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

 

 

 

 

What Can Be Trusted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

Resurrecting Consciousness

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(photo taken by me at Calvary Baptist Church of Banner Elk, NC – February 2017)

Matthew 17: 14-20…Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy…”When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’

‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’

He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ “

This particular scripture from Matthew’s gospel gnaws at me on a continual basis. Jesus is not only condemning the lack of faith of his disciples. He’s condemning ours. Mine. The last time I tried, I still can’t tell a mountain to move from here to there and it moves…and I’d sure love to do that. I live in that flats of Florida. A good hiking mountain would be greatly appreciated around here! That of course isn’t the point…

I’m writing today from the place of spiritual pondering…wondering…examining…and not from pure theology. That needs to be clear. These are open-ended thoughts that I consider and pose as questions and theory. Let’s take a fact first – Jesus presents to us that our faith, that we seemingly can control given his annoyed admonishment, gives us unlimited power if we only understood how to draw upon it. In fact, he states emphatically that faith as small as a puny mustard seed gives us the power to move mountains. There’s our fact to work off.

The end game of my pondering here, is trying to determine how to further awaken my eternal conscious that was resurrected by the Holy Spirit after accepting salvation. Just as God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam and rose him up, the Holy Spirit breathed upon our eternal soul and awakened it after acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing I start to consider is this – Are we created (began) as eternal beings at human conception, or, are we already eternal beings that existed before human conception, and certainly exist past human death? That’s an important question. We don’t know.

If we return back to the fact that I’m not telling mountains to move and they do it, it’s logically assumed that my faith must be even smaller than a mustard seed. I don’t feel like my faith is that small. It feels much greater. I believe. Do I doubt? Yep. Do I ignore? Yep. Do I forget? Yep. But do I believe? I most certainly do. Furthermore, I feel like I know…not just believe. I’ve always felt like I know. There is a holy consciousness that resides within me. And I consider that possibly this is what Jesus is making reference of in his statement. If you were even just a little bit awake, “you unbelieving and perverse generation,” you could do all this and much, much more. Unbelieving and perverse. That’s the NIV translation. However, in the King James translation it reads: “O faithless and perverse generation.” In the Greek it translates – “Through you want of faith.” I think the word – unbelieving – used in the NIV, might be misleading. It’s not our lack of belief…it’s our lack of awareness. The world’s deception has perverted our ability to see clearly.

Let’s look at an example of possible eternal consciousness. My favorite numbers just by instinct have been for as long as I could mouth them – 7 and 33. Both holy numbers. My other favorite number is 58, but I know the reason for that and it’s purely human based…it’s the number of my all-time favorite American football player, Jack Lambert. But 7 & 33 are pure instinct. Why? 43 is another instinctual favorite number of mine that I’ve used a lot in life for no particular reason other than it feels good to me. And earlier this morning, and what really inspired this rambling today, is that I was reading Ezekiel, and came to the part where God instructs him to lay on one side for 390 days to bear the burdens of Israel’s sin. Then God says he is to lie on his other side for 40 days to bear Judah’s sin. Calling him (Esekiel), the “Son of Man,” the entire time. Mind blowing stuff put in full context. When I do the simple math of 390 + 40, we get – 430. And there is my 43. That’s a huge stretch I understand, but it deepens my thought process.

We know that by bloodline we are connected to one created eternal being. Adam. We trace our roots this way. We carry forth characteristics and traits through that bloodline, though still individuals and unique to ourselves. Adam was, at his beginning, what we are striving to get back to. What Jesus restored the possibility of us once again becoming. Given the words of Jesus in the scripture from Matthew, we don’t have to wait to leave these human shells to attain the original status of Adam. “If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you can.” He doesn’t say after you pass from human life. He says…you can. Now. You perverse generation.

The Holy Spirit has resurrected our eternal consciousness. It’s why scripture states, “You do not need anyone to teach you.”

1 John 2: 24-25…”As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us – eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

See how that ties back to what Jesus stated? “You unbelieving and perverse generation?” We are led astray by Satan. The delusion. And that same delusion is why what we could be…right now…is so stunted and small. So how do we “see that what we have heard from the beginning remains in us?”

Keep your snout and eyes in God’s bread – His word. And absorb. Daily. Guided by the Holy Spirit, that is indeed your awakened eternal consciousness.

Sooner or later…I’m moving that mountain.

Gary Abernathy

Delighting in Weakness

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2 Corinthians 12: 5-10…”I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I love the story of Palm Sunday. If I’m being honest, it’s probably my favorite moment in the gospels. I’ll explain why. We are told and assured that Jesus, the word made flesh, experienced every human emotion, every temptation, that we have or ever will. When you consider the scope of that, it’s very hard to fathom, yet that is the provided truth. This means that our Lord felt the same loneliness and fear we all do. The same feelings of exclusion. The same temptations of conformity to alleviate it all. “Go along to get along.” I wrote in my previous posting about the narrow gate and the wide gate. Above the wide gate where the multitudes flow through, surely there is a plaque that reads, “Go along to get along.” It is a compromise of faith that is probably our greatest temptation, when properly laid out in comparison with the millions of others. It is a horrible feeling to stick out like a sore thumb in a way that does not glorify our own egos. In the ways that bring scorn and not praise. We all want to be liked…to be loved. For me, that is the thorn in my flesh…my messenger from Satan that brings torment. But I can’t pull that thorn out, unless I walk through that wide gate of human conformity. Unless I compromise His words to be more pleasing to the ears of others and myself. It’s a devil of a pickle.

Rob Bell, the “pastor” most famously known as Oprah’s spiritual advisor, is the most high-profile example of that kind of “faith.” His stature, his fame, his wealth, his acceptance (false love) by the Godless, is built on a foundation of scriptural quicksand. “You don’t like the reality of Hell? I’ll take it away.” “You don’t like the guilt that comes with wrongdoing? Let’s change the rules.” And recently he decreed, by his own plowing path through the wide gate, that “2000 year old letters have made the church irrelevant, and that to better serve the people of today, we probably need to stop looking to the bible.” (paraphrased but on point). The scripture above, lifted from a letter written by Paul, to be included in that trashing. That’s all I’m going to say about Rob Bell. This post isn’t, nor will any others, ever be about him.

So, that all leads back to Palm Sunday. One brief moment of his entire ministry when he could exhale for just a second and just be loved. John 12: 12-13…”The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Of course, Jesus knew that in just a couple of days, those same people would be demanding that he be killed. That they would even choose a murderous lowlife like Barabbas to live, just to make sure Jesus got the death they clamored to see. But for just one moment, Jesus got to feel the blissful (but always temporary) rush of human adoration. It makes my heart happy for him when I read that…when I consider it. The smile it surely put upon him, as he side-saddled that little donkey up the road.

That’s the same feeling I get when the Holy Spirit “hugs” me in prayer. Do you know that feeling? It’s a tremendous rush. I’ll be kneeling at the altar, tears down my cheeks, rubbing the salty liquid in the wood in front of me, and the Spirit will envelop me in embrace. Jesus…delighting in my total weakness. The body of Christ made strong, by the powerful faith in our weaknesses given over to him. The endurance of those painful thorns in our sides because his love is so much greater.

The people on Palm Sunday were correct in their assessment of Him – He is indeed their king. Our king. But when they found out it wasn’t a kingdom for then and there…”Crucify this blasphemer!” Jesus would answer their anger by explaining that his kingdom is not of this world. They still don’t understand. Still demand the passing through the wide gate.

But for us? The sinners redeemed and given a piece of him to lead us home safely? The sights and sounds of every day life become more painful to endure each day transformation takes us further and further away from belonging to it. I’ve got to the point where I only feel somewhat at peace in just two places – 1. With my wife and/or daughters in rare moments of pure time together. 2. Alone in nature where I feel most closely connected to God.  The rest is just one long bout of homesickness. The pushing of will to do the tasks and things our Lord will have us do and perform. Don’t get me wrong…my heart rejoices in the moments of breakthrough, in the times with true friends, and all the pleasures of life, but now that I know what waits for me next…given example of feeling by those spiritual hugs…that’s where my heart is. I want to go home.

I took the picture above last summer in London watching all the grand pomp in front of the royal palace. That picture reminds me of the Palm Sunday spectacle as they welcomed the true King. The humble Christ on his little donkey. Nothing humble about England’s spectacle, but it’s quite a marvel to behold. In all its wide gate glory. But for this man…I’m just the donkey on this earth. But one day…and for all eternal…he has gone to make a place for me. A donkey no more I shall be.

What gate will you choose?

 

When the Path Feels Lonely

 

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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

 

 

 

Amnesty – Forgiveness of Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

Green Pastures

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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

 

 

When The Rain Won’t Stop…

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Psalm 69, Verses 8-12: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards.”

There are so many, and they continue waiting for the sun to break, but the rain keeps pouring down. The clouds swallow them up, and when there is a break and a hole in the cover appears, it closes back up before they even have time to exhale. There are so many. What is their remedy? Where is their salvation?

The psalmist, David, knew this despair deeper and as prolonged as anyone who has ever lived. When you’ve become the “song of drunkards” it’s hit rock bottom. Singing their torment at you with folly and laughter. “Poor David can’t find his God, look at him cower in his fever, Poor David calls out to his God, how stupid a man this believer.” Then they pour another round as they toss rocks his way. I made that lyric up here on the spot, but I imagine it to be pretty close to what the drunkards would sing. What did David do? He pleaded more with God…”You know I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Does that sound familiar? The Lord, Jesus Christ, would also be given vinegar for his thirst later down the road.

David had everything stripped away to the last shred of human dignity and Jesus the same. Stripped bare and left for the gnarling teeth of the jackals and fools of this world. To lower depths no man has sunk further. Are you in a lowly position in your life? Are you drowning in the never ceasing downpour? What have been your reactions to pull yourself out? Most will pray and plead, but what else? What did David do? He praised. Then he praised more. His faith in the mercy of the Lord never wavered.

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves. The poor will see and be glad – you who seek God, may your heart’s live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.”

When I feel swallowed up in life…when I’m in despair…I call out to God just like David did, just like most of us do, but for most of my life I only called for the pulling me out of the mess so I would no longer suffer. I thought no deeper than that about the situation. Our Father rebukes and teaches us discipline in many ways. Suffering is one of those methods. So what is your reaction? Are you just asking to be rescued, or are you asking to be changed? Are you just asking for selfish remedy to your problems, or are you making the efforts required to not fall right back into the same problems as before? The problem is not the world, it’s not our friends, it’s not our family, and it’s not with God. It’s us. We have the fatal disease of sin. The cure…the remedy…is with the physician, the healer, Jesus Christ. He comes to get us and his hand is stretched out within grasp of our drowning bodies, but we have to grab it. With hand stretched out to Peter who had sunk into the sea, Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31

Faith isn’t just something to hold in your pocket when needed. It comes with responsibilities, and it comes with an owner’s manual that leaves not a single detail of life out – The Bible. It wasn’t until I dutifully started reading mine that I began to gain understanding. That I began to acquire wisdom and knowledge. The reason I knew this psalm was because I read them over and over every single day. Proverbs too. God’s lifeline to mankind. Psalms teaches us how to get along with God. Proverbs teaches us how to get along with world. There are things within them both that force changes in our lives. Changes we don’t want to make. When I began to read God’s word with a faithful heart and eagerness to be close to Him, I found myself and my character accused all over them both. It’s not enough to just read a bible. We have to read it with our hearts…we have to read it from a place of love and fear of our Creator.   There is a narrow path to safe haven God will keep us on when we come to him to learn. When we put our full dependence on him. That is the way out. Find it and nothing else will matter. It can keep on raining from now until Christ returns, but you and I will keep trekking down that narrow path singing our praise to him as the storm rages around us. That’s the way out.

I write to you brothers and sisters this truth…If the rain will not stop pouring down in your life and your despair is relentless, forget seeking remedy from anything of the world and from any person within it. Seek the face of God. Grab the hand of his son and accept his gift of salvation. Pour your heart into his service and the learning of his ways.

“After many years of great mercy, after tasting of the powers of the world to come, we still are so weak, so foolish; but, oh! when we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” – Charles Spurgeon

Gary Abernathy