I grew up LOVING Thanksgiving, for many reasons. First of all, it was the official launch of the Christmas season! Like with most of us still today, an every-year tradition was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and waiting for that moment when “Santa” closed out the parade. Yep, that made the holiday season official – Christmas was right around the corner.
As I got older, Thanksgiving meant even more to me. In studying the origin of our country, and the sacrifices that were made by the founders of this great nation, I couldn’t help but be grateful for all that this holiday represented. A day set aside to offer thanks to God for His bountiful provision and protection.
But the call for Thanksgiving is much older than the Pilgrims and the American Indians that celebrated that first American holiday. As believers, we have the most for which to be thankful! Our God is the Author of Thanksgiving, the source of its deepest meaning. The Book of Psalms are full of declarations of Thanksgiving…here are a few, from the English Standard Version:
…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High…
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
This year, as we gather with our families, let us be thankful…for our country, for our families and the privilege we have to be together, and most of all, thankful to God. He is the Lord, worthy of all praise, and the object of all our thanksgiving.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I love our station’s moniker – “Positive Hit Music.” The truth is – the biggest factor in making our music so positive is the Gospel, the “good news.” While the actual quality of the arrangements and the inherent production is great, all of that pales in comparison to message behind our songs. That Jesus came to redeem us, to offer Himself as a substitute on the cross, and thus not only paying the penalty for our sins, but also reconciling us to the Father – THAT is good news indeed. That is what makes our music so positive and powerful, and that is the heart of the message carried by every true Christian music artist. It is the really positive part of our radio station.
Today’s Christian music is represented by some fantastic people who are giving their lives and talents, singing songs that tell the greatest story ever told. Some of our artists have been doing this for years, having “developed their chops” in secular music before surrendering their hearts to the Lord, and literally changing their tunes for the glory of God. But some are like Jamie Grace, who grew up in Atlanta and in a Christian home, the daughter of a pastor. Jamie just may be one of the most extraordinary preacher’s kids you’ll ever meet. Some of the reasons: She overcame the handicap of Tourette’s Syndrome in a big way, refusing to let it stop her or her music, but she also serves as a great inspiration to those who battle with this condition. Jamie has an unstoppable personality that seems to be boundless. She began to use social media to record songs that she was writing, and to share encouragement to those that took the time to watch her videos. Through YouTube, she caught the attention of TobyMac, and as they say, the rest was history! Toby signed her to his label, and together they recorded a song that would launch Jamie’s recording career – “Hold Me.” It was not long after this song came out that we brought Jamie to Abundant Grace Community Church here in Gainesville. On that first visit in 2011, my wife, youngest daughter Allison (also a “PK’”) and I had the privilege of spending most of the next day with Jamie, and we enjoyed that time immensely. It was easy to see why so many people love Jamie – she is sincere and fun, and committed to the Lord. She loves people. She still loves and respects her parents – and even bought a house next door to them!
Jamie came back to Gainesville this past April (by the way - the photo above shows my daughter Allison with Jamie, taken backstage at that concert). Now she is returning for a third visit this coming Sunday night. What a perfect example she is of an artist who is writing songs with a positive message. But beyond that, Jamie is living for Jesus, and doing life…big.
Hope to see you Sunday night!
~ Till next time.
It seems to be happening more often than ever before…the phone rings, and I’m suddenly hearing a report that takes my breath away. And not in a good way either, for it is news of a dear friend that is suddenly facing a life-changing diagnosis, or some other formidable obstacle. It is one thing to read about or hear of people going through desperate times, but when it is someone in your family, or a friend that is very close to you, it suddenly becomes painstakingly real. And it is never easy.
Such is our life. In fact, Jesus promised us that we would face many difficult trials, including persecution due to our faith in Him. Suffering is part of living. Not a part that we enjoy, or happily anticipate, but suffer we will. Such times teach us about our life as believers in a very unique way.
How do we respond in these moments? How does our faith in the Lord inform our hearts when we are in the middle of such a crisis?
I have found Psalm 112 to be an immense help in guiding me in these moments. The first six verses describe a righteous man, who believes and trusts in God and delights in His commandments. Several great promises about such a person’s life are given in these verses. But verse 7 is the focal point for this post. It is the verse that helps me when I receive such a call. It is a trustworthy verse, worthy of memorization. Here it is, from the NIV:
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. (Ps. 112:7 NIV).
What hope – I can respond to bad news and not fear, trusting in the Lord, knowing that He is holding my heart. I may be facing a crisis, but I am not facing it alone. He is there. And the disposition of my heart while in the battle? The Lord wants me to simply trust Him.
My sincere hope is that you are not having to face such circumstances today. But if you are having to do that very thing, take hope – and begin to meditate on this verse. It is like good medicine for the soul. He is firmly holding your heart.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I grew up on the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. Our house was situated on a rural road, literally the last road within the city limits. We lived on one acre of land, immediately adjacent to my grandfather’s property. I loved him so, and had many amazing memories at his house, and on that land. Granddad always had a large garden, and I grew up working in it.
Later, after moving into the city, my Dad and Mom also gardened each year, even if the only items were tomatoes. So naturally, after getting married and buying our own little home, I had to give gardening a whirl! I borrowed my Granddad’s tiller, marked off the garden plot, and away I went! Included in our garden would be items to make salads…tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.
Cindy and I had never been solely responsible for a garden before, and truth be told, we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. But it was fun. Soon after planting the rows of radishes, we were excited to see green growth pop up out of the ground. Talk about lush growth! I could only imagine how great our homegrown salads would taste, especially topped with the zingy flavor of those radishes.
The days went by, and each afternoon I was out there, pulling weeds, and admiring this beautiful garden. Before we knew it, we were harvesting, and that is when we realized just how clueless we had been. Discovery number one…our radishes looked more like tiny carrots! I learned that what I should have done was to thin out the crop, giving them room to grow. To me, the max amount of growth that I could see above the ground, the better. But to have normal radishes (that are round!), the crop had to be cultivated.
Discovery number two…we tried to eat those radishes, but I had never tasted such hot bitterness in all my life. They were impossible to eat. My other crops were OK – but my radishes were a complete bust!
I realized later that this experience contained some very practical applications. Had I thinned out those rows of radishes, my crop would have had a better outcome. And likewise, just like our garden, our hearts have to be carefully cultivated - at times, we need to give special attention to their condition. Some aspects in my life might need to be “pulled out” to enable me to live as I should.
I also learned that bitterness is a natural outcome of a neglected garden. The same is true in my heart, where bitter root can grow, and become firmly established. And that bitter root will mess things up royally!
The writer to the Hebrews made it very clear in chapter 12, verse 15:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled… (Heb. 12:15 ESV).
That kind of bitterness will do more harm than just causing a momentary nasty taste in our mouths…it can do real damage – the kind of damage that deeply impacts our lives, and those of our loved ones.
May God grace us, and give us a resolve to work diligently to cultivate our hearts to prevent such bitterness, and courage to take the steps to make those needed changes in our lives.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
While we may not be all that familiar with a Scottish Poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, most of us have heard a line from that prose. Adapted and paraphrased into common language, the phrase went “The best laid plans of mice and men…often go awry…” Growing up, I would often hear the first half of that line quoted, then left hanging in the air in purposeful suspension. For example, when realizing that our day just took an unexpected twist, either due to an accident or an out-of-the-blue surprise event, someone would offer an editorial in response by just saying, “Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…” The rest of their thought was intentionally blank, implying that things hadn’t gone as desired!
Of course, the real aim of this expression is to state that our goals and plans often work out differently than we expect. And the result of that surprising turn in the road can leave us disappointed and disheartened. But sometimes, these unexpected twists and turns are the work of an all-loving, sovereign Lord – who uses these events in our lives to produce patience and faith.
I have always been affected by the plight of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter was near death. Mark 5 contains this story, describing how Jairus met Jesus with the urgent plea for Him to come and heal this little girl. Jesus agreed to accompany him, and they were on their way…when – an interruption occurred. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for years stopped the Lord, and for that moment, Jesus diverted His full attention to this unexpected need. The Lord was gracious to heal her, but in those moments (that must have seemed to be an eternity to that anxious father), word came the daughter of Jairus had just passed away. Imagine the thoughts that would have come crashing in – “If only we hadn’t stopped….if only we hadn’t been delayed…” Those are the kinds of responses that come naturally to us when we feel ripped off by circumstances out of our control.
Those responses are easy – what is harder to do is to remember that God is SOVEREIGN. He is almighty. And He is not like us. Jesus’ timetable was not thwarted by that interruption. In fact, it set the stage for an even greater miracle.
As I freshly consider this story, I am convicted as to the source of my hope. Is it in my arranging for the Healer to come, or is my hope in the actual Healer? The first will always let me down. The second never will! He uses these interruptions for a purpose, to build and strengthen us in ways that we can’t even imagine. He is good. He is God. He is bigger than our interruptions.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It happens to us all – and it may be going on in you this very moment. “It” doesn’t have to be tied to a traumatic event, or even a difficult set of circumstances. I am referring to a sense in our hearts that is best described as a “dry time” in our relationship with the Lord.
Most of us have experienced times when our walk with Jesus seemed fresh, exuberant, and dynamic. But my personal experience tells me that most of us live this side of that kind of existence, a place where we have a greater sense of what we WISH were happening in our devotional lives than what we are actually living out in real life. If this describes where you are today…read on – you are not alone!
First of all, it is helpful to face the problem head-on, and look for the telltale symptoms of this common condition. They include:
- an apathetic view toward reading your Bible;
- a listless prayer life;
- a general sense of malaise with regards to your faith for the things of God.
- finally, a “blueness” or depression, a sense of loss when it comes to our faith.
Again, these are common temptations that we all face at one time or another. While we contribute to some of our own woes through disobedience, we should also remember that we have an enemy - an outside source that would LOVE for us to turn away from our faith. We have a real foe – the devil is that “roaring lion” described by Jesus to Peter, and he is on a mission to do whatever he can to discourage us!
When I am in a dry time, I have found that I need “face time”. No, not that neat iPhone app! I am referring to face time in the Word, and in helpful books. I need to be absorbing truth from God, not merely listening to the feelings coming from my dry soul. I have heard it said that “God delights in even the driest devotions.” Whether we realize it or not, God is honored when we are calling out to Him – He ALWAYS hears us - even when we feel like we are in the driest of times.
A good second step is simple remembrance that Jesus loves us, and our relationship with Him was initiated BY Him! Peter tells us that we have been called out of darkness – and into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus said that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” (John 6:44 NIV). Remembering that He is the author and finisher of our faith is critical to jarring us out of that dry spot. He is FOR us. He began the good work IN us. And He will be faithful to complete it!
Here is a great reminder from Paul David Tripp…“There's never a point in your Christian life where you're saved by your effort. You're called to repent and believe, but saved by grace.” I did not save myself. Jesus loved me, and gave Himself for me!
Our hope is in the Lord. And that hope remains in place for you and me, even in the middle of a dry time. Let’s accept the invitation given to us by Jesus, when He said, “Come to me, all who are weary…and I will give you rest…”
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland