I Believe in the Good Things Coming

Matthew 7:9-12 (Jesus speaking)…”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I had returned to the place where my life had been turned by God’s own hand 3 years prior. There I stood in the shadow of Mt. Pisgah in the “big boy” hills of North Carolina as I call them, staring at the mountain I had climbed in an agonizing vertical way. Chanting as I huffed and puffed in near collapse – “Jesus first, Jesus in the middle, Jesus last.” That was a different day, a different purpose, and a rescue of my soul by my creator. I’ve written of this early on in this devotional if you care to seek back, but today, as I stated, was another day. There would be no Mt. Pisgah. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever climb it again….but if I do, it will be with my wife. No, today was something else entirely. But what?

In the shadow of that great mountain stands another grand formation nicknamed – Fryingpan Mountain. And upon it stands an abandoned old ranger station that used to serve as the perfect watch point to spot possible wildfires in the Pisgah Valley below. Today it’s a rusty relic that very much resembles a very large creation of the erector sets I played with as a boy. It’s not exactly a rock solid fortress, but despite the harsh winds and weather it endures, there it still stands waiting to offer an adventurer a view unlike any other he’ll find. It could also offer him an urgent need of a tetanus shot if he’s not careful. I was going there.

The path to the ranger station leads up an old gravel road the ranger trucks would use. It’s about 1 1/2 miles up a much kinder slope than Pisgah, and generally an easy walk. The month of May was closing out but the weather was still quite pleasant, ranging in the upper 50’s on top, to the upper 60’s where I walked on the path. The jacket I was wearing was quickly removed and tied around my waist. I knew I’d need it later. I had my trusty walking stick I named with the creativity of a 5 year old – “Staffy.” I had bought that stick to get me up Pisgah. He and I have seen a lot together…good ol’ Staffy. So we walked and admired. Yellow wildflowers in bloom, smells of this and that, and best of all, only 1 other person that I knew of up there besides me. I had intentionally given him a big headstart so he’d be coming back down when I was going up. I wanted to be alone up there. That planned worked to perfection. As we passed on the road I asked, “Is the view worth it?” He just smiled and said, “Absolutely.” As I turned a bend, I came to an opening that provided a clear look at Pisgah and I was deep in thought about that day. Staring at the big mountain I asked God, “So, what are we talking about today, my Lord?”

Unlike 3 years ago, there was no turmoil in my spirit. God wasn’t yanking me up a mountain by my ears, and the name of my King wasn’t being drill-marched into my worldly existence. Today was a celebration of the good things He had promised and delivered if I’d only listen. I did. He had. Just a few minutes after I asked that question aloud, I came to a gate that blocked off another old ranger road. It, too, was rusted and decaying, and local kids used the metal and wood to spray paint various messages. The first thing I saw was – “Stay Gold” – except the “G” was on a falling piece of wood and separated slightly from the “old” and I thought it read – “Stay Old.” My sense of humor kicked in and I asked God, “Stay old? Is there another option, because I’d like to hear it?” Then I saw the G. Now THAT was pretty cool. I wasn’t the greatest student as a young man by any stretch, but it was never from a lack of intellect, but always from a place of rebellion. The same kind that got me dragged up Pisgah. But I did read a great deal in those days, and one of my all-time favorite books was – “The Outsiders.” “Stay Gold, Ponyboy.” I knew that fictional character personally in many ways and it was a big influence on me. “Ok,” I said to my Lord. “I can see this is going to be a good day.”

With a smile and peaceful feeling I continued my casual march to Fryingpan Tower until it came into full view. Sitting on a clearing atop the mountain was the giant erector set fire station. I get so excited about things like that. I would assume that technically nobody should be allowed on it. My wife is a master in insurance and would have a fit at the liability isssues alone. Who cares.  I’m going up. The only portion boarded up and blocked off is the actual station room itself. You can climb to the very last landing just before it. The view is phenomenal. As good as Pisgah’s with a whole lot less effort. I sat up there as the wind howled and the cool air demanded my jacket I wisely brought, and for a good long bit…I never wanted to leave. It just felt so nice. To be in God’s right graces. All that has transpired in these 3 years. The things I’ve been taught. Shown. Given. Taken. It’s impossible for me to calculate it all. I was just simply thankful sitting there.

Leading up to Pisgah was when I first became aware of the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t getting it. My heart wasn’t right. My actions not in line with the man God needed me to be. God’s patience was wearing thin. As I slept in my office at home where I normally write on the little futon, the Spirit came and there was no joking about it. The message in essence can be summed up by this – “You’re going to change…NOW.” And events unfolded from that point that gave me no option but to adhere or be ruined. When scripture says God is the Father, and he loves us as such, it’s a real thing. My Father was fed up with my side-saddle faith, and wasn’t going to allow me to fall into ruin. My soul is eternally grateful, though the cure was not at all pleasant or easy. Yet, everything I needed to get through was provided…as promised. And there I sat redeemed in the shadow of the mountain where Gary met his Father.

Funny, for the past 2 years the Spirit isn’t speaking to me like it did when I was blindly in trouble and it was sent to rescue. But I do hear from the Spirit, and all it ever says…very clearly…is – “Great things are coming.” I’ve told my wife this many times when it happens, and I’ve told trusted friends the same. “The Spirit keeps telling me that great things are coming. I trust the Spirit.” So after I reluctantly decided to leave my perch on Fryingpan Tower, I made my way all the way back down the rusty old contraption. When I turned around to take one last look up at it, I noticed a written message on a lower rail. It read – “I believe in the good things coming.” Whoa. There’s more of us out there? You bet there are. We know. Do you?

Great things are coming, readers. You can count on it as gold. God the Father is true to His word.
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

Palm Sunday – Seeking the Kingdom

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(Photo taken by me @ Graveyard Fields, NC – June, 2015)

Luke 17: 20-21…”Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ “

I have always loved Palm Sunday. I love the spirit, and I’ve written about it plenty over the years. Though Jesus understands what he’s riding into, the people don’t, and they are so overjoyed to see the humble king riding his donkey into “the kingdom.” The greatest parade in world history. It wouldn’t take long for the crowd to begin to turn, once they figured out what they thought they wanted wasn’t going to happen. We know the rest.

Do you understand the mystery of the kingdom of God? If so, please reply with full explanation, because the rest of us are dying to grasp how to get there. It is “in your midst,” Christ tells us. While on the surface I do understand the concept, spiritually, the divide of the dimensions is a wall that few penetrate. I had a friend ask me yesterday, as we talked about the woes of the world and the influences of society, how do we teach the kingdom (goodness) to our kids? My reply was listing the fruits of the Spirit. All those things that flow from the Holy Spirit living within us. Jesus in our hearts. That’s the kingdom in this dimension as far as I can understand it. And that’s where we (Christians) are to live. If only we could let go of what we know and see. For me, that’s the biggest stumbling block of full transformation. It’s everyone’s stumbling block to full transformation.

C.S. Lewis, in his work, “The Weight of Glory,” dives into this subject. He writes…

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis cuts right to the matter. “Desires not too strong, but too weak.” “Half-hearted creatures.” “Fooling about with drink and sex and ambition.” “Ignorant child in a slum.” Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday bringing the covenant of “infinite joy,” and days later the ignorant children are choosing the thug criminal, Barabbas, to be set free over Christ. Because they couldn’t see with their spiritual eyes who they were looking at, and they certainly couldn’t see past their too weak desires. They wanted their earthly king. NOW. They wanted the Romans gone. NOW. Completely missing the “staggering rewards” Jesus had promised. Blind to it all.

I submit that we are not one bit different, and place us in front of Pilate in 2017 given the same choice, we, too, would overwhelmingly choose Barabbas. Because we are ignorant slum children that can’t see beyond our current circumstances. I understand that’s harsh, but can it be denied?

What are you holding onto that prevents you from existing in the kingdom right now? On this Palm Sunday, and during Holy Week as we lead up to the Cross, that would be an excellent question to stew on as we consider all these things. I will be. Why are my desires too weak? Why am I fooling about with this or that, when I could be there? The Spirit given to me knows only one direction, and to there is where it is always leading. The only thing preventing that – is me.

Tomorrow on Palm Sunday as you smile and enjoy the spirit of the day…Consider these things. Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom!

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

The Mercy Cross

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(Photo taken by me at Greyfriars Kirk – Edinburgh, Scotland – July 2016)

Lamentations 4: 5-11…”Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearances like lapis lazuli.

But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.

The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations.

This devotional blog goes all over the world. It’s been read on every inhabited continent on earth. Brazil, Italy, India, Philippines, Australia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Canada, United Kingdom, Haiti, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia, Ireland, France, Angola, Japan, Bosnia & Herzegovina…the list goes on. Not in the millions, but by the ones, twos, and threes. The inspiration of this site is Mark 4:20, which is posted on the home page – “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

I have faith that God uses what he puts into me that comes out here, as seed sown across his creation. I pay no search engine fees, I request no extra features, and I don’t know any tricks. It is God that leads these words to where they wind up. How I would love to visit all the places my site has gone. To meet those souls on the other end. We’re all in this together. All entered through the narrow gate. So, I ask you on this post this most important question – Do you understand what the cross has spared you from? Do you honor and remember? “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Here in these first few months of 2017 I’ve been taking a couple of different academic angles to deepen my understanding and awareness of Christ. The cross. The resurrection. My salvation. One is an intellectual angle by studying the works of C.S. Lewis. The other is by studying the Old Testament and the path that leads to Jesus on the Cross. All supplemented by daily readings of Psalms and Proverbs, which I’ve done in a repeating pattern for nearly 3 years. The latter I do as Godly bread  that fills my soul, instead of filling with the world’s deceptions. It works.

Those studies led me to Jeremiah and then to Lamentations. It matters not whether Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations. The content stands terrifyingly alone. A small portion of which I offered as today’s devotional. I considered my country of the United States in comparison. I considered your countries. Our sin reaches the heavens the same as those to whom the wrath was poured out on. Are we different somehow? Only in the one way – the Cross.

“With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.”

Mothers. Cooking. Their. Own. Children.

Jesus, on the cross, His body broken and His blood poured out – for us – to pay the price. The same price that Jeremiah horrifyingly witnessed before the Messiah came to save. Do you get that? We deserve no less than Jeremiah’s people. It’s our rightful portion for the crimes we commit. With nails driven into his flesh and bones, Jesus Christ took God’s full wrath meant for us.

I would urge you to read Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations. Read all the prophets. It’s not enough for me to write it here in a report. You can only feel it truly while inside His word in sincere relationship. Allow Him to teach you what it means.

And then sow more seed.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the Right Place

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James 1: 22-27…”Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

A little over a week ago I was standing on a hotel deck by a fire pit overlooking beautiful San Francisco, California. Directly across from me in the distance was the island that was home to the infamous – Alcatraz prison.  It paints the perfect illustration for this devotional entry. Are you living in the right place? My family and I were staying in a gorgeous hotel that was created by transforming its former occupant, the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory, into luxurious 2 and 3 bedroom units in the city.  It was heavenly, and yes, the chocolate is still everywhere, too. I certainly felt like I was living in the right place while staring out at Alcatraz and considering what it must have been like locked up there instead. It’s a metaphor of course, and both are worldly prisons of different types, but in a simple way, it provides a good visual for the topic. To not be imprisoned by my fellow man, I have to choose to obey his laws. If I do not, I wind up in a place like Alcatraz. Your spiritual existence holds even greater stakes.

When we choose to accept the gift of salvation – choosing to place our guilt on the cross with Jesus – we are agreeing to be reborn so that we may exist in His holy presence. Washed clean. Absolved. One of Billy Graham’s main points throughout his entire ministry was that the cross should be offensive to us. It should revile us. Why? Because it’s our  sin nailed up in torturous agony. It’s our punishment. He took the bullet for us. He made the path that we cannot make ourselves. He provided us the right place to live. James is talking about what that means in his first chapter.

Where are you living? I often find myself being tempted back into previous states of mind, or pulled into new directions leading me away from the home Christ has made for me. Just last night I was having a great conversation with 2 old friends and we were rehashing stories from many decades ago. We sure had fun together. I cherish all those memories of laughter and bonding. It would be very easy for me as a human just to stay that person I was back then. To not grow. To not transform. Just stay that guy and be that way. But in reality, that guy was a miserable train wreck always one step away from total disaster. I was free to have all that fun, but my soul was locked up in a place far worse than Alcatraz. Lost and rotting away. Directionless. Pointless. The relationships I am honored to have from it all the only saving grace. The stories…they are all nailed up on the cross with the rest of my sin. It’s not that it was all bad, because that’s not true whatsoever, and we were loyal brothers to each other…that’s always the best of goodness. But the actions that I alone am responsible for…they add up to quite a mountain. I’m thankful each moment of each day that I was rescued. That Christ found me worthy enough to come get me. To pull me out of all my misery, wash me off, and give me a true life. An eternal life. To show me the right place to live. Placing a beacon of light within me that won’t allow to go back even when my mind is tempted to go there. The light pulls me back to the mirror James talks about. The mirror that reflects who I really am. Who God made me to be.

There is a modest house that sits mere steps from the front door of the church I’ve attended for well over 10 years. I park my car on the other side of the fence that separates the property often. I did just that yesterday. When my youngest daughter was going to preschool there many years ago, she would say (almost daily) that she wished we lived in that house so we could be so close to church. She said that because she spent a great portion of her early life before elementary school in the church. It felt like her home. It was the right place for her to live as far as she was concerned. I look at that house frequently. Yesterday I arrived for pre-service rehearsal (I’m a drummer in the praise band) and parked in my usual spot. I noticed as I looked at the house that there was a Halloween-like skeleton decoration hanging from the wall facing the church. I didn’t know what to make of that. I took it as a sign to keep away.

The reason this house fascinates me stems from the fact that it is indeed so close to our doors, but as far as I know, its occupant has never stepped foot inside. That truly bothers me. If we can’t reach them, how can our mission work spread beyond that house? We have all kinds of services and activities that minister to the people of the surrounding community, which is in dire need of them, and they take full advantage. Praise God. But that one house refuses to budge. I’m pretty sure every pastor of the church (United Methodists rotate) has attempted to get them in. I did just that myself a few years ago. I am not the knock-on-doors type, but one day I took a bible I bought with my own money and went and knocked on the door. I wound up having a conversation with a woman that lived there on her front porch. She didn’t invite me inside. I gave her a simple invitation, presented her the bible as sincerely as I could as a gift, and the end result of the effort was her saying – “Well, we all do our own thing, right?” Which was her polite way of saying…”Buzz off, Jesus boy.”

I look at that house from the viewpoint of the same way I looked at Alcatraz from the splendor of my renovated chocolate factory. I’m standing in this magnificent glorious place (God’s House) and just across the way is a prison. Now at the Ghiradelli location, I can’t go get the prisoners and invite them to live in the right place with me. Fairmont is in the business to make money, and I can’t afford to pay the fee for all of these hypothetical prisoners. (Alcatraz long ago stopped housing real prisoners). But when I’m standing in real glory, my church, I most certainly can go invite others to come join me. It’s up to them to decide. The price of admission is free, because the cross that they will find paid the price for them. But even though…free still isn’t good enough for so many. They would rather just keep looking at the mirror that will keep lying to them. The one that will let them forget who they are.

When we allow ourselves to exist away from God, whether physically or mentally (pride, jealousy, envy, and all the classics) we are not living in the right place. The safe place. The true place. His place. So I’ll conclude with the same question – Where are you living?

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

In Regards to Relationship…

img_1103Hebrews 11:6…”And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

That verse is lifted from a chapter of scripture titled, “Faith in Action.” It references the actions of faith by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Jews passing through the Red Sea, the falling of the walls of Jericho, Rahab, and then goes on to mention many more. Faith by relationship expressed via action.

I’m no less a sinner than any other reading this post. I deserve to be on the cross. So do you. My sins may differ from yours, or we may have the same weaknessness, but sin we all do, and condemned we all are, minus the sacrifice of the lamb and our acceptance of that eternal gift. So, I was warmed, surprised, perplexed, thrilled, scared, and overwhelmed yesterday while I knelt in prayer at an altar in a highly special place. The words, “I am pleased,” were whispered to my soul. My spirit heard it and understood why. The same reasons as the above. My humanness, however, thought…”Me? You’re pleased with me? You know all my thoughts. You know who I am. You’re pleased? How can that be?”

Relationships. We spend all of our lives chasing relationships. Nothing we do in life, not one thing, is not somehow in accordance or in conflict with our human relationships. The ones that matter to us…our family, marriages, friends, careers, and the like, we take great care in nurturing. When we don’t they fall to pieces. But in our faith, we often leave the one relationship that actually does matter – with our creator – as a one sided affair. We expect him to come to us. How well does that work in your daily life? If your marriage is one sided it’s going to end or be unhappy at best. If your parenting is one sided (not engaging your children) the kids are going to be lost. If you treat your friends like that, they eventually stop coming around. Relationships only flourish when two people are making the effort for it to grow. It’s the same thing with God. When what we consider a relationship with God is calling out to him only when we’re suffering in some way, then we are not in a relationship. We’re in a worshipping the idea of a genie in a bottle fantasy. God is not going to answer.

