January 12

Written by Bill Grandi on January 12th, 2021

There are a lot of people who mistakenly think the laws of God are more like a noose around the neck as opposed to thinking they are for our good. “God is a cosmic killjoy,” they say. “All He wants to do is to take the fun out of life.” “Why can’t I live my life the way I want to? After all, it is my life.”

Well, I suppose that is true. It is my/your life. And yes, I can live it any way I want. But that decision to do so also comes with consequences. Supposed we look at God’s laws in another light. Let’s suppose we are on a train. As long as we stick to the tracks we go along smoothly and on course. But if we jump the track and try to steer that train through grass or sand or whatever it is we run into, what will happen? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. You go nowhere. The train ends up stopped dead in its tracks. It is not doing and being what it was designed to be and WHERE it was designed to do it. We can complain all we want about the train being held to those tracks. We can say they are hindering its freedom.  But logic and reality say, “Nope.” Those tracks are actually serving their purpose.

The analogy may break down somewhere but the point is still true. The tracks are for the train’s safe operation. Why not see God’s laws in the same light? Throw off His laws and life goes haywire. There are consequences. Why not see true freedom in His laws? Why not see true love in them? Why not see God’s hand of care and concern in the restraint His law puts on us? That’s where true freedom is found-living for Him by His Word and not for ourselves by our rules.

“Father, help me to see Your laws as part of Your gracious love toward me instead of restrictions I see designed to box me in.”

 

January 11

Written by Bill Grandi on January 11th, 2021

One of the hardest things for me through this whole Covid-related battle I’ve had has been the ability (or is that inability?) to concentrate. It’s a real thing called Covid brain. Seriously. I figured since I would be in jail, I mean quarantine for 10-14 days, I would get a lot of reading done.  Nope. A puzzle or two. Nope. Some planning. Nope. Nowhere close. It seemed like I couldn’t keep my attention on much of anything. I was tired of sleeping (how does that happen?) which is another side affect of Covid, but couldn’t concentrate. On anything. So endless TV watching became my distraction (plus I was in the same room as Jo).

It’s easy to get distracted. I’m not on social media (I don’t consider my minisculey-read blog social media) so that is not something I get distracted by. No FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Go ahead and ask me if I miss them.  Answer: not one iota. But you talk about a huge distraction! You see them everywhere. I was at the Y awhile ago and this couple came in. He went immediately to work and she went to the “stretching” area. She didn’t. She sat on the floor and for the first 15-20 minutes or so was scrolling through her phone. Seriously? Why even come? I believe Bob Goff was right when he wrote:

“It’s easy to get distracted by everything else; what takes a little more work is to only get distracted by Jesus.” (“Live in Love-Walk in Grace”-p.8)

One of the classic stories of distraction is when Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and come to Him. Remember: this was after Peter asked Him. Peter was fine until he got distracted. Then he began to sink. The full story is in Matthew 14:22-33. Imagine the story Peter would have been able to tell if he hadn’t gotten distracted!!

“Father, if I’m to be distracted, let it be by You. May thoughts of You consume me. Please help me to keep my eyes on You.”

 

January 8

Written by Bill Grandi on January 8th, 2021

It is my humble opinion that one of the hardest things to do is to accept blame-responsibility for something. As a younger pastor I can recall a number of times saying, “If this hadn’t happened” or “If this hadn’t been done” then none of what took place would have. I’m not as bad as I used to be, perhaps maturity has entered the picture (I hope) OR understanding God’s love and grace and plan more has made a change in me (my greater hope).

There is an old saying: “Remember, whenever you point a finger at someone there’s always 3 pointing back at you.” (I guess the thumb is a non-entity, an extra, but don’t cut it off!) Finger-pointing is nothing new. Do you remember the Garden story when God confronted Adam and Eve? What did they do? One thing they didn’t do was accept the blame. Nope, not them.

  • A: “The woman. It was her fault.”
  • E: “The serpent. It was his fault.”

That’s taking one for the team, isn’t it? Nope. And as you well know, nothing has changed. Like my feeble attempt to explain away, i.e refuse to accept responsibility for a failure or wrong action, we still do that. I suspect on a daily basis. Oh sure, we mature so we (hopefully) accept responsibility a little more readily, but I know within me there is still this little man pointing his finger at someone else. I wonder when that happens if that is a little bit of what Jesus was referring to in Mt.13:14-15. I realize that passage deals more with hearing the message but the same closed heart for the “seed” can be the same closed heart for hearing and accepting the truth. And responsibility.

Here’s a thought: For every time we accept responsibility and stop trying to pass the blame, perhaps grace has become more real to us. Grace helps us see ourselves as we truly are-definitely not as good as we think we are-but willing to accept responsibility for the mess.

“Father, help me to stop pointing fingers at someone or some thing and to start seeing ‘me’ as the culprit. Then help me to allow Your transforming grace to do its work.”

 

January 7

Written by Bill Grandi on January 7th, 2021

Who am I meant to be? A slight variation of that is the question asked by millions of people since the beginning of time: who am I? I think every teenager asks that question. In all honesty, it isn’t a question just for teens. I know adults-in their 20s, 30s, 40s- who still wonder what they are here for. I’m one of them.  I should say I used to be.

My mother once told for as long as she can remember I talked about being a pastor. Other than the unrealistic dream of being a professional baseball or basketball player, I never dreamed of being a fireman or policeman or any of the other “hero” vocations. Except for a 2-year period (6th-7th grade) where I spread my wings verbally (you can draw your own conclusions), I always had a heart for God. I stood out like a sore thumb in high school when I wouldn’t fight, riot or even go out Friday night to get drunk so I could throw up and drink some more. How stupid is that? But even though my heart leaned toward, and even though I did become a pastor, there have been times I’ve questioned that. When I got fired or dismissed. When the church failed to grow. When my own heart grew cold and sometimes bitter. When I stood and compared myself to others. It was tough but what brought me back was knowing what I was created for. Two things: 1) I was made by God to have a fully restored relationship with Him; and 2) I was made to be transformed by Him.  It’s the icing on the cake.  It’s the cherry on top of the ice cream.  Everything else is, well, superfluous.

“Father, I was created by You to be Yours and to be transformed by You. Please do Your work in me so I will know my purpose.”

 

January 6

Written by Bill Grandi on January 6th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how often we “categorize” our worship? We talk about worship on Sunday in a certain place or time. But then act as though the other parts of our day or week are extra.

I even do that on Sunday morning during our corporate worship. I have caught myself (and not done a very good job of stopping or changing it) saying, “Please join us now and stand and sing and join us in worship.” See what I did? Say, for example, we had just had our prayer time when I say that. What have I stated? Answer: that the prayer time was not part of our corporate or individual worship, but now we are singing so we are worshiping.

No. No. No. That prayer time. That communion time (in our case). And ultimately the preaching time was all part of our worship. It is part of our psyche to make a distinction and say that singing is worship but prayer and communion and listening to the Word is not.

And it carries over into our daily lives as well. Worship does not just happen on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t just happen when I’m having my QT. Categorizing worship was never supposed to happen! Worship was, is, and always will be a 24/7/365 opportunity to praise the Father’s goodness and love. David praised God on the mountain and in the valley; on the run or on the throne; feeling good or feeling bad. Take a moment please and read Psalm 148.

“Father, worship is not be to categorized. But it is most definitely to come from my heart-all day, every day, any time, and any where. May my heart be one filled with praise.”

 

January 5

Written by Bill Grandi on January 5th, 2021

Let me ask you a question-one I’ve asked myself seemingly a million times:

Is your service to God out of love or out of obligation?

Be careful how you answer that. The way we answer that is very telling concerning our way of looking at God. Please let me explain. When you and I come into God’s Presence, there are various ways to respond. Some will be terrified. I do have to wonder about the reaction of those who, while here on earth denied His existence; denied His Power; denied His Creative ability, etc. only to find out at their death all they held to was ashes. Some will be frozen in wonder and awe at the majesty before them. Some will-like the apostles- not recognize Him until after He left. I’m not just thinking of standing before Him at the throne but also while here on earth.

As a former legalist, my whole life was wrapped around performance. Not so much being enraptured by His Presence, but being convinced that I had to perform. My service to Him was out of obligation more than it was out of love. Oh, I told myself it was love, but it wasn’t really. Love has no fear and for the legalist fear is a major player. I can’t escape the duplicity of my thinking: “Jesus loves me this I know if my performance tells me so.” Many religious groups (not just cults) base their modus operandi on performance. Act a certain way. Dress a certain way. Go to church so many times. If not, shame on you!

So, let me ask you again: Is your service to God out of love or obligation? If you sit under a legalist, get out now while you still have your soul.

“Father, it is easy to see my prayer this morning. May my service to you be out of love for you and not the feeling of obligation or judgment.”

 

January 4

Written by Bill Grandi on January 4th, 2021

I wrote this January 1 but am posting it as my first post for 2021.

At the beginning of a new year, I, and countless other followers of Jesus feel like a new start is in order. So people make vows, resolutions, or whatever you want to call them, to do better, be better, speak better…better…better…better. But as the old joke goes we find out on January 2 our resolutions, well…are broken. Did you know making resolutions dates back to the Babylonians who made vows to appease their gods? As if that would work.

Maybe we ought to consider it a lost cause and pursue another avenue. For Christmas someone in the church gave me a daily devotion called Experiencing God’s Presence. The writer hit on something that not only had I never thought of before, but made perfect sense. Like many others, my awareness and closeness to God fluctuates. Close. Far. Close. Far. Inch back. Far. Why is that? {Because there’s a big difference between His Presence and an experience of it.-Jan 1} It’s not enough to believe God’s Presence is every where (and it is); it is also important to experience it. We don’t just want to know His Presence is there, we want Experience it. I’m not talking some mystical, transcendent thing, or some rapturous “caught up into the 3rd heaven” experience (2 Cor.12); or some hyper ecstatic “tongue loosening.” No, I’m talking about encountering Jesus so I am deeply affected down the core of my being. More than hype. Just a deeply affected, inner core sense of God’s Presence. That is my hope and prayer for me in 2021. Will it be yours? I invite you to join me in that quest.

“Father, move in me. Let me encounter Your Presence in the very core of my being. May this year be the year of Your Presence in me and those I influence.”

 

December 29

Written by Bill Grandi on December 29th, 2020

It is 2:30 in the morning. Ive been up since 12 and tried to fool myself into going back to sleep. It didn’t work. 🙁 So going on the assumption God wants to get my attention or teach me something, I got up. If not, then I’m up early. During my Quarantine I’ve slept more than I ever have. Since I normally get up at 3:30, it is not unusual for me to be in bed by 9:30. Try 8:00!! That’s right. Jo and I often found ourselves heading to bed by 8 and sleeping for 11-12 hours!! Seriously? I’ve never slept that long at one sitting. E.V.E.R. But this night is different. Maybe it was the Ginger Ale I was able to keep down. First time I have had sugar in days. I don’t know. No matter. I’d like to share some year end thoughts with you and some future plans.

In this past Sunday’s sermon, I talked about not wasting our lives, of submitting to the call of the Gospel and surrendering to Jesus. I have the most important message in the world-the message of God’s love for a sin-broken world. I have absolutely no reason to keep that message to myself. 2020 has shown me, as it has others, how fragile life can be. Things, health, even life, can be taken away with a snap of a finger. I must become more intentional with my life this year. I’m 68 and it is a pretty safe bet to say my years left on this planet are much less than what I have lived. 🙂  Lord willing, I’m not going to stop having fun; laughing; cycling; working out; make friends; laugh and cry with those friends; preach Gospel-soaked sermons; keep reading, growing and stretching; love the people of OVCF even more; and hopefully lead the church to impact our community for Jesus.

I’ve contemplated stopping this blog-Living in the Shadow. The amount of time it takes to keep 2 blogs going-and thinking one is failing at both- is something I’ve tried to reckon with. Cycleguy’s Spin was my initial blog started in 2007. Then along came this one a few years ago as a discipline for me. I wanted to hold myself accountable every morning to meet with God. One way I figured to make that more meaningful and permanent was to start “Shadow.” It began as a daily blog based on New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. But after a year I felt that had run its course so I refocused. It became more of a hodge podge of daily devotional thoughts gleaned during my QT. I’ve actually had Ryan (techgeek) pull out this year’s worth of devos that I may look into editing and seeing about publishing them as a daily devotion. Who knows? I have no visions of grandeur of being a great writer, the next Max Lucado. But its hard when you have one very consistent daily reader and commenter, and a few others here and there to get over the “ego slam” to feel as though the time involved is worth it. I’ve decided it is-not because I’m all that and more- but because I need the daily discipline of a QT this gives me. So I’m going to continue with “Shadow,” if for no other reason than for me.

But some changes are in the air. Since the early 2000s (2001 to be exact), I have 99% of the time exclusively used the ESV translation. I have read the whole Bible several times. I cannot tell you how many times I have read through the NT. I’m making a change this year. As I’ve watched Pastors Chuck Swindoll and Greg Laurie use the NLT, I decided to give it a try this year. I bought an inexpensive faux-leather Large Print edition to use with a goal to read through the NT several times this year. Ironically, someone in the church blessed me this Christmas with a One Year “Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional.” Guess what translation it uses? You guessed it: NLT. I’m also planning to use Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff as a side read. And finally, this past Fall I purchased Unfolding Grace-40 Guided Readings through the Bible and the accompanying Study Guide. It uses the ESV. I’ve looked it over and plan to do one guided reading a week.

And there you have it. With that being said, this will be my last post here until Monday, January 4. Covid has wiped out my normal scheduled routine and so I don’t want the added pressure of feeling like I “have to write a Shadow blog.” Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. (You deserve a medal. If you don’t want a medal treat yourself to a Diet Dr. Pepper or whatever your poison is…within reason of course). Thank you for reading my “Shadow” blog. Lord willing, I will see you Monday, January 4, 2021 with my first post of the new year. I love and appreciate all of you.

 

December 25-28

Written by Bill Grandi on December 28th, 2020

Christmas reflections:

Friday-After a positive Covid test for me, Jo and Tami and some positive tests for the staff and friends of each of us, this is a really strange Christmas. It was going to be anyway because Janna and Braden were not going to be here. But even Tami can’t come over. This devotion may be a little longer than normal due to my observations but also because it will cover 3 days of observations.

Every year it seems we hear certain refrains from spiritual leaders, i.e. pastors.

  • Slow down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have said that. “Pull away from the hustle and bustle and slow down,” I’ll say. Well, this has certainly been one of the by-products of covid isolation.
  • Stay home. No problem. And when I have said this in the past it was not a covid-ordered government mandate. We travel a lot visiting family and friends all over the place. We aren’t allowed to go out of the house so staying home is the norm. If we had gone to Ohio today we would have been snowed in. They got a ton of snow! White Christmas indeed! So we stay home and maybe watch some Christmas movies. {Note: we didn’t. Neither one of us felt like it}
  • Refocus. Honestly, how can you not? Gifts will be opened rather quickly instead of one at a time like we normally do going around the room. So when that is all done we get to focus on the real gift.

Saturday– This will forever be remembered in history as CC- Covid Christmas. Yesterday was strange. We Facetimed Tami as we opened gifts-she in her apartment and us here. We would have welcomed her here but MCCSC (her school corporation) monitors her during covid. So it was safer. Later Janna Facetimed us with Braden so we could see what he got. Everything was “Air this and Air that.” I guess I don’t see the fascination with giving a retired basketball player, whose stuff is made in China, all that money…but that’s me. All in all yesterday was an uneventful day. Lazy. Watched a little TV then head back to my “cave” to fall asleep. Other than the no taste and no smell issues, and a few others, the biggest by-product is the desire to sleep. I have slept more in the last week than I have in the last year. I remember Pastor Greg Laurie saying that was his biggest issue (wish I could say that). Some of that is boredom since I can’t concentrate on reading. I’m going to try to study today since I preach virtually tomorrow. Praying for extra grace today as I prepare for tomorrow.

Sunday– I’m writing this after the fact.  Sunday seemed to go off okay without a hitch. We were immensely blessed by the anonymous gift that allowed us to purchase the upgraded equipment. All in all though, I thought it went well. I chose to sit instead of standing. I’m not sure my stamina would have been there to stand the whole time and preach and remember.

Sunday afternoon was tough. I was weary but when I tried to eat some soup it didn’t stay in my stomach very long. But you don’t want here that saga. 🙂 It was a lazy day as they have all become. One family was really kind and brought some soup and crackers, a couple of baked potatoes, and some other items. Friday one family blessed us with Ensure and Pedialyte for me, some veggies  and soup and crackers. Saturday one family blessed Jo with some Zero and Diet Coke. I’m not sure about the other two on staff but I certainly can’t complain how we have been taken care of. Plus the texts and emails have been nice. Oh yeah…one family brought us a Christmas meal on Christmas evening after their family Christmas. Not that we could eat it or taste it. 🙂

Jo and I called it a day at 8:00. Yep 8:00. Seems to be about the norm these days. I’d like to believe I am on the mend. It has been a week since my test but well over that since I started showing symptoms. I should have been more honest and aware and introspective with myself. Gone to be tested sooner. Not gone to Ohio. Funeral? But hindsight is 20/20 and there is nothing I can change. It seems strange the way it has hit us all about the same time and in the same way. Others also have got it-part of our friends group-so there is a common denominator there somewhere. But who wants to try to figure that out. Not me. It is what it is.

I’ll close by saying I’m looking forward to putting this behind me and moving forward.

 

December 24

Written by Bill Grandi on December 24th, 2020

Caution: soapbox available and now in use. 🙂

There has been a saying which has gained an audience. When I say an audience, I mean an AUDIENCE. Bigger than a cathedral. Bigger than a stadium.  It has garnered the attention of the retail  establishment. You see it on mugs, posters, signs, church signs, billboards…you name it. I know what it is trying to say; I know what it is trying to do. The saying?

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Sounds catchy. Sounds so…right. But I don’t think it is. Sometimes I have felt like a lone wolf (probably because I don’t get out much) in speaking against it. And I know whoever made it up never intended a whole cottage industry to build up around it (then again maybe it was just a marketing tool). The one who made it up was trying to get us to focus-away from Santa Claus and to the real meaning for Christmas.

But they got it wrong. And this is what I’ve been trying to say for years. Jesus never was the reason for the season. We were. Want proof? Take a moment and read Phil.2:6-8 and then Isaiah 53: 4-6. That oughta do it. Jesus was never the reason for the season.  You were. I was. As the old song by David Meece says, “We were the reason He gave His life/We were the reason He suffered and died.” But…wait…that’s the rest of the story!! (And in case you are wondering it is called Easter).

Jesus is not the reason for the season; He is the one who is and who gives meaning to the season.

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus being willing to come for me. I was the reason He came and He gave the ultimate gift…His life.”