February 19

Written by Bill Grandi on February 19th, 2020

My title for today’s devotion is One vs Many.

It is a constant-and I mean constant-struggle to choose and to act and to serve one Master. C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T.  It seems like every time I turn around there is another god wanting my attention, wanting my worship. Jesus knew of this struggle and warned against it: “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Mt.6:24)

That verse and thought came back to me this morning as I read Zephaniah. You don’t get very far into chapter 1 before God lowers the boom on those who have chosen someone other than Him. “I will stretch out my hand…I will cut off from this place…those who bow down on the roofs to the host of heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom,  those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.” (1:4-6)

Do you see the duplicity? “They bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom.” It certainly shows a willful disobedience on their part. Swear to the Lord yet swear by Milcom. That would be like a soldier or subject swearing fealty to his king or leader but then turning around and doing the same to a foreign ruler.

One or the other. One God or many gods. Allegiance to the One or allegiance to another. The answer? “Seek the Lord…Seek righteousness; seek humility.” (2:3)  Seek to serve one one Master and be one “who will be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.” (2:3b)

“Father, the struggle is real. The choice is made difficult by my humanness. I must choose to serve only One and that would be You. Help me to seek You; to seek righteousness; and to seek humility.”

 

February 18

Written by Bill Grandi on February 18th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Try vs Never Try.

Do you remember (or maybe I’m showing my age) a man named Evil Knievel? He was a motorcycle daredevil. He probably broke more bones than I have in my whole body! Some would call him nuts. Some called him crazy. Others might be more clinical and call him “certifiable.” 🙂 I’m not adverse to any of those because NO WAY under God’s green earth would I be caught dead doing what he did. Oh…wait a minute. I would be dead. Jumping buses on a motorcycle? Not a chance. Jumping to dunk a basketball was dangerous enough. Doing loop-de-loops then taking to the air? Nope again. Claim a sky-cycle will take me from one end of an Idaho gorge to the other end. Over my dead body. Exactly!

But there is one thing you can never accuse him of: not trying. I looked up this quote by Teddy Roosevelt:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.

I don’t know if Evil used that as his motivation or not, but it sure says a lot. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all.”

As an aging pastor and as a pastor of a small church in a small town, it is easy to get cynical. To get locked into “the old ways” of doing things the way they’ve always been done. Ministry is so different in 2020 than it was in 1974. The Gospel has never changed; the methods of proclamation have. While I’m not into the attractional model (think seeker-sensitive) and performance-oriented worship services, I must realize that change happens all the time. No change=death. The way I see it if something is not anti-Scriptural and it fits the culture of my town/my setting, give it a try. If it fails, least I tried.

And God is still there.

“Father, help me not to close off You nor close off the opportunities presented to me. You just may be saying, ‘Try it Bill. Then stand back and watch Me work.’ Help me not to be old and crotchety about trying new things.”

 

February 17

Written by Bill Grandi on February 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Essential vs Nit-Picking.

There is an old adage that I learned in college and has been reinforced in me lately: “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; but in all things, love.”

I read recently of two struggling churches in a small town who decided a merger was needed. They talked but it never happened. Why? They could not agree over a phrase in the Model Prayer. One wanted “Forgive us our debts” while the other wanted “Forgive us our trespasses.” Seriously? The local paper reported one church returned to their debts and the other went back to their trespasses.

I once read awhile ago about two churches in a small town on opposite street corners. One had the name “The Original Church of God” and the other had the name “The Original Church of God #2.” Again. Seriously?

There are certain essentials we must all agree on. God: Almighty; Creator of all; Omnipotent; Omniscient; Omnipresent.  Jesus: God’s only Son; Born of a virgin; Fully God/Fully man from birth. Savior of the world who died on a cross and rose physically from the grave. The Holy Spirit: third member of the Trinity; Christ in me, the hope of glory; purpose is to draw attention to Jesus not Himself. We are all sinners and need salvation. We are saved by grace through faith.  Jesus is returning someday. That is a scaled-down version.  Those are essentials.

Opinions are those things which are not related to salvation. Clothing. Music. Tattoos. Many others. Those things the Bible does not speak for or against directly. People pick fights over the silliest and often the stupidest things. Things that don’t and won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. “In opinions, liberty.”

But to split and leave a church or a friendship or to split over an opinion? To pout and whine and rally the troops over an opinion? “In all things, love.”

It is one thing to hold to the truths and major issues set forth in Scripture. It’s another thing to pick fights over every jot and tittle or personal preference. Maybe its time we look deeper inside our heart and see if we are one of those who majors in minors and minors in majors. Maybe it is time for us to revisit the words in Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“Father, help me not to be one who nit-picks. Help me to know what is true in Your Word-an essential. Help me to allow for different opinions. And in that, to always show love.”

 

February 14/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on February 14th, 2020

Aaaaah. What’s that sound I hear? Oh yeah.  Love. Love is in the air. But that is not the point of my devotion today.

In the past I have not been kind to the OT. The conviction was so strong that several weeks ago I apologized to the church before I preached a sermon the Bible.  Good thing. I would have really had to eat crow after my reading this morning-Nahum 1. WOW!!! May I ask you to stop right here and take a few minutes to read it? Then come back here please for a few of my thoughts/highlights.

Thanks. You’re back. 🙂

  1. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God…slow to anger and great in power. (2-3)  I like the balance this gives. Jealous and avenging but He doesn’t fly off the handle at first provocation.
  2. His way is in the whirlwind and storm. (3)  No matter how alone we feel He is with us. No matter the strength of the storm He’s got us covered.
  3. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble. (7) Ditto. See #2.
  4. It is good to be a harbinger of the good news. (v.15)

I read one chapter today. My practice has been to read several. But I’ve also told people to read until you sense God’s Word pressing its truth on your heart. I did that this morning.

“Father, what powerful truth I read about YOU. Help me now not to just read this, but to believe and apply it. Thank you for being YOU.”

My apologies this is posted so late. I was almost done and I must have hit a key that deleted everything. It was time to leave the house after that.  And yes, that is smoke you are seeing from my ears.

 

 

 

February 13

Written by Bill Grandi on February 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Slave vs Free.

For some odd reason I woke up this morning thinking-of all things-about the commercials that play on TV around Christmas time. Weird I know. There is one about neglected pets and for $19/month you can…I can’t even remember the initials of the organization. The person doing the voiceover sounds like she has just come from 5 funerals (‘course that is what they want). I’m cynical though. “Save the animals but kill the babies.” Sorry. No can do, so no money to you. There there are those which choke me up. St. Jude and kids with cancer. Those wipe me out.

Here’s a thought: why are we not seeing commercials about girls, boys, children, women, men caught in sex trafficking? Why are we not seeing those, who like Rachel Hollander, are being sexually abused by “trusted” adults? Why not more commercials on those who are slaves (addicted) to alcohol, gambling (and hurt the online betting on sports?), opioids, and porn (a multi-million dollar industry)?

Slavery to any evil is ugly. I know of pets who have been rescued and then adopted who never get out of their “cage.” They forever cringe. They forever snarl. They are forever aggressive. They have separation anxiety. They forever act like they are still in the cage.

People in slavery is worse than any animal. Who can they trust? The military vet with PTSD? The abused child? The one caught in a web of deceit and lies that hold him/her down? I can go on and on. I’m listening to a podcast right now (Hole in My Heart-Episode 110) of a woman who was groomed at 18 and a slave until she broke out at 26. Heart-wrenching.  Convicting.

One of my favorite songs we sing is “No Longer Slaves.” It is also the favorite song of one our ladies. I know why. My heart reaches out to those who are still enslaved and chained to their past and even their present.

My ending will be different this morning. A short prayer then a video. “Father, You promised freedom. Set me free from my chains, from those things which enslave me. I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

The video.

 

February 12

Written by Bill Grandi on February 12th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Future: Reward vs Destruction.

As a pastor of 45+ years, I think one of the questions I have been asked the most is “Why do the unrighteous prosper and I, who is trying to follow God, don’t?” (or some variation of that).  It certainly is a conundrum when godly people watch as those who use, abuse, take advantage of, disregard, persecute, or run over others appear to get ahead.

I read that residents of some communities in Michigan’s UP are living in danger. In years past, thriving towns-like Negaunee, Iron River, and Marquette-grew up around the great iron mines that fueled the economy. These mines are huge caves carved beneath the surface of the earth so the ore could be taken out. But many of the timbers which supported these caverns are rotting and if/when they give away giant holes will develop and everything above will collapse.

My point is simple. While people may look at those who “seem” to have it all-with disdain or maybe even envy-one truth remains, it will collapse. All they have is a house of cards, and that house of cards will fall. With rotting foundations, their house won’t make it. In the end, they will have nothing. For further reference check out Matthew 7:24-27.

It is easy to find yourself questioning-wondering even-why them and not me? But their end is destruction.  It is much better to have little but have Jesus than to have much and not have Jesus. Hold fast. Stay strong!  Put your eyes on His prize! Build a solid foundation, one that will not collapse like a house of cards in the wind.

“Father, the lesson is for me also. Help me not to look longingly at what others have but to build my house on You. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You.”

 

February 11

Written by Bill Grandi on February 11th, 2020

I wish I was alone in this. I wish I was the only one who experienced this. I wish it was an isolated case and it died with me. I’ve done it (sadly and ashamedly) and had it done to me. I’ve seen it done to others as well.

What is it?  Well, let me give you two Scriptures and see if you can figure it out:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. James 3:1-2

And I’m suspecting you know of the ensuing words related to the tongue (a further commentary on verse 2). I also hope you can see my quandary. We are quick to judge and criticize, to put down and to sweep aside someone who stumbles BUT forget to look into our own mirror and to check our tongue.

Nobody’s perfect…making mistakes, or stumbling is a fact of life. We all do it. What we don’t need is someone pinning us down, stepping on us, criticizing us, judging us or body-slamming us, all while forgetting they are sinners, mistake-makers too. The air of superiority some develop is just as sinful as what and who they are pointing their fingers at. Sounds a bit Pharisaical to me.

Instead of shooting someone down-especially with our tongue-maybe we ought to harness our judgment gun and empty our bullets.  Maybe an effort to assist and to pick them up would be more in order. If we did that, more people would not need bullet-proof vests that cover their hearts.

“Father, help me to be so careful in my judgment of others. Instead of shooting them down or even pinning them while are down, help me to holster my gun and lend a hand to get up.”

 

February 10

Written by Bill Grandi on February 10th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Prayer: Posture vs Attitude.

I had a different kind of weekend than I normally have, and definitely different than I had planned. An upsetting weekend. An interrupted weekend. A tearful weekend. An angry weekend. A heart-wrenching weekend. A praise-filled weekend. An encouraging weekend.

Sounds a little schizophrenic doesn’t it? At times I felt like it. See…it wasn’t all at once. Obviously. If it was you probably would be visiting me in a facility. No…it came in waves. To be more specific would be to give away confidences so I can’t do that. Just suffice it to say the weekend was one that tested my stability, my emotions, my foundation, and even my faith. But I learned this:

Tears are a language God understands.

Hopes. Fears. Disappointments. Joy. Laughter. Reality. Emotions. Highs. Lows. Good. Bad.

I learned again that like worship, prayer is 24/7. I wasn’t formally on my knees all weekend long but, I was on my knees. I didn’t have my head bowed all weekend long, but I did have my head bowed. As I read recently:

Prayerfulness is not an event; it is a way of being in relationship with God.

I preached yesterday on worship, emphasizing how worship is not categorized as a 1-2 hour block during the week, but a 24/7/365 commitment where God invades every part of my world. Prayer is to be the same way. I may have not been in prayer “formally” this weekend, but I can say I was in prayer this weekend. And there will be more.

“Father, thank you for being with me this past weekend. Through all events You were there. I sensed it. Help me to continue learning to practice Your presence in all things, even if that does not include a formal stop-and-pray action.”

 

February 7/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on February 7th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Feast vs Famine.

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land-not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.” Amos 8:11-12

I read those verses this morning during my Quiet Time. Then I read this:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. Herbert Caen in San Francisco Chronicle

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you are not seeking the Lord, the devil is seeking you.” I believe I’d go on record as saying whether I am or not, the enemy is seeking me.

I am most vulnerable to the enemy when I am not seeking God, when I am being hit-or-miss in my approach, and especially when there is a famine in my heart for the Word. For me, this early morning time is vital. It keeps the famine away; it keeps the lion at bay; and helps to start my day with a quick step, energy for the battle ahead, and a desire to seek God.

“Father, no matter what goes on in my life, may this early morning time never lose it mystique, never lose it luster, never lose its draw for me to seek You.”

 

February 6

Written by Bill Grandi on February 6th, 2020

I’m not an OT scholar by any stretch. I’m not in my office where I can consult my commentaries or investigate things further. I’m at my kitchen table where I am most every morning with just my Bible, my journal and several other aids to use during my Quiet Time. Oh yeah…and the Holy Spirit. 🙂  And I’m trying to make sense of something I read this morning in Amos. A couple observations:

  1. In chapter 4 the phrase “yet you did not return to me” appears several times (6,8,9,10,11). Each time that statement follows God’s judgment by an act on Israel. “I gave you lack of bread.” “I withheld rain.” “I struck you with blight and mildew.” etc. It seems to me that God has done these things to bring them back to Himself. He even says, “Therefore I will do this to you…prepare to meet your God.”
  2. In chapter 5 two statements  grabbed my attention. “Seek good and not evil…Hate evil and love good.” (14,15) But a little later in the same chapter He tells them He hates-despises- their outward displays (21-23).  He even tells them He will send them into exile. (27)

I think it is safe to say God is not happy with the conduct and outward show of Israel! 🙂  They did not respond to His harsh treatment (ch.4) and He is not happy with their outward display, which I take it is mere hypocrisy.

That definitely got me to thinking of me. Have I missed God’s “hammer/chisel” on my life? And has my life/is my life simply one of outward display-of going through the motions-instead of heartfelt surrender and worship?

“Father, You are serious about following You. Sometimes you get my attention through tough times; sometimes through judgment. You certainly aren’t happy with my lack of ‘heart’ that I sometimes bring to the table. May my life be a sincere effort to follow You.”