Zac Spegal proposing to Angela Gilland. Photography by Mallory Johndrow.
The older I get, the more sentimental I become. Family has always meant something very special to me. It was hard to leave both my parents and Cindy’s parents behind when we moved to Florida in 1985 to become part of a new church that was being planted by a dear friend of mine. In fact, I couldn’t have made that move had I not been confident that it was the will of God. Truth is, even being convinced in my heart that it was God’s will, it was still hard. But we did it, and found peace in the midst of sacrifice.
At the time of our move, we had two children, but it wasn’t long before we began to desire more kids. God blessed us with two more daughters born here in the Sunshine State. Our lives seemed complete. Surrounded by a beautiful wife, three lovely daughters and one son (who once said “Dad, what are we going to do with all these girls?”), I was one happy camper. Those years in Orlando, with all my kids at home, seemed as if they would last forever. But…they didn’t.
First, my oldest daughter got married to her best friend in 1998. I thought I was ready – and had really tried hard to be prepared for that change…but honestly, it was much harder for me than it should have been. It was the beginning of life lessons that I needed to learn. Change is both necessary, and GOOD. Those changes didn’t immediately feel like they were either!
In 2002, we had another monumental change – a move to Gainesville, to be part of the church that we had planted from our Orlando fellowship five years earlier. This too was a major change, but though it was hard at first, we quickly fell in love with our church here and with Gainesville itself. The timing turned out to be perfect…my son transferred to Santa Fe Community College, and ended up at UF, a college pattern that was to be followed by both Angela and Allison. David graduated in 2005, and really tried to find work here in Gainesville. But a year later, he himself made a move – back to Orlando! That too was a difficult bit of change for me. Angela graduated in 2011, and began to pursue her dream of living in…the Big Apple – NYC! Wow – this change thing was getting harder all the time!
But good things have happened to both…David met a delightful young lady with whom he was smitten. They were married last year. And Angela…well, her move to NYC was also ordained by God. Earlier this year, she met a guy at her Manhattan church. Zac is from Tampa, but was living in Brooklyn. It is now evident that Angela moved to New York to meet and marry a guy from Florida! This past Friday, with our blessing and excitement, Zac proposed to Angela, and she said yes!
These experiences are not unique to our family. Many have already gone through similar events, and handled them with greater ease than did I. But in spite of my mistakes, and mishandling of some of these occurrences, I have learned one thing for certain. Though it is rarely easy, change is part of our lives. It is normal, natural, and inevitable. Sometimes change is even fun. And when I look into the eyes of my grandkids, some of these changes are downright fantastic!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I blogged last July on Psalm 90, and how this “song” was written by an unexpected psalmist – Moses! That article addressed the fact that to Moses, God was his dwelling place. In this post, I would like to elaborate on another major theme of the chapter.
Psalm 90 contains a great perspective on TME that we need to hear. Moses had a handle on the fact that while God is eternal and unchanging, our life on earth is temporal and relatively brief. While this may not be the most pleasant thought, it is truth nonetheless…we started off as dust, and to dust we will return.
What Moses emphasizes is man’s brevity, and sadly, man’s insolence in spite of that brief span of time. Verse 11 cries out, “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”
Scripture tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…Yet, throughout time, man has tended to not fear the Lord as he should, or even to manage his time correctly in light of that fear.
Moses saw this firsthand when he told the nation of Israel to wait for him as he ascended Mt. Sinai to meet with God. But those restless hearts below felt that they had waited long enough, and they decided that it was time for them to take matters in their own hands. Time to do what they knew they could do…to build their own idol to worship. They had time for their plans. No time for God’s plan.
Consider the abundance of references to time in chapter 90.
- all generations
- everlasting to everlasting
- a thousand years
- yesterday, when it is past
- a watch in the night (three hours)
- in the morning…and in the evening…
- all our days.,..
- we bring our years
- the years of our life are seventy…
- yet their span
- teach us to number our days
- how long?
- Satisfy in the morning…
- All our days
- For as many days
- For as many years…
In spite of the many warnings given to us from God, we today still find ourselves to be very similar to men of old.
We somehow think we will live forever. We fritter our time away. Foolishly, without thought. Forgetting that this temporal life is a drop in the bucket of eternity.
I was asked once to visit a dying man – someone that was a neighbor to a fellow church member. This man, as my friend told me, was a great guy – but he had just never been a part of a church, or had given any evidence of a relationship with Jesus. Now, he was dying.
As I introduced myself, and got to know him over an hour’s time, I was amazed at the ease with which we were able to converse. Looking at him, I would never have known that he was gravely ill. We laughed, and we talked. I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with him. And, he wanted to pray. He asked Jesus to forgive him. Toward the end of our visit, I asked him, “Why do you think it was that you never attended a church, or sought out anything about God?” His answer: “Mike, I guess I just thought I would live forever.”
I thanked him for taking the time to talk. He thanked me for visiting with him, and praying for him.
I got a call the next day from my friend telling me that the man in the hospital had just passed away. I hung up the phone quite shaken, with a new realization that our days here are brief – we won’t live forever.
Verse 14 of chapter 90 is powerful: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. ”
Lord, teach me to number my days.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
We’ve all done it before. Pushed our luck just that one step too far. Yep. I did it Sunday night. Truth be told, I think it was about a year ago that I changed those pesky 9V batteries in our smoke alarms. Well, I didn’t date the batteries, nor did I record the change in my calendar. You see, those are the EASY lessons that I already…well, I “kinda” learned them, or at least should have learned them by now.
But, I didn’t, and I am hoping that this blog post will help someone out there to avoid our fate. You see, I was good and asleep when, slightly after 2 AM, Cindy and I were awakened by that soul-stirring sound of our complete house smoke alarm system going off. That noise is so troubling, and so…LOUD, that I’m pretty sure it would come close to making a corpse take a jump and breathe a fresh breath.
Cindy and I were up, likkity split – and just like that, the alarm stopped. We paused a moment, hoping that it was a one-time event, and then we went back to bed. Ten minutes later, the alarms rang out again, starting what would be a 90 minute routine that ended with me giving up on finding fresh batteries in our house and making that dreaded 4 AM trip to Wal-Mart to buy fresh batteries.
Yeah, I can honestly say I knew better. It is insanity, after all, to think that those batteries are going to last forever! And…how much easier it would have been to change them at, say 4 PM, on ANY given day!
But isn’t that how we tend to treat life. It is so easy to just go through the motions, acting like we don’t have to be prepared for the obvious maintenance issues. Sadly, many gamble going into eternity with that same mindset. I had breakfast once with a self-described atheist, who was convinced that IF he got to eternity and found himself face-to-face with a living God, he would have no problem serving as his own defense attorney and convincing God that he deserved to be in Heaven!
Yeah, that won’t fly. Not anymore than my thinking that my batteries would surely last…uh, until I remembered to replace them!
The parable of the ten virgins should be all the scriptural encouragement we need for us to be vigilant, prepared with a plan. But so often, we’re just like the 5 virgins who had to go out and get oil for their lamps.
Funny, I had lamp oil in my house. Just no batteries. Lesson learned. I hope.
Till next time.
Some just don’t understand why people do it. But we should all be glad they do.
What is the “it” to which I refer? The answer – the willingness on the part of so many men and women to serve our country in the Armed Forces. In a time when there is no forced draft or lottery system for recruiting, when mores are changing in dramatic ways, and actual wars are being fought, America is blessed to have a quality military. Now, that is not to say that we don’t face some serious challenges ahead, especially in the next 5 years. But every American has much reason for thankfulness.
In honor of Monday’s very special holiday – Veteran’s Day – I would like to use this space for a few days to say…thank you.
Thank you to men and women who regularly put their lives not only on hold, but on the line – to defend our country and its citizens. Some of us are not even aware of the immense personal commitments and family sacrifices that these servants make on a daily basis. Even worse, there are numbered among us those that don’t seem to care, one way or the other, whether we even have a military.
I am not in either of those two camps. I am aware of the sacrifices that are regularly made by not only the soldiers, but their wives, children, parents and friends. And by God’s grace, I can say that I care – deeply.
I grew up in the Vietnam era. I came very close to being drafted for service, and I still have my “1-A” draft card. During 1971, the Selective Service System took draft numbers 1 to 200, and those whose birthdates came up on those lottery ping-pong balls shipped out almost immediately. My draft number was 203. So, I went to college, like many others who were in the same situation as I, and I never spent time in military service. But I always carried in my heart those who did.
Add to this the fact that I became close to many who were (and still are) in active duty. Men like Chaplain Chuck Williams. Chuck served out his first enlistment as a young man. After getting out, he went to college, worked in business, then entered and graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. After much prayer, he reenlisted in 2005 – this time as a Chaplain. He has served us all, having been deployed to an active Middle East war zone three times, the last deployment ending at the beginning of this year. On December 23, 2012, Chuck posted the picture below on Facebook with a fellow soldier as he wrapped up his time during that campaign. Here are a few of Chuck’s thoughts as he came to the end of that time away from his wife Celia, his family and friends…
“As the sole chaplain at this Forward Operating Base in the mountains of Afghanistan it has been a time of great ministry in our chapel services. Our congregation has been exemplary in their devotion and love to the Lord. I will have many fond memories of these dear people of God for the rest of my life. Throughout this past year our congregation was comprised of men and women, Soldiers and civilian, from 14 different nations. 79 services were held with a combined attendance of just over 3,000 people. My dearest hope is that the Lord would take what He has done in the lives of these, His sons and daughters, multiply it, and spread it powerfully in their respective nations and lands, in their families, Churches, communities and villages for His glory.”
Chuck has many fascinating stories to tell from his military times, both in the US and abroad. He has also experienced some devastating times, as he lost members of his company to attacks from enemy forces. Chuck not only ministered to the fellow soldiers, but also to the grieving family members that lost their loved ones. Serving in the military carries some pretty hefty risks and responsibility.
I am proud of you, Chuck. We all are. Thank you for living your life for the glory of the Lord, and for helping to make our nation more secure.
And to all veterans, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks for a job well done. As we prepare to celebrate on Monday, I pray that you sense the appreciation of a grateful nation.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Isaiah 42 is a prophetic picture of Jesus, and it contains not just Old Testament words that pointed to the future Messiah – it includes words actually spoken BY Jesus as He launched His ministry, and fulfilled this passage with His incarnation and future sacrifice.
The historical context of this chapter is incredibly important, and very interesting! The Messiah was seen by Isaiah as God’s alternative to our idols! Unlike Cyrus, the great Persian King who would trample on rulers and nations, God’s servant (His one and only Son) would be different. In fact, He would be…delightful. He would be JUST.
When Jesus came…He did not even break “a bruised reed”, or quench a “faintly burning wick.” Jesus came…healing people. Restoring people. Loving people.
A key word in these first four verses of chapter 42 is JUSTICE…it appears 3 times, in verses 1, 3 and 4. Here, Isaiah is using this word in a greater sense than legal correctness, as we know it in our own culture.
Isaiah is saying that Jesus will usher in the Kingdom of God in a real and beautiful way, differently than we would think of in our own design.
To Isaiah, justice meant a human society with NO CORRUPTING IDOLATRIES.
I once read a story about a famous actress that worked hard to not expose her children to any Thanksgiving decorations – in fact, she usually took her children out of the country, not wanting to “taint them” by a celebration by a country that unjustly stole the land from the Indians!
No question – America is not perfect. But America will NEVER be perfect, and neither will any other society…because every culture mixes its good intentions with its idolatrous ones…
We should all work hard, and give our very best for society…but what so many miss is the humility that recognizes that peace and salvation will never come through the culture or its justice system. It will only come through God, and His JUST SERVANT.
Isaiah had eyes to see this – even before the Son of God was born!
Our cry to this servant should include our desire for God to help us destroy our own idols, our injustice, and declare that He alone is our hope and salvation.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord…” These well-known words comprise the opening phrase to Isaiah 6, the chapter so often quoted by preachers as it refers to Isaiah’s eye-opening experience in perceiving the holiness of God. “Woe is me”, said Isaiah…”I am a man of unclean lips…”
Most of us will remember this passage, how the angel touched Isaiah with a burning coal, and removed his guilt. It is an amazing story!
A couple of years ago, as I reread this chapter, my attention was suddenly grabbed…not by Isaiah, but by Uzziah. The chapter commences by dating the event in Isaiah’s life with Uzziah’s death. I had to study this man. And I found that he was quite a king indeed. But his life ended in a most tragic way.
Uzziah was 16 years old when he inherited the throne of Judah from his father, King Amaziah, who himself did what was right in the Lord’s eyes, but not with his whole heart. Gradually, he began to tolerate idol worship, and that led to his downfall. He was tracked down and killed, and his son assumed the throne in this divided kingdom.
The prophet Zachariah apparently mentored the young king, and Uzziah began to lead well. Very well. He recaptured cities and defeated the enemies of Judah. He was a man of great heart, and had many interests. Included in the list – farming! Uzziah had great foresight and wisdom. He invented ways to irrigate crops, and the agricultural efforts of Judah prospered. Uzziah loved to get his hands dirty – he got in there and worked alongside farmers, and the Bible says that he “loved the soil”. He dug wells, and this innovative work brought bumper crops and provision.
But that wasn’t all. He was a brilliant commander-in-chief. He personally invented new armor – “chainmail” – and made custom weapons by the thousands. He invented weaponry that outfitted a massive army of over 300,000 men.
But that wasn’t all…he fortified the cities with great walls, almost making his cities to be impenetrable. He invented huge catapults, and stationed them high on the walls, allowing his army to fire on would-be invaders with giant boulders.
But that wasn’t all – he is credited to be one of the early developers of the crossbow – a mixture of a bow and arrow with an early “gun”, and with all these inventions, Judah became very strong indeed.
He was a great king, and reigned for 52 years. But sadly, all did not end well. For the Bible records this about his life, in 2 Chron. 26:16: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.”
It wasn’t enough for Uzziah to be a good king, or an inventor, or a farmer, or a blacksmith, or a master at weaponry. He had one more job description that he intended to add to his list – priest.
Uzziah had decided that he was going to do what only priests were allowed by God to do – a priestly sacrifice. As he was on his way, the God-fearing priests in the temple stood in his way, and would not let him continue. The Jewish historian Josephus describes Uzziah’s response as that of furious anger, and he started to lunge for the priests who dared stand in his path. But at that moment, something happened. Josephus described it as an earthquake, so massive and devastating that a lot of Uzziah’s amazing works were destroyed. Walls crumbled. Towers and weapons came cascading down and caused the crops to be destroyed.
Worse yet – the very building they were in seemed to split open, causing sunlight to fall on Uzziah’s face. And in that moment, wherever the light hit him – Uzziah broke out in devastating leprosy. This great king who reigned for 52 years was now himself…unclean.
Only moments before, Uzziah was full of rage and displeasure. Now he was stricken by fear, and submitted to being led out of the city to the area reserved for those with this dreaded disease.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of this account – there is no record that Uzziah ever repented to God, either for his pride, or for his arrogant act that cost him his health and his kingdom. He died alone.
Now, there is good to be learned from this sad story – and that is the purpose for this post! Here are points to consider, and apply to our lives:
May we continue the race, and may we end strong in God!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland