Easter is just around the corner, the most significant event in the Christian church calendar. In every Christian bookstore, and on the property of many churches, images of the cross will soon be visible.
The cross on which Jesus died, as important as it was and is, was quite simple in construction. It was made from two opposing pieces of timber, one vertical, the other horizontal. Yet, the design of this powerful and precious emblem serves to remind us of our mission to serve Jesus, and to represent Him to the world around us. Here is how…
The cross’ vertical post points to heaven while touching the earth. The call to be His servants, to be His witnesses (Acts 1) was a heavenly call. God spoke, and His words touched earth – they have fallen on US. Our first duty – to serve the Lord, and we do that when we hear His Word and respond in obedience.
Remember the commercials about “E.F. Hutton?” The theme of those humorous commercials went along the lines of “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” If that was true for an investment firm, how much more so when we hear (and read) the words of the Savior! His words are unlike any others’. They truly have the power of life. They came down from heaven and touched us on earth.
The second aspect of the cross - the horizontal post that held the hands of Jesus. Just as His hands were stretched OUTWARD, so is our call to serve others.
1 Peter 4:10 instructs us to use the gift given to us by God - to serve others. Who are the “others” that we are to serve?
1. First, fellow believers – the church. Paul wrote in Galatians to “do good to all – especially those in the family of believers!” (Galatians 6:10).
2. Secondly – the world. We are called to live in such a way that both declare and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus. We DECLARE with our words. We DEMONSTRATE with our lives.
But it is not enough to merely think thoughts of love – we are to actually SHOW love. The Bible says that “they will know us by our love.” This kind of love is not merely thoughts or emotions. It is love in action, love expressed as a verb.
I read a story about a little boy on beach…
A man was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up. Left on the sand by the receding tide the starfish were certain to die as the sun dried them out. The man also saw a boy picking up starfish and flinging them back into the sea.
Planning to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, the man walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely such an industrious and kind-hearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?”
The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”
The little boy was doing all that he could do. True, he couldn’t change the fate for every starfish on the beaches – but it didn’t stop him from doing what he could do.
Our serving others may seem to be insignificant. But that is just not true. We may not be able to change the entire world. But our serving WILL make a difference to the one who is touched by our service. It does matter – to them.
And ultimately – it matters to the Lord, for it was He who called us to these actions. And the most amazing thing happens when we obey Him - He will receive glory, from even the smallest acts of a servant.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
There have been many times that I’ve found myself suffering from that familiar All-American syndrome – anxiousness! We all battle this one. Whether it is a job that we are wanting, or perhaps it’s a desire for would-be spouse that isn’t working out the way we would like, or maybe a family situation that has seemingly gone south. In situations like these, it is so easy from a natural standpoint to cross over from “waiting” to “worry”. Once we have made that transition, all sorts of new troubles await our souls, for with worry comes striving, and even selfish ambition.
These are not lightweight problems in our lives. The Bible makes it clear that to worry is to sin. It is not His plan for His children to be caught up in worry. Instead, we are to trust, and to wait. We called to wait upon the Lord!
Wow – now that is a tough one, but I have learned that, in my life, there are no substitutes. It is not easy, and often not fun to have to wait for clarity, or for a situation to resolve. When we are in the “waiting zone”, what do we do? I hope these simple thoughts help.
First of all, we can learn from Moses. When he led Israel to the edge of the Red Sea, there was little that Moses could do to improve their situation. Consider this – they had the Red Sea in front of them, and a charging Egyptian army behind them. Moses’ words were amazing… “Stand still…” Stand still, and wait on our faithful God to open up a way. And that is exact what happened. The way that was opened up could ONLY have been opened by a sovereign God. In a seeming impossible situation, their waiting was rewarded.
We are also promised that His strength will be added when we wait on Him. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that this process of waiting opens up for us new strength – and the ability to soar like an eagle. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength – they shall run, and not be weary…” The only other option is to try to manage life in our own strength, and that plan will surely end in disappointment and failure.
Finally – what is our disposition WHILE we wait? This word WAIT carries more meaning than we think. A great understanding of servanthood is carried by this term. Think about a “waiter” in a restaurant. The one who “waits” on tables is busy serving, cleaning, working. They are busy while waiting.
If you find yourself at a crossroad, and you need direction…then wait on the Lord. Trust Him, resist the temptation for worry, and serve Him in the meantime. In due time, He will reward you with direction and new strength. And when He does, you will be glad you waited.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It was the late ‘70s, and I was a television producer for an Indiana church’s TV ministry. Our show was called “Reborn,” and it featured stories of changed lives. Our guests ranged from well-known Hollywood celebrities, to astronauts, to recording artists.
One fine day, it was our privilege to travel to meet and interview Debby Boone, the famous daughter of Pat Boone, and the recording artist that had a smash international hit with a song called “You Light Up My Life.” I had watched the Boones on TV all my life, and I truly respected this family. And, like everyone else in that day, I loved that song. So when Debby agreed to meet with us, and shoot an entire 30 minute interview with us, I was pretty excited!
The show’s host and I arrived at the hotel, and I began the process of setting up our lights and camera in a meeting room. Debby was completely down-to-earth, sincere, and downright friendly. She was the perfect guest to give her testimony of faith in Jesus.
The interview seemed to go flawlessly, and after it ended, I turned off the camera at just under 30 minutes of real-time recording. She had given us an amazing interview with a powerful testimony. I rewound the video cassette tape, and, just for safe keeping, checked a bit of the footage. I was HORRIFIED.
For the first time in my producing career, I had made two horrible mistakes. For starters, my input level on her microphone was extremely overdriven. While the video’s picture was great, the audio was completely distorted – absolutely intolerable. The second mistake that I had made…well, I hadn’t monitored the audio during recording, even though I had a set of headphones right there with me. I had made that terrible mistake of assuming that it was right.
I must have turned several shades of green, for Debby asked if everything was OK…I swallowed any semblance of pride, and alerted both Debby and the host that I had botched the recording.
What happened next completely shocked me. I truly wasn’t ready for it. Debby simply said, “Oh, I’m sorry…let’s do it again!” It took me a moment to recover. I would have understood it had she expressed extreme disappointment, and wouldn’t have blamed the show’s host for being upset and angry with me. But instead of getting what I deserved from both of these individuals, I received grace. Undeserved kindness. Enthusiastic attitudes that were aimed at doing the whole interview again, without a single wince at the loss of time and effort.
Without hesitation, I quickly rewound the tape, correctly set up the audio, and within moments, we were off and recording for a second time.
I still remember that act of kindness shown to me so long ago as if it had happened today. I had experienced the Golden Rule in action. They had shown love and forgiveness to me, even though I was the one that was completely in the wrong. It was a stunning act of love, and I respected Debby Boone all the more because of her grace.
My prayer is that I will always remember that day. That I will remember that people make mistakes, and when they do, the outcome is so different when grace rules and reigns. The air is much lighter, and so are the hearts of those who erred. It was ironic that the lady with the voice that sang about her life “lighting up” had actual made my heart lighter – simply by reflecting to me the active love of Jesus.
May we remember to show kindness in moments of other’s failure, even with their mistake costs us time, money, or inconvenience. May we strive to help those that blow it, and show them real kindness instead of anger.
And, one other thing…that event helps me remember to check the audio levels! While I was glad for the way things had turned out, I sure didn’t want to repeat that one in the future!
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Growing up in church, I noticed a pattern that seemed to be followed weekly. Back then, we really didn’t really experience worship services in the same way as many do today. In fact, most of those who were directing the singing back then were referred to as “song leaders” instead of worship leaders.
So…what was that oft-repeated pattern that I noticed? The leader would announce that we were going to sing verses 1,2 and 4. I always wondered…”What is wrong with verse 3?” And, it bothered me that the songwriter spent time writing a verse that was never sung!
What was most always included in-between each verse was the refrain, or as it more commonly known, the chorus. The chorus often contains the main theme of the song, and perhaps even the song’s title. Those lines are repeated over and over, and the message contained in the chorus is usually easily remembered.
Just as a song has a chorus or a “refrain” that is repeated often, enabling the main theme of the song to become embedded in our hearts and minds, so is theme of hope and trust in God the refrain for one who prays regularly.
Psalm 42 tells the story of the Psalmist David as he is crying out to God. David’s prayers include a longing for God, much like a deer who is panting for water. In verse 4, we David as he “pours out” from his soul to the Living God. He felt alone. But keep this in mind…David only FELT alone. He was never completely separated from the God he loved. And time and time again, we read and see in the Psalms where the psalmist’s heart will be lifted, hope and faith restored, AFTER they cried out to God in prayer.
Now, speaking of patterns to follow…this is one that we can’t miss. We need to pray. Every day. Over and over. If we have a need, we pray. We don’t stop. We treat it like a chorus, and between every verse of our day, we sing that prayer again.
Mark it down…here is a pattern that every believer will experience:
1. Lament over a need
2. Fervent prayer over that need
3. Hope that rises in our hearts
4. Answers from a faithful God
This four-step process is the way life happens for a child of God. It will be this way until we are in Heaven. And, until that day…we will have needs. So we have to pray.
The man often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, commented on Psalm 42. His words still hit the mark today:
“As the hart brays so his soul prays. Give him his God and he is as content as the poor deer which at length slakes its thirst and is perfectly happy; but deny him his Lord, and his heart heaves, his bosom palpitates, his whole frame is convulsed, like one who gasps for breath, or pants with long running. Dear reader, dost thou know what this is, by personally having felt the same? It is a sweet bitterness. The next best thing to living in the light of the Lord's love is to be unhappy till we have it, and to pant hourly after it -- hourly, did I say? thirst is a perpetual appetite, and not to be forgotten, and even thus continual is the heart's longing after God. When it is as natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well with our souls, however painful our feelings.”
Words of wisdom for us today. May prayer to God be the chorus of our lives, just as natural in and critical to our every day as thirst is to a deer. May prayer never be treated like verse 3!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Another year is now in the books! Hello, 2015…your predecessor has passed, and a full twelve months’ worth of a new calendar year is now before us.
As I ponder this New Year, I find my mind going back to a moment in my life in early 1982. Late one night in that time now long ago, I was reading a passage of Scripture from Isaiah, chapter 43 and verses 18 and 19. During that season of my life, I read from the NIV, and these were the words that spoke so clearly to me:
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV).
It was one of the most personally impacting encounters with God’s Word that I had ever experienced. Those words jumped off the page and into my heart. I had no doubt about it – God was leading me into a new day. Little did I know at that moment that the events that were coming in 1982 would cause that year to be one of the most formative in my life, in our marriage, and in my personal relationship with the Lord. It contained some of the most difficult moments that I have ever experienced, as well as some of the most uniquely equipping times. Both sides of that coin served to mature me in God, and made me able to walk into my future.
What made those two verses so meaningful to me? First of all, they contained a strong declarative statement from God. It was as if those words were amped up and spoken through a megaphone – FORGET THE PAST! Why? Because, He was doing a new thing. Even if I didn’t see that new path immediately, He promised that it would spring up before me.
The second impacting truth in that passage was a promise of action. He wasn’t just saying something…He was going to DO SOMETHING too. He was going to make a way where there had been no way. He was going to bring life in the midst of death and destruction, streams in the wasteland of desolation.
Of course, these words were originally given as prophetic insight to Isaiah, and had direct bearing on Israel. But like all scripture, this passage is alive by the Spirit, and these words have a spillover effect on our lives today as well.
In that very moment in early 1982, the Lord was bringing courage to my heart – He was about to do great things in my life…new things, and I would soon see them. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to miss them.
What are you facing in 2015? One thing for sure…God is the God of new things. Thank Him in advance for those new doors to be opened, maybe this year. And, take great courage, for He will be right beside you as you walk through.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
This year, more than most, will be remembered as a year of change in our family. In May, our Angela got married and moved to Portland, Oregon. In August, our son David and his family (including my grandson!) moved to Dallas, Texas, to become a worship pastor intern at The Village Church. Now, this coming Saturday, our last remaining child at home graduates from UF with a degree in Music Education.
Allison is our youngest, and has been her daddy’s helper her entire life. When she was five, she announced to me that she wanted to learn to play guitar. And furthermore, she told me that I couldn’t die until I taught her everything I know on guitar! She wasn’t kidding either. She stayed dedicated to her goal. By age 8, she was performing songs, and by age 9, she played on a Sunday morning, accompanying an adult singer.
When it came to projects around the house – Alli was always right by my side. From carpentry projects, to assembling furniture, to putting up Christmas lights, every job was of great interest to her – and she was tirelessly helping me, wanting to learn to hammer, to hold the drill, to drive that screw in, or get the decorations set just right.
When it came to playing guitar, I have had the privilege of her company as a jam partner, especially the last several years. I have a very musical family, and it has been my privilege to both teach and jam with all my kids, but my oldest daughter Stephanie got married in 1998. My son David moved away to Orlando 8 years ago, and to Dallas this past summer. Angela moved to NY in early 2012, and as stated earlier, to Oregon this past summer. Allison has been right here all this time…up to now…
We are proud of “Alli” as she comes to the end of this journey. We are excited to see her realize some of her dreams, and are encouraging her to step out into the direction to which she feels called. But oh, I will miss her. Cindy and I are trying our best to ready ourselves for this next season, and we can tell that it won’t be easy. Many of you have already crossed that threshold, maybe years ago. But this feels new, and frankly, a bit awkward. We are definitely “those parents” that have LOVED having their kids at home. It is hard for me to get my brain around the fact that those days are just about over.
But, I have learned this…every season of life comes to an end. My Mom used call these seasons “phases.” It is hard to come to the end of a phase, especially those that you have loved so dearly. But, God is faithful. He has always been faithful, and will be so in the future.
Congratulations, Allison! And to all graduates, best wishes to you. On behalf of all “empty nesters,” you’all come back and see us, OK?
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
*Picture on home page was taken backstage when Allison opened for Colton Dixon at Abundant Grace here in Gainesville