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A Time of Transition

by Mike Gilland

Last Saturday afternoon, I walked down the aisle of a church building. Not just any church building, but one that housed a fellowship in which I had the privilege of serving for 17 years. And, it was not a solo stroll down the aisle, either…at my left was my beautiful and youngest daughter…the only unmarried daughter that remained. On that beautiful January afternoon, Cindy and I gave our Allison to become a “Mrs.”…and we couldn’t be happier to do so. Partly because of the fact that she is marrying a guy we already love. Partly because our Alli was really ready for this next step with Jason. But mostly because of the amazing clarity and witness we sensed from God, that all this was His will.

So now, as one of our children said on Facebook, the “cast of siblings is set and complete.” All my kids are happily married, an answer to a lifetime of prayers for both Cindy and me. Allison, in less than a half-hours’ worth of time, transitioned from being single to being joined as one flesh with her husband. And Cindy and I transitioned too – to complete empty nester status. Even though Allison has lived away from home since her college graduation, there was still a sense of active parenting going on, just on a long-distance basis. But now, that is over.

This week, our country transitions from a presidential administration standpoint as a new commander-in-chief will be sworn in on Friday. Just like on Saturday, in a few moments time and after a few sworn words are spoken, so many things will suddenly change.

These are days of transition, alright! And just like I will continue to pray for my daughter as she goes through new routines and finds the path that God has for them, so I will be praying for our country and its leaders. That is something we all should do. And as we do, how comforting to know that above transitions, whether in marriage, in families, and in government, we serve a God who is sovereign over all. He is in control. And I can rest in that fact, even in a time of transition.

Till next time.

Mike Gilland

Hearing is the easy part…

by Mike Gilland

The Bible instructs us in James 1:22 to “…be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”  Our senior pastor, Phil Courson, regularly emphasizes a key aspect to our Sunday messages – and that is APPLICATION.  It is usually easy to hear a message…even a challenging one.  But putting that message into practice, letting the Living Word change our lives…well, that is a different story.

We have just concluded a several-month-long study from the Book of Deuteronomy.  This series carried a byline theme of “Loving obedience to a loving God.”  Our prayer is that it has been helpful in every way, and that we will experience this byline in our individual lives.

The end of one series means the beginning of another, one that will start the week after our big GATOR DAY on August 28.  That series will be RESET – “Jesus Changes Everything!”  This will be a string of 5 messages – with each Sunday’s teaching being a challenge to “hit the reset button” to make sure that we are applying His living Word – to not only inform us on this thing of obedience to a loving God…but to actually obey Him in practice.

May God help us do just that, to be a doer of His Word.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

A Pause to Say Thanks – to Those Who Gave Their Lives

by Mike Gilland

Some just don’t understand why people do it. But we should all be glad they do.

What is the “it” to which I refer? The answer – the willingness on the part of so many men and women to serve our country in the Armed Forces. In a time when there is no forced draft or lottery system for recruiting, when social mores are changing in dramatic ways, and actual wars are being fought, America is blessed to have a quality military. Now, that is not to say that we don’t face some serious challenges ahead, especially in the next couple of years. But every American has much reason for thankfulness.

In honor of Monday’s very special holiday – Memorial Day – I would like to use this space for a few days to say…thank you.

Thank you to men and women who regularly put their lives not only on hold, but on the line – to defend our country and its citizens. Some of us are not even aware of the immense personal commitments and family sacrifices that these servants make on a daily basis. Even worse, there are numbered among us those that don’t seem to care, one way or the other, whether we even have a military.

I am not in either of those two camps. I am aware of the sacrifices that are regularly made by not only the soldiers, but their wives, children, parents and friends. And by God’s grace, I can say that I care – deeply.

I grew up in the Vietnam era. I came very close to being drafted for service, and I still have my “1-A” draft card. During 1971, the Selective Service System took draft numbers 1 to 200, and those whose birthdates came up on those lottery ping-pong balls shipped out almost immediately. My draft number was 203. So, I went to college, like many others who were in the same situation as I, and I never spent time in military service. But I always carried in my heart those who did.

Add to this the fact that I became close to many who were (and still are) in active duty. Men like Chaplain Chuck Williams.  A dear friend for many years, Chuck served out his first enlistment as a young man. After getting out, he went to college, worked in business, got married to my then secretary Celia, then entered and graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. After much prayer, he reenlisted in 2005 – this time as a Chaplain. He has served us all, having been deployed to an active Middle East war zone three times, the last deployment ending at the beginning of 2013. In 2012, Chuck posted a few of his thoughts as he came to the end of that time away from his wife Celia, his family and friends…

“As the sole chaplain at this Forward Operating Base in the mountains of Afghanistan it has been a time of great ministry in our chapel services. Our congregation has been exemplary in their devotion and love to the Lord. I will have many fond memories of these dear people of God for the rest of my life. Throughout this past year our congregation was comprised of men and women, Soldiers and civilian, from 14 different nations. 79 services were held with a combined attendance of just over 3,000 people. My dearest hope is that the Lord would take what He has done in the lives of these, His sons and daughters, multiply it, and spread it powerfully in their respective nations and lands, in their families, Churches, communities and villages for His glory.”

Chuck has many fascinating stories to tell from his military times, both in the US and abroad. He has also experienced some devastating times, as he lost members of his company to attacks from enemy forces. Chuck not only ministered to the fellow soldiers, but also to the grieving family members that lost their loved ones. Serving in the military carries some pretty hefty risks and responsibility.

I am proud of you, Chuck. We all are. Thank you for living your life for the glory of the Lord, and for helping to make our nation more secure.

And to all veterans, my heartfelt appreciation and thanks for a job well done. As we prepare to celebrate, and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice this coming Monday, I pray that you all sense the appreciation of a grateful nation.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

Passionately Pursuing The Holy Spirit

by Phil Courson

We have spent the last few weeks talking about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We have learned much and now want to apply what we have learned.

Wayne Grudem says, “the work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially the church.”  The coming of the Spirit is the coming of God himself. He comes to those whose sins have been forgiven and whose lives have been made new. The promise of the Spirit coming is proof that the Father has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and exalted Him above all else.

The Spirit’s coming has tremendous effects on us as believers. There should be a greater awareness of the Spirit in our lives as he is at work. Here are just a few:

1)  Greater Awareness of God’s Presence

The book of Acts has a strong sense of God’s presence and it is a record of a church intensely aware of the presence of God.        Are you more aware of the presence of God in your life? Do you embrace your adoption as God’s child? Are you aware of the      Spirit’s convicting power?

2)  Greater Awareness of Boldness in Speech and Action

The central purpose of the giving of the Spirit is for enabling power to witness in both word and action. The Holy Spirit took      ordinary men and made them extraordinary! Do you find yourself sharing your faith more?

Are you praying for boldness and asking God to open doors to share the gospel?

3)  Greater Awareness of Deepening Fellowship

There should be a love for each other, a sharing and community among each other. Do you find yourself wanting to serve            others? Do you look for ways you can serve your local church?

4)  Greater Awareness to Praise God and Have Joy

Sometimes suffering comes, but having an awareness of the Spirit will lead to praising God and finding joy in the midst of it.      Worship and praise was the immediate response when the glory of and presence of God was revealed.
“The truth of the matter is this. The distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit under the new covenant is so to mediate Christ’s presence to believers – that is, to give them such knowledge of his presence with them as their Savior, Lord, and God – that three things happen…personal fellowship with Jesus…personal transformation of character into Jesus likeness…the Spirit-given certainly of being loved, redeemed and adopted through Christ.”   J.I. Packer

I want a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit in my life…how about you?

 

 

Honor Marriage

by Phil Courson

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4 

The Ashley Madison scandal has revealed an already growing trend, that marriage is not held in honor in our society and it seems in the church as well. According to Christianity Today magazine over 400 pastors, elders and Christian workers resigned from their churches because their names were on the Ashley Madison list. How tragic! How revealing! How can the society even take the Church serious when we have people ‘caught’ in scandals like this?

Being a sinner saved by grace and understanding my own sinfulness, I am not here to cast judgment on them, (God has already done that), I am here to appeal to every married couple (especially Christian couples) to HONOR MARRIAGE!

The writer of Hebrews encourages the Christians to honor marriage among all. He tells us the high and holy value God himself places on His institution of marriage. God is the creator of marriage and He defines its purpose and meaning.

To honor marriage literally speaks of things that are costly, precious or valuable. Timios, the Greek word for honor describes that which possesses exceptional value. Do you honor marriage like this? Is your marriage precious and exceptionally valuable to you? If not, why?

The writer continues his thought from marriage to the marriage bed. It is the place where husband and wife ‘become one flesh’ and bring glory to God by being faithful to one another.

We, as husbands and wives, are to keep the marriage bed undefiled. That means we are not to contaminate, pollute, stain with impurity that sacred place of intimacy. If we do, Hebrews says God will judge! Whether you are single (sexually immoral) or married (adulterous) the call is for sexual purity in your life. We don’t want to fall in the hands of a Just and Loving God!

I hope the Ashley Madison scandal teaches us a few things. The first is we should honor marriage. Second, what is done is secret will be brought to light. Finally, keep our lives sexually pure, because God will judge!

That puts godly fear in my heart! How about you?

 

 

Summer Reading

by Phil Courson

There are many reasons to read, and to create a habit of reading. The most important reason is gaining a greater knowledge of God, a better understanding of yourself and the world in which we live. Here are some books I am reading and some I plan on reading over the summer. Let me encourage you to consider choosing one of these to read. Enjoy!

History

UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

FOR THAT ONE DAY (The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor) by Douglas Shinsato & Tadamori Urabe


Theology

THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE by John Flavel

KEPT FOR JESUS by Sam Storms


Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE by Sean McDowell, John Stonestreet

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY by Kevin DeYoung

COMPASSION WITHOUT COMPROMISE by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

 

Gifts of the Spirit

SURPRISED BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT by Jack Deere

THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THE GIFT OF PROPHECY by Jack Deere

 

Bible

The Book of DEUTERONOMY

Racial Reconciliation and the Gospel

by Phil Courson

This past Sunday, I spoke on the topic of Race and the Gospel as we continue our series on ‘Our Mission.’  The issue of race is a topic on which the Body of Christ must teach, apply and especially lead in when it comes to our culture. If we allow the media or politicians to lead in this, we as a church body have failed. The only hope for racial reconciliation is for the gospel of Jesus Christ to draw us as churches together .

Ephesians 2:1-10 speaks of our alienation from God, and because God is rich in mercy, He has saved us by His grace through faith – and not by our works. Racial reconciliation must first start with us being reconciled to God. Jesus Christ is our peace (2:14) and though we were once far off we have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:13). Jesus Christ has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (2:14). This is the message we must proclaim, but it is a message we must also demonstrate to the world.

The Apostle Paul continues that because the hostility has been abolished by Jesus, He is creating in Himself ‘one new man’ in place of the two, thus making peace and reconciling us both to God in one body through the cross.

It is the phrase ‘one new man’ that should get our attention. First, the word ‘one’ speaks of unity, those who were once divided now joined together in position and privilege. Second, consider the word ‘new.’ This is a powerful word. The Greek word is kainos and it means new in kind or quality. It means unprecedented, never heard of, never existed before. Jesus is creating a new church that has never existed before…it is a church that has Jew, Gentile, man, woman, Greek, Barbarian, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and every other ethnicity created. Third, the word ‘man.’ It speaks of something corporate, not individual.

Jesus is building His church, this ‘one new man’, and it will be something never before seen. We as members of Christ must be INTENTIONAL in building relationally with those from different backgrounds than ours. We must love and build with those who are different than us, so that God can be glorified and His church exalted.

Jarvis Williams has said, “Many churches are more committed to their ethnic heritage than to the gospel.”

My prayer is that this may never be the case with my church or me. How about you?

A New Year Diagnosis

by Phil Courson

1 Timothy 4:7-9 – “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.”

Well it is the beginning of a new year and a time to set some goals! But it is also a time to do some diagnosing your spiritual health. Paul says while bodily training is of ‘some value’ growing in godliness has value in this life and the life to come.

Donald Whitney gives us 10 questions to diagnose our spiritual health. Questions to help us see where we are and where we are going.

  • Do you thirst for God?
  • Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word
  • Are you more loving?
  • Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  • Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others
  • Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
  • Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
  • Do you still grieve over sin?
  • Are you a quicker forgiver?
  • Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?[1]

These questions are always very challenging, but they are a good source to help begin my new year on the right track. Let me encourage you to diagnose your spiritual health and set some goals to grow in godliness. It will help you in this life and in the life to come. I look forward to diagnosing my spiritual health, how about you?

 

[1] Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney

Grace Has Come

by Phil Courson

As we move toward celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas season, let us remember what has taken place – ‘GRACE HAS COME.’

GRACE is simply “GOD’S RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE! Grace is not something we earn or something we can do to get God’s approval. Grace is what we receive instead of what we deserve. Grace is 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Dan Montgomery says, “What you need isn’t a better purpose, another prayer, or one more plan for self-improvement. What you need is what we all need – to “wake up” to God’s wonderful and undeserved love. You need to wake up to the freedom and joy of what God – on his own – has accomplished for us in Jesus. What you need is grace.”

This is my prayer…that we may ‘wake up’ to grace this holiday season and beyond. That we may experience His grace everyday we walk through this life. Jesus has come to earth to reconcile us to God not by our own works, but through his shed blood on the cross. We do not have to strive or perform to receive this grace, we just simply believe that Jesus and His work was enough.

This is not a message for the lost only, but a message for every believer. We, as God’s children need the message of grace as well. It is easy for us to try and bring our sanctification or good behavior into our relationship with Jesus. When we do that it only confuses our relationship with God.

Grace is a gift…one to be cherish and enjoyed. This holiday season may we enjoy and worship the greatest gift of God’s grace His Son Jesus Christ. I know I will…how about you?

Thankfulness in the Midst of Suffering

by Phil Courson

Psalm 107:1,2a – “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”

Wow! What a week! It has been a week like no other for Kay and me as dear friends have been experiencing some heartbreaking situations. But what we have seen in the midst of these circumstances is their unfailing trust in the Lord! We hope we have been an encouragement to them, but they have been an encouragement to us as well.

I am reminded of the psalmist in Psalm 107 who details the suffering of God’s people and the sometimes deliverance from their distress. But the psalmist encourages the ‘redeemed’ to give thanks to God because He is good! Let the ‘Redeemed’ give thanks to God, for His steadfast love endures forever!

Randy Alcorn says, “Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty, but from finding yourself sustained through it. The degree of joy rises to the degree of gratitude, and the level of gratitude corresponds to the level of suffering. God’s sustaining providence always brings relief, even when life grows especially difficult.”

No matter what suffering God allows to bring into our lives, His grace is there to sustain us. God is there with His mighty hand providing strength when we can’t seem to find any inside ourselves. God is there to reveal Himself to us in a greater way.

C.S. Lewis said, “ God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

As we walk through this fallen world, we will experience many joys and victories, but we will also experience pain and suffering. When we are experiencing pain and suffering, let us respond like the Psalmist encouragement: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”

My friends have ‘said so’ and my prayer is that I will ‘say so’ the only question is How about you?

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