What Do Others See in You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does your heart reveal?

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Christian Teachers Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

If You Struggle to Believe…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Talk to your Father.

 

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

How to Find Promised Peace

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Galatians 5: 19-26…”The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

This is vital scripture to the soul reborn in the Spirit. It’s written by the Apostle Paul to the early church of Galatia, which is now modern day Turkey. Considering the central role Turkey is now playing in the ongoing saga in the Middle East, it’s interesting to compare what Paul wrote to them versus what is now present. But this isn’t a political post. If I wanted to go that route with this particular lifted scripture, I could break down all worldly politics and social movements to expose the evil that they are. Maybe another day. This is about you…and me…and the church.

When I read scripture I seek out clear and simplified instructions like these. I’m a direct person. Tell me exactly what you want from me. But God’s ways don’t match our ways, and so, we are given parables, and examples, and history, and prophecy, and the mystery remains big enough to fit all of us within its hold. But I sure love it when it’s broken down in easy to understand form. This is Paul telling us clearly what the fruits of life without God are, which end in death, and what the fruits of the Spirit are, which lead to eternal life. It is critical to understand the second to last sentence in the scripture I posted. Why? Because of how he wrote it and how those of us living now experience it. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

We have a choice to make in that regard each day and each moment. Our souls have been reborn, but we (as living human creatures) are still transforming like a caterpillar to a butterfly from dying flesh to eternal spirit. In short, we consist of both, and all of the above listed traits are still within our capability. How many great men and women of God are fallen by sexual adventures? How many by selfish ambition? For as long as we are still flesh, we are still capable of producing and being victim to its fruits. It’s very important to understand that, and it’s Paul’s dire warning he’s giving. “Keep in step with the Spirit.” It’s a choice. It’s not an automatic impulse. As your faith grows and your spiritual maturity rises, those fruits become natural impulse, but they are still a choice. We have to train ourselves to keep in step with the goodness written on our heart, and to withstand the worldliness that provides constant conflict in both our hearts and minds.

So how do we find promised peace? By posing the question that way I just put myself into the role of teacher, and that’s not what I am, as noted several posts back in my reboot of this blog. I’m more of a friendly Sherpa…an experienced guide…sharing what I’ve learned to work for me. That doesn’t mean as I take you up the mountain you might not be equipped right, and you’ll fall off a cliff if you try it exactly like I do. I need you to understand the difference. The Holy Spirit is your teacher. I’m a Sherpa. So, in that way, let’s look at the question.

When I’m on a vacation, or a sabbatical, or some type of adventure, I tap into those fruits of the Spirit so much easier than I do while living my normal life. That is just the way it is. I’ve recently returned from 4 days in the San Francisco, California area, and the fruits of the Spirit were present and abundant emerging from my being. Free flowing. The picture above was taken by my wife of me in Muir Woods, just north of the city. The atmosphere amongst the tallest trees on earth has to be about as close to a heavenly experience as we are capable of in this dimension. It swallows you in goodness. Promised peace? I was loaded with peace. Loved my fellow man, loved all creation, and loved the creator with all my heart and soul. Easy peasy. How do we translate that to normal life?

Death to self. That’s what we’re in the process of, and while on vacation or away from our earthbound obligations, it’s much easier to let “self” sink to the depths, and allow your eternal soul to soar. But then we come home to the stresses of our lives…careers, marriages, children, family, death, disaster, politics, people tugging at us to do what they want…all of those things that bring “self” back up and into defensive posture. We seek false idols that promise relief, we lash out in bitterness and hateful speech, we sow discord, get jealous or envious of those around us, and we reach for addictions to mask our pain. In short, we go right back to the fruits of the flesh. All of us do this in one way or another. We long to break the cycle but we don’t know how. RELATIONSHIP. That is the way out. Relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Relationship starts with prayer. Sincere, honest, confessional, acknowledging, thankful, selfless…prayer. Submission. That’s where promised peace begins to take root. If you’re reading this today and you do not have a regular prayer life, I guarantee you that your life is overflowing with the fruits of the flesh. You might be saved, for I don’t know the mysteries of God, but you’re not transforming. Go to your knees in prayer and begin that relationship. Jesus taught us how to pray. Do that and build around it.

Next up…study. Get your face into scripture on a daily basis. People like to say, “Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.” Yes. It does. The Bible. And if you’re reborn of the Spirit but not partaking from its sustaining bread, then your faith and knowledge will forever remain smaller than a mustard seed. God’s word is your shelter, protection, encouragement, promise…your life. With modern technology we’ve brought many curses on ourselves, but it also gives many blessings. We have access to God’s word in thousands of languages and translations. It’s a free app on your smart phone. Filled with study plans, reading guides, devotionals…everything you could possibly dream of. Free. Get in there.

Action. If you’ve given your life to Christ, began routine prayer life, and are engaged in devoted scripture study, I can guarantee you what’s coming next…action. The first book in the New Testament after the Gospels of Jesus? Acts. God is going to start pairing whatever unique gifts you’ve been loaned with the fruits of the Spirit, and put you to good use. That is unavoidable and it should be relished as confirmation of your faith. Do you know why most of the non-Christian world regards us in a negative light? Because most of us are claiming the benefits of salvation and Jesus to be our own, but we are only giving the world back the same fruits of the flesh they have. Because we claim our free gift, take it back home and put it in a locked drawer, and resume our life as it was. That’s deadly not only to you, as Paul warns, but deadly to those around us that we are called by responsibility to be lights pointing towards Jesus. If we want the fruits of the Spirit to take over our own lives, we must first give them away.

Peace. Prayer, Study and Action = Peace. That’s a simplified formula from your friendly Sherpa. Perhaps for you it will work slightly or greatly different. It’s a big creation with infinite moving parts. All are called to different tasks. But that simple formula can only lead you to good outcomes and places. It will lead you to peace. As I’ve grown in transformation I’ve learned that exact process is how I dig myself out of holes I fall into. If I’m angry, depressed, tempted, tried…I know to go back to prayer, study and action (giving away). When I do so, peace follows…beautiful, calm, comforting, hugging, smiling…peace. Just like in the picture above standing in that redwood tree. I know it’s all going to be okay. The kingdom is coming.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

Is the Pope Right? Is it better to be an atheist than a bad Christian?

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Matthew 7: 13-14…(Red Letters – Words of Christ) – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Full disclosure: I’m not Catholic and I don’t trust the intentions of the current Pope. I haven’t since moment one of his mysterious coming about, and I do not still today. For that very reason, because I also don’t trust myself, I pay attention to what he says. We are no different a people today than those that eventually nailed Jesus to that cross. I know this about myself, and I know this about humanity, and so, I keep my mouth shut about the teaching of the Pope. Mostly. Jesus shocked the world as it was with his words…so does this Pope. I might not trust him, but that doesn’t mean at all I don’t listen to what he says and attempt to process the information. End of disclosure.

On Thursday, February 23rd, Pope Francis speaking at a morning mass, made the statement that it’s better to be an atheist, than a scandalizing Catholic. The exact quote is this: “So many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – But to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.” As he often does, his words have set off a firestorm. I’ve read a lot of the social media comments on the various posts, and they are exactly what we’ve all come to expect in today’s wildly heated rhetoric. “False prophet, anti-Christ, evil, etc.” But……………is he right?

Immediately after Jesus Christ spoke the Golden Rule (common to all religion) as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew –  (7:12) “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” – he speaks to the wide and narrow gates. Christ doesn’t randomly order things when he’s teaching. Those two are connected by grand purpose. 1. Here is the one simple rule that all goodness on earth will teach from beginning to end. It sums up the entirety of the Creator’s law. 2. Though you must follow the law, you’re incapable of doing so because of the disease of sin, so I’m here to fulfill the law for everyone. To create the path to life. To save you. Very few will sincerely follow the path I create.

Is it better to believe there is no God at all, than it is to acknowledge that God exists but to not live in accordance to his law? To claim the benefits of the path of Christ, but to not “put in the work” of the Kingdom? The problem with what the Pope has decreed is that our works, no matter how great or small, have zer0 to do with our salvation. And the problem with what those Christians that are like that is…they have never found that narrow gate. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you’ll never see it even if you’re standing directly in front of it. Big glaring arrows point to it screaming – “THIS WAY TO LIFE. GO THIS WAY.” Won’t see it. It’s the same as wisdom’s call in the Old Testament.

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech.” (Proverbs 1: 20-21). “But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.” (Proverbs 1: 24-27).

