October 19/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on October 19th, 2019

My title for this is Listening First vs Speaking First.

It seem this past week has been the week to write and concentrate on speech, on what comes out of the mouth. I read Proverbs 18 & 19 together and chapter 18 goes with that flow.

There’s a saying when speaking about James 1:18 where it says we ought to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.”  They say, “God has given us two ears and one mouth. There’s a reason for that.” After reading Proverbs 18, I see that even more. LISTEN:

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”  (6-7)

“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (8)

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (13)

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (15)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (21)

“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity, than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” (19:1)

You get the point. I certainly do. It is time to listen better and speak less.

“Father, help me to heed my own words. Help to listen better, even listen twice as much as I speak. And when I speak, let them be words of life.”

 

October 17

Written by Bill Grandi on October 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Telling the Truth vs Blowing Doors Off.

No matter what men may say; no matter how blustery they get; no matter how often a person might say, “Tell me the truth;” there are times hearing the truth is hard to take…especially when it is delivered by the wrong person or mean-spiritedly. I have met people who take pride in “telling it like it is” and I honestly don’t mind that. But sometimes that person just doesn’t know how to say it.

Receiving it is often not any easier to take. No matter how vocal the person is-“Tell me straight out”- important words are often accepted like fingernails on a chalkboard (you do remember what those are don’t you?).  Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Truth delivered in the right spirit to a person’s heart that is receptive to that truth is a good thing. The man of understanding- as Proverbs describes him- accepts the truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but the man of understanding grasps its intent. I’ve been on the receiving end of some much-needed reproof. Someone being honest with me, confronting me about something I’ve said or done. Hearing it is not fun, but essential.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and even harder to accept. But if it is from God, then I need to hear it. I can be obstinate and stubborn (the rest of 17:10 call that being a fool), or accepting and grateful someone loved me enough to tell the truth.

“Father, this all depends on the state of my heart also. Will I accept the reproof/rebuke or reject it? Help me not to be obstinate or too proud to hear what you are saying to me.”

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Today is Braden’s 13th birthday. Jo and I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. Interesting I should read this today from Proverbs 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (v.6a).  Not too thrilled about the aged part, 🙂 but absolutely excited and thrilled by the grandson/grandfather part. “Lord, you know the prayer I began praying the moment I heard Janna was pregnant. Please hear my heart and bring it to fruit.”

The being said, I will not be posting tomorrow morning as we will be spending the night in Ohio; I will not have a computer; and we are bringing him back for the weekend so Tami can see him. Prayers for safe travel are appreciated.

 

October 16

Written by Bill Grandi on October 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Steps vs God’s Plan.

Like every child, I was often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (I was just asked that the other day.  Hmmmmm.  I kid. 🙂 )  I started playing baseball when I was 8 years old. There was no such thing as T-ball or coach pitch back then. I fell in love with baseball and from someone who knew nothing at all about the sport, I developed into a decent pitcher and first baseman. I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  Later, sometime around my 7th-8th grade years I remember reading a series of books on an untameable horse on an island and told my dad I wanted to be a rancher. He laughed. I grew up near Pittsburgh, the land of steel mills not horses. 🙂  Then I got into basketball in 9th grade and didn’t know how to even dribble a basketball, let alone dribble and run at the same time. I spent endless hours on the side of the court leaning how. But practice and hard work got me to a decent place. So much so I wanted to play professional ball. That would have never happened. College was the end of that. My mom used to say when all the other boys were talking policeman, fireman, heavy equipment operator or some other “hero” job, I expressed an interest in being a pastor. Well, I guess we know how my “when-I-grow-up” scenario turned out!

I thought of that when I read two verses from Proverbs 16 today. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (v.3) and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (v.9).

I guess we know whose way won out! My steps were established by God…not me. All those dreams of grandeur as a child were good, but in the end, they were just pipe dreams. From before my birth, eternity was stamped on my heart by God’s indelible hand print. He told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” (1:5)

God chose Jeremiah. God chose me. God chose you. God ordered Jeremiah’s steps. God ordered (and still is) my steps. God ordered (and still is) your steps. Jeremiah was His. I am His. You are His. How much better to say, “Have your way Lord” than to say, “I’m going my own way Lord.”

“Father, I’m fulfilling Your purpose for me. It wasn’t in sports or some other pursuit. I’m being and doing what You want. You plan is better.”

 

October 15

Written by Bill Grandi on October 15th, 2019

I’m less than a day removed from cataract surgery in one eye (the other comes next Monday). I go back today for an exam and they will pop out the right lens of my glasses. I’m guessing that will help with the blurred vision.  So, that’s my excuse for errors in my typing today.  🙂

My  title for today’s devotion is Encouragement vs Discouragement.

“And seldom is heard and discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That’s a refrain from a cowboy song of yesteryear: Home, Home on the Range. It is, of course, sort of a Pollyanna song and view of life. It’s simply not possible to go through life without some discouragement.

But…I can go a long way toward not being part of that discouragement simply by watching what I say. Today’s devotion is a bit of a piggyback of yesterday’s on speaking too quickly (losing our temper) vs allowing time between what happens and our words. Today’s has more to do with what I say. Are the words I say encouraging someone or discouraging someone?

Proverbs 15:26b says, “…but gracious words are pure.”  Verse 30 adds, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.”  Those verses tell me my reaction to others and events and their response, is largely determined by the way it is presented. That also reminds me that what I say is important but the way  I say it is equally important. Some questions flood my mind. Do I pass along good words? Kind words? Gracious words? Or do I pass along words that sting and hurt and are like barbs to a person’s soul? Are my words encouraging or discouraging someone? Do they rejoice someone’s heart and refresh someone’s bones?

Some people seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Do my words ease that burden or do they add to it and make it heavier? There is no doubt in my mind what and which words the Father would have me use and share.

“Father, may my words be those which lift other’s up. May they be words which echo Proverbs 15:30 and lift a heart and refresh the bones. Let my words today be words of encouragement and not discouragement. To put it another way: let them be words of life.”

 

October 14

Written by Bill Grandi on October 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is InstaPot vs Slow Cooker.

One of Jo’s favorite kitchen gadgets is her InstaPot. I’m not a kitchen aficionado by any stretch, but she has explained it to me as a gadget that speeds up the cooking process so that what would take multiple hours to cook can actually be cooked in a fraction of the time. That’s the dumbed-down version for me.  🙂

Now, that is in contrast to the slow cooker or what is called a crock pot. A slow cooker is designed to do just that: to slow cook food. This is one of Tami’s favorite ways to cook. Put something in the slow cooker before you leave for school/work; put it on a timer or on low; and when you come home at the end of the day it is hot and done. Tender. Moist. Same result as the InstaPot but it takes much longer.

That came to mind as I read Proverbs 14:17 this morning: “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and man of evil devices is hated.” It is that first part that stuck out to me. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen people “lose it” and cause all kinds of havoc when, as they say, cooler heads would have prevailed. Battles have been fought; wars have been waged; churches have been split; relationships have been ruined all because someone could not keep their temper in check.

I once had a lady tell me, when I questioned her about her temper, that “people know where I stand and so I say what I got to say and then its over.”  I’d seen the devastation she left behind so I told her, “Yeah. Just like a bomb. You explode and leave all kinds of destruction in your wake.” Yeah…she wasn’t very happy with me. But least she didn’t blow up all over me.

Quick tempers; letting people know how you feel; indiscriminately blowing up; that’ s not good. Proverbs 14 says it is acting foolishly. And who likes to be called a fool? Stay under control. Guard that temper.

“Father, there are different reasons why people lose their temper. Help me not to be one of those people. Help me to keep my emotions and my reactions under control. Your control!”

 

October 10-11/Weekend Extra

Written by Bill Grandi on October 12th, 2019

I was in Ohio the past couple of days and didn’t take my computer so I am using my journal entry from Thursday morning to be my entry for this weekend.

My title for this devotion is Holy Speech vs Vulgar Speech.

I’ve been hit two ways this morning. First, in my Scripture reading from Proverbs 10: 11 & 19- “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

Then as I sat waiting for Jo while she was taking care of some things, I was listening to my Spotify playlist and “Only a Holy God” by CityAlight came on.

I know I’m from the older generation (you know how it pains me to say that?  🙂 ), especially as a pastor, so what I’m thinking comes from that perspective. I have noticed some common characteristics of the younger generation of pastors. They seem to be a generation (and I am making a general statement here) that loves their beer (especially); loves their cigars or pipes; and loves to use salty language. Not all but many. There was some of that in my generation, to be sure, but it seems more acceptable and widespread today. I’m not judging someone who wants to down a beer or two or smoke a cigar or pipe (I have done neither), but I’m more concerned about the words that flow from the mouth, sometimes indiscriminately. I  keep thinking of James’ words in chapter 3: “Can blessing and cursing come from the same mouth? My brothers these things should not be.” I’m not young and Many younger pastors seem to be taking the freedom in Christ and His grace a little too lightly. In my mind and heart, vulgarity has no place in the pulpit or even in everyday language. And even though it is not considered vulgar or blasphemous, I cringe every  time I hear the word “sucks” or “screwed” in conversation, let alone from the pulpit. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe godly speech is or ought to be one of the hallmarks of a man of God. I reiterate: I’m referring to a pastor or someone who feels God’s calling on his life.

And lest it be perceived I’m only shouting at those who cuss or swear, how about those of us who gossip? Or belittle? Or those who shade our words with sexual innuendo? Or criticize? Or (fill in the blank)? And so yes, I’m including myself. My speech in total reflects my heart and who controls it.

“Father, may my speech be that which builds up and encourages rather than tear down. May it glorify You in all ways and in all things. As the song says and Ecclesiastes 5:2 repeats: “Let my words be few.” All for You and for Your glory.”

Here is the CityAlight song that got to me.

 

October 9

Written by Bill Grandi on October 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Humility vs Privileged.

Today is my 67th birthday. I am grateful God has blessed me with 67 years-so undeserving, so unworthy. I’m reading through Ecclesiastes right now and even though I’ve never had all that Solomon had, I still feel like I’m reading my biography. For many years I thought I was “all that and more.” Not that I stated that. I didn’t. I pretended humility. I pretended having it all together. But underneath the surface I thought was something special. Eventually though, as Jesus said, what comes out is what is in the heart. My true colors came out and not only was it ugly, it made me want to vomit. How much better it would have been to see myself as “The Preacher” saw himself…eventually. He tried everything under the sun (which I truly haven’t), but finally realized all that mattered was His Creator.

Paul put it another way. In 2 Corinthians 4 he speaks of being jars of clay, of being earthen vessels. That is a stark contrast to the shiny plates, cups, saucers, and dishes we have today. Clay is made of the earth and there is nothing attractive about it. It is dull, drab, and doesn’t catch the eye at all. Unless, of course, the potter does something with it.

I can’t help but wonder the difference if I had seen myself as that all along. Instead of this shiny, glossy, “I’m-for-myself” kind of person, what a difference if I’d seen myself as a simple vessel only worth something because the Master Potter has made me and is using me that way. I saw this quote as I read this morning:

If God could not use poor instruments and feeble voices, He would make no music.” A.T.Robertson

“Father, today I know I’ve matured enough to see what I once was was not what You wanted. I still struggle from time to time with being my own man with the solutions. But I see more and more as I get older and more mature that I’m only a clay vessel. And that’s really all you want. Help me to exhibit humility in all I do and say. I’m not as good as I think I am; nor am I as bad as I once was. I know it sounds like a cliche’ but let me be clay in the Potter’s hands. May the next days and (possibly) years I have left-however many they may be-be useful and fruitful for You.”

If you have the time or inclination, here is an excellent post on this subject, only from a slightly different angle.

 

October 8

Written by Bill Grandi on October 8th, 2019

Countdown to D-Day (my 67th birthday) is one day. And I celebrate with a colonoscopy one day before. Go figure. Guess I didn’t plan that one very well did I? 🙂

My title for this devotion is Presence vs Absence.

One of the most devastating times is when a person feels utterly alone. It is loneliness that often drives one to despair; which is often the precursor to hopelessness. Like a series of stacking bricks or a landslide of falling rocks, that hopelessness often leads to an utter lack of desire to live; which can lead a person to contemplate, or maybe even act, upon taking their life. I have never felt that alone, although there have been times I have wept uncontrollably and pounded my fist (on something soft) out of the sheer weight of my circumstances. I’m not sure there is something much more devastating than losing a job (being told to leave) when one has a wife, 2 young children around ages 8 & 4, and then again at the ages of 12 and 8.

Please understand: I am not seeking sympathy nor am I trying to justify anything. Frankly, it was my own pride and arrogance that got me into those messes. But even though I was going through those valleys, and can now see more clearly after going through them, I can say I know one thing: God’s presence was always…ALWAYS…with me. To be honest, I had nowhere else to go. My mess = my cleanup = real trouble. I NEEDED His presence to steer me straight.

My thoughts were piqued today as I continue reading John Piper’s short devotional book on Christmas (yes I am already reading in preparation for that season) called The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. He writes this:

‘Jesus came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps His promises. Christmas means God can be trusted’ (p.32)…’Say to the next generation again and again: God is truthful; God keeps His Word; God does not lie; God can be trusted! (p.33)

One of His promises I learned was the reality of His presence. He promised He will be with me to the end. He promised He will never leave or forsake me. He promised His presence. ALWAYS. To that I cling.

“Father, thank you for being truthful. Thank you for keeping your promises. I look back with 20/20 and see you were always there. I cling to that promise even today!”

 

October 7

Written by Bill Grandi on October 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Purity vs Promiscuity.

Not too long ago all the rage were purity rings. Dad would buy them for their daughters; have a ceremony; give them the rings; and get them to pledge purity until marriage. Even some celebrities who shall remain nameless and whose purity went the way of the dodo bird, took the vow and stated so publicly. It was a good idea-on the surface-but unless the heart of the individual was committed to it, the ceremony and the ring was just that-a ceremony and a ring.

There is no doubt we live in a sexually-charged age. Our culture is obsessed-yes I said obsessed- with sex. Even in light of the #MeToo scepter, the objectification of women has not stopped. If anything it has become even more insidious. Sin always finds the “level.” Like water which seeks its own level, so does sin, in this case, sexual sin. It was a problem in the biblical culture; it was a problem in the Corinthian church; and it remains a problem today.

Solomon knew the pull. In his own life, for sure. But he also knew the pull to his “son.” Let’s take it further- to any young man- and today we even have to include women. Proverbs 6 & 7 contain graphic descriptions of the wayward woman’s work but it also contains some vivid descriptions of the one who is caught. They are found in 7:22-23:

  • An ox goes to slaughter.
  • A stag caught fast until an arrow hits true.
  • A bird caught in a trap.

These follow the warning of looking out for the woman with seductive speech. Smooth, buttery talk worms its way into the heart of an individual until he/she gives into something they said was preposterous, something they said “I will never do.” The solution is found in Proverbs 6:20-23. Not easy but essential. Not easy but doable.

“Father, staying pure- in mind, heart and actions- is a challenge these days of ‘anything goes.’ Help me to be pure, to stay pure, to think pure, to live pure. And help me do that by tying your Word around my heart.”

 

October 4/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on October 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Clear Conscience vs Guilty Conscience.

I’ve been reading slowly and digesting as slowly John MacArthur’s short book called Remaining Faithful in Ministry. It is subtitled “9 Essentials for Every Pastor”. There has been some very valuable information passed on (not just for pastors but for all Christ-followers). In what I read today I gleaned the following:

That is the value of keeping a pure heart (Paul’s response in 2 Cor. 1:13 to false accusations). It doesn’t matter what comes at you; if your conscience is clear, no accusation sticks. The conscience is a gift from God. It’s like a skylight or a window, not a lamp. In and of itself, it’s not a source of light, but when kept clear and illuminated by God, the conscience let’s in that light-even in a world of darkness. Conscience is an invaluable tool for revealing our true motives. A clear and biblically informed conscience will either accuse or excuse us, depending on whether we are guilty or innocent. (p.37)

That’s correct in what it says. But what if we do something so much our conscience no longer has the ability to discern right from wrong? What happens if we do something so often we are no longer able to see it as wrong?

That is a problem, but there is also a solution. It is found in a daily submission to God and His Word. It is grounded in the daily desire to be holy. Did not Jesus Himself not say, “For out of the heart comes…?” Submission on a daily basis is necessary for me to keep an active and clear conscience.

“Father, help me to find myself going to You and Your Word for my direction. May my daily strength and guidance be found in You. Please help me keep my conscience pure.”