A Time to Speak


(Hiking near Blowing Rock, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway – October 2017)

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.

It’s been a time of silence for me here on this devotional. After having poured out my sins and sharing the process of reconciliation with our Lord by the cross and resurrection, I was put into a season of Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

 The picture I posted above was me last Autumn hiking in North Carolina. What a beautiful day that was with God. I was all alone on this miles long trail. I never saw another human being the entire time until I returned to where I’d left my car. A passerby asked why I had randomly popped out of the woods. Ha! They weren’t aware of the incredible trail that begins behind the roadside pond they were admiring. On that hike I had to cross this one winding creek on multiple occasions. Each time having to figure out how to do it as wisely as possible. Go across reckless and my socks are going to be drenched and ruin the rest of the hike. Try to trust the quite slippery rocks and I could easily fall and hurt myself…with nobody to help. I’m 51 and in moderate shape. I’m not exactly bouncing around like a kangaroo out there! But I LOVED the challenge. God was teaching me wisdom. In the picture I’m using my staff to point to the other side of the creek I need to be to continue. The picture doesn’t accurately reflect the width or depth of the creek. It wasn’t as easy at it appears. Basically, the choice was step into about 2 feet depth of water (deeper than my boots) or trust a series of very wet rocks. I went with the water. Yep. Sock on the right foot got soaked. But I didn’t slip on any rock leading me to fall and break something…like my head. I could have turned back, but I never gave myself that option. I really wanted to get to the pasture that I’d read was ahead. And man…was that ever worth the wet sock the rest of the day.

This time of silence has had many moments like that. It’s also had a lot of not as pleasant moments. The Lord has been showing me things. The good, the bad, and the truly horrible. That leads to lots and lots of reflection. It tests our faith. It tests our courage. Mainly, it tests – our hearts. God only cares about the heart. Proverbs 4:23…”Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

If we are to serve our Lord, our hearts must be in order. If our heart is straddling both the world and Christ, then our work is fruitless. This is the danger of Christianity when practiced by straddling hearts. Accepting the gift, but not accepting the change. What flows from that type of heart results mostly in cruelness to the world. Not His love. Taking personal authority to condemn and judge, while at the same time claiming forgiveness and purity from one’s own mess. I daresay, that’s as harmful to the world as any nuclear weapon. It’s not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if it’s not that, then it’s from his enemy. This is what this time of silence has been teaching me.

With no effort by me other than the writing from my heart, this blog somehow to date has been read in over 100 nations on earth. In my mind, that’s nothing short of a miracle. I’m one servant writing in his small office about my relationship with God and hitting “Publish.” The only “marketing” I do whatsoever is to add a picture that I took with my own camera at the top, and to add a few relevant tags to the post. Beyond that, it’s all God. It’s a publishing team of the Lord and…me.  It’s been months and months since I’ve written a new post, but last night I got a notification sound on my phone from WordPress. Someone new signed up to follow this blog. They were from Uganda. I’m in the state of Florida in the United States. That’s a God thing.

There is a time for everything. And now…it’s time to write. Time to work. From my heart fully committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m a sinner and I’m nowhere near perfect. Ask my wife 😉 Ha. But my heart? It’s ready to serve for our Lord again.

To anyone that reads these words anywhere in the world, there are 3 words you need to know: God. Loves. You.


Gary Abernathy



Does God Love His Creation Unconditionally?


John 3:16…”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The above is the most famous scripture in the New Testament. That’s the message. It’s everywhere. “For God so loved the world…” But does God love His creation unconditionally? That was a question put before me earlier today.

The above picture was taken back in February of this year by me at E.H. Sloop Chapel in Crossnore, North Carolina. I was on sabbatical in the area, and I’d heard of the work of this chapel and school, and about this fresco pictured,  and decided to check it out. It’s a fresco by, Benjamin F. Long, IV, titled – “Suffer the Little Children.” It’s relevant to this discussion because of what I experienced when viewing it. I had entered the chapel on the other end of the building and I proceeded straight for the altar. It was completely void of other people at that time. Just God showing me what he wanted to and me following the prodding. The first thing I did was kneel on the first step and pray. When I was finished, I looked up above and saw Psalm 121 -“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?  My help comes from The Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  I nodded in agreement, as the Spirit was giving me one of those hugs that it so often does in moments like those. Then I stood and turned around.

My eyes took in this enormous and magnificent piece of ordained artwork. But they were quickly drawn to the bottom left hand corner onto the dark haired child with bangs. His eyes were looking directly into mine as they are any viewer of this work. But there was a twist. That child was me. As I stood there gawking alone in this chapel, it was as if myself rose from its two dimensional limitations and became whole to greet me. The child looks exactly like me at the same age. My mouth was gaping. And in my head and heart, the Sprit was impressing loudly on me – “You’ve always been His.” I’ve strayed far and wide in life, but my first memories are of children’s bible studies in my neighborhood around 4-5 years old, and this experience took me right back to then. “You’ve always been His.” The kid in the picture is standing back, looking at us and not Christ, and seems to be asking, “Is this guy for real?” I was given an answer to that in E.H. Sloop Chapel.

Does God love us unconditionally? When that question was posed, I raised my hand, “Yes.” I was then instructed I was wrong, and that the correct answer is, “No. God doesn’t love us unconditionally. Scripture provides condition after condition.” I don’t agree. All I see in scripture is a God that is nothing but a bottomless sea of unconditional love. Otherwise, he would have ended with the flood and washed his hands of the matter.

It’s funny, because I’ve been struggling mighty lately with the concept of – Free Will. Because everything is centered upon it. Figure out free will, and the doors start opening one after another in God’s great mystery of creation. In our thinking of such, we go all the way back to the garden. God creates man to be the caretaker of his creation, and then he creates woman to be his partner and companion. It’s the paradise we all wish were our existence. They’re strolling around naked, Adam is naming animals, and all is wonderful. And this is key – God is WITH them in the garden. Genesis 3:8…”Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

God is IN the garden walking “in the cool of the day.” The entire point of the cross is to redeem us to that state to where we can be in the presence of our God. To understand free will, we have to go back to what was before Adam’s fall. In God’s perfect unconditional love, he didn’t create man to be a puppet to His whims. He wanted man to love him because man chose to do so. That’s the law of love. It can’t be forced or fabricated. He had to create the means to choose this perfect existence. Genesis 2: 16-17…”And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ “

And there it is. Man, and woman, have perfect existence in the presence of God. Everything is at their fingertips. No disease, no violence, no sadness, no tears, no death…perfect existence. But God gave them a choice. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. “If you love me, and want to be with me, leave that tree alone.”God had to put that tree there to satisfy unconditional love. I know that sounds ridiculous. It’s literally a condition. “If you love me don’t eat from this tree.” That’s a condition. But it has to be there, or else there is no basis for unconditional to begin with. They would just be programmed that way. Man and woman decide to eat from the tree of good and evil. They decide to disobey God. Free will.

God could have ended it right there. Right? We have no idea if we are just one tiny little speck of God’s massive creations expanding to universe after universe. We don’t know. But we have to assume that after that decision in the garden, God could have just wiped it away as if it never were. He didn’t. He never has. If that’s not unconditional love, I don’t know what is. From that point forward of free will given to man being used to turn on his creator, it’s been nothing but disaster after disaster…all caused by free will. And a God that refuses to give up on us, continuing to call out to us – “Let me save you. I love you purely. Please come home.” No matter what God did, man continued to choose that one tree. Time after time. Read the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Listen to God speak through them to man. It’s terrifying. But even so, it always comes back to God’s sentiment of, “I should fully destroy you because it’s exactly what you deserve. But I won’t. I will spare enough of you to continue on.” UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

I can’t speak for our Lord. I made the mistake of adding my thoughts 2 paragraphs ago as being His, and he messed up my writing program. True story. I had to get rid of it and start again without that. But I can speak to how I feel the process might have looked like – God, having tried everything and realizing man wasn’t going to turn, finally decided, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That’s Jesus Christ. That’s why He came. That’s who He is. God. God’s perfect unconditional love coming to earth to live one perfect human life. And in doing so, reconciling us (all of us) back to Him and the conditions of the original garden. It’s a GIFT. Not a condition. We must believe that our Lord did this. All that do so will not perish but have eternal life. Is that a condition to the gift? God tells us it is not. It’s a reaction to the gift. The correct reaction.

So what about all that came after the resurrection and Jesus leaving the earth? What about Romans 6 where Paul describes “Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ?” This…When the Shepherd (Christ) comes for his lost sheep (us) and the sheep accepts his gift of salvation, we are given an all-new life. Our true life. We are born again by the Spirit of God placed within our soul. That’s exactly what happened to me. Old Me, the one that God blew into my nostrils and gave me earthly life, is still dying as was determined by the decision in the garden, but the New Me, is eternal. Old Me is still here, dying, capable of the same sinning he always was, but New Me that began as an infant in understanding, is growing and expounding by the day. Killing what was and transforming to what IS. I have no control over that. It’s written on my soul. Compelled by the Spirit in my heart and mind. Anyone that knows me can testify to the changes within in me. There are still plenty of changes yet to come. It’s a process. But it’s not me doing it. It’s the Holy Spirit. I was told, “You’ve always been His.” I am. His. Because of my own free will, I chose to come home.

