The Joyfulness of a Man

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(Photo by me on a tight rocky trail in the NC Mountains – Oct 2016)

Psalm 16: 9-11…”Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

A few nights ago my family ordered Chinese for dinner, and there were the usual batch of fortune cookies tossed in the bag. I opened mine and it read – “The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days.” Being a man who reads Psalms and Proverbs on the daily, I instantly recognized the sentiment as Biblical truth. Throughout the teaching of scripture, joy is presented as a primary (and eternal) result of God’s gift of salvation. If we truly understand just what it is that’s happened to us in accepting Christ, we couldn’t possibly be anything but joyful. The Apostles speak to that constantly in their messages. Paul giving us the ultimate example as he sings praise in prison chains. Yet, we live here in this world, and it’s forever bringing us back down to its dreadful level. We lose sight of the light as we continue on God’s narrow path. Darkness creeps in on us without warning sometimes. When it is said to – “Put on the Armor of God” – we get this imagery of being a warrior fighting off obvious foes and their seen weapons. In reality, it’s our joy that’s most often left unguarded, and it’s by stealth it comes under attack.

The fantastic singer-songwriter, Lucinda Williams, has a song titled, “Joy,” that I thought of when starting this post. “You took my joy – I want it back.” She’s going all over looking for her joy that an abusive man had taken from her. It’s worth a listen on YouTube. The piece Lucinda is missing is she’s looking for her joy here and she’s never going to find it. We must go to the source. The Shepherd is our joy. Lasting, eternal – joy – only derives from the Spirit. Ask any mega-lottery winner how “joyful” they are a few years into their winnings. Earthly things cannot and will not provide lasting joy.

“The joyfulness of a man prolongs his days,” said my cookie. Proverbs 17:22 says…”A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If you do a Google search of – “What does the Bible say about Joy” – you’ll receive a long list of links. I prefer the website, Open Bible, as they provide all scripture links related to a search topic. This is a good assignment for both believer and non-believer. Do you have a cheerful heart or is your spirit crushed? Learn why to either answer.

I’m just like most everyone else and I do not enjoy being unhappy. For a great deal of my life I didn’t know I had a choice in the matter. I’ve learned, by the gift of the Spirit, that I not only have a choice, it’s already been made for me. If I’m not filled with joy, it’s only because I’ve allowed the world to temporarily take from me what it cannot produce. Misery loves company. I had wandered from the safety of my Shepherd. Many a lost sheep aren’t aware enough to turn back off the path they’ve taken. But we are to run back to the shelter of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is He with an easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11:30). It is His pure love that provides true joy. His Spirit, living within us, is the only source of – Joy.

How do we gain eternal joy? By continually pouring provided joy outwards. Hint…The source well is bottomless.

Gary Abernathy

WheWMMav The joThe

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Encouragement

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2 Timothy 1:7…”For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

A transforming Christian straddles a line between reality and our own lives, and the ever-increasing “power” within us that places us in another reality able to see and feel the needs of other souls. Timothy speaks to this in this line of scripture that in the larger picture, is him giving encouragement to his faithful. The chapter’s final paragraph begins with the words…“You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygeius and Hermogenes.” (2 Timothy 1:15). He doesn’t care. He’s offering praise to the loyal. He knew his destination and mission.

That confidence in knowing only comes from the Holy Spirit. Once it is present within us, we have access to that confidence and the unlimited powers of creation that are required for what is asked of us. I’m a content writer for a well-known family website. I’ve had that platform for several years now and it reaches large audiences of specifically men, but entire families. I did not pursue it…instead it chose me. It’s a tremendous responsibility given mostly anonymously. There is no personal glory. There are no riches. No stepping stones to further gain. Just the platform of – teacher. To be a teacher of Godly things is a dangerous path. James warns us about this in the following scripture: James 3:1…”Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” That warning lays heavy on me when I write. Am I adding to his word? Am I subtracting? Am I misleading? Is this right…is it wrong? Constant questions in my head. Hesitation has become my instinct in maturity, replacing the ignorant eagerness to speak my mind quickly and fully. Yet, I have the confidence of the Spirit inside of me that leads me forward.

I’ve written hundreds of articles on family. One that is currently up on that site is about what a child of divorce needs from their dad. It was impressed on me to write that article and it’s had a large readership. It was written from the perspective of the child that gets blurred out by the war raging between the parents. I read a comment this morning from a dad who wrote simply under the article…”Sure seems hopeless sometimes.” I found his sentence to be the perfect reaction to what he had read and why I was led to craft it. Why? Because he realized the enormous depth of emotion and consequence actually taking place, which is what my work attempted to convey to the reader. In 700 words or less, which is nearly impossible. Nothing is impossible with the power of the Spirit. He got it. He reacted. Now he’s thinking. Now he knows. Hopeless? I don’t think he believes that or he wouldn’t have used the word…seems. He knows how to proceed. I gave the instruction. His issue will be if he does what he must do for his children. Live selfless to his responsibility. I taught…will he listen?

To give him encouragement, I wrote below his sentence that I had prayed for him. Which I did. I never say that without actually sincerely doing it. To give encouragement I’ve come to believe is our chief obligation as “lights.” The picture above was taken by me on a trail where I had stopped to rest. I fashioned a simple cross out of twigs as I caught my breath and left it behind for eyes I’ve never met. Encouragement. I was led to do that. Why…only the Spirit knows. Are you a teacher? Do you instruct? Are you a parent? A husband? Wife? Child? There is an honor, integrity and responsibility placed upon us. To fulfill it, mostly, we are to simply…encourage. Just as Timothy did to his faithful in this scripture.

“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.” John C. Maxwell.

Gary Abernathy

 

The Role of Bible Prophecy

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Psalm 16…A miktam of David…

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’ Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

If you ask me, this Psalm of David is prophecy for all the faithful. This is where the redeemed should be looking when they seek answers to the unknown…to the fearful sights, actions and paths of the world. It isn’t just David worshipping…this is David giving us the answer to what shall be our lot. This is living word. For us, God’s children, there is a “delightful inheritance.” We do not run after other gods seeking their assistance. We do not offer sacrifice to them for safety. Apart from God, we have no good thing. We are counseled by his Spirit…even in our sleep…and the path of life is made known to us. Joy is the prophetic word that belongs to us…because we are already, and forever shall be, in his presence.

My very first recollection of Godly teaching stems from around age 4 or 5. My family was in church when I was born, so God was being made known to me already, but this is my first memory…a neighborhood children’s bible study my mother sent me to. It was led by a woman in our neighborhood and we met at her house. I vaguely remember she was young with dark hair. I remember her giving us all children’s bibles. I also remember she scared me to nightmares. She was teaching us Bible Prophecy. The only memory I take from that event was her telling us that Jesus was coming at any moment…and one would be taken and one would be left. In my child brain, that boiled down to either me or my brother. I had no idea if I was supposed to want to be taken or left. I just knew she scared me to death. I never went back. Isn’t this the effect that most “teachers” of biblical prophecy have? It’s fear porn. And it’s a huge moneymaker worldwide.

I guess psychologically, that first learning stuck with me, because I’ve been interested in prophecy and the ties of world events to it ever since. It’s almost like she put a dark cloud over my head and I kept waiting for it rain for many decades. That is not how a soul reborn in the Holy Spirit sees the prophetic words given to us…we see them as 1) The promise of hope and justice; and 2) Tools of warning to non-believers. It’s within number two that “teaching” often goes astray. Put those tools in the wrong hands, and that’s how you wind up with a 5 year old scared in his bed at night that some mysterious person from the sky is going to yank him away from his family.

In my late 20’s when God was pulling me back away from the world and home towards him, it was once again prophecy that was used to get my attention. I was a young married dad feeling God’s call on my heart, and a television prophecy huckster, Jack Van Impe, started showing up in my orbit. “Y2K will destroy us all,” was the basic premise. “God is using the computers to usher in Revelation.” I might as well have been 5 year old Gary again. It wasn’t going to be me ,”left behind,” I’ll tell ya that. Into deep study I went…and I never missed Jack and his wife every Friday night. My wife watched too. What I wasn’t really noticing was Jack and the bride sure had a whole lot of merchandise to sell during their half hour doomcasts. The for sale merchandise is where you got the “whole story” you see. I did however start to get drawn in, and I even bought myself a “Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible.” It’s very nice. All the doom is highlighted for you. I was learning a lot about Jack’s particular version of the “End Times,” but I wasn’t being drawn towards the gospel…I was being taken away from it…by fear. How you can physically bring a soul into Matthew’s gospel, but yet never teach them a thing about Christ’s love and hope, takes a special kind of talent. But God had sufficiently gained my attention. I began to question my Pastor, Chuck Wilson, about why he never talked about these things in church. Didn’t he know that Y2K was going to cause Russia’s missiles to malfunction and start Armageddon? For the love of Pete, man, warn your flock! I was way off base, but what did I know? God was teaching me a particular talent that he puts to good use with me now. I can discern “situations” on a highly skilled level. It took sorting through a giant mess of deception for years to learn that trait.

The current days are a mega-dream for those who wish to distort God’s word for profit and deceiving. The king of Christian prophecy writers, Tim LaHaye, has TWO books in Amazon’s top 6 Christian best sellers as I type. Business is good, brother. In case you don’t know who he is…Left Behind…and all the books that followed. Don’t get me wrong, Jack Van Impe and Tim LaHaye might be God’s greatest messengers…who am I to say? But what they do isn’t in accordance with Paul’s teaching from anything I discern in the New Testament. Speaking as one who was enamored with the work of both of them…none of their works ever led me to anywhere but having less money and a great deal more worry. The fruit is rotted coming off those vines.

So are the words spoken by Christ in Matthew 24 true? Is all of it true…the prophecy found cover to cover in the God’s word? 100%. Matthew 24: 6-8…”You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” That’s Jesus answering the disciples question as to what the signs will be of his returning. “See to it that you are not alarmed,” Jesus says, right before telling them…“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Matthew 24:9. See to it I don’t worry? That sounds horrible. This is where the dividing line of understanding comes in. The reason we aren’t to worry is because our faith assures us that what Jesus has spoken to us is infallible. Though some of us may even be put to death, he promises not even one hair on our head will be harmed. It takes the spirit within you to understand what that means. The peace that promise brings despite facing a whole world that hates us and wants to kill us…can only be supplied by the spirit of God. If that spirit is not present, then the vault is open for fear to be exploited in a mighty way…and that’s what so many have and still do. Jesus goes on in Matthew 24…“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Deception…something man is extremely adept at. Read the entire chapter. There is a lot more. It is our call to know these things. Jesus speaks in Matthew 24:42…“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Which brings me to why I was taught the things I was taught…How to be his watchman. So I am. And what I can report to you on this day free of charge, and with no extra merchandise for the rest of the story, is this: We don’t know when he’s coming. That’s the truest statement anyone will ever say to you. You can purchase all the material you wish, written or produced by people far more educated than me, but at the end of the day all it says is…”We don’t know.” But they make it very compelling and interesting getting to that point…I’ll give them that.

So, if you want my little opinion, and you’re reborn in the Holy Spirit and saved by the blood of Christ…go to David’s words. Read a Psalm every day, and read a chapter in Proverbs every day. One teaches you how to get along with God, and the other teaches you how to survive in this world righteously. Do those two things…and no matter if a volcano swallows you, a marauding band of Christian haters attack you, a friend betrays you, a war engulfs you, an earthquake rattles you, or an asteroid falls on you…not one single hair on your head is going to be harmed. “See to it you are not alarmed.” That’s the role of bible prophecy.

Gary Abernathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Peace of God With Us

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Philippians 4: 4-9 Final Exhortations…”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

 

  1. Rejoice. Emphasized again so we are to be perfectly clear – Rejoice! How are we as Christians doing with that one? I can only speak for myself and what I see in others. We fail every day to simply rejoice in the work of the cross and the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We complain, we bicker, we worry, we spread angst…I’m world class at those things. I do however rejoice as well in my Lord daily, but am I fully transformed in that joy? No. I have a long way to go. So do you.
  2. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do people see you as gentle? For me, I think it very much depends on who is answering and in what setting. By nature, I’m a pretty gentle soul. But I’m also very cunning and have the ability to tear things to shreds that I feel need torn…and there is nothing gentle about it. Is my gentleness evident to all? No. Is yours?
  3. The Lord is near. Do we feel his constant presence in our lives? Me…absolutely. Christ is at the forefront of my thoughts and my actions. Why I still act against instruction I do not know. It’s extremely difficult to discern God’s will in each moment. I often feel as though I’m acting in Godly accordance, but then in my daily scripture study, I’ll find a contradiction to what I thought compared to what God commands.
  4. Do not be anxious, but instead in every situation, pray with a thankful spirit, and present your requests to God. In my transformation, I’ve become very good at this. I’m on my knees most days thanking my Lord just for the moment I’m in…good or bad. For the opportunities to serve him…good or bad. And always seeking his direction. I’m also far less anxious than I once was. How are you in these things?
  5. The Peace of God that transcends all understanding. Is this something when you read it you say, “Yes!” Have you felt that moment where chaos surrounds you and you should be chaotic too…but you’re not? You can’t explain why…but at the height of confusion, you’ve never felt more at ease? I know this. I believe it’s the Holy Spirit that dwells within me.
  6. Whatever is True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy. Think about those things. Is this where we place our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions…our hearts? I surely try to. It goes back to learning discernment deeply and intensely. This is the guide. They aren’t always obvious and easy to spot. We have to dig deep for these things. We have to tear past the delusions and illusions…the facades of the world. Peel back all those layers…and we find these things. Do you peel, or do you just accept what the world places in front of you as its or His? Satan is powerful on this earth, and most times it comes with a smile and a friendly hug.
  7. Do we put into practice the things Paul has left for us in word and example? No. We do not. The world would be a completely different place. It would be the Kingdom that is to come. Are we trying and transforming? I am. How about you?

With God’s peace, we are capable of “evolving” far past the existence we think traps us in these human shells. Paul had it through the process of receiving the Holy Spirit, and then putting into practice the strict discipline required to reach such a place. That place…Is the kingdom we all seek that is promised. Few will get there. Paul has left us the directions. What will you follow?

Gary Abernathy

The Harvest

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Be Holy

1 Peter 1: 13-15…”Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ “

This weekend my wife blurted out a sentence that struck fear into me…”Do you want to clean out the garage today?” I know very well what my garage looks like. It’s a storage building for 20 years of being together and 17 1/2 years of being parents. It’s all the boxes, all the decorations, all the junk, all the toys, all the…stuff…that an American family accumulates over time and has no idea what to do with. If our garage was a metaphor it’s this…The spoiled excess of the upper-middle class American lifestyle that fills our souls literally with junk so that we’re so cluttered the thought of cleaning ourselves up is far too much work…so we just sink into rot and decay.” That’s the metaphor. Sorry for being so deep with it. Truth can suck.

So, my wife, like most wives, got her way, and we began the process. Begrudgingly I went along with this exercise in garage humility. The organization plan was to have 3 piles.

1 – Keep

2 – Charity

3 – Throw Away

Overwhelmingly, the throw away pile was the big winner. (2) full van loads of stuff we’ve been holding taken to the local dump, and another full load still to be taken tomorrow, because today is Sunday and apparently the dump observes the Sabbath. When we started, you could barely open the garage door or side door. Fully stuffed. When we finished, not only did the riding lawn mower and giant smoker grill go back in easy, there is ample room for an actual car to be parked in there now. That’s how much was discarded and how little was kept. On a side note, I kept thinking of one of my favorite Billy Graham lines…”Just because you’re born into a Christian family that doesn’t make you a Christian. You could have been born in a garage, but that doesn’t make you an automobile.” What really makes that line funny is his very distinct accent when he says automobile. Classic. But I digress.

Mankind. There are rules God has established. We don’t follow them. None of us. So, the penalty for that is death. After death, there are ample descriptions and visions of where a soul goes being found guilty without redemption at death. I’ll leave that there. Jesus Christ is our redemption. Because we cannot, God sent his Son here to live the life we aren’t capable of living, so that we might live (our eternal soul). If we believe and accept that, we are offered salvation and washed clean of our guilt (sin). MANY accept that invitation by proclamation. However, the heart is lacking. The heart is all that matters in this equation. Peter speaks to that in the above scripture. We were brought out of ignorance and given salvation. Given the Holy Spirit. A truly reborn soul can’t help with the spirit within them to feel the pull of what Peter’s words allude to in their life. The command issued…”Be holy, because I am holy.” Though we fail daily to fully live up to that, our hearts feel our failures, and our soul always seeks rebuke and correction so that we may each moment move towards a truly holy state of being. Anyone you see as a “Christian” obviously not feeling that pull and seeking repentance, has missed something.

There is a great harvest underway. A separating. A division. Just like the piles my wife and I created. There are His that shall be preserved and saved. There are those hanging in limbo not with the Spirit, but hope still remains they will call and Jesus will send the Spirit to rescue them. Then there is the junk to be tossed away. In scripture it’s described as being, “tossed in the lake of fire.” Which is what happens in a harvest. You burn the chaff. There will be far more chaff burned than wheat collected in the final harvest. Christ will sit on his judgment throne and say to many…”Go from me, I never knew you.” How can you be sure to be wheat in that moment?

You’ll know because your entire existence will begin to transform. What you’re passionate about, what’s important to you, how you love, how you view others…it all changes. Not instantly, but also not too slowly either. When you are reborn in the Holy Spirit instantly the process begins of ripping all the junk stored up inside you out…and replacing it with the holiness Peter speaks of. It’s a very ugly process. Be prepared to cry a lot. Be prepared to try to hold onto for dear life the sin the Spirit is ripping from you and having a whole lot of rebuking placed upon you for it. God punishes his like any good parent does a child. It’s a progressive form of punishment. It’s learned pretty quickly that you do not want to go to the hardest forms. If it’s necessary, God will completely break you down to heal you. David being a prime example. I’ve pushed the Spirit to the limits of him getting very serious. It’s not pleasant…at all. Repent. He cannot use us in an impure state. So we will be made pure at any cost.

If that paragraph above is not something you understand immediately when you read it…well…go to prayer. Get in scripture. Plead for the Spirit. It’s all that matters in this small time we are here. When the harvest arrives…chaff will be burned. 100% guaranteed.

Wheat…shall live.

Gary Abernathy

 

Building the Foundation of Eternity

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Matthew 13: 37-43 (Jesus Christ speaking)…”The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be a the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Not many pastors dwell among these words from Christ when speaking to their flocks. If you want to run someone off quick, start explaining things like this and you’ll be preaching to only the few remaining faithful. That doesn’t fit into the church growth model. Into the outreach expansion goals or the exotic mission field desires. So they leave the devil, fire, and blazing furnaces tucked away in the gospel they know most of their flock aren’t going to read on their own anyway. Over time this has led to the worldly image of Christ as nothing more than a friendly hippie with some wise and nice things to say.

Jesus Christ came to build the foundation of eternity – His kingdom. “I came to bring fire and how I wish it was already time,” Jesus said. Luke 12:49. God is the creator. He builds things. When he came to earth, the Son of Man was first a carpenter. He built things. As his ministry began, so did the ultimate and final project – the kingdom. We are in that process now as he is growing us from his seeds that have been sown. We are mixed together with the weeds. How do we know which is which? How are we to be sure?

Examine our hearts. Where do our passions rest? What are the motivations that drive us? What do we fear? Where do we place our hope? If Christ isn’t the driver to the answers of all those questions, it’s a very good chance we’re weeds. Weeds eventually are bundled and tied, then tossed into the blazing furnace. Don’t be a weed.

To be clear, we are all deserving of being burned with the weeds. At the same time, with the work of the cross and the resurrection, we all can become good seeds that will bring about the final vision. However, it’s not enough to accept salvation because it’s free or from a sense of survival, and then go right back to being a weed. A great many are in the field waiting to be harvested without a clue they are actually weeds. Their eyes never in the word that is our daily bread, their hearts steeped in worldly sin, and their passions given to shortsighted earthly ways. Their knees never bent in prayer asking to be taught, forgiven and transformed. To the good seeds…the Holy Spirit guides, rebukes, disciplines, and transforms. For the weeds…they are left to the fickleness and playful torture of the devil, who can rise up and destroy any time it suits his fancy or purposes. This is not written as a condemnation of the reader…it’s written from experienced knowledge. I was once an unknowing weed with the confidence of the saved. The Spirit came to me and woke me up from the delusion I was under. The intent of this writing is to wake you up from the same.

Hurry and stir. The harvest nears each hour.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning Coals

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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 Things We Keep Buried

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Colossians 3: 5-10…”Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

The Apostle Paul wrote this as part of his letters to the church in Colosse around 62 A.D. while he was a prisoner in Rome. It is written as a warning to keep pure the work of Jesus at the cross and the resurrection thereafter, as the church had morphed into a sort of hybrid religion that no longer resembled true Christianity. It is a detailed account of what we are before receiving Christ, and what we transform into after the death of our earthly self and being reborn in the spirit of Christ. He’s very blunt and explicit in his instruction and they are hard words to hear and read. Very few passages in scripture are as important as what Paul wrote here, but these are the exact same qualities that many of faith choose to ignore as command. However, we must keep in mind who wrote this – Paul, the human being that the resurrected Christ specifically and directly chose to bring the gospel to all the world…to you and to me. This is to be taken as if spoken directly to your face by your Creator.

We are warned here by Paul that there is a coming wrath of God and it will be leveled against the things that are born from sin. But since we have been saved by the blood shed at the cross and reborn, we are now transforming (being renewed) in knowledge and in the image of our Savior. In that, we must die in our earthly self and that life we walked in that will face judgment, and walk in the new self that we now have in oneness with Jesus. Complicated? Sure, if you’ve not been rescued by Christ and the Holy Spirit has not yet come to you. But to those to which this has occurred, it all makes perfect sense. It’s the application that gets lost in translation. Transformation is a process…not a one and done, at least for most. Paul was a one and done, but most likely you are not. I am not. We are transforming from our previous life which is now dead. It’s like a snake shedding its skin. What is left behind is all that Paul listed…all the things that separated us from God and eternal light.

There has been much I’ve lost in my old self as that doomed existence dies and my true life emerges. Much of the sexual immorality, the evil desires, the greed, lust, anger, rage and the rest has washed away, and the Spirit is always pouring life back into me to replace those things. Yet, on occasion, I’m reminded my transformation is yet to be complete. Especially when I take off a piece of the armor that shields me from the enemy and leave myself vulnerable to attack. I’m nearly certain that I’ve never met a fully transformed being and that I probably never will. I believe they are out there and I absolutely believe we can get there before leaving this earth, but we do have an enemy and we are constantly at battle with it.

Buried deep in my gut somewhere is this little ball I’ve discovered. It’s not supposed to still be there. I don’t want it there. Yet there it still is. Its content is a toxic brew of terrible pain, anger, rage, sins of all sorts, and all that was me before my rescue. It’s almost as if this ball is a “greatest hits” of all the traits my previous doomed soul consisted of. The death of my mother and the massive pain that came with that takes center stage in that melody. It’s a platinum hit. Recently, because I took my armor off, that little ball of pain was exploited and it surfaced on me again. My actual brother witnessed this. I’m not sure what happened and why, and after much personal analysis I actually believe it was part of the ongoing transformation process. God was releasing it from me and in confession there must be a witness to it. The deep bitterness I was holding towards the end result of my mother’s life poured out of me in a fit of rage.

God has used that ball in my life for a long time. It’s the motivation that has propelled me to do many good things in life out of the ashes of the wrong. It’s the source of what led me to him and his rescue. But it’s of no use anymore as those things have died. I cried the next morning after that ball came pouring from me to God to please take it from me. I didn’t even know it was still there like that. I didn’t belong there and I pleaded for him to take it. There exists plenty of mystery still regarding God, our salvation, our personal transformations, and the way we are used in God’s glory and purposes. For me, this is one of those mysteries. But I take it back to what Paul says here…”Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” I pray that I do.

What are the things you are keeping buried deep in your gut? What type of control do they have on your actions? Consider Paul’s warning. Put them to death.

Gary Abernathy