January 24

Written by Bill Grandi on January 24th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Pagan vs Me.

First, the words:

“I make a decree, that in all my royal people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he makes signs and wonders in heaven and earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of lions.”

My original plan was to write the words and ask you who said it but some of the lines gave it away.  🙂  It is from Daniel 6:26-27.

What struck me, and the note I wrote in my margin is “From the mouth of a pagan.” Then I turned the searchlight on myself and said, “Him not me?” My mind also turned to Jesus’ words. As He entered Jerusalem the donkey and the people were shouting Hosanna and laying down palm branches, the religious leaders told Him to tell the people to (basically) shut up. Jesus’ words? “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Lk.19:40)

Daniel praised God for his deliverance. The pagan king Darius did in his decree. The people of Jerusalem did. Even the stones will. What about me? Will I be one who lets others do what I should do or will I praise Him myself? Will you?

“Father, praise for your goodness and greatness should come from me not from someone else, especially a pagan. Certainly not creation (although it does). May sincere, heart-felt worship come from my lips and my heart today.”

 

January 23

Written by Bill Grandi on January 23rd, 2020

Update: Alexander did have surgery. The doctor said they would do nothing if they found no way to do the surgery. We are praising the Lord for this! The surgeon said he was optimistic. Thank you for praying and please continue.

My title for this devotion is Lesson Learned vs Lesson Ignored.

Have you noticed how often we have events happen to us but we ignore the obvious lesson? We go on our merry way as though what happened has no significance to us.

Take, for example, my reading this morning. King Nebuchadnezzar has already seen how God blessed Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It started with their “education.” Then he had seen S, M, & A survive the fiery furnace. But still it was not enough. He even made a decree that anyone who speaks against the God of S, M, & A would be torn limb from limb and their house laid in ruins. (3:29) He even praised God to the people. (4:1-3)

Please tell me then what possessed him-after having a dream and Daniel interpreting it for him (unfavorably for the king)-to arrogantly get up one morning and proudly proclaim his state of mind (“Look at all I have”). He ignored all the lessons along the way and thought that he was all that and more. The dude got too big for his britches!

But what would posses him to do this- besides the fact the Scripture says, “The heart is desperately wicked”? For the same reason I do: I think I know better. Or I simply forget. OR I don’t want to learn! I become oblivious to the lessons. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to knowledge.” There are lessons to be learned in all things, but I have to be willing to see them. I have to be willing to see them, apply them, and take heed.

No lesson-good or bad-should ever be wasted. They should never go unheeded. They are in front of me not to ignore but to learn.

“Father, each day lessons come from You. Sometimes they are good; sometimes they are warnings. But good or bad they are never to be wasted. Help me to apply my heart and hear Your words.”

 

January 22

Written by Bill Grandi on January 22nd, 2020

My thoughts are focused this morning (I wrote this at 4:15) on Alexander, and by proxy, Jimmy, Christine, Eliza and Isabella. (Ryan and I went at 5:15 but had to leave at 8:30 because of a previous commitment Ryan had. I am typing this at 11:16 and they took Alexander at 10:40 and expect it to last 3-4 hours. I will let you know when I know something. Thanks so much for praying for him).  “Oh Father, I pray for Alexander during  this exploratory and possibly life-changing surgery. Be with the eyes and hands and minds of the doctors and nurses as they work. I pray for an alternative for his heart, but if it is not to be, I pray for grace for Jimmy and Christine. Either way I pray You will be glorified, that You will be given honor and this will be a testimony to you. And I pray for Alexander-that no matter the outcome You will use him for Your glory. Now and in the future.”

Tonight we meet with a young lady named Katherine and her family to pray over her and anoint her with oil. She is 13 and has had Lyme disease since she was 3. (She went 2 years with it misdiagnosed). She is out of remission right now and it is raining havoc in her teenage body. We meet tonight in accordance with James 5:14-15. It started with me visiting them; then I wanted to include Ryan (since she is part of the youth group); then I wanted to include the elders/leaders. I’m praying for healing. Medicine and the medical community says there is no cure for this. Maybe so. But I serve a God who is bigger than that, One who can do more than I or anyone can imagine. It may not be His will to completely heal her. But I don’t know that. I’m called on to pray in faith believing He will heal her.  I refuse to doubt God’s power and sovereignty. I do know Katherine, her mom and dad (Becca and Rob); her grandma (Joyce) all belong to God. She has a sister, Ally, who loves Jesus. She also has two young brothers, James and Robbie, who love Jesus as they know Him. We will pray tonight believing in God’s healing power.

One last thought:Pr.22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” May my life be an expression of God working in and through me with more concern for Whom I represent than what I can get out of it. May I labor for Him and not for wealth or earthly gain and appeal.

 

January 21 Interruption

Written by Bill Grandi on January 21st, 2020

I’m going to set aside my regularly scheduled devotion for one of much greater importance. I’m going to ask you to read this all the way through…please.  And please know I received permission from Christine to write this and to post the pictures.

This is Alexander Chambers:

How can you not fall in love with this little guy?  Alexander is 20 months old. Let me tell you his story. His mom & dad, Jimmy and Christine (see family portrait at the end of this post), were told during her pregnancy that Alexander would be born with a birth defect (sorry don’t know the medical name) which would affect his heart. They are heroes to me. The thought of abortion NEVER crossed their mind. He wasn’t very old when he had his first heart surgery. After his birth he spent quite a bit of time in Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.  He finally got to come home to his two sisters but the past year and a half has been an adventure. Like all kids he has had his share of colds, sniffles, etc but they seem to be more frequent…and last longer. But that has not stopped him! He is as rambunctious as any 20 month old little boy.

Alexander’s heart is not a normal heart. His left artery that feeds the heart is totally closed. That means he is not getting any oxygen to his heart from his left side. If that cannot be corrected he will always have restrictions on what he can do physically. No sports. No normal activities which require physical exertion. He understands now that when he tires he must stop and rest. An exploratory procedure several months ago showed that. Since then he has undergone a heart scan for the doctors to see if they can and should consider doing something. They had told Jimmy and Christine that they could do nothing but then said, “No. Let’s do this scan to make sure.”  The scan showed for certain the state of his left artery.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) Alexander goes into surgery to see if something can be done. 

I’m asking for prayer for Alexander. Please pray for his care during surgery. Please pray for the doctors and nurses as they work. Please pray for his mom and dad and two sisters. Please pray for God to intervene and make a way for surgery if that is His will. And pray for healing. The downside: if he does have surgery it may require up to a month or more of hospitalization which will take Christine away from her family. We prayed Sunday morning for him/for them. I asked the leaders to come up front to gather around and to pray for the family. While Christine told the folks what all was happening, Alexander came over to me and wrapped his arms around my legs and then let me hold him while I prayed (he eventually went to his mom). Little people are special to me. This guy is extra special.  I’ll keep you posted as to the result.

I, of course, do not know how tomorrow will turn out. But I truly believe (and have told Christine this) that God has a special plan for Alexander. I believe God is going to use Him and this situation to be glorified. I hope I’m around to see what He does.

Here is a picture of the whole family:

Jimmy, Christine, Alexander, Eliza, and Isabella. What a lovely family.

I may not post here tomorrow. His surgery has been scheduled several days and times and has been changed that many times. As of right now, it is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:00. He will be taken for prep at 7:30. Ryan (our youth pastor) and I will be leaving Spencer at 5:15 to be with them and pray beforehand. You can pray for safe travels for us as well. And thanks from Jimmy, Christine, Eliza, Isabella, Alexander and from me.

This has also been posted on my “Cycleguy’s Spin” blog.

 

 

January 20

Written by Bill Grandi on January 20th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Blessing vs Curse.

We use the word a lot. We use it in mundane expressions. We use it off-handedly. We use it in times of heatedness. We use it when referring to a certain food. We use it when referring to an individual.

The word? HATE.

Do I exaggerate in that first paragraph? No, I don’t think so.

  • “I hate it that that has happened to you.”
  • “I hate it when I can’t see what’s ahead.”
  • “I hate coconut…and cinnamon…and Parmesan cheese…to name a few.” 🙂
  • “I hate you.”

It is the latter which is most devastating. HATE is such a strong word. So strong I “hate” to even use it. And yes, that was on purpose. I prefer to use the phrase “I dislike it a lot” since the word hate is so strong. How devastating it is to tell someone “I hate you.” A mate to a mate. A child to a parent. A sibling to a sibling. From one person to another. There seems to be almost no finality to that word.

Not just for the user but also for the receiver. I wonder if that is what is behind the use of curses and  meaning of Pr.20:20- “If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” Sure sounds like there is a finality to that doesn’t it? It strikes me hard to realize the devastation hatred can cause. To read that a person’s lamp goes out. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people so miserable because of hatred. They can’t hardly breathe a kind word about anybody. I read a good quote today that sort of sums it up: “Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” Hatred solves nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. It does nothing good. It ruins lives. It ruins homes. It ruins outlooks. It ruins relationships. the list is endless what it ruins.

IT NEEDS TO STOP…..N.O.W!!!

“Father, search my heart. If there is hate please cut it out. Reveal that blackness in my heart and perform surgery on me. Cleanse me and purify me.”

 

January 17/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

 

January 16

Written by Bill Grandi on January 16th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Forgotten vs Adopted.

I was reading today about adoption. What a beautiful thing! I know of several folks who have adopted-both here and in foreign countries.

  • My brother and his wife who adopted a baby girl from China (Lea) over 16 years ago.
  • A couple from the church who had just adopted a baby from China when I moved here in 2005 (Annalei- whom you may read about someday as an Olympic diver), and another in 2010 (Meilynn was about 7 or 8 and was a phenomenal gymnast now cheerleader with one of the prettiest smiles you will ever see).
  • Another couple adopted Lucy as a baby with severe clef palate damage. She is now in high school.
  • A former blogger, Jason, and his wife adopted a young man from Japan.
  • Zee (a blogger friend from Ukraine) and her husband, Sam, who have adopted Zhora (George) and Zhenya (Jenny), who sure look ornery but also a ton of fun in their picture. They are about 6 & 5.
  • Others who have adopted children in the states and those who want to. (The system is broken).

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I respect those people. Adopting someone not only means that couple taking a step forward, it also means giving a child a new life, a life they would have never known. Bought out of less than desirable circumstances and brought into a situation that says, “Family. You are wanted. You are loved.”

Can there be a much better picture of our welcome into God’s family? Our existence screamed, “Lost! No home! No love!” Ephesians 2 uses two words “But God” to show the line of demarcation from what once was to what it became and is now.  We are saved from and shown to. We are saved from a life of lostness and given a life to meaning, hope and purpose.

Then I read more this morning. It also says we are given a “spirit of adoption.” I was reading in Ezekiel and 36:26-27 says,

And I will give you a new heart, a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Can there be any better description of adoption? A new family. A new heart. A new spirit. All the rights and privileges of a natural member of the family.

“Thank you, Father, for adopting me into Your family. For rescuing me from no life to a life that is far more than I dreamed. Thank you for my new heart and my new life.”

 

January 15

Written by Bill Grandi on January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

 

January 14

Written by Bill Grandi on January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

 

January 13

Written by Bill Grandi on January 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Life vs Death.

It’s been “one of those weekends.” Now…when those kinds of words are used we tend to think, “Oh boy. Here it comes. He’s going to lay out his sob story about all that went bad, how his weekend was the weekend from h-e-double hockey sticks.”

Relax!  It’s not that at all! Since Friday’s devotion-January 10-I have continued reading Proverbs 10-11-12-13. All weekend long a common theme ran through my reading.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” 10:11

“When words are many, transgressions in not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 10:19

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” 11:12

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 12:25

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” 13:14

See what I mean? Notice a common theme? Words. All weekend long I read about my words. Bookended by 10:11 and 13:14. My words can build up or tear down. My words reveal who is in control within me. My words can either lift someone’s burden or make it heavier. There was no way I got off the hook this weekend. It culminated in today’s Scripture- 13:14.

To be honest though, the one that struck me the hardest was actually 12:25. Do I realize; do I remember; do I remind myself that my words can either add to or lift a burden? “Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 25:11

“Father, touche’. Your sword struck paydirt. My heart. My mouth. One day at a time-may my words be words of life to someone, not words of hurt, despair, discouragement, or even death.”