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Running on Fumes

May 13, 2015 -- 10:09am

Has it ever happened to you?  That dreaded moment when your car suddenly gives a couple of unexpected and abnormal jerks and bumps.  With a painful realization, you say to yourself, “Yep, you did it.  You took that extra chance, thought you could make it just a little bit farther down the road on that tank of gas.”  But…just like a bank can immediately call the note on a loan during difficult times, your car just called, functionally saying “Uh, that’s all.”  “Pull over, buster.  I’m outta gas.”

In that most difficult moment, survival now becomes the pressing issue – you have only a few moments, riding on whatever momentum you had going for you before that last drop of precious petro slid into your fuel injector.  Now, job one is to find a safe place to pull over.  And, once you do, job two is to figure out how you’re going to get more gas into that tank.

Sadly, this experience has happened to me more than once.  Fortunately, it has been a long time since I ran out of gas.  But…it hasn’t been that long since I was “running on fumes.”  That is what my Dad used to call it, that habit of pressing your luck with your gas guage.  And when you are running on fumes, you’re in more danger than you realize.

When you think about it, there are really only two conditions at play when it comes to running out of gas.  One – pure carelessness.  You know you need to stop and fill up, but you ignore the gas gauge, and even that annoying “low fuel” light that came on last night.   

The second reason is a bit more pervasive, and perhaps more troubling.  It is the state of presumption, wherein we presume that we are going to make it.  That is a dangerous state of mind.  Against all odds, we roll the dice and keep on driving.

These two reasons can also be at play in a completely different arena of our lives - our daily walk with Jesus. 

We know we need to pray.  We need to read the Word.  But carelessly and quite recklessly, we press on through the day, as if we don’t really need a Savior.  ‘Tis a dangerous thing to run our lives with this level of recklessness.

And so it is with the second condition…presumption.  Just like the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21, we can easily say to God, “Here’s what I’m going to do…this, and that, and this and that…never once taking the time to stop, pray, meditate on, and read His Word.  We presume that we are going to come out OK, even though we are operating purely on our own strength and our own plans.  Presuming on his plans didn’t work out so well for that guy in that passage. 

Truth is…it doesn’t work out well for us either.  Here’s a question for you:  “Are you running on fumes today?”  If so, stop.  Pray.  Read.  Get your heart filled up.  It is a much less dangerous way to live. 

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

My Mother's Prayers

May 05, 2015 -- 11:28am

It was Abraham Lincoln that has been credited with saying, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” 

I can relate – and I am grateful to have a praying Mom.  Yes, I still have her today, a privilege that is rare for guys my age.  My Mom is, and always has been a prayer warrior.  She prays to her Lord.  She prays for her husband.  She prays for my sister and me, and our families.  Some of the most significant decisions of my life prior to marriage and while I still lived in my parents’ home in Indiana were prayed over by my Mom in my presence.  Like Mr. Lincoln, I see that is a gift that I will always carry with me.

This Sunday, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, may we all remember in a fresh new way just how much we all owe to our Moms.  Regardless of the kind of relationship you may have had with your mother as you grew up, or even later in your adult life, literally every person alive owes at least a debt of gratitude to the one who endured what the Bible calls the “pain of childbirth” in order to receive her child into the world.  To have a day to honor that very special person and her role in our lives is altogether sensible and justified.

My Mom and Dad have been married for almost 65 years.  Amazing.  That example of enduring commitment also follows me today, a fact for which I couldn’t be more grateful.  Prayer had a lot to do with that.

Mom and Dad are facing new challenges as this year’s Mother’s Day approaches.  My father was placed in hospice care last week, so this is naturally a very unique time for my family.  There is lot of praying and reflection going on.  I would appreciate your prayers, and am grateful in advance for them.

Thank you, Mom, for praying.  It made a difference back then.  And those prayers still matter today. 

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

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

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