“Bad Catholics,” as the Pope puts it, or bad Christians in general, aren’t of Christ, they are of the world’s religious concept of him. When we sincerely come to Christ the Holy Spirit is sent to us. Jesus lives within us. A beacon that will hone in on that narrow gate, and transform our worldly concepts to righteous, eternal life. We begin to become the keepers of His law, not by our own doing, but by the presence of Christ living within us. This process is transformation. The length of the process is anyone’s guess. God will use us as per his plan. I myself, having the spirit and that beacon of light, most certainly am not fully transformed, nor do I know when I ever will be, but do I expect it while still alive on this earth? I certainly do. I can testify that even today as I stand, I’m world’s apart from the man I looked at in the mirror even 5 years ago. The process is noticeable. The successor to Peter should know this the same as I do. So what point is he trying to make? It’s better not to believe at all? I can’t buy that. The slightest bit of faith will draw Christ’s visit eventually. Whether the door is opened and Jesus is let in, is the decision of the person in that moment. And they will know it’s happening. The atheist doesn’t even believe there is ever a door to open.

Let’s take another polarizing world leader for example: President of the United States, Donald Trump. It’s clear to any Christian with the Spirit, that Donald Trump has either not had “the moment,” or he’s very early in the process of transformation. So, toss him in the Pope’s declaration if that’s the case. Because he’s certainly used the imagery and words of faith to rise to his position. Most Christians voted for him. I’ve said little about him since becoming elected. I’m watching. I opposed him very loudly in the Republican primaries. It was a brutal eye-popping experience. If that crowd around him are Christians, then they have a God-given purpose that allows for a lot of things that don’t jive in a Christian nature. They intentionally painted an actual Spirit-filled Christian, Marco Rubio, as a former homosexual that engaged in wild sexual bubble parties. Doing this through their own “fake news” sites. But they’ll never admit that. I saw it. And it hurt Senator Rubio’s campaign tremendously. The type of Christians the Pope refers to ate it up with a big spoon, and sent it back out gleefully. A “bad Christian” can do a whole lot of damage in this world. One could make the argument in this instance for a kind, considerate human atheist, being far more preferable than that type of Christian.

However, I’m watching President Trump intensely. I listen to almost every public speech and announcement he makes. There is certainly still that determined  purpose within him, but I also see change continuing to progress. It’s VERY faint, I’ll grant you that, and you have to know what you’re looking for…but it’s there. A softening here, a rounding out there…subtle…but sincere. For example his revised stance on the “Dreamers.” His heart has been moved. That’s the Spirit. Not him. It will be an interesting study in transformation (or proof that he never was converted) the next 4 years. I suspect that by 2020, you’ll see a MUCH different President Trump than the one you see today. Because I do fully believe he’s a seeker. And I have to take his word that he’s been saved. The proof of that will be in his further transformation. Do I prefer that man over a Godless human? Every single time. Because I know that he’s moving towards the perfect ideals of our creation. So, Pope Francis, while I do understand your point, I must disagree. It’s a reckless statement that causes the very thing you’re railing against – scandalizing.

But who am I to question the Pope? I’m just a man hacking my way through the underbrush of a tiny path. But I sure do see that glorious light in front of me. Do you?

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

Feeling Ever So Tiny

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1 Samuel 17: 41-47…”Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was a little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’ David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.’ “

I’ve recently returned from a great adventure in England and Scotland. My feet strolled the streets royalty have criss crossed, and my heart soared at magnificent works of architecture and achievement, done by human hands for the glory of our God. The origins of Western Civilization rushed at me around every turn, and God’s presence walked beside me on every path. The souls of great humans gone before stared at me from their tombs and haunts, and the ghosts of the lost who took the wrong paths poked at me from their dark spaces beyond my meager present. It was a daily exercise in being overwhelmed.

How puny a creation I must be to even dare to set foot in the works of the greats? Their massive presence filling up the space inside the walls of a structure such as Westminster Abbey. Darwin at my feet, scoffing at the joke that I am, while Chaucer tweaks me to my left getting the inside joke of the hat I brought along with the image of his chanticleer. T.S. Eliot, from his tomb, surely sensing what an idiot I found myself to be, sending my eyes to words of his that read…”Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I went too far. Way too far. So did David in the scripture above, as the giant Philistine warrior stood disgusted he would even dare to speak. I was in so over my head in the United Kingdom words cannot describe.

