Sudden bursts of tragedy are never easy to handle. But such events are doubly hard when they come right after enduring a consuming and exhausting trial. Without a doubt, you have had a situation that suddenly appeared, leaving you feeling, “Why is this happening, after I’ve had such a difficult year, or month, week or even day?” Such was the condition of the widow and her son as recorded in 1 Kings 17:17-24.
Many of us are familiar with the story of this woman who, with her son, was about to face death by starvation. God sent the prophet Elijah to this lady, telling him that she would provide food for him (1 Kings 17:9). This had to be good news for Elijah, who had just recently had his meals delivered to him from ravens! Elijah obeyed and went to the lady, but once he asked her for a meal, the woman gave him the news that she only had enough for her son and herself, and then they would both die.
Well, the widow’s paltry pantry did not match God’s boundless provision. Not only did God use this situation to meet Elijah’s own need for food, it was an Old Testament version of the feeding of the 5000 with a bit of bread and few fish! – the supply of food didn’t run out, and all three were miraculously sustained.
That is…until verse 17, which begins with two fateful words: “After this…” Abruptly and apparently unrelated to the earlier trial, the widow’s son up and dies.
Now, the widow is completely overwhelmed with grief, and in that moment she did what most of us would do…instead of responding, she reacted. Basically, she blamed three people…1) Elijah – she turned to him first, asking “What have you against me?” 2) She brought God into the discussion, for in her eyes, Elijah was God’s man. And 3) because of that, she quickly blamed herself, indicating that her own sin had to be part of the reason why her son was now dead.
Elijah, however, did not react. He responded. Oh, may I respond to difficult situations the way he did! First of all, he DIDN’T lash back at the woman in self-defense. Instead, he had compassion on her, lifting her son’s lifeless body from her arms and placing the son in his own.
Then, Elijah did a most curious thing. He carried the son’s body to his own chambers, and there began a prayer meeting with God. He prayed…not once, not twice, but three times. And God listened to Elijah, and gave life back to the son.
Sometimes it seems that life isn’t fair. Those times help us realize that we are not God. Only God is God. He sees the end from the beginning. We don’t, and truth is, we can’t. That is a God thing.
It was a God thing in Elijah’s situation, too. We can learn from what he did in that difficult moment. Pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray the same prayer over and over again, if necessary. And pray knowing that we serve a God to listens to our prayers. In time, He will give us His answer. He always will.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I recently posted on the important aspects of declaring and demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus, based on the passage of scriptures in Acts 2. Today, I would like to take one more trip to that section of God’s Word, and focus on one single term from that section of scripture – found in Acts 2:42, where it says that the believers were “devoted” to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Those early believers in Acts 2 didn’t just go through motions in their faith in Jesus, or their carrying out the call that had been given to them by Jesus. They were passionate. They gave their all.
They were devoted!
In studying verse 42, the word “devoted” really struck me – as if it were a neon light in the darkness! I looked it up in the original Greek, and here is what the term connotes:
1) to adhere to one, to be devoted or constant to one…
2) to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing…
3) to continue all the time in a place…
4) to persevere and not to faint…
5) to show one's self to be courageous…
6) to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly…
(From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
I really benefitted from seeing this deeper meaning to that word. I could quickly see how such a deep commitment to Lord, to His Church, and to other believers would radically affect my state of heart.
· If we are truly devoted, we will be passionate about getting our hearts ready for each Sunday service. We won’t approach our gathering together casually, with a nonchalant expectancy.
· If I am devoted to the teaching of God’s Word, I am constantly looking for ways to apply what I’ve heard in the Sunday message.
· I will come nearer to taking an owner’s approach to my walk with the Lord as compared to a renter’s approach. (For example, think how concerned we are with our own automobiles verses those cars that we rent for a few days). I am much more motivated to care for and watch over that which belongs to me.
· In this context, to be devoted equals being proactive in finding ways to not only fellowship together, but also to serve one another, prayerfully and generously looking for ways to help others.
As members of local churches, we are all called to serve the Lord, to reach out to those that do not know the Lord, and to boldly and lovingly proclaim the Good News of Jesus. That is our call.
The question now before me as an individual…am I devoted to that end? I trust I will be able to answer with a YES, with all that is in me.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Valentines Day is now over, but in its honor, I have to say a few words about my dear wife, and the blessing she is to me! I met Cindy in 1975 – she was in a band that opened for our band at a concert in Tell City, Indiana. I managed to get her phone number, and though I didn’t call her for almost two months (she had given up on me), she agreed to grant me a date.
When Cindy answered my knock on the door, I was completely dumbstruck at the sight of her face. Truly, I was smitten. So much so that I couldn’t stop staring at her! She invited me in to meet her parents, and I stepped inside. Once in the front room of her home, I STILL was looking at her, even as she said, “This is my Dad and my Mom…” Suddenly, I snapped to at least some sense of realization that I hadn’t stop staring, and as Cindy’s Dad said “Hello,” I did the only thing that seemed to make sense at that moment – I addressed the framed picture of her parents that was hanging on the wall! Then, a BETTER realization came upon me, and I finally turned to them and greeted them. Fortunately, I think they thought I was just a bit of a jokester, and greeted me with big smiles on their faces. If that were true, sadly they were wrong, for just like Jim Carrey’s “Grinch” said, “I almost lost my cool.”
It didn’t take long for Cindy to become my best friend. Whenever I would pick her up for a date, it was as if the world was in Technicolor, and all of the birds in the world were singing a joyous song. Fourteen months later, we were married, and like all couples experience, we’ve had our ups and downs. But life has been good. I think often of Psalm 16, where David declared that the boundary lines of his life had fallen “in pleasant places.”
This past week, I had the privilege of having Jonny Diaz as my studio guest, and Jonny brought his guitar in to sing “More Beautiful You.” I knew that song was great, but he also had another song that was amazing – one he had written for his wife. It was called “Thank God I Got Her.” One of the catch lines in the song is “I don’t get her, but thank God I got her!” Just as Jonny’s song talks about some of the areas in which she differs from him, Cindy and I could completely relate. She too has a bunch of pillows on the bed that no one can use, and towels in our bathroom that are not for the drying of my hands, just as in Jonny’s song. But those differences are just what I need in my life, and they are only a fraction of the many reasons why I love her so much.
Proverbs 18:22 says that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” That is exactly what I found in Cindy. I thank God for her…and I thank God I got her.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
The disciples originally thought they were eyewitnesses to a new order, a new KINGDOM. The Messiah had come – and those men were going to rule beside Him, with Jesus on the throne! They were busy positioning themselves in a sort of “pecking order” next to Him!
Well, they WERE eyewitnesses, in a very real and wonderful way. However, some things turned out…well, differently than they first imagined!
The Lord had called them – and through them, He has called us…to declare that His Kingdom had (and has) come.
Right before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus looked at those gathered and told them that THEY WOULD BE HIS WITNESSES!
The power of God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit both opened up doors for the Gospel to be declared, but also added courage to this young and relatively small group – they were becoming the first century church.
What was happening? That early church had been given an assignment to DECLARE the Gospel, and DEMONSTRATE its life by being the church! The church is not to be so narrowly defined by an image of a large auditorium full of people gathered to hear a speaker’s words – even if those words are good. The Gospel – the good news of Jesus – should be and MUST be preached. But it takes more than preaching, it takes more than a declaration. It takes a demonstration. We are to be busy walking out, and applying the truth of the preached Word of God.
How does this work? The early church heard the teaching, and responded - in the context of a new family – God’s family. The context of COMMUNITY.
Luke records in Acts 2 that their life together was a FELLOWSHIP!
They ate together, they prayed together. They witnessed God moving with signs and wonders…together.
They believed together. They helped each other, sometimes with one selling something they owned to help another.
They met together in the temple, but also at each other’s homes.
They prayed over their food and received God’s provision with glad and GENEROUS hearts.
They WORSHIPPED together, and enjoyed favor from others.
All of this is found in Acts 2:42-47. These powerful components of community exemplified the life of the church – those early believers who had devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.
What a rich life described in these verses! This was - and is - NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY. We have the awesome privilege to not only declare the good news of the Gospel, but to demonstrate it in the way we live, in the context of the local church.
Let’s do that! Let’s be faithful to not just speak the hope of the Gospel – may our lives reflect the living proof of its power.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It was the coldest Groundhog’s Day I had ever experienced. I was a TV weatherman for a CBS affiliate in Evansville, IN, working afternoons and nights as I prepared both the 6 PM and 10 PM weather in the evening newscasts. Early in the morning on Feb. 2, 1977, my wife and I were awakened by a phone call from the morning news director, who informed me that a major snowstorm had hit overnight – they had a great idea for a story for my evening weathercast, and for another story as well. I could shoot the other reporter’s story, and he would shoot mine. This two-man team was going to help each other record two original news bits on that blizzard-like day with at least 8 inches of fresh snow on the ground.