Faith in action. I find myself consumed often in seeking him. In his scripture, in the words and thoughts of his great teachers, in the fruit of my labors, and his voice when I strike out searching for the place where he’d like to meet. This time it was in Crossnore, NC, many hundred miles from the place he has me call home. I’d never been there. Didn’t even know it existed. Yet, I was drawn there to find the Holy Spirit in abundant presence. At a chapel named, “E.H. Sloop Chapel,” I was shown a remarkable thing, on top of being told he was pleased. I saw myself in a great work of art. Mr. Sloop and his great works are another story, and I recommend you Google it and learn for yourself what was and is done. Holy, holy, holy…all of it. I’m standing alone in this chapel after prayer staring at this magnificent fresco titled, “Suffer the Little Children,” and in the piece there is a child in the bottom left hand corner staring back at the viewer. In that moment, to me, I felt intensely that the boy was me. I kept staring at his eyes and they felt so familiar. Then I noticed his hair looked exactly like mine at the same age, and then his whole image kinda leaped from the art. It was incredible. I teared up.

It’s a real relationship to me. My faith is not token. It’s earnest. And it spurs me to want to be with him. When that feeling starts to fade it scares me. I act.

Where is your relationship with him? If you compared it against the effort you put into your most important human relationships, would it exceed it? I can’t tell you what is right, or how you’re supposed to do it. They are unique things…relationships. I only know how mine works with him. But I can tell you that the first step to building it…is action. On your part.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

Rediscovering Wonder

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Job 12: 7-10…”But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

The context of that scripture lifted for this topic is that Job is in the midst of an intense debate. Earlier he addressed his opponent hotly and mockingly exclaiming…”Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you!” But then he does something wiser and more intelligent than all the flowery intellectualism, theology and grand thinkers could ever bring themselves down to do – He says, (paraphrasing) “Ask the animals. The Birds…the fish. The earth. They know the truth. I’m but a laughingstock among you and I know that, but I, too, have a brain, and I’m not inferior to you. I called on God and he answered.”

Whenever it comes that I’m called upon to be brotherly and helpful to another that is troubled and seeking, the first thing I do is point them at nature. Every single time. I want them to rediscover wonder. Doing so points them right at God, whom of course is the solution…not me. Remember as a child that feeling a deep sense of wonder was a regular occurrence? We took it for granted because for a child everything is new. We’re immersed in wonder. It’s certainly not difficult to get a small child to “buy into” the idea of a God. They already know. But time moves and the wonder fades until it eventually only comes in moments. For some, it disappears completely as they sink into deep cynicism and bitterness. They speak grand thoughts and ideas from their mind and pat themselves on the back at how wonderful and smart they are, but their hearts are so far from God that on the inside is nothing but fear and often despair.

Wonder. How do we get it back? I don’t know how to answer that question for anyone else, but I like to believe we are all filled with the same capabilities if we only dig around inside to find them. One of God’s greatest gifts to me was giving me a sense of wonder that is easily accessible. At age 50 I still get awed by the sight of a snowflake falling. The colors of Autumn. Heck, I’ve even marveled at fire ant mounds in my front yard, and I detest those painful beasts greatly. Nature. My wonder comes alive and I instantly feel the realness of his presence. My worldly worries melt away in that presence. In the gospels, Jesus is often going off alone retreating into the mountains or some reclusive area. We don’t really know what he was doing other than of course praying, so there is plenty of room to speculate. I like to think he was following the same instinct inside his human body that you and I also have. Go to where the Father is more easily felt.

So for me, I often go off alone in that manner. At least once a season. My winter version is less than two weeks away. My soul is jumping for joy like John in the womb was when Mary entered the room. That’s the pure anticipation I feel. It’s not easy to do. The world sets itself up so that there are seemingly endless reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t take the time to feel wonder. It blocks us from God’s presence. It redirects us. “Don’t go there…go here instead! What happens here stays here! Going there is boring and stupid. Come over here where all the people are.”

Rediscover your wonder. When I was around 5-8 years old, I would often spend my entire Saturday afternoons in the vast woods behind my Grandparents house. It was a wonderland of awe back in those days. Big flowing creek, thick woods, fallen leaves, and animals of all kinds. I never felt a fear that I was too far away. I never felt alone. I never felt threatened by my surroundings. What I felt was…at home. I felt wonder. And though I didn’t know then, I truly wasn’t alone. Jesus was right there with me. Digging for crawdads in the creek just like I was. Smiling.

Think about the things that once made you feel that way. Try to remember that joy. It’s your first step towards the desired peace you’re chasing. The picture I used in this post was taken last April (2016) in the mountains around Park City, Utah. That’s my wife after taking a big spill off her snowmobile. We were having a blast at around 10,000 feet elevation flying around in endless snow, and she suddenly toppled over. Look at her face. She’s not crying. That’s the face of joyful wonder. Find whatever it is that makes you feel like that…and you’ll start getting along with God a whole lot better. Guaranteed.

 

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

For This Very Reason…

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2 Peter 1: 1-7…”His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

2016 was a spectacular year for me. Not many in the court of public opinion share that sentiment, but that was my experience nonetheless. I started the year with a burning desire to build this devotional blog globally. My intentions were good but my underlying motivation was wrong. My previous blog, a politics and war opinion forum, spread to well over 100 nations across the world with zero effort by me to make it happen. It just did. To this day, I still get hits on it all over the world from articles on everything from the Soviet Gulag to ISIS. It won’t die. I figured if I could do that with subjects I hated with every bit of my passion, then God would spread a devotional blog where all my loving heart was on display to even greater heights. By the end of 2016 it had spread to 25 nations and every continent on earth except Antarctica. I don’t think any one lives there. But something didn’t feel right, and God put a muzzle on me the second half of the year. The blog went dark. Even so, already in 2017 we have views from 4 countries just checking if there is anything new. Brazil, South Africa, Canada and the good ol’ USA. Let’s turn the lights back on.

The thing that wasn’t right was the position from which I was writing from. I never write from arrogance, but I was attempting to write from the standpoint of teacher, and God gently explained to me…1. I’m not ready for that. 2. Teachers hold a position of high responsibility in spiritual matters, and that I had better make sure I was ready for the consequences if I failed. I was basically given the option of – A. Shut up and learn. B. Face another painful rebuke. I chose – A. If you’ve never experienced a rebuking by the spirit, trust me, it’s much easier to just go where you’re told to go. The good shepherd swings that staff roughly if he has to. So, I dove myself back deeper into learning his ways. What a year it turned out to be. I was shown so much majesty I’d never be able to convey it all back to readers. That picture above this piece? That was taken back in the fall in the mountains of North Carolina. God hauled me up yet another big hill and let my eyes feast upon the very best of creation. He did that a great deal for me in 2016. He even took me to another grand hill, this time in Scotland,  where he showed me the very origins of my name and heritage, and to top it all off, “hugged” me with a huge burst of wind as I finished praying to him looking over his majestic vista. God was filling his child with good things.

Peter tells us in the above scripture not to just rest on the gift of salvation, but instead because of it, make every effort to use the freedom of existence without shackles, to transform our earthly life to meet up with our eternal one. Fill with good things, and when we do, we set forth on our destined path that leads to all those things being added to us. Eventually, we meet God, which = Love. Not any earthly definition of love. Actual, real, pure and holy goodness…Love. That is the final destination for those that belong to him, and we aren’t required to wait for it. We only must begin walking on the right path. God put me on that path. I’m still plodding along. If I had to mark my progress, I’m somewhere in the land of learning self-control while still gaining knowledge that will see me past that landmark. It’s fearful to let go of the world. Honestly, I’ve never met many earnestly aware that’s what they are attempting to do. I know a few and that’s it. We fail many of the tests, but our knowledge continues to increase as we fine tune where we went wrong and adjust. In the same way any other great thing was built – by trial and error. I have to state…God has been SO gentle with me this time. It’s not at all like it was when he had to conk me over the head to get my full attention. He knows that I know when I’m screwing up, lightly prods me in the side when needed, and lovingly whispers encouragement in my ears. I don’t know if this gentleness will remain for all of the walk, but I sure hope so. Either way, whether by staff to the head, or gentle encouragement in the ear, I will keep walking his walk until I get to him. I believe I can write again. Just not as a teacher, but instead, a brother sharing his experiences and things I’ve learned on the path. A guide. Maybe a funny looking Sherpa. There is but one teacher and his name is not mine.

Where are you on your walk? Are your feet even moving in the right direction? If not, the first and only place to start looking as to what went wrong is what you are filling your existence with. Where is your passion being funneled? We all get trapped in and by the world. It’s 100% guaranteed. Do you have the knowledge to get out of the traps? Has the staff pulled you out of those deep holes? You know whom you must call to for help.

For this very reason, start filling your life with goodness. “The Bible” has been mocked into cartoon like silliness by the world. But there’s grand reason the world does that…those are living words from the creator directly to you and Mr. World knows that. That silly book is life itself. It’s your passport to eternity. Start reading one psalm and one chapter of proverbs daily, and pray the Lord’s Prayer on your knees afterwards. Watch what happens.

See you on the path.

Your Brother,

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