April 13

Written by Bill Grandi on April 13th, 2021

INFLUENCE

That’s the word which crosses my mind this morning.

Today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.  She never made it to 72. After being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which (at the time) mainly struck woman who were non-smokers in December of 2003, she was given a drug concoction called Iressa (spelling in question). The doctor said it should either arrest the growth of cancer or at least slow it down. She received her first treatment in January.  It sped up the cancer growth. So rather than prolonging her life, it shortened it. Dramatically. I spent the last 6 weeks of her life driving back and forth from Sandusky, OH-where I was pastoring a church at the time- to her home in West Mifflin, PA, a drive by turnpike of about 5 hours one way.

He gave her 2-4 weeks to live. At the two week mark she was put in the hospital when her breathing took a bad turn. Come to find out the oxygen machine was faulty.  She was not expected to leave the hospital. Jo and I even made a one day trip to see her.  Yeah, that was a very long day. She came home after two weeks and spent the rest of her time alive and in her home.  She lived a total of six weeks after his diagnosis and the drug treatment. I would drive to take care of her for a couple of days, then head back to Ohio to take care of church duties, then head back. I am so thankful for my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dee who left their home in Texas to take care of her during that time. We made a great tag team.

Mom would wake up from her “nap” and would say, “Oh, I’m still here.” The disappointment was on her face and in her demeanor. But eventually one evening she went home to be with Jesus. She joined her parents and others doing what she loved to do-praise the Father around the throne.

My mother was anything but perfect. Far from it. She could be obnoxiously persistent. She could be a “harper.” But she loved Jesus. She made sure I was in church the first opportunity I had. She made sure I was dedicated to God one Sunday morning when Pastor Graybill laid his hands on me and prayed a blessing over me.  (No, I wasn’t sprinkled since we didn’t practice that).  She taught me the importance of praying and reading the Bible. I can remember her getting up and meeting with me before school to read our devotions and pray together.  There was only one other person who had more influence on me as I was growing up than my mom-my grandfather…her dad.

Influence. I know someday I will be reunited with my mother and grandparents and in-laws. But in some way, I am reunited with her today as I remember her.  I love you mom and T.H.A.N.K.S. for the memories.

“And I thank You Father for the memories. May my life be an influence upon others.”

 

April 12

Written by Bill Grandi on April 12th, 2021

I grew up in church. I think I was there from the earliest time mom could bring me. Back then doctors said, “Take your child to church, the grocery store, shopping. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it will be good for them.” Exposure to the outside was seen as a good thing since they felt it helped with immunity. I can only remember one shot (although I’m sure there were more)- the polio vaccine.

We had both our girls in church and the nursery the first chance we had. Today’s parents keep their child in and away from church for the first year then won’t let them alone in the nursery. Okay so that is a slight exaggeration (6 months maybe but not a year). 🙂

But I digress.

I learned a lot growing up in the church. Like how to pray. “We thank Thee, O most Mighty and Holy One. We thank Thee…” You get the point. The more flowery the better.  In one man’s case, the longer the better…even if he repeated himself several times.

I learned as I got older that God’s not interested in long flowery prayers punctuated by a lot of King James English. He is delighted in humble hearts that give simple prayers. Matt Redman wrote a song with the lyrics: “May my words be few.” I’m guessing that pleases God. A humble heart with simple words. Not a rehearsed speech. Not a copycat of someone else. Just me and Him. Just you and Him.

“Father, may I realize what you really want is a humble heart seeking You. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just a heart wanting to speak to You.”

 

April 9

Written by Bill Grandi on April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

 

April 8

Written by Bill Grandi on April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

 

April 7

Written by Bill Grandi on April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”

 

April 6

Written by Bill Grandi on April 6th, 2021

Contentment is a good thing. Right?

Speak of contentment and eventually someone who knows their Bible will go to the verse in Timothy which says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (I Tim.6:6)

So contentment is a good thing. Right?

May I throw a wrench into your thinking? Contentment is a good thing depending on your focus and subject. Here is what I mean:

When it comes to your daily walk with Christ, I think contentment is not the goal. In fact, I think discontent is. I have a reason for saying that. Contentment gives the impression of “arrival,” a sort of settledness. It’s like the challenge has been met and now comes the “A-a-a-h” factor.

My contention is that contentment is not the goal when it comes to my walk with God. In fact, Paul said it well in Phil.3:10 when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” That word know in the Greek means “to know intimately.” That intimacy-whether in a physical relationship or a spiritual relationship-can only come from time.  Spiritually what I will call a “holy discontent.” It’s the refusal to be satisfied with the status quo but to always be pursuing a closer walk with Jesus.

Contentment in this scenario reeks of plateau. Discontent speaks of pursuit.

Which will you choose?

“Father, may I be discontented when it comes to being satisfied in You. May I always be pursuing a deeper walk with You.”

 

April 5

Written by Bill Grandi on April 5th, 2021

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it Speculation.  And since it is the day after Resurrection Sunday, let’s speculate about one of the characters of the “cross story.”

Barabbas.

Funny how no one names their child by that name. “Here is my new son. His name is Barabbas.” That is about infamous as Judas. What happened to Barabbas (B) is pure speculation.

B was the insurrectionist who was about to be executed. He was there for his evil deeds. Could it have been the third cross was actually for him? You know, the one Jesus was crucified on. Could it be he was soon to be brought out of his cell and find himself with the other two (who perhaps were cohorts)? Suddenly he hears his name called but instead of being put to death as a criminal, he is set free.

More speculation: did B follow the crowd through the streets and to the hill? Did he stay and hear the words, “Father, forgive them”? Did he hear his partner in crime ask to be forgiven and remembered and given a place in Paradise? And was he so overwhelmed that he also gave himself to the One who took his place? I don’t know. Pure speculation allows for scenarios we won’t know the answer to until another day.

What is not speculation is that Jesus went to the cross for B; for the network of evil which brought about the whole scenario; the criminals on the crosses; the people at the foot of the cross; the people clamoring for His death; for His mother, Mary; for Peter, James and John; and for me.

No speculation, just facts.

“Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the fact that Jesus died. It is not speculation. And it was for me.”

 

Weekend Addition

Written by Bill Grandi on April 3rd, 2021

I take a break on the weekend from posting my daily devotion. I still read and have my Encounter Time but unless I am “overwhelmed” I don’t even journal.  But I posted this on my other blog on Thursday and wanted to share it with you here. 

I was on my way to the office this morning (Thursday) and was listening to Kutless. I have been listening to them lately and I’m sure I heard this song but never paid much attention.

Until this morning.

I realized how pertinent it was given the meaning of this whole week. The day we honor tomorrow (Good Friday). The day we celebrate on Sunday (Resurrection).

And the ache we have in our hearts for those we know and/or love who have continued to push Jesus away.  I know I do.  I offer this to you to be encouraged to not stop praying and hoping. It is never too late until that last breath is breathed. Until then…

Here is the song.

 

April 2

Written by Bill Grandi on April 2nd, 2021

Motives. Mention the word and you can see people twitch.

There are those who want to question the motives of everyone. Let’s call them the Challengers. They want to call into question “the why and the wherefore” of all things and all people. They trust no one.

There are those who criticize. Let’s call them the Criticizers. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say they are an offshoot of the questioner. Every deal is analyzed and criticized. They see a hidden agenda behind every curtain.

There are those who never question. Let’s call them the Oblivious. Or maybe the Gullible. They tend to fall for things hook, line, and sinker. They never ask a question or wonder why. Naive even fits here.

With this week being what is called Holy Week, and today being “Good Friday” (I guess “good” depends on your perspective), one man stands out. Judas. What was his motive? There are some stated in the previous devotion. But motive rises to the top.,

David was once challenged about his motives. He went to visit his brothers and while he was there Goliath challenged the armies of Israel. They all ran. David asked why no one would fight that uncircumcised Philistine. Eliab, David’s brother, chastised him and accused him of arrogance.

I honestly believe David’s motives were pure. He went there at his father’s behest to check on his brothers and to take food to them. Nothing scandalous. But to Eliab? Whoa!! For the whole story check out 1 Samuel 17, especially verses 28-30.

How often have I jumped to conclusions and made judgments about people and their motives?  I don’t like it when people question mine. Why would I think it is okay to judge another’s? Only God sees the whole picture. I must remember: I cannot judge what I do not know.

“Father, help me to lay aside my preconceived ideas and judgments and keep my thoughts to myself, especially when I have no proof. Help me to leave the judging up to You.”

 

April 1

Written by Bill Grandi on April 1st, 2021

Today is typically known as “April Fool’s Day.” We play pranks on people. Oh, I can remember trying to catch people off-guard with crazy, wild-eyed stories. Or coming up to someone who is afraid of spiders or snakes and playing on that fear. Most of it was innocent (but juvenile) fun.

When you think of someone in the Bible whom you might call a fool, who comes to mind? Solomon talks about fools a lot in Proverbs. We could add in Ecclesiastes as giving us a picture of a fool, one pursuing the here and now and finding it empty.  Paul says at one point that he is a “fool for Christ’s sake.” A totally different meaning.

One person? My vote goes to Judas. His is a baffling case. Follower of Jesus for 3 years. Endued with power to heal the sick, cast our demons, etc like all the others. (Luke 9) He saw Jesus do miracles-feed the 5000, calm the storm, raise the dead, and more-over the 3 years he was with Jesus. He hung out with the boys. Late night campfires. Early morning brisk walks.  Rousing discussions about the religious leaders.

We also know he loved money. He loved power. Deadly combination. When Mary anointed Jesus he protested. But as John says only because he liked to dip his hand into the till and help himself.

He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. Not much, even in those days. We gain some insight into Judas when we realize he never called Jesus “Lord.” At the last meal when Jesus predicted His betrayal, Judas calls Him “Rabbi.” In the Garden he calls Him “Teacher.”  Never Lord. That should tell us something. He followed but never surrendered.

Fool. Ooops, what does that say about me? Follow but fail to surrender. Hmmm. Fool seems to fit me as well.

“Father, help me not to be like Judas. Help me to cast aside the ‘fool’ label and commit to following You as my ‘Lord.’ ”