Accepting Twig Status

img_1087John 15: 5-8…(Jesus Teaching) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you will bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

I have a problem. An identity assignment problem if you will. You see, my mind thinks it’s this big beautiful tree with glorious roots diving deep into the soil. But reality says otherwise. I’m a twig. A lowly, fragile, don’t know squat about squat…twig. Sticking awkwardly off the branch going every which direction with the wind, and totally dependent on the branch, and further, the tree, for every need.

The mind says – “What a loser. Jump down in the earth idiot, and become a tree yourself. You just think you need that tree, but that tree is just using that to control you. It’s a rigged game. All the trees are in on it. Jump!” The branch says – “I’ve told you the truth. You know it’s the truth. But the choice is yours. Jump and die, or stay and live.” I look around my surroundings in the beautiful land my tree stands, and I see mounds of fallen trees, branches and twigs. Dead. In big heaps. Storms, wind, age, fire…take your pic. Death is everywhere in the forest. So is life. I surely will stay. I made that decision a long time ago. I believe the branch, and I love and trust the tree. So what is my problem?

The issue here is that until I fully submit to the fact that I’m a stupid twig, I can’t fully turn into the thick and growing branch the tree wants and needs me to be. Perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself here…but that’s how it feels. Maybe I’m like half twig/half branch. With little tiny buds of fruit starting to blossom. But then I stunt them by going right back to dreaming about being the tree. The ground calls out…”Hey stupid twig, are you still listening to those fairy tales? You’re a special kind of stupid, aren’t you?” But I know they aren’t fairy tales. I know the fate those voices will sooner than they imagine will face. It’s right there all around them. But they can’t see it…they just walk around it, talk around it, and squawk about it. Even if I never become anything more than this twig/branch hybrid thingy, the branch, via the tree, have given me eternal life. They have time to be patient with me.

I love them so for that. I want to be more for them. It burns inside me. Grow up, twig…grow.

I took this photo on sabbatical this week in Cades Cove, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountain National Park. It reminded me of those red letters of Jesus…and inspired this pondering. I hope it gives you cause to ponder, too…maybe. My fellow twigs.

Gary Abernathy





Finding Spiritual Happiness


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy






A Walk into the Wilderness



Mark 1: 12-13…”At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”

There’s Jesus. He’s a 30 year old carpenter about to begin a 3 year ministry that changes all of human history and its future, and he’s emerging from the waters of the Jordan River. The hand of John the Baptist lifting him up – “He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” Yes, Jesus is the Son of the Most High, but he’s also a human at this point. Imagine yourself in his shoes. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'” Mark 1: 10-11

Have you ever been baptized for real? Not as an infant. But by decision led by the Spirit? For me, it was 3 years ago. 2013. I was baptized as a baby in the United Methodist Church. But God put in my heart a deep desire to make a more conscious decision. A commitment. The image I’ve chosen for this entry was taken from that day in the very spot. Honeymoon Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Dunedin, Florida. I sat my beach chair up on a non-crowded weekday morning and gazed out over the gulf. It was just me playing the role of both baptizer and the baptized. I’d long since publically declared my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my salvation. This was a moment with just God and his servant. I walked far out into the shallow waters until I felt it was right. There is a sandbar a good bit offshore, and I walked out to it in chest high water until I could sit.

I was very calm and I prayed in those calm green waters. Then I submerged my entire head in the act of baptism and then emerged back to the surface. Fate sealed. The heavens didn’t tear open when I looked up into the sky. My Father didn’t speak to me in the form of a dove. But, with me, he was well pleased. My heart told me so. Then he sent me into the wilderness.

Funny, it says in Mark that Jesus was with the wild animals. Right after this moment, I was walking back towards shore about waist deep and I turned around just to admire where I was. I saw a large black shadow coming in my general direction. It was a shark. It swam about 10-15 feet in front of me at an angle as I stood perfectly still. As the shark swam away from where I was, I briskly walked back to my chair. I never did panic. From a human standpoint, I figured it was black tip which are common in the area and mostly harmless, and from a spiritual standpoint, if God wanted me to get eaten that day at least I knew where I was going. But the wilderness…

Jesus had just entered his ministry moments earlier. God the Father came to celebrate his baptism. Then he’s immediately sent to the wilderness for 40 days. With Satan. The ultimate on-the-job training. There was no tote back of literature for him to peruse. “Hmm, I like the sound of this chick by the well in Samaria. I think I’ll choose that option as my assignment.” God sent him right away to be hammered by Satan for 40 days. Starved, tempted, mentally strained, and relentlessly tested of his loyalty. He only answered Satan in scripture. Never bargained. Never reasoned. Never waivered. Never caved. Scripture. He passed the test.

It’s a good thing I’m not Jesus. We’d all be in a big peck of trouble. After the shark, and in these past 3 years, my Father has sent me into the wilderness too. I’m there again right now during Lent. My call is not to bear the sins of all mankind so that we may live. I’m just to be a messenger. That’s it. Pretty simple job really. I screw it up all the time. Royally. The sins Jesus would take to the cross with him being the reason. I’m not capable of such and I badly needed rescued. God rescued me that morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Now he cleans me up, he purges me with both fire and love, and he uses me. The single greatest moment of my existence was dunking my head in that water by my own choice.

Have you had that moment? Have you been to the wilderness afterwards? It’s a horrible place, but filled with His grace and His glory. Before my baptism I failed in the wilderness each and every time. It was a 100% certainty that whatever I was trying to defeat on my own, would easily defeat me and would become worse. Every. Single. Time. Then I submitted it all to my King. I began to know victory. Glorious, eternal, life-giving victory. This is gone. That is gone. More still to be purged. So much more.

The Spirit hugs me now when I pray. There is a voice in my ear that tells me not to be afraid. I cry almost daily in worship. I went about 15-20 years of my life never shedding a single tear. Now I can’t shut it off even if I wanted to. My heart is of the living Christ and let me tell you, He FEELS THINGS. Deeply. What is it that’s blocking you from him? What do you think you can’t be forgiven for? I see so many good people’s hearts that are so lost in that same wilderness, but the angels are powerless to attend to them. They sink slowly into the darkness refusing to take the hand of salvation. Why?

If you read this post all the way through then God has meant for you to have his message. He wants to rescue you. Wash you. Purge you. Pull those demons away and give you the peace you’ve never dreamed could come. Speak to him now. Tomorrow the window might close. My prayers are with you.


Gary Abernathy