.

We can transform away from this misery. Our life can be overflowing with wonderful Godly abundance. Trust. We must walk to him in trust. Like a child lifted up by his father and placed safely back down on secure ground. We have to let go…

Pray for me, please. I will be in prayer for you. Peter cried out in his fear as he sunk, “Lord, save me!” Cry out. He’ll come.

Gary Abernathy