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

 

 

Spiritual GPS

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Proverbs 16:9…”In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

There is an old joke/wisdom that goes something like this (paraphrased)…A terrible hurricane was underway and storm surge began flooding a Godly man’s home. The water kept getting higher until all he could do was stand on his roof. He was full of faith and trusted the Lord would save him. Along came a rescue boat and they called out to the faithful man, “Grab this rope and we’ll take you to safety, Sir!” The man replied, “No thank you, the Lord is going to save me.” The rescuers moved to the next house. The water was now lapping over the roof and around his ankles. Here came another rescue boat just in time. “Grab the rope, Sir! You don’t have much time!” The man said, “No thank you! I trust in my Lord. Only he will save me!” The rescuers moved on. All of a sudden a Coast Guard helicopter appeared and down dropped a brave young rescuer to save the man. “Hold onto me, Sir. I’ll take you to safety!” The man was annoyed. “How many times do I have to say it??? The Lord will save me. Leave me alone!” The Coast Guard flew away. Now the water was crashing over the roof and the man was swept away in a huge wave. He drowned. The man arrived at the Pearly Gates and there was Peter. The man was angry and he said, “Hey, Peter…what happened there??? Y’all let me drown!” Peter replied…”We sent you 2 boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

Spiritual GPS is every bit as important as the global positioning system we’ve all grown so dependent on in this century. How do we know which way to go? It’s been my experience that it’s always the most simple direction staring us right in the face. But like the man in the story our faith is blinded by our own will. “In their hearts humans plan their own course.”

When I was 25 years old I felt certain my life course was all but set in stone. My career path had 2 options – one in business and one in music. I applied my time to both equally. I wanted music but kept business as my safety net. A man divided cannot stand, but I wasn’t smart enough to understand that yet. In my personal life, I was in a serious relationship that seemed for life. My home was in my birthplace and I didn’t believe that would ever change. The only outcome yet to be decided was the final career path. God’s steps never entered my equations.

Just 10 years later every single thing about my life was different. Not one thing left unchanged. Not in a million years would I have guessed any of the changes. First, God took me out of one relationship, cleared my mind, and then into the one he chose for me. As if literally coming straight down from heaven, this woman appeared in my lap. We’ve been together ever since. Then he sent a pastor into my life to open my eyes to my creator. It had never been effectively done by any other human, but this one succeeded. Then God transitioned me away from my own music pursuits and into service of his. I was in the first wave of “praise band” musicians that changed the face of the modern church. I went from playing original music in music venues and bars, to playing a beat up electronic kit (gasp) with a black gospel piano man/vocalist in church. “What? How did I get here?” The next thing I know life spun another circle, and I found myself a married dad of 2 children and living far away from my birthplace. Business gone. Music as a career gone. Past relationships gone. I was completely remade. A blank slate. “Start over,” my spiritual GPS spoke.

I’m now nearly 15 years past God’s hitting of my reset button. I have a fully different life in an entirely different place. Like I was placed in God’s witness protection program. The Lord establishes their steps. If we look at it from the Godly perspective it’s…”We can do this the easy or hard way. What’s it going to be?” I can just hear a guardian angel saying to another…”Why do they always choose the hard way?” Then they take the wrecking ball to our plans.

Are you surrounded by God’s signs and ignoring them like the man in the story? We are all guilty of this repeatedly in life. The way we learn to hone our spiritual senses to God’s direction is by putting our souls deeply into relationship with him. There is no shortcut to this. It requires daily prayer and daily scripture study. If your knees haven’t knelt in worship and prayer and your bible is covered in dust, it’s certain you’re trying to plan your own course. God is going to place his chosen where he sends them no matter what. It’s far more difficult when we aren’t in contact with him to understand the directions. Much of our misery is connected to this failing of our faith. Like the picture above, no matter how deeply we are buried, God is giving us directions. Can we see them?

Take some time reflecting on your past plans and what the reality you have today is. Find God among the changes and how he guided your path. Go back in your mind and try to spot the rescue boats he sent and were ignored. The people who came to warn us. The things placed in our lives that tried to change the course but we wouldn’t have it. God wants to prosper us and use us. He cannot when we are in rebellion. The consequences to rebellion is misery in one form or another. Some of the seemingly most fortunate people on earth are in reality in absolute misery. Kanye West comes to mind as a current example. Fame and wealth is overflowing with miserable humans. We can only find true peace and contentment, as well as purpose, when we are following the path our creator intends for us.

So what’s it going to be? The easy way or the hard way? Consider this post a rescue boat sent your way. Don’t blame Peter at the gate if you fail to grab the rope.

Gary Abernathy