By the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection – You can make that choice, too! Why? Because our Father, our perfect Lord, loves us all unconditionally. Always has.

Gary Abernathy



Burning Coals


Proverbs 25: 21-22…”If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

When God began to in earnest put me in, “God Boot Camp,” as I often describe it to myself, the first place my eyes were taken was the book of Proverbs. They’ve been in Proverbs ever since. Day after day, one each day, a repeating cycle of 31 Proverbs teaching me how to get along with the world as a child of God that doesn’t belong in it. A few things maybe I was doing right before boot camp, but for the most part, I’ve had it all wrong my entire life. None more so than Proverbs 25.

In my worldly mind, my enemy was my enemy, and while be it I’ve never been a particularly vindictive man, I certainly wasn’t going out of my way to help or feel sorry for said enemy. I saw them or it with strictly worldly eyes…only seeing the surface my physical capabilities could take in. Solomon’s wisdom is teaching us here that our enemy is but one thing, and it’s never what we can actually see with our human eyes. It’s the roaring lion, the serpent, it’s…Satan. That’s it.

Recently I was traveling from Florida to North Carolina by car while the ridiculously named, Winter Storm Jonas, was in progress on the entire east coast of the United States. The forecasters got this one right and it was a monster winter storm. With cold air and even snow flurries pushing all the way down to Florida, it was a highly unusual cold and miserable morning in Central Florida. I had stopped to pump gas in a tiny town between Gainesville and Jacksonville, and those of us doing so were not prepared for having to stand out in that while filling our cars. As strangers bonding in a winter-war-like fashion, we were laughing and talking to each other about how crazy it was to be freezing like that in Florida. It took about 3 minutes to fill a nearly empty tank. Then we got back in our warm cars. “Oh, how they suffered,” maybe Jesus said with sarcastic humor. I kept moving up the road until I came to Baldwin, Florida, which is where this journey would connect with I-10 East. I’ve traveled this road so many times I could do it blindfolded, and I know full well that the interstate entrance ramp at this particular junction is one of the busiest in the state. There are several truck stops off the exit, so getting on I-10 here is usually a lengthy wait. Because of this, the homeless and poor use that fact to make this a prime panhandling spot.

Due to the terrible weather and it being a Saturday morning, traffic was unusually light. Yet, as I approached the traffic light and entrance ramp, per usual there stood a panhandler. By his side was pit bull mix dog just sitting there in the cold by his friend, with a somewhat determined look on his dog face. As I got closer I noticed this guy was not your standard issue appearing panhandler. He was young, his face didn’t look like a baseball glove, and he at least didn’t appear to be to mentally unstable. What he did appear to be was very cold, as well he should have been. He had a smile and a cardboard sign promoting whatever the reason was he wanted a handout. I didn’t even read it. But I did notice he had his teeth still. Pretty rare in this situation.

The typical worldly reaction in that scenario is to think or say, “Look at this clown, out here begging for other people’s hard earned money, instead of working for it himself.” I’ve said that same thing many times in my life. But I didn’t say that this time, nor did I think it. God was bee lining me right to him. What I was thinking was Proverbs 25. There is my enemy. There stands Satan. Not the young man, not his dog friend, but the things I couldn’t see with my physical eyes. The reasons that put him standing there in the cold that morning for me to come upon. The things that were separating him from God. What am I to do? Heap burning coals on the head of my enemy.

Because there was nobody else there in that moment, I was able to stop in the turn lane, roll my window down, and engage him more than to just toss a dollar at him. He was surprisingly upbeat and friendly. We laughed about the cold and I encouraged him to quickly get out of it. I handed him more money than he would ever expect to get from me, and it lit him up with God’s glory. “Thank you! We (the dog) can go back to our tent and we’re staying in there the rest of the day.” He blessed ME first…both verbally and by his reaction. “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” Proverbs 25:25. He embodied that verse entirely. God allowed me to be the good news that morning. But both of us rejoiced. We then told each other that God loves the other. Then off I went to continue my journey up the road.

Our enemy we are fighting is not the living thing God has sent us to engage…to be his light for. It’s the things Satan has used to put them there and to keep them held down in his dominion of bleak hopelessness. This is why we are not to judge less we be judged. It’s a very difficult lesson to learn. The world will never teach you that. Ever.

Who do you view as your enemies in life? What do you see in them? How do you react and engage? Chances are, it’s all wrong, and that’s why nothing is changing or getting better. Blessings are not flowing. I’m learning this lesson each day by God’s grace. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is my leader, my teacher, and my friend…nothing else will do. Jesus Christ is my salvation and hope. God is my father and I call him such.

Go to your knees in prayer and ask for the Spirit to teach you how to live for his glory. Your worldview will never again be the same.

Gary Abernathy

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The Super Bowl Crown


1 Corinthians 9: 24-25…“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Charlotte, NC is one of those types of places that everyone that was born there is very proud of where they come from. At least they are from my generation born in the 60’s and 70’s and before. Mid-size cities are often this way, such as, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and other similar sized places. We want people to know our city exists too and that it’s a great place to be. I’m not sure of the psychology behind that, but I’m willing to guess that it’s akin to Napoleonic complex because of being rivals with nearby larger cities. Charlotte has grown such now that it’s losing that quality, but for those of us who are natives, we’re extremely proud when good things happen to it. Which leads me to the Carolina Panthers NFL football team.

We (Charlotte) were awarded an NFL team that began play in Charlotte in 1996. The first year was spent playing in Clemson, SC until our brand new stadium in Uptown Charlotte was completed. Uptown instead of downtown is another story all together, but it goes right back to that striving to be unique and special. The very first event held in what is now called, Bank of America Stadium, was a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy of course being one of those proud Charlotte natives, and he is also a fan of our football team like the rest of us. If you listen to past messages of his you’ll hear his love of NC and Charlotte come forth quite often. 20 years later that stadium and the city of Charlotte will be hosting our very first NFC Championship game between the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals. It’s kind of a big deal.

I love the game of football both college and pro. I loved playing the game with my friends as a kid. I didn’t so much love playing organized football, and the giant kids that played against us that must have lived by a nuclear power plant. That’s when I discovered there was a limit to my love of football. Ha. That said, I’ve been rabidly obsessed this year with the Panthers best season in our history. Going into the championship game we have 16 wins against 1 loss. It’s been a beautiful sight to behold. When I attended the playoff game last weekend with my family, I began to wonder if me directing all of this passion at the Panthers was a correct posture from a Godly standpoint. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope bordering on idol worship. Often times, the most seemingly harmless activities are the things drawing us away from relationship with our Father. Is that what is happening to me? It’s a very serious question.

So I began to put this against what the Apostle Paul wrote comparing the spirit of earthly competition with the spiritual responsibility that comes with eternal salvation. Competition and games existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles the same as it does now. He mentions racing in the quoted verse, and later he mentions boxing if you go on reading the chapter. Paul does not condemn these things, but instead he uses them as an example for us to adhere for a much higher purpose. “They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

This led me to honestly assess my life from the stance of am I as “sold out” (I really dislike that Christianese term but it fits here) for Jesus as I am the Carolina Panthers? Not that many years ago that would have been a for sure no. But I’m a much different man in my transformation than I was 5, 3, even 1 year ago. My life revolves around Jesus now in all phases. Even football, because I’ve never even considered this to be an issue before, but now the spirit has brought it to my attention. This is what happens when the spirit of the living Christ dwells within us. It was brought to me to consider for a reason. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy all of this creation and the other humans God has created and the great things mankind does, but we must at all times remain with both feet on his narrow path. Eyes forward. If the Panthers lose this weekend I’m going to naturally be disappointed as to what might have been, but my life will instantly go on. I’m in my own race. I’m seeking the crown that is eternal. The Super Bowl crown will fade to dust when mine still shines with his glory as I lay it at the feet of my Savior.

Billy Graham, if he is able in his condition, I’m sure will be watching the game this Sunday. I’ll be there with my family once again, making the 1200 mile roundtrip trek to be in that moment with them. The picture above is one that I took just a few weeks ago while at his library in Charlotte. It’s a signed helmet from Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, to Mr. Graham, “his friend.” It’s a great moment for the team and for the city of Charlotte and all that love it. But I’ll also have these words from Billy in my mind as I temper my enthusiasm with spiritual reality…“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

I’ve grown much closer in likeness to the Lord over these many years, but I still have much more growing to do. How about you? Are the things you give your deepest passions to surpassing the passion you give to serving and growing in Christ? Serious question indeed.

Gary Abernathy