The most important week in the Christian calendar is rapidly approaching. Easter week, with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, is almost here. More than any ordinary event in history, this is one holiday to celebrate, and it is worthy of any amount of pause to meditate upon its significance. The Cross of Jesus is not merely a symbol or an icon of our faith – it changed the world forever, particularly for those who belong to the Father as His dearly beloved children.
J.I. Packer is one of our modern day heroes when it comes to theology. Now 88 years old, he has helped countless believers in their walk of faith with the Savior. Two of his works are of my favorites: KNOWING GOD, and CONCISE THEOLOGY. Both are great additions to any personal library.
Dr. Packer wrote on the importance of the resurrection of Jesus, and I would like to share a few of his thoughts in this post.
First of all, Packer asks a few questions, wondering what things would be like if the resurrection hadn’t happened.
“Would it matter?” “We should still have his example and teaching; wouldn’t that be enough?”
I love the way Packer answers this last question.
“Enough for what? Not for Christianity.”
You see, Christianity wasn’t just helped by the resurrection. If Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, Packer says that “the bottom would fall out” of our faith. He lists 4 things that would be true without the resurrection:
First, to quote Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:17: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Second, there is then no hope for our rising either; we must expect to stay dead too.
Third, if Jesus Christ is not risen, then he is not reigning and will not return and every single item in the [Apostles’] Creed after “suffered and was buried” will have to be struck out.
Fourth, Christianity cannot be what the first Christians thought it was—fellowship with a living Lord who is identical with the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus of the Gospels can still be your hero, but he cannot be your Savior. . . .
You see, Dr. Packer is right. We needed more than a cosmic hero. We needed more than good moral teaching. What we needed is a SAVIOR, One who could save us, and deliver us from the wrath of a Holy God that had to be poured out against sin – our sin, of which we are guilty. It wasn’t enough for Jesus to teach good things. He had to die for us, to become a curse for us, and to take upon Himself the guilt of our sin. He was willing to do that, though He Himself was sinless. But God so loved the world…that He gave His son for us…
And then, by raising His dearly beloved son from the dead, the Father declared that the penalty of our sin, our great sin against His holiness…was paid for by an even greater Savior! The resurrection was the proof that we have been forgiven!
This year, as we prepare for Easter plays, Good Friday services, special songs, and even egg hunts, let us not forget that Easter week is a very special time. It celebrates a world-changing reality. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. And if He hadn’t, well, the bottom would have fallen out.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I was a young man when I first heard the phrase “a four-letter word.” And quite obviously, the purpose for that phrase was referencing thoughts and words that are not my aim in writing this blog. But this post’s title does accomplish the goal of stating that one four-letter word is anything but ordinary.
That word is needed today, more than ever. It is needed by teenagers, facing the pressures of peers in a changing world. It is needed by young couples, starting their marriages. It is needed by young families, who are crying out to God for their children, asking for wisdom to guide them into the troubled and changing waters of our culture. It is needed by older couples who are transitioning into that season of life often referred to “empty-nesting”. (Yes, I am just learning all about that one!)
It is also needed by grandparents and the elderly, who wonder what the days ahead will hold for them as they too transition in a very unfamiliar state of being.
What is that four-letter word? It is a grand word called HOPE. Hope is not something that we can just conjure up, even though we might greatly desire to do so. Hope is not truly “hope” unless it is founded on something that has the capacity to bring about change…the kind of change for which we “hope” will come.
The gold standard for hope is in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. I was reading in the last couple of days from the book of Hebrews. In chapter 6, these words are found:
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever…
(Heb. 6:17-20 ESV)
To a believer, we have more than just a word of promise as the source of our hope. We have a person, and not just any person. We have Jesus Himself, who has become for us a “sure and steadfast anchor,” hope Incarnate. He has secured for His children an everlasting hope, not only for eternity, but for our lives here on earth.
Just as Jesus is alive and sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is doing so as an anchor of our hope. And that being the case, how great IS our hope. It is simply enough, for any need, and for all our days.
I once heard a pastor define hope as being “the constant expectation for good.” That truly fits the kind of hope held by our Savior, for He is also the epitome for what is truly good.
Not an ordinary four-letter word. But then, our hope is guaranteed by an anything-but-ordinary Savior!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I have to admit that I didn’t understand all the hubbub of “the dress” that recently hit Facebook. You know the story – “whether the dress was gold and white, or blue and black.” I really thought the whole issue was crazy…until, in casual conversation, I discovered that my wife saw that dress completely differently than did I. I wouldn’t have believed it were possible – but we brought up the picture up on my MacBook Pro (hey, all us “Mac guys” know how accurate our screens are!!!). There, in beautiful full color, was that now famous dress. Cindy saw blue and back. I saw gold and off-white. What? This can’t be! This little exercise defied all previous experiences pertaining to the discernment of colors that I had known. But the fact that my dear wife was seeing it differently rocked my world.
So we decided to have a little fun with it. I took that same pic of the dress and imported it into Photoshop, and then used the color picker tool. Was I ever surprised to find that my Mac agreed with my wife’s perception as to the dress’ colors. My eyes and brain were interpreting those colors in a different way than hers. Before that test, I would have been SURE that I knew the real shades of hue that had been used in that dress.
All this reminded me of a truth that I learned years ago. No, not about dresses or their colors – but an important lesson concerning communication. It was during a marriage seminar, and my friend Danny in Orlando was teaching on achieving true communication between a husband and a wife.
Drawing a stick figure, he showed a guy and a girl, looking at a strange object. In his illustration, he pointed out that the guy’s viewpoint had this object being tall, with 3 portruding points coming out the side. The girl, on the other hand, was seeing something quite different. She saw the figure as having a concave side – with points on the top and bottom, nothing at all like what the guy had described. Clearly, they couldn’t be looking at the same thing, right? The guy insisted that he was seeing and describing it perfectly. But the girl was not persuaded – she saw a “dent” in the middle.
Danny pointed out that this is way many couple’s communication happens…they each look at the same thing, but their perspectives are limited - they can only see “one side” of the situation at hand.
It won’t be until each takes the time to “LOOK THROUGH THE EYES OF THEIR MATE”…then, and only then, will each look at the object with a fuller sense of understanding.
All of us need the eyes of others, to help us round out what we are seeing, giving a more accurate and complete perspective.
This is true regarding most any issue, from child training to decision making. We need the eyes of our mates, our parents, and our friends. And, we need to stop trusting only our own viewpoints, while counting other perspectives as being inaccurate and inferior.
Cindy and I put this little model to work for our marriage in the late ‘80s. What a difference it made – when I paused to look “through my wife’s eyes…”
A little humility goes a long way, especially if what you’re seeing is gold and white!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Easter is just around the corner, the most significant event in the Christian church calendar. In every Christian bookstore, and on the property of many churches, images of the cross will soon be visible.
The cross on which Jesus died, as important as it was and is, was quite simple in construction. It was made from two opposing pieces of timber, one vertical, the other horizontal. Yet, the design of this powerful and precious emblem serves to remind us of our mission to serve Jesus, and to represent Him to the world around us. Here is how…
The cross’ vertical post points to heaven while touching the earth. The call to be His servants, to be His witnesses (Acts 1) was a heavenly call. God spoke, and His words touched earth – they have fallen on US. Our first duty – to serve the Lord, and we do that when we hear His Word and respond in obedience.
Remember the commercials about “E.F. Hutton?” The theme of those humorous commercials went along the lines of “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” If that was true for an investment firm, how much more so when we hear (and read) the words of the Savior! His words are unlike any others’. They truly have the power of life. They came down from heaven and touched us on earth.
The second aspect of the cross - the horizontal post that held the hands of Jesus. Just as His hands were stretched OUTWARD, so is our call to serve others.
1 Peter 4:10 instructs us to use the gift given to us by God - to serve others. Who are the “others” that we are to serve?
1. First, fellow believers – the church. Paul wrote in Galatians to “do good to all – especially those in the family of believers!” (Galatians 6:10).
2. Secondly – the world. We are called to live in such a way that both declare and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus. We DECLARE with our words. We DEMONSTRATE with our lives.
But it is not enough to merely think thoughts of love – we are to actually SHOW love. The Bible says that “they will know us by our love.” This kind of love is not merely thoughts or emotions. It is love in action, love expressed as a verb.
I read a story about a little boy on beach…
A man was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up. Left on the sand by the receding tide the starfish were certain to die as the sun dried them out. The man also saw a boy picking up starfish and flinging them back into the sea.
Planning to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, the man walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely such an industrious and kind-hearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?”
The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”
The little boy was doing all that he could do. True, he couldn’t change the fate for every starfish on the beaches – but it didn’t stop him from doing what he could do.
Our serving others may seem to be insignificant. But that is just not true. We may not be able to change the entire world. But our serving WILL make a difference to the one who is touched by our service. It does matter – to them.
And ultimately – it matters to the Lord, for it was He who called us to these actions. And the most amazing thing happens when we obey Him - He will receive glory, from even the smallest acts of a servant.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
There have been many times that I’ve found myself suffering from that familiar All-American syndrome – anxiousness! We all battle this one. Whether it is a job that we are wanting, or perhaps it’s a desire for would-be spouse that isn’t working out the way we would like, or maybe a family situation that has seemingly gone south. In situations like these, it is so easy from a natural standpoint to cross over from “waiting” to “worry”. Once we have made that transition, all sorts of new troubles await our souls, for with worry comes striving, and even selfish ambition.
These are not lightweight problems in our lives. The Bible makes it clear that to worry is to sin. It is not His plan for His children to be caught up in worry. Instead, we are to trust, and to wait. We called to wait upon the Lord!
Wow – now that is a tough one, but I have learned that, in my life, there are no substitutes. It is not easy, and often not fun to have to wait for clarity, or for a situation to resolve. When we are in the “waiting zone”, what do we do? I hope these simple thoughts help.
First of all, we can learn from Moses. When he led Israel to the edge of the Red Sea, there was little that Moses could do to improve their situation. Consider this – they had the Red Sea in front of them, and a charging Egyptian army behind them. Moses’ words were amazing… “Stand still…” Stand still, and wait on our faithful God to open up a way. And that is exact what happened. The way that was opened up could ONLY have been opened by a sovereign God. In a seeming impossible situation, their waiting was rewarded.
We are also promised that His strength will be added when we wait on Him. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that this process of waiting opens up for us new strength – and the ability to soar like an eagle. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength – they shall run, and not be weary…” The only other option is to try to manage life in our own strength, and that plan will surely end in disappointment and failure.
Finally – what is our disposition WHILE we wait? This word WAIT carries more meaning than we think. A great understanding of servanthood is carried by this term. Think about a “waiter” in a restaurant. The one who “waits” on tables is busy serving, cleaning, working. They are busy while waiting.
If you find yourself at a crossroad, and you need direction…then wait on the Lord. Trust Him, resist the temptation for worry, and serve Him in the meantime. In due time, He will reward you with direction and new strength. And when He does, you will be glad you waited.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It was the late ‘70s, and I was a television producer for an Indiana church’s TV ministry. Our show was called “Reborn,” and it featured stories of changed lives. Our guests ranged from well-known Hollywood celebrities, to astronauts, to recording artists.
One fine day, it was our privilege to travel to meet and interview Debby Boone, the famous daughter of Pat Boone, and the recording artist that had a smash international hit with a song called “You Light Up My Life.” I had watched the Boones on TV all my life, and I truly respected this family. And, like everyone else in that day, I loved that song. So when Debby agreed to meet with us, and shoot an entire 30 minute interview with us, I was pretty excited!
The show’s host and I arrived at the hotel, and I began the process of setting up our lights and camera in a meeting room. Debby was completely down-to-earth, sincere, and downright friendly. She was the perfect guest to give her testimony of faith in Jesus.
The interview seemed to go flawlessly, and after it ended, I turned off the camera at just under 30 minutes of real-time recording. She had given us an amazing interview with a powerful testimony. I rewound the video cassette tape, and, just for safe keeping, checked a bit of the footage. I was HORRIFIED.
For the first time in my producing career, I had made two horrible mistakes. For starters, my input level on her microphone was extremely overdriven. While the video’s picture was great, the audio was completely distorted – absolutely intolerable. The second mistake that I had made…well, I hadn’t monitored the audio during recording, even though I had a set of headphones right there with me. I had made that terrible mistake of assuming that it was right.
I must have turned several shades of green, for Debby asked if everything was OK…I swallowed any semblance of pride, and alerted both Debby and the host that I had botched the recording.
What happened next completely shocked me. I truly wasn’t ready for it. Debby simply said, “Oh, I’m sorry…let’s do it again!” It took me a moment to recover. I would have understood it had she expressed extreme disappointment, and wouldn’t have blamed the show’s host for being upset and angry with me. But instead of getting what I deserved from both of these individuals, I received grace. Undeserved kindness. Enthusiastic attitudes that were aimed at doing the whole interview again, without a single wince at the loss of time and effort.
Without hesitation, I quickly rewound the tape, correctly set up the audio, and within moments, we were off and recording for a second time.
I still remember that act of kindness shown to me so long ago as if it had happened today. I had experienced the Golden Rule in action. They had shown love and forgiveness to me, even though I was the one that was completely in the wrong. It was a stunning act of love, and I respected Debby Boone all the more because of her grace.
My prayer is that I will always remember that day. That I will remember that people make mistakes, and when they do, the outcome is so different when grace rules and reigns. The air is much lighter, and so are the hearts of those who erred. It was ironic that the lady with the voice that sang about her life “lighting up” had actual made my heart lighter – simply by reflecting to me the active love of Jesus.
May we remember to show kindness in moments of other’s failure, even with their mistake costs us time, money, or inconvenience. May we strive to help those that blow it, and show them real kindness instead of anger.
And, one other thing…that event helps me remember to check the audio levels! While I was glad for the way things had turned out, I sure didn’t want to repeat that one in the future!
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland