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Long Before The Pilgrims

by Mike Gilland

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!

Yesterday, we were privileged to gather one more time with our family, sitting around our table and offering thanks for another year.  While some of our family members weren’t here, their place in our hearts were very present.  And we all have SO much for which to be thankful…for our country, for our families and most of all, for the fact that our Savior went to Calvary and paid the debt that we owed, opening up the way for us to live with Him eternally.

He is the Lord, worthy of all our praise, and the object of all our thanksgiving.

Till next time.

~ Mike Gilland

The Treasure of a Submitted Heart

by Mike Gilland

James 4: 7 contains a phrase that is one of the most quoted passages of Scripture …”Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”  This phrase is preached by most every preacher, in every church, regardless of the denomination.

But – the beginning place for verse 7 does not start in this phrase.  The major concept in this verse is NOT our resisting the devil.

The rightful emphasis for this verse – and for this entire passage of verses 7 through 10 – is the FIRST phrase in the verse, not the second.  It is in the primacy and importance in our SUBMITTING to God.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God…”

Anytime you see the word “therefore” in the Bible, it is wise to ask – “What is that there…for?”  In this case – it is a direct reference back to verse 6.  In that verse, we are warned that God ACTIVELY OPPOSES THE PROUD, but gives grace to the humble of heart.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God…”

The Greek word for submit is hypotasso.  It is a military term – it refers to the process of alignment of troops in a war, all under the general order and command of the divisional leader.

It carries the implications that the person who submits is one who obeys, is arranged UNDER another, one who yields their will to another.

James puts this phrase ahead of the second phrase with great purpose…for one can ONLY resist the devil – – if one is submitted to God.

When it comes to the devil – our adversary, our enemy – two mistakes are often made.

  1. We give him too much credit.
  2. We give him too little credit.

Let’s take just a moment, and look at these two options.

      1.   The problem with the first is that we can end up living like the devil is on an equal playing field wit h God.  This produces a great fear, in which we assign the devil attributes that are only found in God alone.  We can fall into thinking that the devil is omniscient, omnipresent, and even omnipotent.

Truth is – he is none of the three.

He is NOT all-knowing…
He is NOT ever-present…
He is NOT all-powerful…

The devil presents himself as Jesus described in His conversation with Peter, in 1 Peter 5:8 – where He said the “devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

That is such a fitting picture – the devil wants us to believe that, like the lion, he is the king of the jungle, the top of the food chain.

But he isn’t.  He too, though he doesn’t like it, is submitted under God.

        2.  The second mistake is that we give TOO LITTLE awareness to the enemy.

This error is equally serious, and may well lead us into a deception that is deadly to our souls.

Jesus warned the disciples that it only took a little leaven – to leaven the whole lump.  Our hearts don’t have to fall far from God – before we open ourselves up to trouble.  When we “lean into” temptation, even just a bit, we often wind up in that problematic situation.

How can we avoid both pitfalls?  How can we effectively successfully resist the devil and see him flee?

By this – and ONLY by this – by SUBMITTING OURSELVES…our hearts, our lives, our will, our desires…to God.  Only in doing this will we have the power to resist the enemy’s advances into our lives.

Till next time.

Mike Gilland

Unimaginable Pain to Bring Incomparable Joy

by Mike Gilland

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

Our new teaching series.

by 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.



A Devotion During Hurricane Irma

by Phil Courson

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.

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?