Good Friday 2016

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Luke 23: 27-31…”A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ ”

I’ve watched the “Passion of Christ” many times. It was always hard to take, but I’ve viewed every scene multiple times. I was watching as an observer…and outsider…though thinking I was inside. Tonight, minutes before it became Good Friday in the Eastern Time Zone in America, I tried to watch it again. It has been a good day. A really good day. There was meaningful time spent with good men and friends in bible study during lunch. We discussed James 3 and the power of the tongue. That’s critical teaching to a man that does the things I do. There was quality time spent with my mother-in-law and youngest daughter at my church for Maundy Thursday service. I was honored to help lead the music with my 2 friends, Charlie and Kelly. My pastor gave a purposeful and sincere message. We worshipped. We ate ice cream after. It was a really good day. Then I turned on this film.

Mel Gibson’s masterpiece, “The Passion of Christ,” is the most realistic visual account we are ever going to get as to what the crucifixion of Jesus was like. Good Friday. It’s unbelievably brutal and cringe causing.  Yet, I’ve always been able to watch it despite the cringes and tears. But this time was much different. All of the things I’ve written about so far on this devotional…the baptism…the mountain…the transformation…stem from the Holy Spirit that came to me. The Holy Spirit that wasn’t living within me in all those previous viewings. He’s there now. I wasn’t seeing this as an outsider…an observer of a man being brutally murdered. The way the overwhelming majority view this moment. I was seeing it from the inside. The pain boiled inside of me. It’s me that’s supposed to be chained to that post being ripped to shreds. Flesh torn over and over again. It’s me that is supposed to be condemned. My body tensed and slow tears rolled. I was seeing my own punishment. I had never seen it before. My eyes couldn’t close tighter. Then I opened and he was on the path carrying my cross. I turned it off. I know what’s coming next. My nails. In one hand. In the other hand. Bones crushing. Pain searing. Screams. My screams. Then the feet. Placed on top of each other. 1 long rusted nail driven into them both. My nail. My feet. I couldn’t. I already know. He lives in me now. It was real. I was there because he was there.

I sat in the dark in my chair. A cross above my head. I sat there for a long time in a different place than the physical. We mourned together. The picture posted above is when I came out from that moment and wanted to write it here. That’s not a pose. It’s a capture that was needed for this post. The scripture from Luke I posted for this is not often spoken of in this story. They are words directly from the mouth of our Lord. It’s a dire warning.

Thank you, King Jesus. There is no way for me to ramble out meaningless words of detail, because none could ever suffice for what you did for me. For us. For those you come to rescue and send your Spirit. Thank you. I pray for those who do not understand. The one like me who thought he understood, but is just an observer on the street watching a man be killed with everyone else. I pray they call upon your name. I pray you come find your lost sheep and rescue them. I pray you send them your Spirit. I pray they one day have the moment to mourn together with you at their own crucifixion you took in their place. Thank you. Hosanna in the Highest.

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