February 5

Written by Bill Grandi on February 5th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Giver vs Taker.

There are tons of different people in this world. You know that.  We all do.  There are Go-getters and there are lazy people. There are Dreamers and there are “Today-ers.” There are Leaders and there are Followers.

There are Givers and there are Takers.

Now to clarify: I’m not speaking about money. I’m not talking about those who want handouts. I’m not even talking about selfish vs unselfish people.

I want to look at it from a different angle. I want to look at it from the standpoint of encouragement, of what you or I do when it comes to the emotional need of another. Paul says encouragement is a spiritual gift (Rom.12:8; I Cor.14:3-4). How cool would it be to have Joseph? No, not that Joseph. Another one. You might know him as Barnabas? (See…we don’t even know him by his real name).  This quality was so evident in his life the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”

We live in an age when encouragement is needed. My sister-in-law is living in a long-term care facility at this writing. I wonder how many there never see any family or hear a kind word? Remember the old song “Home, Home on the Range?” It has the lyrics: “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” Many people cannot sing that song because they don’t hear an encouraging word at all.

So…are you a giver or taker of encouragement? Do you sit around wanting it and expecting it or do you make an effort to give it? Wouldn’t it be cool to be known as “the son (or daughter) of encouragement?”

“Father, life is hard enough as it is without living in discouragement. When I see someone today who looks lonely or is all by themselves and alone, help me to practice encouragement. Help me to be an encourager to someone today.”

 

February 4

Written by Bill Grandi on February 4th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Miraculous vs Mundane.

There has been and always will be a battle between seeing and believing the miraculous and being so jaded that even the miraculous is seen as mundane. Skepticism seems to rule so many peoples’ thinking.  Over the past 45+ years as a pastor I have had the blessing of seeing the miraculous. I’ve seen God work in ways that astound. I know some question the use of the word “miracle” and want to confine it to the NT days, but I’m going to use it to describe some recent events I have been privileged to witness:

  • A 13 y/o healthy young man finds himself suddenly fighting for his life. In just a matter of  days, he goes from healthy to life support. Prayers bombard heaven endlessly. “Miraculously” he goes from death’s door to home in a matter of weeks. He still has a haul but there is much to marvel at. Aslan was on the move!
  • A 20 month old boy born with a heart defect (left artery totally closed) has another surgery as a “last ditch” to get some blood flowing. Not only are the doctors able to open his artery 2mm (needs 10-12), but-and here is the absolutely incredible, “miraculous” element-he goes home less than a week after surgery! There is no other explanation except God’s hand. Aslan was on the move!
  • A man who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible has health issues. Heart. Feet. Heart supposedly has bacteria on his valves but surgery is risky because of infection in his foot. A cath late last week shows his valves are clear with no bacteria; his foot is healing; and he has heart surgery to replace two valves this week. The whole scenario is nothing short of incredible. And even though his idea of God is warped, prayers have been said on his behalf. I’d like to believe it is so he can hear about and respond to the true God of the Bible. Aslan was on the move!

Those are three recent examples. It is easy/common to write them off as “the doctors did this” or “modern medicine did that,” but I believe differently. I’d rather say it is-if I may borrow Paul’s words from Ephesians 2: “But God.” Man may have knowledge (ironically given to him by God) and may even acknowledge it is limited; man may say, “If it hadn’t been for the doctors;” but it goes much, much deeper. Man’s limited knowledge shows God’s limitless power.

“Father, skeptics can be cast aside. They will never accept nor understand Your unlimited-dare I say miraculous?-power. Limitless. Powerful. Able to astound. Help me to never take that power for granted, nor take your wonder working power for granted.”

 

February 3

Written by Bill Grandi on February 3rd, 2020

My title for this devotion is Growth vs Stagnation.

One of the challenges every Christ-follower faces is the one of growth. Will I or won’t I? Will I stay the same or expand?  Will I be content (in a bad way) or will I desire more? Will I be like a tree planted by the water or will I dry up from lack of nourishment?

Two Scriptures spoke volumes to me this morning. The first is Hosea 10:12- “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

The other is Psalm 1:2-3- “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Growth is expected. While we need to be content in God, we also need to remember that contentment does not mean stagnation. Hosea says we need to break up the fallow ground-ground that has become crusty and hard over the winter and needs plowed and turned. That can happen to my heart and my heart needs plowed to break up that crust. Then I need to make sure I’m planted by streams of water, gathering and absorbing nourishment essential to my growth and fruitfulness.

“Father, stagnation is not on the docket. Contentment for that purpose is not to be on my plate. Help me to continually be on-the-grow. Help me to remember that when growth stops, decay begins.”

 

January 31/Weekend

Written by Bill Grandi on January 31st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Tandem vs Solo.

I read something this morning that struck me. I must admit that even though I know this, I’ve never quite articulated it this way:

Belief and faith are almost interchangeable words, and make sense to deal with them together. Belief is about truths of which we are persuaded or confident. Faith goes further because it implies action, putting what we believe into action. (“A Good Old Age-Prime-p.23)

How simple is that? So simple yet almost missed. And here is how it rolls out:

  1. First, it is important to know what we believe. There are essentials of the Gospel-the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. God is Almighty, the Creator of the universe. Jesus is God’s only Son, born of a virgin, born fully God and fully man. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd member of the Trinity, Christ in us. Sin is the disease that we all have. The physical death of Jesus on the cross and His physical resurrection save us from sin’s punishment. All men must come in faith to Christ, believing the above truths to receive salvation.
  2. Second, faith is action. Believing the message above requires action. We need to repent of our sins and come to Christ in faith. We must accept the truth of the cross and its need for blood to be shed. Hebrews tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (9:22)

Simple. Easy. Plain. Belief and faith are best seen in tandem. It is like you can’t have one without the other. So many say they believe but are unwilling to take the step of faith. And why take the step of faith if you don’t/won’t/can’t believe the truths of the Scripture? Belief alone is not enough. It is essential to put “feet” to that faith.

“Lord, I know there’s more to say about this. I know this is basic. But I have to remind myself of Your death and how just believing it is not enough. Help me not just to believe those truths but also to act on them.”

 

January 30

Written by Bill Grandi on January 30th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Flirtation vs Faithfulness.

One of the more intriguing OT books is the minor prophet book of Hosea. I do not see it as an allegory or a book of fiction. No, I see it as truth and true. But I also see it a book with lessons to learn.

Hosea is told by God to marry Gomer, a prostitute. Right off the bat that sounds totally strange. Marry a prostitute? They have three children- Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People. (Try those names out today!). They, of course, are not named that just for the fun of it, just because God wanted to give them dumb-sounding names. Each name had significance. He was using those names to describe how the people of Israel had treated Him and His reaction to their rejection. Eventually there is hope and redemption. Mercy will be shown to No Mercy; Personhood will be bestowed on those who were Not a People.

But then Gomer returns to her former way of life. Can you say, “Israel?” Can you say, “Me?” But Hosea is to go and get her back-only this time things seem different. In chapter 3 we are told Hosea redeems his wife (v.2). To me that implies she was at a slave auction. Was she used up? Was she too old for her profession? Was she no longer wanted? Was she past her “prime” and her services were no longer needed? It doesn’t matter to Hosea. He buys her back. I have no clue how much she was worth but the lesson seen is not wasted. Hosea gives directives to Gomer which God is giving to His people. “You must live as mine. You can’t whore around any more. You cannot belong to someone else.”

Because I know there is more, Hosea holds some very rich lessons. But one that stands out to me now is God’s conditional but unconditional love. The choosing of the names shows He is fed up with their waywardness. But Hosea’s redemption of Gomer shows God’s unconditional love and willingness to forgive…with directives tacked on. He demands loyalty. He doesn’t want flirtation with the world. He doesn’t want His people playing the whore and give themselves over to the world’s charms.  He wants me to apply that to myself as well.

“Father, the lessons are poignant. Help me to not be like the Israelites but to be faithful to You. Help me not to give myself over to flirtation and being engulfed by the world.”

 

January 29

Written by Bill Grandi on January 29th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Acceptance vs. Rejection.

Just to get this out of the way early: I am 67 years old (b. 10/1952) and am not ashamed of that. Do I wish I was younger? Sure. Do I wish I could talk to my younger self and give him advice? Most definitely. Do I begrudge getting older? Yeah…sort of. Do I see myself as done, part of the over-the-hill-find-a-chair-to-sit-in gang? No.

Several things have brought my thoughts to this topic today besides the obvious physical discomfort (knees, back, neck, etc) brought on by “arthur’s residency.”

  • I read an article yesterday on church trends for 2020 and one point was about active, growing and alive churches are being led by younger men (<50 y/o).  Many churches fail to grow and stay active because the aging senior pastor fails to recognize his ineffectiveness. So I asked, “Is that me?”
  • I started reading a book of daily thoughts entitled A Good Old Age by Derek Prime. It’s an A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years. (In fairness I started this last year but failed to finish it so I thought I would start over again and read one a day).

I struggle with aging-not because I dread old age or because I need to retire but can’t- but because I feel I still have much to give.  I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I’m certainly not a “I know all things because I have been a pastor for over 45 years” kind of guy. Sure, I’ve been around the block a time or two; made my extra share of mistakes; caused heartache; opened my mouth and inserted foot more than I want to admit; and made life h*** for some.  But I also know I’ve helped many; loved many; been a good husband and father and now a grandfather; been faithful to the Word in my preaching; loyal to my friends; tried to take care of myself physically (I think all surgeries have been cycling related) 🙂 ; and followed Jesus. I also know I still have energy and still feel I have much to offer the church.

I’m also aware the clock is ticking. No one lives forever (unless you count heaven/hell). But Derek reminded me of three truths I need to remind myself:

  1. The amazing forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus.
  2. The glorious truth of God’s Fatherhood and His promises to His children.
  3. The wonderful hope of heaven.

Great reminders! For. all. ages!!! Sure, as one ages he becomes more aware of his mortality, but those are good for everyone of every age to remember. If we do, we won’t have to tell our younger self anything.

“Father, You have made me, me. You have granted me 67 years on this earth so far. How many are left only You know. And I’m content with that. But it is not time to roll over and give up. Challenge me to keep growing. Keep reminding me of those three truths.”

 

January 28

Written by Bill Grandi on January 28th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Kind vs Malicious.

I was corrected yesterday. Confronted with a concern. One I was unaware of. But I was a better man when it was over. What it was about is not important to you or this devotion. HOW it was done is everything.

You see, we all know there are different ways to approach people who need talked to or even corrected/confronted. There are those who are like a bull in a china ship. They come in all holier-than-thou with both guns blazing. They don’t care who they blow up or how many holes they put in a body. They’ve said their piece and that’s all that matters. Certainly not the feelings of the person they have just blown away. I’ve even seen it where a person comes in, blows someone away, and then turns and leaves before any response can be given.

Then there is the one who lovingly confronts. You can tell it is an uncomfortable situation. There is no pride or arrogance in that person. There is almost a hesitation in doing what needs done.

I’ve been the recipient of both in my years as a pastor. The one I was privy to yesterday was the latter. I knew it was not easy for this person to say something to me. In fact, it was totally out of character. But I respect the man even more for his willingness to do the “dirty deed.” It wasn’t something huge but given time it could have become more.

Proverbs speaks of “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This man is a friend. A friend who kindly and without malice or a maliciousness bone in his body confronted me.

“Father, thank you for my friend. Thank you for the gentle rebuke that came my way. May I-may we all-be kind if we need to confront and be open and sensitive to You if we need to be confronted.”

 

January 27

Written by Bill Grandi on January 27th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Closed vs Open Book.

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”

Jesus once said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt.15:11) A few verses later He said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (18-20a).

It’s not easy being an open book. Even though these verses show us that virtually we are, we do our best to cover up, we do our best to close up shop.

Transparency is not an easy thing to do or be. I tend to be a bit more open than I should sometimes because that is my personality. But, all in all, we try to guard as much as we can from seeing the light of day and the light of peoples’ eyes. Why? Because being transparent makes us vulnerable. It sort of lays us open before people. It says, “Here I am people!” It’s almost like the old saying, “What you see is what you get.” While that originally was often an “excuse” for “Here I am. If you don’t like it…tough!” it can be used as words for transparency. Chuck Swindoll once wrote,

Vulnerability means being willing to express personal needs, admitting one’s limitation or failures, having a teachable spirit, and especially being reluctant to appear the expert, the one with all the answers, the final voice of authority. (“Good Morning, Lord”…p.26)

I must choose to be transparent, to be vulnerable (for the right reasons). In reality, it’s being honest with who I am, with whom God sees. Besides, who am I trying to kid?  My mouth lets people know anyway.

“Father, to you I’m an open book. You see into the deep recesses of my heart. Help me to be ‘real’ to people, not a fake. Let them see me as being honest and truthful, not hiding things away.”

 

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 dominion 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.”