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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

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