Intellectuals greeted me and engaged me. In London, I strolled the city with a man with more knowledge in the dust of his jacket than I possess in my entire lifetime. In Edinburgh, Scotland, I walked with a woman owning a doctorate in Scottish History and specializing in the Christian heritage of the land. Cambridge paired me with an elderly woman so intensely steeped in the Christian heritage of the highest schools of learning on earth, that I barely dared to breathe a word in response so as not to give away my shame of ignorance. Even my restaurant manager in Cambridge, at a lovely place named, The Varsity, possessed a brain so far exceeding my own as he told me stories of the ties between Cambridge and Jerusalem, that I began to wish I had never met him…so maybe, I wouldn’t feel as stupidly tiny as I felt at that moment in front of his establishment.

I am but a speck of dirt in God’s creation.

Or as it is said in the Sayings of Agur in the 30th Proverb, “Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.”

But as with Agur, I know where to find these things. I know to whom Greatness is reserved. I know His Son. He intercedes for me. He sends me. He gives me purpose. He uses me. He loves me. David, too, was a puny speck of dirt. These things do not matter. God matters.

In the picture above, I was strolling the “Path of Scholars” in Cambridge, England. C.S. Lewis, in poor health during his 9 years as a resident fellow at Magdalene College, would walk the same path. Many great names did the same, easing their souls, finding inspiration for great works and important studies. And there I was…the stupid speck of dirt…having the gall to walk the same path. All of us feel tiny in life sometimes. This is a good thing. I wholly believe God had many purposes for sending me there, and that one of them was the continuing process of destroying what was once a large and flourishing ego of self. Thank you, Lord. Continue to purge me and refill me.

Are you feeling small in this world? Invisible? Afraid to speak because your ignorance will show? Know that there is a God. He will deliver you. Transform you. Love you. Call out…
Gary Abernathy

 

 

Giving Encouragement

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2 Timothy 1:7…”For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

A transforming Christian straddles a line between reality and our own lives, and the ever-increasing “power” within us that places us in another reality able to see and feel the needs of other souls. Timothy speaks to this in this line of scripture that in the larger picture, is him giving encouragement to his faithful. The chapter’s final paragraph begins with the words…“You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygeius and Hermogenes.” (2 Timothy 1:15). He doesn’t care. He’s offering praise to the loyal. He knew his destination and mission.

That confidence in knowing only comes from the Holy Spirit. Once it is present within us, we have access to that confidence and the unlimited powers of creation that are required for what is asked of us. I’m a content writer for a well-known family website. I’ve had that platform for several years now and it reaches large audiences of specifically men, but entire families. I did not pursue it…instead it chose me. It’s a tremendous responsibility given mostly anonymously. There is no personal glory. There are no riches. No stepping stones to further gain. Just the platform of – teacher. To be a teacher of Godly things is a dangerous path. James warns us about this in the following scripture: 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.” That warning lays heavy on me when I write. Am I adding to his word? Am I subtracting? Am I misleading? Is this right…is it wrong? Constant questions in my head. Hesitation has become my instinct in maturity, replacing the ignorant eagerness to speak my mind quickly and fully. Yet, I have the confidence of the Spirit inside of me that leads me forward.

I’ve written hundreds of articles on family. One that is currently up on that site is about what a child of divorce needs from their dad. It was impressed on me to write that article and it’s had a large readership. It was written from the perspective of the child that gets blurred out by the war raging between the parents. I read a comment this morning from a dad who wrote simply under the article…”Sure seems hopeless sometimes.” I found his sentence to be the perfect reaction to what he had read and why I was led to craft it. Why? Because he realized the enormous depth of emotion and consequence actually taking place, which is what my work attempted to convey to the reader. In 700 words or less, which is nearly impossible. Nothing is impossible with the power of the Spirit. He got it. He reacted. Now he’s thinking. Now he knows. Hopeless? I don’t think he believes that or he wouldn’t have used the word…seems. He knows how to proceed. I gave the instruction. His issue will be if he does what he must do for his children. Live selfless to his responsibility. I taught…will he listen?

To give him encouragement, I wrote below his sentence that I had prayed for him. Which I did. I never say that without actually sincerely doing it. To give encouragement I’ve come to believe is our chief obligation as “lights.” The picture above was taken by me on a trail where I had stopped to rest. I fashioned a simple cross out of twigs as I caught my breath and left it behind for eyes I’ve never met. Encouragement. I was led to do that. Why…only the Spirit knows. Are you a teacher? Do you instruct? Are you a parent? A husband? Wife? Child? There is an honor, integrity and responsibility placed upon us. To fulfill it, mostly, we are to simply…encourage. Just as Timothy did to his faithful in this scripture.

“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.” John C. Maxwell.

Gary Abernathy

 

The Role of Bible Prophecy

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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

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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

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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