Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Jesus (Palm Sunday Thoughts)

(My youngest daughter – now 16 – made this at church in pre-K when she was 4. I’ve put it in this spot at Easter ever since)

Revelation 1:7-8…”Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite church days of the year. I like the optimism. The party-like atmosphere. Normally, I write at this time of year about how nice it must have been for Jesus to have that one brief moment of mass love, knowing full well he was riding that humble donkey to the eventual cross. You see, the people of Jerusalem thought the Kingdom of God was coming NOW…right then…and Jesus was the Jewish King to toss aside the Romans from rule. They were elated. When they quickly discovered that wasn’t going to happen at all…well…you know the story. But that’s not what I’m going to write about this year.

This year, I’m more fixated on when Jesus actually is coming as the Lion and not the sacrificial lamb. Our world and my country of the United States, are in such dire condition, that I’ve gone from being once vocal in hoping to sort the mess out, to mostly quiet and placing all my hopes in – “Look, he is coming with the clouds.”

Speak softly, and carry a big Jesus.

I have a regimented morning routine that begins with coffee, my chair, and my iPad. That device having replaced the morning newspaper that used to be the ritual. I miss the newspaper, but nostalgia isn’t bringing that back. The news moves too fast now, and what was a big story in one hour, is ancient history in the next. I also miss the cold Dr. Pepper that used to be in the place of the coffee, but that went out the window a few years ago after my doctor gave me a choice of a fried pancreas or making some serious changes. In with the black coffee. Out with the pancreas destroying, but so delicious, Dr Pepper. I hate the coffee, but what are ya gonna do? A fried pancreas is not something I’m interested in owning. So, that’s the imagery of me every morning:

Hair going a 100 directions

My nice, comfy and manly leather chair with wide wooden arms

My black bear adorned cabin-decor style blanket

A piping hot cup of bitter black coffee

And my iPad to see what’s happening

I start with the social media’s first in no set order. Facebook for friends, family, and about a billion post shares of poorly constructed political propaganda that requires me to hit “hide” far more than actually enjoy the FB space. Instagram for what I call the “pleasant social media experience,” where I see images of beautiful geography, foods and various revelries. It’s nice. And the 3rd, the newspaper replacement – Twitter. Where I catch up with the news of the world that day. I follow certain sources for that information that I’ve screened over time to be fairly reliable. One of them is a White House Bureau Chief for Voice of America. I’m telling you the man never sleeps. Ever. He’s on top of everything. He can be surly at times (probably because he never sleeps) and has a bias like all media these days, but if something is happening, I’m going to hear about it from him first. So, on this day, I opened Twitter right off the bat. Mistake.

The first thing my mind absorbed, as the coffee burned down my throat and my eyes stirred awake, was a post from the bureau chief regarding our President and former Vice President smack talking about who would beat the other down. Wait, what??? Former Vice President Joe Biden (for the 2nd time now) said he would “beat the hell” out of Trump in “High School.” Let’s just leave the psychology of that statement there for a second while we continue. So in retort, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, on Twitter, first thing in the morning, for the whole world to read, isn’t concerned about the overwhelming myriad of threats and problems facing us, but instead, posting a paragraph about how fast and easy he’d drop Biden in a fight, and that he’d make Biden cry. Wait…….what???

That’s insanity. Utter insanity. For those two men to not have the basic common sense to filter their words to match the great worldly power they’ve been entrusted with, is actually terrifying, psychotic, and at best, a complete lack of basic entry-level adult maturity. The big stick they carry has multiple hydrogen bombs attached to it…you would think we might not put that stick in the hands of 70 year olds still pretending they’re in the high school parking lot about to rumble. What stick do I have to protect me from those maniacs? It’s hard to shock me these days, and to others maybe this story only gives a shrug, but if you really think about the psychology of it matched with the position – MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE ON EARTH – well, it’s shocking. Color me shocked.

I’m writing about it here only as an example. I post very little about politics these days. I’ve long been coached by the wisdom of Proverbs to stay mostly silent on these matters, than to speak out and be made a fool. It’s what is next in my routine after the perusing of the social media’s that actually has value, and also where I find my big stick.

I’m finished with my bitter black 2 cups of coffee. Now it’s on to the much more enjoyable fresh Florida Orange Juice, and usually (2) plain mini bagels buttered slightly and microwaved for 35 seconds for optimum softness. Why 35 seconds? Because that’s the formula my oldest daughter taught me who is the one that created this breakfast. 35 it is! I follow directions. Then, I swallow the low dose blood pressure pill (prescribed by the same Doc that wants to preserve my pancreas), and an assortment of many vitamins that supposedly do all the things a 50 plus year old’s body needs to have. And then…it’s prime time. Scripture study! The big stick. Jesus. The man on the white horse that’s coming to save us from the maniacs.

That’s where my faith resides. My hope. My dreams. My everything. Those things surely aren’t placed within the whims of immature filthy rich earthly brats squabbling over who will beat the hell out of the other. I’ve placed 100% of myself into the faith that Jesus Christ was who he said he was. That the cross took my sins and punishment, and I’m now redeemed. That he is risen! Death has been conquered. And that he’s coming back! Not as a lamb on a humble donkey. Nope. Ain’t going down like that on the return…

Revelation 19: 11-16…I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

This Palm Sunday and Holy Week through Easter…Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Jesus.

His is risen. And his is coming back.

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

 

 

 

When Disaster Strikes You

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Proverbs 1: 20-33 Wisdom’s Rebuke

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:

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. 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. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

If you’ve ever been to Hollywood, CA you’ve surely picked up on the extreme diversity of fortunes in the area. The very heights of human fame and glory mixed side by side with the lowest depths we can sink. Shining wealth mixed with rotting decay. When I was walking around Hollywood last summer I took the picture above to capture that feeling I had. My hotel a hotbed of cool, and the outer surroundings a cesspool of desperation to gain entrance into that club. All around me plastic idols to worship, and human suffering and lost souls to absorb. Spray painted graffiti on a wall less than a mile from where the Oscars are held it reads: “Expect us cappin”…and I do expect such. That’s the nature of wicked man that has always played out. Wisdom calls out and no one pays attention when she stretches out her hand. She promises that when disaster strikes…they will call to her and she will not answer. She will laugh.

Last night in Australia, one of America’s iconic famous people, Madonna, had another onstage meltdown, as her life spirals out of control. While on stage in front of thousands, she begged to the crowd, “Someone please (F-word) me.” Then she pleaded to the crowd…”Somebody take care of me please. Who is going to take care of me?” Wisdom has turned her back. Madonna who once sang to an entire generation of impressionable young girls, “Papa Don’t Preach,” now begs to those aged fans to care for her, as they witness her implosion.

Kim Kardashian, world famous, fabulously wealthy, married to Kanye West equally both, and whose father is another world famous icon as an athlete, who is now a woman named, Caitlyn, just couldn’t help herself but to post a totally nude selfie to the world this past week. Never stopping to think of how much influence she wields, and what that behavior adds to the world below she lives on top of. She begs for more adoration down to her very flesh – worship all of me she pleads. Wisdom turns her back.

Richard Simmons, cultural American exercise icon and silly personality, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, was revealed this week by his friends to be of great concern and worry. Cutting himself off suddenly from the world over 2 years ago and holed up in his Hollywood mansion. Many fear he’s under total control by his housekeeper and manager. They called out in a published article for someone to help him. One friend even claimed voodoo and black magic are being used on him by the housekeeper. The occult. Richard Simmons…cut off from the world where is face is universally known.

Legendary rock music artist, Keith Emerson, shot and killed himself this week. His girlfriend said the 71 year old was deeply depressed and hurt by online comments mocking his playing ability at this stage in life. He suffered from nerve damage that left him not as talented as he once was. He had shows coming up in Japan that he feared he would play terrible during. He killed himself. His fans who rose him up, ultimately took him all the way down.

This past week, Randy Meisner, legendary bass player and vocalist from, The Eagles, was also involved in more iconic tragedy. 1 1/2 hours after police had left their home for a domestic disturbance call, his wife accidently shot and killed herself by moving a loaded weapon. Not long before Randy was involved in a foiled murder/suicide threat. His wife is now dead and he’s in lockdown in a mental facility in LA.

Even world famous Christian pastor, Max Lucado, recently felt a taste of wrath tied to complacency, when he dared to step out on a limb and call out presidential candidate and billionaire, Donald Trump. Pastor Lucado, author of many best selling books and bible studies, and having a net worth estimated around 10 million dollars gained on the back of Christianity, was shocked at the hit back he received from Trump’s supporters. I was proud of the pastor for having the guts to put his brand (his name) on the line to say something important. It showed that wisdom has been calling out and he heard her and acted. This leader who was so far disconnected to the reality of the world all around him, as he rested comfortably in a bubble of false teaching for profit, suddenly made a dent into Satan’s grip on this world. The result frightened him. It should have. Welcome to the spiritual war, Pastor.

When disaster strikes, who will have your back? Do you know? Can you run safely into the arms of God because your relationship with him is rock solid in teaching and understanding? Or will you be like Madonna…”Who is going to take care of me?” Disaster is going to strike…it’s assured. In my life it has struck several times already, and I’m only 49 years old. I run towards God and his protection. His grace. His love. His discipline. His rebuke. He has surrounded me with loyalty and I give it back equally. He has instilled in me values and knowledge to comprehend the moments I am in. These things haven’t happened by accident. I had to hear her. I had to see those arms stretched out and listen. I had to accept her rebuke.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to accept, and I still struggle with it, is not getting personal credit for the things I do. Why don’t I? God protects me from stories and endings like all the ones I just listed from just this past week. I understand that’s why, but I also live in this world where Hollywood’s exist and my worldly ego feels it belongs in them. God knows where that leads and I belong to him. He won’t allow me to go there. Thanks be to God. The rebukes will keep coming until I fully relent once and for all. Even Pastor Lucado…that’s not for me. That’s not my destiny. I work for Him. It’s just how it’s to be. Glory be to God…not to Gary’s. This is the most dangerous ground I walk upon, and that’s why all those stories above ring in my heart and capture my attention. Yet, even though I still struggle with this, God pours abundance upon me uninterrupted, as he uses me for his purposes. Always showing and teaching me the way it all works in harmony between He and his own. I want for nothing. My purpose full of meaning and wonder. I’ve come a long way in this lesson. I will not turn back. I hear her and adhere to her teachings.

Do you? When disaster strikes you…where will you turn?

Gary Abernathy