October 3

Written by Bill Grandi on October 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Hydrated vs Unsatisfied.

I rode my bike two days this week. I would have ridden three if I had not had an eye doctor appointment yesterday (Wednesday). Both days the temps were in the 90s with high humidity. Just the way I like it! Typical Indiana weather…in August! Highly unusual for October but I love and took advantage of it. People ask me how I do it. Not only do I like that kind of weather (it is easier on the joints), but there is one key ingredient: hydration. As I got ready to ride one of those days, a lady who is a nurse commented on me riding in the heat. When I told her I liked it she said, “Hydration. Stay hydrated.” I reassured her I did. I have two insulated water bottles-one of Gatorade Zero and one of water-which have been partially frozen so I have cold drinks for my ride.

This came back to me today as I read from John 4-Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman at the well. In the exchange found in verses 7-14 Jesus asks for a drink.  Her inquisitive nature opens the door to one of Jesus’ greatest statements: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water welling up to eternal life.” (verses 13-14)

Of course Jesus is not speaking of physical water. One will be thirsty again. But to drink of Him leads to satisfaction. That doesn’t mean that to come to Him ends all need for more. My hunger and thirst for Him never ends. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for he shall be satisfied.” (Mt.5:6) But it does mean the end of my searching and longing for satisfaction and meaning to life. It does mean peace has been found. Jesus knew the woman at the well was empty. He also knew her search was hopeless without Him.

So I see this going two ways:

  1. He is the one who is the answer to my (and everyone else’s) longing and searching.
  2. May I never stop hungering and thirsting after Him.

“Father, You have the answers to all the longing and searching people go through. You answered mine. But may I never cease hungering and thirsting for You. May I always long to stay hydrated.”

 

October 2

Written by Bill Grandi on October 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Pesky Varmint vs Death Trap.

It was 1984. I was in KY for a week as part of my Masters course; Jo was back home in Ohio. I was almost asleep-in never never land-when she called. We lived in a church parsonage, an old house, and she called to tell me there was a bat in the house. She was in the bedroom trying to hide from it. We were talking and I was trying to soothe her jagged nerves and was telling her to contact Jim, one of the elders to see if he would come down and try to get it out. (Remember what state of sleep I was in). Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream sent me off the bed into levitation and my heart into palpitations. You guessed it. The bat had come into the bedroom and had flown past her and had stopped to cling to the closet wall. I told her to hang up and call Jim, who came down and captured it and disposed of it. Actually, he used a cloth to cover it and hit it with a hammer.  🙂

To be honest, I’m not fond of bats. They may kill tons of mosquitoes a night and other pesky insects, but as far as I can see, their usefulness stops there. Guess I heard too many stories as a kid of bats that got caught in hair (not that I have to worry about that particular problem). What ever made me enjoy crawling through bat guano in the bat cave at Mohican State Park in Moorehead, KY is beyond me. But I digress. They say bats can get through an opening the size of the side of a coin. Ugh! Makes you want to be sure of having all holes caulked!

That reminds me of sin. The enemy will take advantage of even the smallest opening to lead us down the wrong path. Whether it be a persistent sin or one that suddenly makes itself known, he will take the path of least resistance to lead us into sin. Like bats who have some usefulness, what he offers us may “look” good, but in the end it is only destruction.

“Father, help me to resist the pull of sin. Help me to be prepared and close up any openings that can allow my enemy to enter. Help me to say, ‘No. Not today’ to his pull.”

 

October 1

Written by Bill Grandi on October 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meaningful Words vs Blowhard, Empty Words.

I need to make a confession. I’ve been reading through Job in my morning Quiet Time and I’ve had trouble concentrating. I know the basic backdrop of Job.  He has it all. All but his life is taken away.  He has three “friends” who become very accusatory of him. He must have some hidden sin. He’s really not the righteous person he pretends to be. He is in rebellion against God. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’d say sarcastically “some friends they are” or “with friends like that who needs enemies” but I digress. You see…that’s not the whole story. They pretend in their blowhard, empty words to pretend to speak for God. They pretend to know God’s thoughts.

They don’t. If I was Job I’d say, “Take a hike!” In chapter 22, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked. In the margin of my Bible I highlighted verses 21-30 and noted it as Accusation of Job’s rebellion. Well, it appears Job has questions of his own. But they are not accusatory questions like I might raise. No. Just the opposite. He raises the fact that He cannot understand God because of the “bigness” of God. (23: 8-17).

Why is this important to me? Because I feel the same way at times. Wondering what I did to “deserve” the treatment I’m getting. I question my commitment. My walk. Am I holy? But it doesn’t come down to what I think or who I am. It comes down to what God thinks and who He is. Take a moment and read Job 23: 8-17 and see if doesn’t give you that perspective. It did me. “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

“Father, may my commitment to you only grow stronger through the daily struggles-be they big or small-I face. May I see the words of others- if they do not reflect You and Your Word- as blowhard, empty words which cannot affect or change Your view of me.”

 

September 30

Written by Bill Grandi on September 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Keep the Wonder vs Lose the Wonder.

Have you ever seen something so often that either it loses its luster or you miss it completely? When you go to that mountaintop; when you wake up and see that beautiful sunrise; when you coo over a new born; when you go gaga over an engagement ring; when you smile at getting the new car; whatever it is, but then as time goes on the new “shine” is replaced by the mundane. The mountaintop view, the sunrise, etc lose their awe-filled pull.

I have. I was reminded of that this past weekend. I was honored to be asked to perform a wedding in St. Louis. The couple is clearly in love. Everything, surprisingly, went off without a hitch. Even the bride commented to Jo & me as we left as to how perfect everything was and how she wondered “when is something going to go wrong?” Their vows were sincerely felt and said. There was obvious love in their eyes.

The question that haunts me as a pastor though is “will it last?” Will there still be love in their eyes when struggles come? When children come and life gets in the way, will there still be love? I’m not foolish enough to think their marriage won’t change; of course it will. It will mature. It will toughen. It will deepen. Or it will die. Become old hat. Lose the wonder. Just as in the examples I gave at the start, they can keep the wonder or lose it.

More importantly: how about my relationship with Jesus? Am I keeping it one of wonder or has it lost its luster?

“Father, it is easy to let the wonder of You and my relationship with you become old hat. Help me to guard against that and keep my lofe for you fresh and exciting.”

 

September 27/Weekend Extra

Written by Bill Grandi on September 27th, 2019

I leave today for St Louis where I am performing a wedding for a young man who attended the church I pastor while in high school. He went to Maryville College where he met his soon-to-be-wife. His mother still attends the church. I will not be taking my computer so I wanted to post this before the weekend.  I actually wrote this while on our cruise and was waiting to post it this weekend.

My title for this devotion is People of Means vs People of Meaning.

While on the cruise we have met all kinds of people. Some I’d just as soon not remember; some I wish I could know more. We have seen rude people-push, dour, treating others like they are all that and more. I have seen impatient people. I have seen sour people. I have seen those who refuse to acknowledge even with a head shake. I have seen old folks in canes and walkers and carts. I have seen young couples in love. I have seen families-one we met on the train ride who were an absolute delight and continue to acknowledge us. I have seen a crude dude ask for a picture then give the finger to the photographer and then use salty language. I turned away in disgust. We have also seen a number of followers of Jesus take the time to pray for their meal. We met a couple from Houston yesterday on the train and are having supper with them tonight.

All kinds of people. Probably most like us-down home and ordinary. But I can’t help but wonder how many are hurting. Thinking of taking their life. Grasping at straws. Trying to save a marriage. Searching for meaning. Think they have the tiger by the tail.

Sad. The answer is right at their fingertips. Right on their lips. One Name. Jesus.

“Father, help me to never lost my heart for people. Even the disgusting or power hungry. The gay or the lesbian. The rich or the poor. The lost or the saved. Please give me a heart that always seeks yours and look for others.”

 

September 26

Written by Bill Grandi on September 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Preaching Myself vs Preaching Christ.

If you have had a chance to read my other blog you can read between the lines and see I’ve been asking myself about my role, my purpose, as a pastor. Even though I am 66 and in less than two weeks will turn 67, I still love what I do and do not see retirement on the horizon any time soon. So I think its healthy to ask questions and do introspection upon occasion. Guilty as charged. You’ve caught me voicing my questions.

I’m reading Job right now, which can be a challenge on its own. 🙂  But I’m also reading Remaining Faithful in Ministry by John MacArthur. The following quote from his short little book caught my attention this morning. In the Introduction he wrote these words:

The gospel is a message about Jesus, and at all times He is to be the singular focus of the message we proclaim. False apostles and hirelings always seem to find a way to shift attention to the themselves. They make themselves the central character of every anecdote. They point themselves as the hero of every story they tell. Thus they make their preaching little more than a display of their own egos. Pulpits today are full of men who constantly preach themselves. (p.15)

Ouch! That is a rather sobering and scathing observation and rebuke. Sadly, it is true. I wish I could say I was innocent of that. I shudder when I think about how often I preached and it was more about my ego, my impressiveness, than it was Him and the fame of His Name. That’s enough to give even the most hardy person nightmares. I know I cringe when I reflect back over my years of ministry. Ugly.

But its not too late! With what remaining years I have left it needs to be all about Him. What about you?

“Father, my prayers this morning is for my life to be all about You. My preaching. My teaching. My talking. My laughing. All about You and the fame of Your Name.”

 

September 25

Written by Bill Grandi on September 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Running From vs Running To.

Sometime in the early ’90s we got a dog.  Samson, as I named him, was a drop off. A friend of a friend showed him to the friend who then showed him to my girls and that was all she wrote. But it was soon apparent Samson was my dog. He was part Malamute/part Shepherd and he was squirmy.  He was too big for Janna; Tami dropped him on his head when he squirmed out of her arms; and Jo couldn’t control him. I could. I walked him. Fed him. Played with him.  He knew my car sound as I turned the corner into our cul-de-sac.

We had a side yard with a fence. Only once did Samson get out. We were shingling the roof when someone left the gate open. I saw him take off and foolishly got off the roof to chase after him. Instead of running to me, he ran away. He was only a couple of months old and I was fearful for him. But I should have let him come back to me. My frustration level got greater the longer I went after him. I finally turned around and went back home.  He soon returned.

How much like Samson the human race is. We have safety, security, and all we need at home. But something bites us and we want to check out “the other side.” So we get out of our safety net and roam. Pursue. Chase a rabbit trail of unfulfillment.  God pursues us bidding us to come to Him. To come home. Ultimately, the decision is ours as to whether to continue pursuing the empty life or run to the One who gives life.

Samson came home eventually. I gave him a few swats across the flank then hugged him. He never ran again. We can run from God to a life filled with danger and missteps or run to Him where He may discipline us but then hugs us with arms of love. Run from Him to a life filled with hurt or run to Him and a life filled with love. Which will it be?

“Father, Peter once said, ‘Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ Help me to always remember that. Help me not to pursue the empty life but to pursue your life.”

 

September 24

Written by Bill Grandi on September 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Being Ready vs Ready to Be.

I have to make a confession. To confess this may lead some to call me a heretic, or at best as one “falling away from the faith.” I guess I’m okay with that, especially since I don’t think it does.  My confession is this: when it comes to the coming of Christ, I am a dunce as to how it will happen…and I’m not really concerned with that.

Let me explain: I believe Jesus is coming again. Of that I am absolutely, 100% sure. No questions. No ifs, ands, or buts. What I am not sure about is what people make a big fuss about: how it will happen, the circumstances surrounding it, and whether there are “signs” we ought to be looking for. There is no doubt in my mind NO ONE knows when it will happen. Not even Jesus knows. But it seems to me even those who agree with me (not that I’m asking them to) or my idea, sure spend an inordinate amount of time looking for “signs” that will tell them or warn them.

What is wrong with simply choosing to live a life of “readiness”? What is wrong with saying, “I choose to live a life pleasing to the Father so that when Jesus does return I have nothing to hide”? In Matthew 24-a chapter in the middle of this stream of thought-Jesus gives the example of two women grinding at the mill and two men working in the field (and elsewhere a husband and wife lying in bed) and one is taken and the other left. Theologians want to argue over whether that is speaking of a rapture or not. Frankly, that doesn’t cross my mind as much as “when Jesus comes you better be ready because you don’t know when He will.” I personally believe it is much more important to be His and to represent Him than to fret over a sign or when the rapture will happen. 

There is my confession. Take it for what it’s worth.

“Father, help me to be ready for the coming of Christ. But as I wait, I need to be ready to be Yours, to live a life of no worries about when Jesus will come, but to simply be ready when He does come.”

 

September 23

Written by Bill Grandi on September 23rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Do as I say vs Not as I Do.

In all of the Gospels, particularly Matthew, you will be hard-pressed to find a more scathing rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees than in Matthew 23. It is known as the “7 Woe” passage for obvious reasons. But the groundwork for that chapter is laid in verses 1-7. For the sake of time and space you can find it here.  In verses 2-3 Jesus says, “So do and observe what they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach but do not practice.” He goes on to give examples of that fact.

To sum it up: their hypocrisy knows no bounds. Whether it be putting burdens on others but being unwilling to help carry them or seeking glory for their deeds, they are pieces of work. They are also rebuked harshly, hence the 7 woes. Jesus tells His disciples the proper attitude His followers should have: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (verses 11-12)

Jesus’ rebuke lies in the fact that the religious leaders were those who said, “Do as I say, but what I say is not for me. I’m above that.” Their cold, hard-hearted approach to the teachings of the Scriptures is a misrepresentation of a servant of the Father.

How do I represent Jesus and the Scriptures? Do I approach it as “do as I say not as I do” or am I consistent with “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”? Do I practice what I preach? Or do I tell people one thing and do the opposite? Do I load expectations on people but not willing to lend a hand if needed?

“Father, help me to be true in all things. To be the one who says and does what is true, one who acts as he says. Help me not to allow my life not back up my teaching.”

 

September 20

Written by Bill Grandi on September 20th, 2019

My title for this devotion is To be WITH vs To do FOR.

This past Sunday I preached on the letter to the church at Ephesus. They were commended for their works, toil, patient endurance and orthodoxy (stood up against false teachers). But they were condemned for one biggie: “they lost their first love.” Their “do for” was greater than their “be with.”

In Matthew 22 (where I was reading today) Jesus is asked by a young lawyer what the greatest commandment was.  Jesus did not say, “Work your tail off.” He did not say, “Go out every night and win souls.” He did say, “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” I think Jesus is saying in a silent way, “I’m first. All else is second.” He is placing value on knowing Him, on being with Him. We have skewed that into “doing for Him” rather than “being with Him.”

In 2009 we had our first Day of Service (DoS). It was necessary and pulled us out of our funk. After our move in 2010 to our building, it took us a year or two to implement the DoS again. Since then we have even added another one so that we have been doing 2/year. But I have felt misaligned lately about the DoS. Like DoS had become more of a drudge than joyful; more corporate than personal. After Spring’s incomplete day and the finishing projects which came a couple months later, we were looking at another week in November. I found myself unsettled even more. “What Lord? What are you saying?” The answer came as I studied for that sermon, preached it and reflected: “Stop. Stop ‘doing for Me’ and start ‘being with Me..” So the DoS will not happen this year. And it just hit me that maybe it will be replaced by an afternoon of quiet reflection and prayer at the church building.

“Father, it is much more important to be with you than to do for you. Help me to learn that today and in the ensuing days. May my relationship with You be THE most important one I have.”