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
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
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
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
(Taken at a Christmas 2010 billiard game. Left to right: David Gilland (Mike's son), Mike Gilland, and Jim Gilland (Mike's Dad)
As we are all approaching Father’s Day 2015, my heart is full of gratitude that, at age 62, I still have my Dad. My “Pop” is 89 years old, and as Father’s Day approaches, he is in the battle of his life. He was first diagnosed with kidney cancer almost 10 years ago. He has fought for every day this past ten years. He is fighting hard now.
Flash back to those early years in Indiana, where as a boy I grew up with a Dad who loved hunting, fishing, baseball and basketball. (Hey, in Indiana, EVERYBODY loves basketball!) These were not solitary pastimes for my Dad…he shared them with me, and I grew up with a memory full of rich experiences of time spent together. I grew up without Internet, without video games, so our times were spent shooting buckets or shooting guns. I spent many summers helping my Dad, earning an income as his apprentice, learning his trade of home improvement. Whether it was applying aluminum siding or asphalt roofing, I never had a doubt that my Dad worked hard for his family.
When I played first base in Little League, my Dad would always be in the stands, cheering me on. And even though my Dad was never fond of large crowds, he took me to every home game for the Evansville Purple Aces during a magical championship season when their roster included Jerry Sloan, later coach of the Utah Jazz.
I learned my first guitar chords from my Dad, playing around on his acoustic guitar, trying to emulate the way that he made those chords on those six strings. Now that pastime took a big hold in my heart, and I found myself in a Christian band, touring the three states adjacent to my home town. From concert halls to small churches, my Dad and my Mom were our biggest fans. As he had done with my love for sports, now he was doing the same for my music. He was always there.
How can I adequately honor someone who counted time with me as being more important than his own interests? While our personalities are different, I am daily reminded of how deeply ingrained are my Father’s influences in my own life. In every passing week, I will find myself prefacing a statement with, “Just like my Dad has always said…” His nuggets of practical wisdom are tightly sewn through my life.
When I met Cindy, my Dad was instantly for her, and he would be the first to tell me if he thought I wasn’t showing her the proper consideration. After we married, my Dad gave up payment for an entire job – just to help me buy our first home.
Dad, I would never be able to adequately convey just how grateful I am for you. It is not like we never had disagreements, or that we always related perfectly. But we always worked it out, and we were always stronger for the effort. That kind of outcome happens when you have a Dad who loves deeply, works sacrificially, and supports tirelessly. Dad – that is you. Happy Father’s Day.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I think about it every year – a storm that was unlike any I had ever experienced. That day – June 8 – had started off like any other spring day in Evansville, Indiana. The sun was shining, and the temps were pleasant. What was about to come was unthinkable, and no one was really ready for it.
At that time, I was the operations manager for a Christian radio station, and my boss was in town for meetings. We were on our way to a fancy restaurant that was situated on the top floor of an eighteen story building, the tallest structure in town. And while we were driving, the weather was changing…rapidly. By the time we got to the downtown area, I had a clear view to the west – and what I saw coming was downright frightening. Not just one tornado, but a “mother cloud" of 9 tornados was about to strike our city’s downtown area.
I tried to convince my boss to NOT get onto the elevator. Those years as a TV weatherman, studying clouds under the supervision of the friendly crew at the National Weather Service had helped me realize the potential danger that was approaching, but my boss dismissed my appeal to not get into the elevator. So, we did. And I prayed all the way up. The doors opened, and we were mid-step out of the elevator when the power suddenly failed – all lights in the restaurant went dark.
I quickly rushed to the host, and asked him where I could make an emergency phone call (yes, this was BEFORE cell phones!). He would not let me in to the room adjacent to us that held the guest phone. I appealed, but he said I couldn’t use it, that it wasn’t safe…and in the next instant, I understood why he hesitated. You see, that room, and all of the other dining rooms in this building, had giant glass walls that gave a panoramic view of the city. Had I been in that room using the phone, it would have been very bad – for in an instant, that storm blew out the entire side wall of the restaurant. Seemingly millions of pieces of broken tempered glass blew in. And the powerful force of 9 tornados was now blowing through those rooms, and literally shaking the building. What a surreal moment – people were screaming, and most of us were praying. I really thought the entire building was going down. But in ten minutes time, it was over. So was our lunch meeting – that never really started.
We began the long descent down, walking through the darkened stairways of that building, finally reaching ground level, and there we walked out to what looked like a war zone. The destruction was massive. Sign boards were blown down, street lights broken, trees were on pushed over, windows blown out. Debris was everywhere. All power was gone for much of the city, as the overhead power lines were no match for 200 MPH winds. One radio station tower was brought down, twisted into the shape of a pretzel.
By God’s grace, we had made it through the storm. It took weeks of hard work for the community to clean up, repair, and bring restoration to all the areas damaged.
Looking back on that day, one thing that has always amazed me is this – the speed at which everything changed. It came on us in an instant.
The Bible has a couple of verses that take that concept into our spiritual walk. One passage is 1 Peter 4:12, where Peter warns us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” We shouldn’t be surprised that storms come. We have been duly warned that they will occur!
The second deals with our response to sudden bad news…I particularly like the NIV’s reading of Psalm 112:7 – speaking of the righteous man, it says “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” When the news comes that we didn’t expect, we can hang onto this promise. We will have our heart held in steadfast trust.
The storms – they will come. But His love and grace will see us through to calmer days.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland