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Grace On Display

Jan 26, 2015 -- 10:23am

 

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

The Hope Found in Repeated Prayer

Jan 16, 2015 -- 3:21pm

 

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.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

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

He’s Doing a New Thing

Jan 05, 2015 -- 10:16am

 

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

That Nest is Just About Empty

Dec 17, 2014 -- 3:26pm

 

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

Hiding the Word in Our Hearts

Dec 04, 2014 -- 1:51pm

 

Memorizing long sections or passages of Scripture has not been a forte of mine, but I sure can see the benefit in this practice.  I can remember the first time I was ever challenged to memorize a single verse – it was in the church where I gave my heart to Jesus.  The pastor’s wife led a “club” of young people every Sunday night called the “KYB Club”, an acronym for “know your Bible.”  I was a new Christian, only ten years old, but I still remember the night that this dear lady looked at us and issued a challenge – “I would like to ask each of you to memorize Romans 6:23!”  Well, I worked at it, and was able to commit it to my memory.  To this day, those words that I “hid in my heart” are still firmly in place.  The effort to memorize paid off.

Over twenty years later, I was part of a weekend outreach event.  Over thirty youth pastors and youth leaders had traveled to converge upon “Derby Eve” in Louisville, Kentucky, the night before the “most exciting two minutes in sports” – the Kentucky Derby. There is an annual large street party in the neighborhood near the race track on Derby eve, a get-together that is pretty much an all-night affair of drinking and partying.  Those that were part of our group had an aim to just be there to share the Gospel with as many as we could. 

If you’ve ever been a part of a street witnessing outreach, you know how intimidating it can be.  For a while that evening, we all split up and went out on our own with the goal of sharing in friendly conversation with any partygoer we could, hoping that “small talk could turn to “big talk,” thus transitioning into a presentation of the Gospel. That is when it got exciting for me.  While standing in a food line, I realized that the guy in front of me was also alone.  He was HUGE, and I felt very small next to this tall guy with the big beard.  But I was there to talk.  So, here is how my efforts went… 

“This is quite a night!  A lot of people out here…”  (Well, not too bad for a starting effort, I thought…)  “Yeah,” he said, “The crowds - they’re here every year…nothing really ever changes….” (Aha, I thought – here is my chance to turn small talk into big talk!).  “Well, I know someone who NEVER changes…”  He looked a bit puzzled, but bit anyway, and said, “Who?”  I answered, “The Bible says that Jesus never changes!  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” 

I really didn’t have that comment planned out – but it seemed right in the moment.  He looked at me with that look that said, “Oh, now I see where this is going…”  His tone suddenly changed to near anger, and barked out, “OK, chapter and verse!”  I was confused, and said…”What?”  He said, “Chapter and verse!  You and your kind are always out here talking about love and Jesus…but you can’t even tell me where it says that in the Bible!” 

Wow, I thought for a moment that this grizzly-sized man was just going to pick me up, tear me into pieces, and throw me out on the street.  I paused and silently prayed.  Immediately, the answer came to me.  “Let me ask you a question!”, I said.  “It is a math question.  What is two plus two?”  “What??!!!”, said the guy, with a puzzled look that was apparent even through his massive facial hair.  “The answer is FOUR, of course.”  To that, I replied, “Tell me the name of the math book from which you learned that fact, and what was the page number?”  He continued to stare as I went on…”Just because I can’t remember the ‘chapter and verse’ doesn’t mean that it’s not true…”

There was a nervous moment, but suddenly his scowl turned to a grin.  “Aw heck, let’s talk!”, he said (well, not exactly what he said!…)  Now he was laughing, and it was clear that the tide had turned in this conversation.  We talked for more than half an hour, and I was able to share the Gospel with him.  He even prayed the sinners’ prayer!  What an amazing experience.

When I got back to the church, I pulled out my Bible, and realized that the passage I had quoted was from Hebrews 13:8.  I determined that I was never going to forget that fact either!

My poor efforts at sharing a passage that I had committed to memory still bore fruit.  But then, the Word of God always does.  That is the power of God’s Word. 

 

Till next time.

 

~ Mike Gilland

Long Before the Pilgrims

Nov 21, 2014 -- 2:19pm

I grew up LOVING Thanksgiving, for many reasons.  First of all, it was the official launch of the Christmas season!  Like with most of us still today, an every-year tradition was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and waiting for that moment when “Santa” closed out the parade.  Yep, that made the holiday season official – Christmas was right around the corner.

As I got older, Thanksgiving meant even more to me.  In studying the origin of our country, and the sacrifices that were made by the founders of this great nation, I couldn’t help but be grateful for all that this holiday represented.  A day set aside to offer thanks to God for His bountiful provision and protection. 

But the call for Thanksgiving is much older than the Pilgrims and the American Indians that celebrated that first American holiday.  As believers, we have the most for which to be thankful!  Our God is the Author of Thanksgiving, the source of its deepest meaning.  The Book of Psalms are full of declarations of Thanksgiving…here are a few, from the English Standard Version:

 

Ps. 26:7

…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,

and telling all your wondrous deeds.

 

Ps. 50:14

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and perform your vows to the Most High…

 

Ps. 69:30

I will praise the name of God with a song;

I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

 

Ps. 95:2

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

 

Ps. 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

 

This year, as we gather with our families, let us be thankful…for our country, for our families and the privilege we have to be together, and most of all, thankful to God.  He is the Lord, worthy of all praise, and the object of all our thanksgiving.

Till next time.

 

~ Mike Gilland

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