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Getting Alone With God

Aug 24, 2015 -- 2:14pm

It was a most unexpected moment, and it happened while reading through Psalm 73.  I shouldn’t really ever think it strange that God would speak to us when we are reading His word, but still…the way that He surprised me with a sense of His presence is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Going into that time of reading, I wouldn’t have realized just how stressed I had become about things ahead…at that point in time, I had two daughters’ weddings looming in the future, and questions over my own future retirement account, healthcare…you get the picture!  

This Psalm resonated with me as I read it, how that the writer (Asaph) had been comparing his current life situation with those around him who were NOT attempting to follow and obey the Lord.  It was as if  Asaph were saying, “What’s the use in trying to do what is right?”  His complaint was that those who were openly sinning against God seemed to be doing just fine, while he was encountering all sorts of difficulties.

In a way, his plight was the same as mine – my own eyes were not fixed on the Lord as they should have been, and that almost always leads one down a path that will end in either discouragement or defeat. 

Asaph’s help came in verses 16-17:

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I discerned their end.”

(Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)

It was when Asaph drew in to God – that God drew close to him, and graciously led him to see the truth.  And the great news was that he did see through the fallacy of his previous way of thinking. 

God’s grace to Asaph is so evident in his description of himself prior to this encounter with God…he spoke of himself as being “brutish”, like a “beast” toward God.  But he learned that even when he was in that place, God had never left him. “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”  (Verse 23)

Asaph received from God’s grace – favor that was not in keeping with where his heart had been.  And that is what happened to me too…God so touched my heart, in such a way that brought healing and hope for the future. 

If this resonates in your heart too, then do what Asaph did – get alone with God – He will help you discern what to do.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland





Committed to Worship

Aug 11, 2015 -- 7:05pm

                                    (L-R:  Allison Gilland, Max Garcia, Mike Gilland, and Cindy Gilland)

It takes a lot of commitment to be a Division I athlete, something I can’t even begin to comprehend.  First of all, there’s the needed talent.  But there is a massive amount of dedication that goes into the mix too.

Both talent and dedication were appropriate adjectives for one Max Garcia when he transferred to UF from the University of Maryland.  In Gainesville, Max found a good fit with the Gators, but he also found a few other things – deep friendships, and an even deeper commitment to Jesus.

Some of those friendships opened the door to an invitation for Max to attend a local church…and he went with them.  Turns out it was my church, and I was privileged to get to go with the gang to lunch on one of those first Sundays, and I sat to Max’s right, and truly enjoyed the chat.  To say the least, I was more than impressed with this gentle giant, and couldn’t wait to see how things would go for him here in Gainesville. 

Over the next couple of years, we watched Max in all sorts of situations, including the trials of team enduring some struggles.  Through it all, he never lost his smile. 

Most importantly, Max never lost his drive to worship God.  Even on weekends when the Gators played out of town, and arrived back in Gainesville in the middle of the night, he still made it to church on time.  Eventually, he joined the worship team as a vocalist (and he is good!), and took part in all sorts of church activities.

Last December, Max graduated from UF in the same commencement ceremony with my daughter Allison.  His smile (after getting that diploma) was as bright as ever.

Weeks later, during the NFL draft, we all learned that Max had been drafted by the Denver Broncos – and this week brought news that he has been chosen to be a starter.  He will be playing left guard, protecting the quarterback to his right, who just happens to be Payton Manning.  Now, that is cool.

But what is really cool is this – Max is still Max, and he is still committed to worship.  I am thrilled that NFL success has not changed him one iota in that regard.

I congratulate a good friend, one with whom I spent many Sundays over the past couple of years.  Now, it is a new day, and I look forward to spending some time on Sundays with Max once again.  Except this time, I will be watching him on TV, as he plays pro football as a Bronco…still dressed in blue and orange. (OK, a slightly darker shade of blue!)

Go Gators.  Go Broncos.  Go Max.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland



The Utmost Confidence

Jul 31, 2015 -- 8:19pm

It happens all the time – words that are so meaningfully important to our lives can be “boxed in” by our brains and hearts, and stripped of their deepest impact in our lives. 

I believe that faith is one of those words.  We hear this term spoken, preached, and even sung about regularly.   And most believers can recite by heart at least one passage of scripture that would contain this word.  No doubt, for a small 5-letter word, it has had a lot of usage.

But hearing it, and applying it are two very different things…at least, that has been the case in my life.  Recently, I have been taking a fresh look at this most important facet of my walk with the Lord, and asking God to give me a renewed sense of appreciation for the role it plays in my everyday existence.

The writer to the Hebrews (preachers use that term because we don’t really know who authored of this amazing book in the Bible) has given us a chapter that many call the “Hall of Faith”.  Yes, no doubt, this is a phrase that conjures up a “hall of fame”, for the many Bible personalities contained in chapter 11 are very well known.  In today’s celebrity culture, they would no doubt be considered famous.  But in this case, they are not noted or famous in and of themselves, but for the role that faith played in the outworking of their lives.

Verse 8 begins with 4 simple but critical words…”By faith Abraham obeyed…”  The Greek word for faith is pistiv – and it carries the thought of having the deepest conviction and confidence. Abraham, known as the “father of faith”, had confidence in all things God.  To him, if God spoke it, it was fact.  Simple…end of story.

But that second word got me…”By faith Abraham obeyed…”  To see this completely, you have to also go deeper into the meaning.  The Greek here is hupakouo, and it means to listen, or to answer.

Seeing these definitions helped me to understand more about Abraham…he trusted God so much that he listened, and simply answered God.  His trust equaled faith.  His action of answering equaled obedience.  I like that.

Abraham trusted – even when he didn’t see the answer with his own eyes.  In fact, most of those in Hebrews 11 are in that category.  They saw from afar, and never experienced the promise fulfilled that we now enjoy in the Gospel.  But they knew it was coming.  And even in its absence, they believed in the promise – and acted accordingly.  That, my friends, is faith.

I learned so much from my Granddaddy West.  He had a small farm, and it was often my privilege to help him with the crops.  I remember well the first time he took me to his potato patch, and the wonder I felt as he showed me how to carefully dig down into the dirt to unearth those spuds.  He stressed the need to dig carefully and confidently, because…those potatoes were there.  Even if I couldn’t see them, they were there, in that mound.  That first time that we dug down, and the dirt rolled away from that first bunch of beautiful potatoes…was a moment I’ll never forget.  He was right – though he had never seen that bunch of potatoes, he was confident that he would find them.

That is how faith works.  We believe in God.  We have great confidence in His promise.  We respond to Him, answering Him.  And in so doing, we obey.

Hey – that small word “faith” packs a pretty good wallop!  And those delicious potatoes…well, that is another story.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland



A Greater Truth

Jul 22, 2015 -- 11:28am

The love of God has been a current theme in my heart recently.  Just coming through a fun and enjoyable week of Vacation Bible School at my church, I had an opportunity to see that theme played out in songs, skits, crafts, and even in snack time, as the kids learned important aspects about the amazing love of God.

Ask just about anybody on the street to define a Christian, and most will say that a Christian is “someone who loves God.”  And that is a true descriptor, no doubt.  A Christian SHOULD love God, if they are truly a believer.  But as I was reading 1 John 4, it became clear to me that a greater defining evidence is to be found. 

While it is important to know that a Christian loves God, the more critical defining factor is the fact that a Christian is loved BY God!

John said it so well…

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10 ESV)

That subtle difference in expression is mammoth in application.  It takes the center of gravity away from my love – and places it in the heart of true love, that one place from where the purest expression of love is generated and defined.  In God.  He IS love.  And that is why it is so hard for those in the world who are apart from God to understand true love in an individual, or in a family, or in a culture.  And believe me, our culture is trying its best to redefine love apart from God.

But that will always be a futile effort.  All one will ever have is a shadow of true love – unless the One True Source of love is acknowledged.  To know love is to know God, and to know God is to be loved – by God. 

It is no accident that John understood this amazing truth, for he himself is identified in the Bible as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and elsewhere as “the beloved.”  That phrase beloved carries this very point.  It wasn’t so much that John loved Jesus, but that Jesus LOVED John. 

I looked up the word “beloved” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (the first and best dictionary by Mr. Webster, who himself loved God and felt a calling and mission to help us understand words – so that we could serve God more fully and understand Scripture more accurately).  The word carries the thought of being “dear to the heart.”  Friends, if you are a believer, God loves you…and you are dear to His heart.

Now, that is a refreshing truth, one that lightens my day as I ponder that amazing fact.  He loves me – with an everlasting love.  And He sent His Son for me – to become my Savior.

Think I’ll stop there…and ponder just a bit more…

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

Forget Not All His Benefits

Jul 15, 2015 -- 4:07pm

It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, especially when it is one of your parents.  I have been exceptionally blessed to have had my own parents for a long time.  On Saturday, July 4, my beloved Dad went to be with the Lord.  I had flown back to Indiana that morning, and got to see him in the last hours of his life.  I leaned over him, telling him that I was there.  He opened his eyes – which had a cloudiness about them that I had never seen before – and said “Mike”.  That was the last word that he ever said.

It wasn’t all that long ago – just before Father’s Day last month – when I wrote about my own Dad’s legacy.  Knowing that he was in his final days, I wanted to capitalize on both Father’s Day, and the chance to eulogize him while he was still alive.  I found later that my Mom had shared my blog with my Dad, and how tears had come to his eyes as she read to him my words. 

I seem to be at that age – along with many of my friends – where it is not uncommon to hear of a parent’s passing from this life.  This kind of goodbye is so difficult, and yet we don’t mourn as some do…and the reason we don’t is that we have hope.  Hope - that we will see our loved ones again.  And what a hope we have, guaranteed by our Lord Himself.  God’s perspective on death is quite different than ours – to Him, the death of a believer is a good thing.  Paul shared that truth, saying that “to die is gain.”  That one who has passed is truly free, and has just been introduced to a splendor that is inconceivable.  “Eye has not seen, ears have not heard…” 

What a vista is now being viewed by my Dad.  While that is so true from an eternal perspective, there is still the pain and sting of loss in the here and now.  But even in that, we have to remind ourselves of the truth that we are not hopeless.

I was privileged to preach my Dad’s funeral last Friday, July 10.  I shared from Ps. 103, where David encourages us in verse 2 to “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  My Dad was a true benefit to me, a gift in the form of a loving father.  He has been an avid supporter of my every venture, and was always there when I needed to hear his voice.  That is one of the most difficult truths that I am working through, to accept and get my “brain around…” – this newfound inability to pick up the phone and talk to Dad.          

We are all headed to an eternity.  No one will bypass that inevitability.  And that is why it is so important that we are prepared.  We are to live TODAY in light of THAT DAY – when we too will see Him as He is.

So, with this last post aimed at my Dad, I want to express how grateful I am for the benefit I have received by having him as my loving Dad.  Pop, you will always be loved, and you are already sorely missed.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

Our Hope is in the Lord

Jun 27, 2015 -- 10:55am

Regardless of your personal political persuasion, we can all agree on one thing - these are changing times.  In fact, I can’t think of a comparable season in my life that would parallel the one in which we are currently living. 

During such volatile times, it is easy for an array of emotions to be encountered.  We can experience everything from depression to disappointment, disillusionment to hopelessness.  That is, if our eyes are on the natural. 

That is why we must remember that our faith is not to be based on what we see.  Our faith is based on the One who is Lord of all, and by whose strong arm all things are held in place.  All things.  Everywhere.  All the time.  He is sovereign, and that title encompasses more than we often remember.

It is in a time of great trial and trouble that many find the real and only source of hope.  That source is not the stock market, our leaders or governmental authorities, or in our own checking accounts.  Our source is the Lord.  At times, He leads us to places that are the opposite of green pastures and still waters.  When that is true for us, we must remember that even in such a place, we are not alone.  We have His ever-present help.

If you’ve just read the paper, or watched the news, follow that up with a remembrance that nothing is out of our Lord’s care.  If His eye is on the sparrow, and it is, you know that He is watching over you.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

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