Unimaginable Pain to Bring Incomparable Joy
I am now nearing Day 10 of my post-surgery recovery period. Having a total knee replacement is not for the faint at heart. Now, the surgery itself was not that bad – for that, I didn’t feel a thing. But afterwards, and during this current season of physical therapy…wow. Pure, blue, bright pain. The kind of pain that remains even after taking prescribed pain medication. And – as much as it hurts – I have to exercise through and in spite of this pain in order to have a new working knee that is not stiff. Yep, I have a new respect for anyone who has ever gone through this kind of rehabilitative physical therapy. It is not easy.
Now, my pain, as much as it hurts, does not compare to the sheer agony that Jesus endured on the cross. He willingly accepted not only the physical horrors of the beatings and the prolonged terror that are part and parcel to death via crucifixion. Historians have long commented on the fact that the Romans had perfected the most painful type of death ever conceived – death while hanging on a cross. They forced this death on criminals, traitors, anyone they deemed deserving. And they did it as a public event, a spectacle for all to see, bringing an impact of fear and resolve that might prevent any spectator from ever joining an uprising, for NO ONE would want their life to end that way.
Yet, Jesus, the perfect spotless Lamb of God, who broke no laws, who never mistreated a single person or uttered a solitary lie…allowed himself to be offered up on the cross, situated between two thieves. He did this for one reason – the great and undeniable love of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It was love that drove Him to become the perfect sacrifice for all men. Just as Jesus was unique in all the heavens, so His shed blood would be unique to any other sacrifice ever made. His sacrificial death was so effective that it would have the power to bring forgiveness for sin – for both the present, and the future.
He encountered this pain – WITHOUT any aid or comfort. He had no helpful medications to take the edge off that unbelievable situation. Even when He cried out for water in thirst, the Romans answered that request with a sponge filled with sour wine.
But the physical pain of the cross and the crucifixion paled in comparison to another pain that He encountered – the pain that came as His Father poured on Him, the Son, the wrath that was due to every human being as penalty for our sin and disobedience. The final, incomprehensible pain came to Jesus as the Father simply…withdrew from Jesus, leaving him alone on the cross, in agony, burdened with the debt of sin. “Father, why have you forsaken me?…” That was the ultimate pain – the loss of fellowship with His Father. But that too was a critical part of this act of love. Jesus would die on the cross – as a sacrificial lamb – shedding His blood for the remittance of our sin.
Thankfully, the story didn’t end there. For, on the third day, the Father raised Jesus up from the tomb, in resurrection power, and in so doing secured a plan of redemption that would never fade or weaken. In raising Jesus up from the grave, the good news that was purchased on the cross became the Gospel message that is at the core of every true believer alive today. John records, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12 ESV)
Today, as I press through the pain of rehab, I am encouraged to remember that He is mindful of my pain, that He is acquainted with suffering. My pain, and even my very life will pass. But I will enjoy the fruit of His pain through all eternity.
Happy Resurrection Day – He is risen….He is risen INDEED.
~ Mike Gilland
We are currently in a study on Isaiah 9:6-7, in a series called “His Name Shall Be Called.”
Isaiah’s prophetic picture of the coming Messiah makes for what is considered the most familiar Old Testament prophecy in the Bible. His compelling imagery begins with an out-and-out declaration that a child is born…born unto US!
We all understand that this is a prophetic utterance – but it is easy to not realize just how amazingly accurate his vision was, because – after all we are reading the Bible. And sometimes we lose the impact of context between the Old and New Testaments…unless we put it in different terms.
Imagine this scenario – 175 years before the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Americas (that occurred in 1492)…175 years BEFORE that voyage…in the year 1317 AD…someone in Spain prophesied. No, not about a Spaniard’s voyage to America! They prophesied – in 1317 – the details in full of Donald J. Trump’s presidential victory in the year 2016. And, they were able to nail bits of the political climate that surrounds Trump, and the nation of America today.
Wouldn’t that be mind staggering? Yes. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thing that Isaiah did.
Depending on the pinpointing of the date for Isaiah, it was 700 years before the birth of Jesus…yet – Isaiah had a CLEAR picture of His birth, and the very names by which He is known, all of which reveal to us just a bit more of His character and virtue. And, he had a compelling insight into the political atmosphere into which Christ was born.
Yes…Isaiah hit the nail on the head.
Till next time.
Mark 4:35-41 – Read this passage!
Lesson 1 – Jesus is Sovereign over Nature (Storms)
Ironically, the only place in the Gospels that we hear of Jesus sleeping is during a storm. The scene depicts his complete trust in God in the midst of adversity who trusts God’s providential working over all obstacles and adversities.
Jesus speaks a word ‘Peace be still’ and the winds die down. It shows that Jesus has authority over nature! Jesus has authority over all things!
Lesson 2 – Jesus Does Care
They accused the Lord of not caring about what they were facing. Why this doubt? After all, they had already seen His compassion and goodness in action.
Do you know what their problem was? They were looking at situations and not at the Savior. They had their thoughts on the facts and not on faith.
I just want you to know today that He does care! He cares more than you could ever know, He cares and He is doing something about the situation, even though you might not see it now.
Lesson 3 – Jesus Loves Faith, Not Fear
Faith and fear are mutual exclusives in the Bible: it was because of lack of faith that the disciples feared that they were about to drown, and so it was for lack of faith that they were rebuked. No command is more often reiterated in the Bible than the simple ‘Do not be afraid.’ Fear paralyzes us, faith trusts God.
Lesson 4 – Jesus Is to be Feared, Who Is He
When Jesus calmed the sea, they were amazed and said, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
They learned that He is the One Who is in control of every puff of wind; every angry wave and every storm.
– Can you see Jesus is over Hurricane Irma?
– Are you afraid with Irma coming? Are you trusting God?
– Do you think Jesus doesn’t care about us or what is happening?
– How can we grow in faith with Hurricane Irma coming our way?
– Pray for Trust, Peace, Faith as Irma comes our way.
– Remember: the same God that was with the disciples in the boat is with us today as we prepare to face Irma.
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.
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
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
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?
“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?
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!
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
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
The Book of DEUTERONOMY
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?