I grew up on the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. Our house was situated on a rural road, literally the last road within the city limits. We lived on one acre of land, immediately adjacent to my grandfather’s property. I loved him so, and had many amazing memories at his house, and on that land. Granddad always had a large garden, and I grew up working in it.
Later, after moving into the city, my Dad and Mom also gardened each year, even if the only items were tomatoes. So naturally, after getting married and buying our own little home, I had to give gardening a whirl! I borrowed my Granddad’s tiller, marked off the garden plot, and away I went! Included in our garden would be items to make salads…tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.
Cindy and I had never been solely responsible for a garden before, and truth be told, we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. But it was fun. Soon after planting the rows of radishes, we were excited to see green growth pop up out of the ground. Talk about lush growth! I could only imagine how great our homegrown salads would taste, especially topped with the zingy flavor of those radishes.
The days went by, and each afternoon I was out there, pulling weeds, and admiring this beautiful garden. Before we knew it, we were harvesting, and that is when we realized just how clueless we had been. Discovery number one…our radishes looked more like tiny carrots! I learned that what I should have done was to thin out the crop, giving them room to grow. To me, the max amount of growth that I could see above the ground, the better. But to have normal radishes (that are round!), the crop had to be cultivated.
Discovery number two…we tried to eat those radishes, but I had never tasted such hot bitterness in all my life. They were impossible to eat. My other crops were OK – but my radishes were a complete bust!
I realized later that this experience contained some very practical applications. Had I thinned out those rows of radishes, my crop would have had a better outcome. And likewise, just like our garden, our hearts have to be carefully cultivated - at times, we need to give special attention to their condition. Some aspects in my life might need to be “pulled out” to enable me to live as I should.
I also learned that bitterness is a natural outcome of a neglected garden. The same is true in my heart, where bitter root can grow, and become firmly established. And that bitter root will mess things up royally!
The writer to the Hebrews made it very clear in chapter 12, verse 15:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled… (Heb. 12:15 ESV).
That kind of bitterness will do more harm than just causing a momentary nasty taste in our mouths…it can do real damage – the kind of damage that deeply impacts our lives, and those of our loved ones.
May God grace us, and give us a resolve to work diligently to cultivate our hearts to prevent such bitterness, and courage to take the steps to make those needed changes in our lives.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
While we may not be all that familiar with a Scottish Poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, most of us have heard a line from that prose. Adapted and paraphrased into common language, the phrase went “The best laid plans of mice and men…often go awry…” Growing up, I would often hear the first half of that line quoted, then left hanging in the air in purposeful suspension. For example, when realizing that our day just took an unexpected twist, either due to an accident or an out-of-the-blue surprise event, someone would offer an editorial in response by just saying, “Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…” The rest of their thought was intentionally blank, implying that things hadn’t gone as desired!
Of course, the real aim of this expression is to state that our goals and plans often work out differently than we expect. And the result of that surprising turn in the road can leave us disappointed and disheartened. But sometimes, these unexpected twists and turns are the work of an all-loving, sovereign Lord – who uses these events in our lives to produce patience and faith.
I have always been affected by the plight of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter was near death. Mark 5 contains this story, describing how Jairus met Jesus with the urgent plea for Him to come and heal this little girl. Jesus agreed to accompany him, and they were on their way…when – an interruption occurred. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for years stopped the Lord, and for that moment, Jesus diverted His full attention to this unexpected need. The Lord was gracious to heal her, but in those moments (that must have seemed to be an eternity to that anxious father), word came the daughter of Jairus had just passed away. Imagine the thoughts that would have come crashing in – “If only we hadn’t stopped….if only we hadn’t been delayed…” Those are the kinds of responses that come naturally to us when we feel ripped off by circumstances out of our control.
Those responses are easy – what is harder to do is to remember that God is SOVEREIGN. He is almighty. And He is not like us. Jesus’ timetable was not thwarted by that interruption. In fact, it set the stage for an even greater miracle.
As I freshly consider this story, I am convicted as to the source of my hope. Is it in my arranging for the Healer to come, or is my hope in the actual Healer? The first will always let me down. The second never will! He uses these interruptions for a purpose, to build and strengthen us in ways that we can’t even imagine. He is good. He is God. He is bigger than our interruptions.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
It happens to us all – and it may be going on in you this very moment. “It” doesn’t have to be tied to a traumatic event, or even a difficult set of circumstances. I am referring to a sense in our hearts that is best described as a “dry time” in our relationship with the Lord.
Most of us have experienced times when our walk with Jesus seemed fresh, exuberant, and dynamic. But my personal experience tells me that most of us live this side of that kind of existence, a place where we have a greater sense of what we WISH were happening in our devotional lives than what we are actually living out in real life. If this describes where you are today…read on – you are not alone!
First of all, it is helpful to face the problem head-on, and look for the telltale symptoms of this common condition. They include:
- an apathetic view toward reading your Bible;
- a listless prayer life;
- a general sense of malaise with regards to your faith for the things of God.
- finally, a “blueness” or depression, a sense of loss when it comes to our faith.
Again, these are common temptations that we all face at one time or another. While we contribute to some of our own woes through disobedience, we should also remember that we have an enemy - an outside source that would LOVE for us to turn away from our faith. We have a real foe – the devil is that “roaring lion” described by Jesus to Peter, and he is on a mission to do whatever he can to discourage us!
When I am in a dry time, I have found that I need “face time”. No, not that neat iPhone app! I am referring to face time in the Word, and in helpful books. I need to be absorbing truth from God, not merely listening to the feelings coming from my dry soul. I have heard it said that “God delights in even the driest devotions.” Whether we realize it or not, God is honored when we are calling out to Him – He ALWAYS hears us - even when we feel like we are in the driest of times.
A good second step is simple remembrance that Jesus loves us, and our relationship with Him was initiated BY Him! Peter tells us that we have been called out of darkness – and into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus said that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” (John 6:44 NIV). Remembering that He is the author and finisher of our faith is critical to jarring us out of that dry spot. He is FOR us. He began the good work IN us. And He will be faithful to complete it!
Here is a great reminder from Paul David Tripp…“There's never a point in your Christian life where you're saved by your effort. You're called to repent and believe, but saved by grace.” I did not save myself. Jesus loved me, and gave Himself for me!
Our hope is in the Lord. And that hope remains in place for you and me, even in the middle of a dry time. Let’s accept the invitation given to us by Jesus, when He said, “Come to me, all who are weary…and I will give you rest…”
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
When the inexplicable happens, there is no comfort for our souls like that provided by the Holy Spirit. For that, I am so grateful. The Scriptures abound with great promises of God’s unfailing presence in dark days, when there are no answers, when life doesn’t seem to make sense. In those moments, believers can cling to a truth - He is still here.
He is here in this moment. And He will help heal broken hearts. When I first heard the news that came out of Bell, Florida, and the heartbreaking reality of an event more painful than we can imagine, my first thought was the promise that Jesus gave in John 14, where the Holy Spirit is presented as our Comforter and Helper. He is comfort incarnate. There is nothing that can be spoken by human lips that compares to the touch of healing that comes when we encounter this amazing reality of God. In this chapter from John (chapter 14), and the two chapters that follow, Jesus interlaces into this, His last deep conversation with His disciples, words describing The Holy Spirit, and the many ways in which He would be used powerfully in our lives. He would comfort, help, guide, direct, teach, and remind us of the words spoken by Jesus Himself.
So powerful would His presence be in our lives that Jesus makes a startling statement in John 16:7 – that it would be for our GOOD that Jesus went to the Father, for if He didn’t go, the Spirit would not be sent. As hard as that had to be for the disciples to understand, it is nevertheless the truth.
Today, we have the powerful and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is here – right now, ready to comfort, ready to strengthen, ready to heal. He cares for those so affected by this tragedy. He will lead us through even these most difficult days.
This is a time for all believers to pray and trust the Comfort that comes from the very heart of God. He is able, and He is here.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
Our church is going through 1 Peter in our Sunday messages, and last week’s sermon included Peter’s charge to not “repay evil for evil” (1 Peter 3:9). That very thing – the challenge to strike back in anger when we feel that we’ve been mistreated – is a temptation that is common to everyone, especially in days like these. To say that we are in frustrating times is quite an understatement. Yet, God’s Word says to not “repay evil for evil.”
Early this past Sunday morning, I spent some time reading and praying for our Sunday gathering. I try to follow a reading plan that has you read the Psalm that matches that date (for instance, this past Sunday was the 7th, so you start with Psalm 7.) After that date, read Ps. 37, then 67, etc., adding 30 to find the next chapter. The idea is that by following that routine, you will read through the book of Psalms in a month.
As I read Ps. 37, I was struck freshly with the words that lead up to one of my all-time favorite passages, Ps. 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”) As much as I love that verse, the verses immediately before it really spoke to my heart. Verses 1 and 2 begin with a charge to not fret over evil doers, for their day is coming. Yep – in other words, don’t repay their evil. Don’t even worry about them. God will take care of them.
But Verse 3 hit me like a lightning bolt. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” We are called to do good acts, not vengeful ones. And this “good” that we are to do is empowered by and in the context of a solid trust in the Lord.
But that is not all…we are to befriend faithfulness. Again, I was freshly impacted by these words. I need to see faithfulness as my friend. Friendship doesn’t just happen. It may spring up suddenly, but true friendship will not be sustained without thought, work and love. And in that same manner, we are to approach and respect both God’s faithfulness to us – and our faithfulness to Him – as we would a desired friend. We are to cultivate faithfulness to the Lord while we live in this land, trusting in Him with all our heart, grateful for His undying love for and faithfulness to us. Doing this gives us the grace and ability to do the good of which David speaks in this Psalm.
How can I (or we) apply this? For starters, pray right now for that needed right heart attitude, so that when we are confronted with a situation that makes us want to strike back and repay the evil that has just been dumped on me, we will instead “do good.” There is a right way to respond. Now, that doesn’t mean that we are always going to take the passive way out and just continually be run over. But it does mean that we can bring glory to God in the WAY that we respond. Our faithful God will help us to do just that. We can respond rightly. We can “do good.”
This is a tangible word that David is speaking to our souls. Together, let’s trust God. Let’s do good. Let’s be best buds with God’s faithfulness.
Till next time.
I enjoy computers…but sometimes they can get under the skin of even the most techy among us, causing untold frustration! We often hear computers talked about in terms that go something like, “They are great, so long as they work...” Truer words are rarely spoken. But often, it is the user that has erred, not the computer.
Case in point - I was helping a friend today who was perplexed. His dilemma was that he had saved a file to a folder with his own name as the title of said folder. He was positive that he had saved a particular document in that folder, and he knew the exact name of the file. When using file explorer, he could see the file, but he could not find it when looking from within another program! And it was puzzling.
It took a moment to realize what he had done. Sure enough, he had the right name for the file, and even the right name for the folder. But the trouble was caused by the fact that he created a second folder, at another location on the drive, with the exact name! He thought he was saving all his data to that one location, but was actually saving data to two different folders, each bearing the same folder name, but in different spots on his computer. Once I learned the path to that second folder, I could find the contents, and the problem was solved. I copied its contents to his main folder, then deleted the secondary folder and files. All was well.
But this experience served me well as an illustration to a biblical truth that is significant. Pathways are important. If I am going to succeed in serving God and finding His will for my life, I have to be on the right path. I have to know where to go to find truth.
There are plenty of rogue “folders” along the way wherein I can invest my time and energies, my hopes and dreams. Now, if I am not careful, I can be fooled into thinking that I have deposited my actions correctly, but have it all wrong. My actions, my money, my hopes – they could all be lost if I am not placing them in a sure place that is on the right path.
The really great news is found within this promise from Proverbs: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:6 ESV). We don’t have to approach this process alone. We have the help of our Lord, and His Word. And, He gives us the comfort and help of the Holy Spirit, Who shows us the way (John 16:13). He will lead us, and guide us into the way of the Lord.
Yes, I can trust Him, in issues with my family, my finances and my health. And…I can have confidence that He will help me with even those everyday minor needs, like those misplaced documents on my computer!
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland