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We Shouldn't Be Surprised

Apr 24, 2015 -- 3:00pm

 

 

Go figure – Tim Tebow is not only a local hero, Heisman Award winner, and Gator football legend, he is truly a really nice guy.  He’s the kind of leader and individual that possesses uncommon character, the kind of guy that every dad would love to have as a son-in-law.  He is a proven winner, a National Champion, and one that helped lead an NFL Team into the playoffs.

So…why is he mocked so often in the media?  When his leadership both on and off the field is undeniably evident, why do so many people in the press write so many unkind things about Tim?

I am convinced that it not just about his football skills, or the “unorthodox arm motion” that some talk about.  (Hey, we lefties have to stick together!)  I think part of the reason is Tim’s unabashed passion and love for Jesus.  He is an outspoken believer, one who gives both time and money to mission work.  And many in the media are just plain furious.  I think that the source of their anger is not about his football pedigree.  They are mad about the fact that he is an effective and persuasive spokesman for Christianity.  In short, Tim is often persecuted for having FAITH in Christ.

We really shouldn’t be surprised that this is going on.  Jesus promised us that we would be persecuted, that we would suffer for our faith.  In fact, that kind of suffering is proof that we are representing the Lord to those around us.

As believers in Jesus, we need to get used to the idea that we are going to be persecuted for our faith.  Almost every news show on TV these days contains images of believers being persecuted – even to the point of losing their lives – purely because they are Christians.

In the first century, tens of thousands lost their lives in the Coliseum because they refused to recant their faith in Jesus.   For most of my life, I have not been able to relate to that kind of persecution.  But for many in the world today, that is becoming a very real scenario. 

So, when you think of Tim, don’t just root for him, or for the Eagles (even though I am now a big Eagles fan!)…use that moment to remember pray those who are facing bigger issues than ugly words in a news story.  The church is being persecuted.  And we need to pray.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

 

 

The Seed of Life in a Grain of Wheat

Apr 17, 2015 -- 9:58am

I was privileged to grow up in Indiana, on a large plot of family land, all originally owned by my grandfather.  He had gifted each of his kids an acre of land, and it was upon that lot that my parents built our home.  Our house was situated between my uncle’s home, and the large farmhouse belonging to my grandparents.

I never lacked for anything to do on that land.  When I wasn’t exploring, I was working.  “Granddaddy” had chickens, pigs, ponies, and lots of garden space.  Yes - LOTS of garden space, and I learned a lot of life lessons by helping him farm. 

I learned that the growing of food is a long and arduous task.  The farmer has to plan, then plant, then cultivate.  He has to protect his crop from pestilence and animals.  He has to pray for good weather, for just the right amount of rain for his crops.  Finally, he has the large task of harvest, getting the crop out of the ground.   

It is a lot of work, all possessing a uniquely delayed gratification.  It taught me the back-story to eating food.  I was never one who thought that milk merely comes from Publix!  I had a working image of hens laying eggs, what it took to plow the field, to grow corn, and to hoe mounds of dirt, each containing potatoes.

As I got older, I grew in my appreciation for a miracle that God gives farmer in the planting process…how that He puts life in each and every seed.  Reproductive life, the ability for that seed to ensure that a future crop will come.  And the sower of that seed can have great confidence that as he places that seed into the ground, growth will come.

It was this point that came to me in a special way as a young youth pastor.  I was speaking one night, using a farming illustration to make a point about investing our all into the Kingdom.  I had some loose grains of corn, and I had been storing them on my desk for several days prior to speaking.  A lot of my young people in the youth group had seen them – these kernels were an interesting conversation starter!

During my message, I shared how that I had been “watching over” those grains…how I had grown a bit fond of them.  How that they looked just the same now as they had on the day I put them on my desk.  And…how that they wouldn’t change if they stayed right there where they were, even after a long time.

But…were I to take those seeds and plant them into good, rich soil, that miracle of planting would begin.  It wouldn’t be long until a root would pop out of that seed and grow downward.  And not much longer thereafter, a shoot would pop outward and upward, ultimately breaking through the soil, beginning the long process of growing into a fruit-bearing stalk.

But, those grains would never grow on my desk.  It takes them being buried in the soil before the seed of life – placed inside that tiny grain by God – will begin to grow.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  (John 12:24, ESV)

I have come to see that part of God’s plan for our lives is to get us off of that desk…to take us away from our comfort zone, and place us deeply in His will.  Sometimes it may feel as though we are completely buried, but that is OK…that is the place of growth.  The gracious environment of God will cause things to change.  And, before you know it, you begin to see that being buried in Him has caused fruit to come into your life.  And that kind of change is a good thing.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

Victory Overcomes Regret

Apr 08, 2015 -- 10:34am

 

Having just come through the biggest day in the annual Christian calendar, I would like to focus here on one of the Passion weekend events – it was, and is, of great importance to us all.  No, I’m not speaking of either the Crucifixion, or even the Resurrection, though they were the major events of the weekend, no doubt.

I am referring to something to which we can all relate, a failure of friendship – by one of Jesus’ best friends during His ministry on earth.  There were actually a couple of such surprising incidents, but the one to which I refer here is the denial by Peter. 

Jesus had forewarned Peter that this denial of relationship would happen, and still Peter was outspoken in his response after hearing the Lord’s prediction.  How could he EVER deny knowing the Lord?  And, why would Jesus even say such a thing?

It is so easy to understand how Peter felt.  But, he had no idea just how scary those moments were going to be, as the soldiers came in and did the unthinkable – they arrested Jesus.  Peter, the disciple that had received the keys to the Kingdom, was now gripped in fear, and in that terrible moment, he denied knowing Jesus.  Not once.  Not twice, but three times.

It is impossible for me to comprehend just how bad Peter must have felt, or the degree of hurt and regret that must have pressed in on his heart and conscience as the reality of his denial settled into view.  I am sure the range of emotions included deep regret, self-hatred, and even hopelessness.  Such feelings can have a numbing effect.  I am betting that Peter felt that numbness.

It is not all that surprising that Peter resorted to something familiar after suffering this great failure, and personal disappointment.  He went back to something that he could do without thinking or investing a lot of concentration.  He went fishing, because…after all, he was a fisherman.

It was while he was on his boat when a strange act of déjà vu occurred.  Someone from water’s edge was telling him to cast the nets on the other side.  This had happened before, and Peter knew that this was no ordinary observer giving this callout from the shore.  After receiving a catch so great that the nets almost broke, Peter didn’t wait for the boat to land…he jumped into the water and swam to meet the Lord.

How I wish we had the transcript of that conversation between Jesus and Peter.  But of this we can be sure…Jesus shared words of grace and healing to Peter.  Peter’s life and future were not going to be defined by his failure and denial.  Jesus had plans for this “rock” that were greater than Peter’s sin.

How true that is for us today.  We have all sinned.  We have all made mistakes, and we all have regrets.  But the good news of the Gospel is that He is just to forgive us, and to cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

If Peter could be forgiven from a denial that happened on the eve of history’s most climatic event, our regrets can be washed away too.  That is great news…no denying it!

 

Till next time.

 

~ Mike Gilland

The Bottom Would Drop Out

Mar 24, 2015 -- 11:17am

 

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

No Ordinary Four-Letter Word

Mar 16, 2015 -- 10:46am

 

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

Seeing Through the Eyes of Another

Mar 04, 2015 -- 10:05am

 

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

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