The other reporter’s story was crazy, but he (longtime TV Newsman Hal Wolford) was quite a personality and was well-known and loved as a fun and zany original in our area. There had been a national news report that broke that week about the “nutritional value of earthworms as a dietary supplement” in some Far Eastern countries, so Hal had worked to find a bait store that would be open on this frigid, snowy day, and planned to interview the owner about worms. To my surprise, he found a bait store that was open. I was doing the camera work as Hal asked the owner some basic fishing questions. Then, right as the owner was describing these huge night crawlers, Hal interrupted him and asked if anyone had ever come in to buy worms to eat. I’ll never forget his answer… “Reckon not, Hal!” Then, to the owner’s astonishment, Hal picked up a huge 10” long worm - and swallowed it whole! I was laughing and shaking so hard that my camera work couldn’t have been stellar! That was a memory of a lifetime.
Then, it was Hal’s turn with the camera, and we were off to film my story (yes, I did say “film”). We had been sent to the zoo, and I was to “interview” a groundhog, and then later dub in a “voice” so it would appear that the groundhog “explained how all this snow was going to impact Punxsutawney Phil” (the famous Pennsylvania groundhog), and whether or not we were going to have 6 more weeks of bad weather. It wasn’t the greatest of all ideas, and I definitely had to improvise. First of all, technology in those days was a far cry compared to what we have today. I am sure that the cheese-factor was off the chart for that interview! Secondly, we discovered that the zoo didn’t have a groundhog! The closest breed they had was a prairie dog, so I went with that! A talking prairie dog with a Mickey Mouse-like voice. You can imagine our nightly newscast that evening – a guy choking down a night crawler, and a prairie dog with a dubbed-in squeaky voice provided by yours truly.
Yeah, some things have definitely changed. I’m betting that no newscaster has nearly died downing a whole worm lately, and I can’t imagine any weatherperson holding a microphone to the mouth of a silent prairie dog, all the while trying to imagine how it was going to come together back at the studio. We were anything but high tech, but we did have fun.
In a world that is constantly changing, I am really glad that one thing remains the same. God never changes. The writer of Hebrews said it best in chapter 13, verse 8:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As we each face changes in our family, our jobs, the weather, and life in general, we can smile and take a deep breath knowing that our Savior will be there tonight, and tomorrow morning – and all the way to eternity. He will guide us through difficult times, and give us joy in the journey. And He won’t change a bit. Not even if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Jesus told the disciples in John 16:7 something that has challenged me personally for years. “It is for your good that I am going away…” When I first read that passage, I could almost hear the disciples’ reactions… “You’re leaving us? And that is good?...” That statement had to boggle their minds as they tried to get their brains around His words. It had to defy all earthly reasoning. After all, they had committed their hearts and lives to Jesus – and their desire was to be with Him forever. They wanted Him to establish His throne, and they wanted to rule on His right and left! How could it be good for Him to leave them?
I have found that such bits of news from God are never easy to take – those promptings in which you sense a change coming, or you are given a prognosis that affects you or a family member, or news that your job is changing, and you suddenly realize that God has allowed circumstances that seem to be ANYTHING but good. In that moment, it is tough to remember that God has not forsaken us, and that He promised to never leave us.
So, how do we reconcile those times? I believe we have to listen to Jesus - completely, and make sure that we didn’t “check out” when we heard the first part of the story. That is so easy to do. Fear grips us, and our first responses can leave us in a state of despair at what looks and feels like bad news. Psalm 112:7 helps me in those moments – in that passage, the Psalmist declares that the righteous will not fear bad news, for his heart is held steadfast by God.
In the case of the disciples in John 16, there was another part that they HAD to hear, and I’m betting that, at least initially, they didn’t perceive all of what Jesus was telling them. The ESV Bible (my favorite) says…
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 ESV).
What Jesus promised them? The only way the Holy Spirit would come and dwell in them was contingent on Jesus’ leaving them physically and ascending to heaven. They surely couldn’t comprehend that it would be better for them to have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (the “Helper”) IN THEM than it was to have Jesus WITH THEM. But Jesus said that is was “to their advantage.” Their lives would be better with the Holy Spirit’s presence.
The disciples had to believe that, and they had to choose to put their faith and their trust in what the Lord said OVER what seemed natural to their own minds.
We must do the same. When the Lord allows us to face some sort of valley, we must remember that He is with us, that He has given us His Spirit to lead us, to guide us, and to remind us of every word that Jesus spoke.
In that moment, we too must remember that it was for our good that He went away and sent us the Helper.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland