You just gotta love Facebook! Pardon my bad grammar, but that is a truth nonetheless. I never cease to be amazed at the power of social media. It has the ability to keep us close to those we love, it reunites us with those we once knew, and revives memories that were shared together.
For example, the current phenomenon called “Throw Back Thursday” is being practiced by more and more in my circle of friends on Facebook. I am constantly amused at the pictures that are being posted – in some situations, I knew that friend during that era, and the posted photo brings back a flood of fond thoughts of events and times shared with that friend. In other pics, I find that I didn’t know my friend at that point of time – and seeing his posted picture gives me a window into his or her past activities that I would never have known or shared.
Facebook, and Twitter, and other social sites will sometimes use the word “community” to describe their network. I prefer to think of Facebook as a “tool” for community, as opposed to being a “community” in and of itself. Let me explain…
What makes these virtual portals so useful to me is that they are new connectors to my existing community. Facebook is a great way to connect to someone with whom I am already related! This distinction is important, for Twitter, Facebook, etc. – can never serve to produce real community from scratch. Social media, as good as it is, will never replace a good chat over a cup of coffee, or a personal visit to someone who is sick, or hurting. It will never be as good as your hand on a friend’s shoulder, or a prayer that is actually prayed for someone who needs encouragement. As much fun as they give us, these programs pale in comparison to the impact of living real life with real friends, spending actual minutes, face-to-face - together.
One of the sad and very negative results being produced by our computer-driven and social media-saturated culture is a real sense of isolation…an acute loneliness. Merely posting a status update will not prevent one from having a sense of separation from real relationships, or meaningful interpersonal communication that is genuine, direct, and up-close.
Real community demands real relationships. And relationships demand time spent together, side-by-side, face-to-face.
Make no mistake, I enjoy the fact that I have Facetime at my disposal, and it is a great tool that connects me to my children who are now in other cities. While I cherish those conversations, I would never want to imply to my kids that an online chat is as good as time spent together at home, or sharing a meal together. Facetime is great, but I want to give my kids an actual hug around the neck!
Parents, and children too…make it a priority to spend time together. Laugh, talk, play games. Ride bikes, go to parks, throw Frisbees. Those times, and many others like them, are the building blocks to love, fellowship, and true relationship. The kind of relating that builds real community.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It was true for me 15 years ago, when I wrote the lyrics to a song in anticipation of an upcoming youth retreat. Now, it seems more true than ever. What is the “it”? Well, first the back story…
I was speaking at a youth conference in Orlando, and the theme of my message was the importance of making our lives count for God. One of the points in my message was from Ps. 90:12, where we are encouraged to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” As I studied, I began to get a clearer picture of this mandate from scripture. I have been given a span of time in this thing called “my life.” It matters how I manage these days.
As I pondered these thoughts, an image came to my mind – of one of those hourglass timers. We have a game that uses one. As you watch the sand go through that narrow opening, it seems like it will never empty into the bottom half of the glass. But, it does. It always does, and with surprising speed, especially when you are playing that game!
From that point, came these lyrics…
TEACH ME TO NUMBER MY DAYS
How quickly the sands flow through…
The hourglass of our youth…
In a single day, they seem to slip away.
Good intentions come, but so many left undone…
Lord, help me see…the brevity of life.
Teach me to number my days…let me gain a heart of wisdom.
Grant to me a passion for Your ways.
Teach me to number my days…so my life will bring You glory.
Help me Lord, teach me to number my days.
Make me glad for all I have…
The blessings You have given…
In a single day they all could fade away…
But one thing will remain…
In this world of passing pleasures…
Lord help me to see…my only need is You.
© 1999, Mike Gilland
Now, to the explanation in the first sentence…the “it” of which I spoke… It is the fact that our lives are passing by much more quickly than we imagine. Those grains of sand are moving through that narrow opening of life at an alarming pace. This is true for us all, and we are called by God to use these moments we’ve been given for His glory.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Looking out my front door yesterday morning, I was amazed at the long line of bundled tree clippings that were all prepared for the Monday yard-waste pickup. This huge pile of sticks, branches, and leaves represented the fruit of much labor, by my son David, his wife Beth, and yours truly. You see, their trip to see us over the holiday weekend was not only to visit on the 4th – there was a purposeful mission in mind, as my son has faithfully helped me for years in the area of tree trimming…(there is just something wonderful about having a strong, youthful son to help in this task!).
This pile of excess yard and tree growth, as beautiful, green and healthy as it was just days ago, was now awaiting pickup. Functionally, every last bundle was…trash.
Seeing this freshly reminds me that, if I am not careful and diligent, many of my activities, my efforts, and even my words could easily end up with a similar fate. I could be spending a lot of my life seeking things that will one day end up being judged as a “dead work”. And the end for such works – they will be burned in a great fire.
Talk about a healthy reminder – believers are called to be watchful over our lives, and intentional in the way that we live. In many ways, our hearts are like my back yard. There are things all around my yard that grow. Some wanted, some unwanted, and as funny as it seems, those things that are not wanted (like weeds) grow the fastest. If I care about my yard, and if I am not lazy, then I will watch over it. I will keep it from becoming overgrown with weeds. I won’t let the low-hanging branches from nearby trees grow onto my roof. I will have to work. I have to trim, I have to prune. I have to be watchful.
This is our lot in life. Now, you don’t have to be a homeowner to face this task. We ALL have to be watchful.
1st Cor. 3:14-15 says, “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
May our efforts, our time, and our energies be devoted to the One who is our Foundation, our Cornerstone. Those are the works that will survive the flame. And there will be a heavenly reward for that kind of work.
For now, I am glad that all that tree trimming is over! Let’s see, where is that bottle of ibuprofen? My muscles are aching!!!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV).
I love the book of Galatians. Paul’s passion for Jesus AND for his fellow believers in the Lord’s church is on full display.
If you take the time to study the original language of verse one of chapter 5, you will discover an emphasis that is not readily apparent to a casual reader. Paul employs what theologians call “polemic” language – meaning that it was spoken with deep passion, almost “yelling it out.” Paul was shouting this truth in a desperate manner. He wanted the Galatians to understand that Christ has set them FREE. He wants us – you and me, and all believers – to understand this very thing too.
Many people get tripped up in their walk of faith when it comes to freedom in Christ. This happens when our eyes are more on what we aren’t – than what we are in Jesus. It is true – none of us who are living are, or ever will be, completely free from ever falling short of the mark (said differently, we still blow it – we sin…) And when our eyes and hearts are focused on that, we can easily agree with our enemy, our accuser, who rushes in and says to us, “See – you’re not REALLY free in Jesus. If you were, you wouldn’t have spoken to your spouse in such a way…”
When thoughts and words like that hit us right after an argument, or when an unkind expression comes out of us in an angry moment, condemnation can quickly rob us from our sense of freedom that was promised to us in the Word.
A well-known author and theologian named John Stott has given us a very helpful look at our freedom, defining it in a way that guides us to a better understanding of this gracious gift from the Lord:
“This freedom, as the whole Epistle and this context make plain, is not primarily a freedom from sin, but rather from the law. What Christ has done in liberating us, according to Paul’s emphasis here, is not so much to set our will free from the bondage of sin as to set our conscience free from the guilt of sin.”
Christ loves us with an everlasting love, and this is still true, even when we make mistakes. The Bible tells us to “get back up again.” And He is faithful to wash our hearts of the guilt that we feel, returning to us the joy of freedom.
I am privileged to be a father of four (now adult) children. My kids have given me great joy, more than I can ever describe. But they have made mistakes, and so have I. At times, they disobeyed me. And afterwards, they would repent, and I would forgive them. At times, I would handle things wrongly, and it would hurt them. I would repent, and they would forgive me. But at no point in these times did they ever stop being my kids, or did I stop being their father. And, at no time did my love for them cease. Not even in the midst of a relational situation.
If that is true for me, and my love for my kids – how much more true is it in describing the Love that our Heavenly Father has for us? He has given us FREEDOM in Jesus! If you’ve made a mistake, run to the Lord, repent, and rest in knowing that He is your Lord. You’re free in Him. He is faithful and just to forgive you…to cleanse you.
Our country has long been known as “the land of the free, and home of the brave,” and we are preparing once again to celebrate its freedom from what was a tyrannical British rule in the 1700’s. Our founding fathers truly believed in a freedom that was first and foremost described in the pages of the Bible…in verses like Galatians 5:1. Many of them gave their fortunes, even their very lives for our freedom. Oh, that our leaders would return to an understanding and definition of this kind of freedom!
As believers in Jesus, we are privileged to know FREEDOM in a tangible way that transcends governmental ideals. It transcends this very life itself, and opens the way for us to be free not only in our lives here – but throughout eternity as well.
Enjoy your freedom in Christ. Stand firm. Don’t give up. And don’t believe the accusations of the accuser either. Believe the words of the Lord. He who the Son sets free…is free indeed.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I am simultaneously grateful – and saddened – this morning. The sad part comes from the news that my boyhood pastor went to be with the Lord over this past weekend. Pastor Richard Schwambach lived a rich life in Evansville, Indiana. Both his gentle heart and loving smile were so noticeable to me, even at age 10. But it was his clear sermon that night, his presentation of the Gospel, that pierced my heart. It was 1963, and I had never understood the Good News before, or had ever prayed like I did that night. It was more than a church service – it was a beginning. That night, with tears streaming down my face, I gave my heart, my life – everything that I could give – to Jesus. It is a moment that is etched in my memory, and I hope it always will stay that way.
What made “Pastor RR” so special to me was his deep and passionate love for Jesus. That love was evident in so many ways. He loved to sing and worship. He loved to pray, and he loved to see people come to know Christ in a personal way. He was an early innovator in praying with perfect strangers, setting up one of the oldest “Dial-a-Prayer” phone lines in our country.
He also envisioned his own sons with that love for Jesus, and both of them became pastors and are still serving the Lord to this day. I had the privilege of going to school with the youngest son, and enjoyed a great friendship with David for years after we graduated from high school.
A couple of years ago, I was looking through some documents when I stumbled on something I had not seen in a long, long time – it was an envelope that contained my baptismal certificate, and a note from Pastor RR. As I read it, my heart was freshly warmed by my remembrance of those days. I was prompted to call him, and by God’s grace, in my first attempt, I was able to reach him on the phone. I expressed my thanks to him, for his example that he had set before me. I also thanked him for the training I received in those first years of my life, under his ministry. I was also able to catch him up on all the things that happened in our lives since Cindy and I moved to Florida in 1985. It was a grand conversation. And you know, even though I had not personally spoken with him since 1990, it was like we had never missed a beat. His enthusiasm for the Lord was still as strong as ever, and I left that conversation freshly encouraged in my relationship with Jesus, and freshly thankful that I had the privilege of knowing this man.
Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (ESV)
Pastor RR Schwambach lived that kind of life, one that is worthy of emulation.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Well, I made it. We navigated the many details that all parents face when planning a wedding, I walked my daughter down the aisle, and then, a week later, we said goodbye to her and our new son-in-law as they moved across the country to Portland, Oregon. Wow, what a couple of weeks!
Their new home offers vistas that we in Florida just don’t get to see in our local area – MOUNTAINS! In fact, Angela can look down the street from their new home and see the mountains rising in the distance. Mount Hood, a volcanic monster of a mountain, gives the entire Portland area a distinctive iconic skyline.
Mountains are amazing to me. My first ever trip to the Rockies was a breathtaking experience. Cindy and I had lunch one day in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and I will never forget how I felt as I sat on a park bench and ate a sandwich with truly “purple mountains” rising up in front of me. Singing “America the Beautiful” would never be the same for me!
But while literal mountains are indeed beautiful, difficulties and hardships that seem like mountains are breathtaking too, in a radically different way. A sudden job loss, a tragic diagnosis, or even a sudden accident can loom before us – leaving us with a sense that this problem is a mountain that is not scalable.
My Mom had a saying that she uttered to me during my entire “growing up” years in Indiana. I can remember talking to her while trying my best to grasp difficult concepts in school. She would say with the greatest sincerity, “Son, just remember that what is ‘hard by the yard is a cinch by the inch.” That advice has proven to be so helpful to me.
Like the time Cindy and I lost a child…talk about having your breath taken away. Yet, God’s amazing grace sustained us moment by moment, until we could see that we were going to make it. Using Mom’s analogy, we took the present difficulties an inch at a time. That was all we could handle in the moment…but soon after that moment passed, we could look back and see how far we had come.
If you have mountains before you today, take my Mom’s advice, and then take that first step in faith. You’re going to make it.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland