August 8

Written by Bill Grandi on August 8th, 2022

At this point in history, we who live in America have it fairly easy when it comes to following Jesus. True, Christianity is no longer the dominant worldview it used to be. But all in all, we are not China or North Korea or Iran/Iraq or India or some other hostile place. So following Jesus is still pretty non-confrontational and “safe.”

That’s what struck me as I read Luke 9 this morning.  On two separate occasions Jesus talks about what it will take to follow Him. These are not back-to-back incidents, but by my recollection days apart.

The first is in Luke 9: 23-27. (I’ll leave it up to you to read it). It is probably as familiar to you as it is to me. Jesus minces no words about what it will take to follow Him: “Deny…Take up…Follow…Give up.” Following Jesus is a full-time, full-on surrender to His rule in my life. Discipleship is not a “when-I-feel-like-it” experience.

The second, which comes at least 8 days later (v.28), is found in verses 57-62. It is what I will call “I will follow You but…” passage. You can read it for yourself. It seems to be a scene of “I will follow when it is convenient for me.”

I don’t think the scenes are unrelated or separate, except in time frame. What I mean by that is they supplement or amplify each other. “Deny…take up…follow…give up” sets the groundwork for Jesus saying, “It takes complete surrender to be Mine.”  The latter Scripture says, “There is no wasting time. Don’t put Him second. He wants me now.”

“Father, may I not hesitate to follow You. May my following involve being sold out to You without hesitation and completely.”

 

August 4

Written by Bill Grandi on August 4th, 2022

Have you ever met someone who can’t seem to make up their mind? I love my wife but that tends to be her. Typical conversation on my day off (or even at other times):

  • Me: Where do you want to eat?
  • Her: I don’t care.
  • Me: I’ll ask again: where do you want to eat?
  • Her: I don’t care. You pick.
  • Me: Okay, let’s go to ____________.
  • Her: I don’t wan to go there.
  • Me: But you just said you didn’t care.

On and on it goes until I say, “I am not leaving this parking lot until you give me a place. You don’t like my suggestions, so you decide.” “But I don’t want to.” “Okay, let’s go to ___________.” “I don’t want to.”  (Frustration ensues)

There are also those who fixate on something and you just can’t get their mind turned. It is set in concrete.

Then there are those (like me) who have dreamed about something, maybe for years, realize it, then want to go back. In 2019 the church I pastor gifted us with a trip to Alaska. It had been on my bucket list for years. I want to go back and enjoy it again.  Jo doesn’t. Any takers?  🙂 🙂

The Apostle Paul probably seems like a man who couldn’t stay in one place very long. And he didn’t. Unless run out of town sooner, he normally stayed a year or two or three, but then moved on. It wasn’t dissatisfaction like many of us experience. You know…it gets old so we move on to “greener pastures.”

Paul moved on, but not because of that. He moved on because he believed that was his calling. Plant. Preach. Start a church. Prepare. Move on.

That is different from moving on due to being tired of the status quo or because of being tired of the place or even feeling like you’ve done all you can. Paul moved to take the message of Jesus to somewhere and to someone else because that was his calling.

Your calling may not be like Paul’s. Mine isn’t. But I do know that where I am, I need to be all there (to borrow Jim Eliot’s words). God put me-He put you-exactly where He wanted us. Be all there. Serve Him there. And if, or when, He says, “Move on” then do exactly that.

“Father, help me to be all Yours no matter where I am.”

 

August 3

Written by Bill Grandi on August 3rd, 2022

Very recently I read an exciting and interesting new book by Pastor Greg Laurie called Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus. Strange name I know, but it was a book about those three musical icons, their contemporaries and how they felt about Jesus. Pastor Greg also wrote about other rock icons-Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin (who were all part of the dubious 27 Club because they all died when they were 27 years old), as well as others. He wrote about Jesus’ influence on different rock and roll artists- their acceptance, rejection, falling away, and embracing-of Jesus.

After reading that refreshing, sometimes sad, but still refreshing book, I decided to go back and read again another book by Greg which I had read back in 2018 called Jesus Revolution. I only started it last night so I can’t say much about it. However, chapter 1 began with this quote:

There can’t be any large scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level.  it’s got to happen inside first.

Who said that? Hold onto your hat when I tell you. Jim Morrison.

Shocked? Yeah…me too.

Sounds like some religious jargon doesn’t it? How many times have you heard or said something like, “Real revival must start with me.” It’s true. Real revival, real renewal, must begin within each one of us, starting with me. Real revival is a revolution, a radical changing of my heart and mind to being conformed to the image of Christ. To borrow and reword Jim Morrison’s words: It’s an inside job.

You see, I think the world (and the church to some extent), has seen enough of, and had enough of fake “works of God.” I know I have had enough of pretenders (and that includes me from time to time).  We see the garbage and hucksterism on TV for what passes for faith, and we hear of crusades (not Harvest Crusades put on my Greg Laurie) with all the showy junk, that we are literally sick of it. 

I know I’m sick of what passes for “God’s work” and “God’s words.”  Sort of makes me sick to my stomach.

Revival, or a move of God, is much more than “You don’t do this” or “You don’t do that” or “You must act a certain way” or “You must belong to a certain political party.”  No. Revival is a radical change within a person’s heart. THAT is what the world wants and needs to see.

Jim Morrison was right. We need Someone to light our fire. It’s not a baby (babe). It’s the King of kings setting us on fire with a fire of epic proportions. That is one that will set the night on fire by bringing the light of Christ to its darkness.

That the real thing. Authentic. Life-changing. White hot change-maker.

“Start with me, Father. Set me on fire.”

 

August 2

Written by Bill Grandi on August 2nd, 2022

Control. It’s a matter of control.

For the past 6 Sundays- (this coming Sunday will be #7)- I have been preaching on 7 Cancers, or as they are commonly called, the Seven Deadly Sins. As I reflect on all of them, they come down to one word:

C. O. N. T. R. O. L.

Who controls me? Or what controls me? Whether talking about anger or jealousy, gluttony or lust, pride or greed, or sloth, it all comes down to control.

That came to my mind this morning as I read Isaiah 31:1- “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” 

That then brought to mind Psalm 20:7- “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” 

That drew me to Ephesians 5:18 where I am told to not allow any outside influence to control me or I could grieve/quench the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life.  The only influence who should have control is the Holy Spirit.

Again, it is a matter of control. Will I allow a substance, a priority, a circumstance, or some outside influence to have control over me?

“Father, may You be who I let control me. May I push away every imposter for the throne of my heart and exalt You and You only as my King.”

 

August 1

Written by Bill Grandi on August 1st, 2022

Two passages I read today are linked…but not in a good way.

The first is Isaiah 29: 19-20. You can also find that same passage echoed by Jesus in Matthew 15: 8-9. “These people honor Me but their lips are far from Me.” (29:13). The implication is that we are good at spouting off stuff but have no heart in it.

The truth of that in practical terms is found in the second passage: Luke 5. The religious leaders “knew” the Law. But their acknowledgment of Jesus and who He was was most definitely skewed. Take, for example, the man healed in Luke 5. (That same story is in Mark 2). His friends bring him to Jesus, find the way blocked due to the crowd, lower him through the roof and Jesus heals him. Instead of rejoicing in the man’s healing, they badger Jesus because He said the man’s sins were forgiven. I’m guessing He didn’t use the right formula?

They knew the OT Scriptures-the Law. But their legalism would not and could not free them to join in the celebration of that man’s healing.

We may not be guilty of that same type of thing, but we sometimes refuse to rejoice because God works outside our boxes. Or we don’t see it in our own lives.  I remember once hearing a pastor tell of how people came up to him after he preached telling about all God was doing in their lives. When it was all over he looked up into the heavens and said, “What about me, God? What about me?”

He had trouble rejoicing at other’s blessings because he saw the lack in his own life. Makes me stop in my tracks and ask, “Have I become so one-sided that I have missed the obvious work of God in my own life?

“Father, help me not to be so one-sided- “this is the way You work”-that I miss your work in other’s lives…and my own.”

 

July 28

Written by Bill Grandi on July 28th, 2022

As a pastor I have heard all kinds of things that I’m sure sounded good when it came out of a person’s mouth, but giving it some thought changed the sentiment a bit.

For example, I’ve had folks say to me, “Well, Pastor Bill, I don’t feel like I have to say anything about Jesus. I’ll just live it.” That sounds good; it is laudable; but it just isn’t enough. There are plenty of religions that believe in “living right.” Mormons. JWs. Unitarians. Even atheists. So that argument falls flat on its face. Not only must we live; we must also speak the truth of Christ. That is what sets life in Christ apart from “good living.”

On the converse are those who speak well about Jesus, study His Word, but just don’t live it.  James speaks of not just being a hearer of the Word, but also a doer. it is not enough to read the Bible. It is not enough to listen to it. It is not enough to sit in a study or a group and discuss eternal truths. James says we are to live it out. His exact words are, “But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.” (1:22- NASB2020). For more on that I would encourage you to read verses 23-25.

The lesson is clear: don’t fall into the trap of hearing, listening, reading and looking into a mirror and then forget what you look like, i.e. forget to live it out.

IMHO more harm has been done and is done to the cause of Christ by inconsistent lives, than by atheism,  junk science, deconstruction, or false doctrine.

“Father, help me to live out my faith in deeds. Not for earning my salvation, but because I love You. Help me not to be a hearer only.”

 

July 27

Written by Bill Grandi on July 27th, 2022

I’m back!! It’s been a couple of days due to travel. I know…you have been waiting with baited breath.  🙂 So I’ll start with an update:

  • Jo’s sister, Vicki, was given a chest X-ray, which actually turned out clear. She had a cough so they decided to test her and she tested positive for COVID.  She has had it once and been vaxxed and boosted twice. Gotta wonder… Anyway, that was a surprise so they have her in jail for a few days. Her dementia is progressing and there are some other health issues. Thanks for praying for her.
  • Our short time away to Ohio went ok. The glitch was on the way there. We were bebopping along when we came to a screeching halt. Not from a near accident but because all traffic was stopped. For 2 hours. When we finally got to the place of the bottleneck, we saw a burned out truck-cab and load. I’m not a rubbernecker so I drove while Jo looked. What we did see was the truck was unrecognizable. Of course, the pastor part of me hoped all were okay.  Needless to say, that put us 2 hours behind so we missed eating supper with Janna, Mike, and Braden.  But that sure beats the 4 hours we once sat still a couple of years ago.

It is easy to get bummed out over events that derail our plans. Robert Burns once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” My way of saying that is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go down the tubes.”

In times like that, my mind flashes to an idea. All timing is God’s timing. Then this morning I read Isaiah 25:1- “Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Reading that verse cemented that thinking for me. We left about 10-15 minutes later than we had planned wanted to. Could that wreck have involved us? I’ll never know-nor should I worry about it- because my time is in His hands.

I won’t understand everything. I’m not supposed to. Nor is God obligated to tell me. I simply need to trust that my time and my times are in His faithful and loving hands.

 

July 25

Written by Bill Grandi on July 25th, 2022

I will be MIA today and tomorrow (and possibly Wednesday depending on Jo’s report from the nursing home about her sister). The original plan was to leave after worship on Sunday and head to Ohio, stay until Tuesday morning and then head home early so I could spend part of the day either helping Tami with getting her classroom ready, or to do church ministry. But a phone call late Saturday from the nursing home about Jo’s sister, Vicki, may add another day to our trip.  Vicki is older than Jo but has been suffering from Type 2 diabetes for many years and also has dementia. She was having trouble breathing so they were going to have an X-ray done to see what was going on. The results will determine whether we go to visit her on Tuesday before we head home. So we may end up spending another day in Ohio.  Since I don’t take my computer and don’t like to do my blog on my phone, I don’t see me posting anything unless it would be really short or an update.

Jo and I would appreciate your prayers for our safe travel. It has been over a month since we have seen Janna or Braden and we were looking forward to just getting away (which I have not done this summer or in quite awhile).  I know Jo would also appreciate prayers for her sister, and also for her as she is POA.

Thanks. I will try to keep you posted in some way. Perhaps you can check back each day for an update.

 

July 21

Written by Bill Grandi on July 21st, 2022

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I wrote this yesterday but then changed my mind when I got to the office. Here is yesterday’s originally written post. 

Have you ever heard the phrase “It went from the sublime to the ridiculous”? Another way of saying that is “It went from the high to the low.”

I’d like to turn that around this morning: I went from the ridiculous to the sublime. As I say that, “ridiculous” is a very poor choice of a word. Nothing in God’s Word is ridiculous, except maybe the reactions of some people.

Maybe a better word would be “confusing” or “I don’t get it.” Please read on and I’ll try to explain my thoughts.

I am currently reading the book of Isaiah. I don’t know why I chose to do that. My madness will continue into Jeremiah and on until I finish in Malachi. Anyway, I read Isaiah 18-19 this morning. Talk about totally confused! it sure gives me a greater appreciation for those who spend their lives studying books like this and trying to make sense of them. I was lost…totally.

Fast forward to my NT reading: Mark 12.  Talk about the ridiculous to the sublime! That chapter is chock-full of teaching moments:

  • The parable of the vine growers who kill and maim representatives of the owner until they kill his son. Can you say, “Jesus”?
  • The attempts at entrapment by the Pharisees (taxes) and Sadducees (marriage in heaven by men who didn’t believe in the resurrection).
  • The sincerity of the scribe’s response to Jesus about the greatest commandment.
  • Finally, the widow who gave more than all the others because she gave out of her heart and they out of their abundance.

Jesus confirms He is the chief cornerstone, and the son killed by the vine growers is Him.  They knew it too. And then to end it all by talking about a widow who gave more than all the others because she gave out of her poverty.

Dagger to the heart.

It got me to thinking. One doesn’t appreciate clarity until he/she has been in confusion. Confused by the Old but so grateful for the New.

Maybe someday I will understand Isaiah. Until then, I will follow the lead of Jesus and that widow who gave out of poverty.  How about you?

 

July 20

Written by Bill Grandi on July 20th, 2022

As I sat down this morning to enter my devotion that I had written at home during my Encounter Time, I suddenly realized that I wanted to take a different course. I will save that devotion for tomorrow.  Since you were praying for me yesterday (last night) concerning the funeral, I thought I would let you know how it went.

I told the family when I saw them at the visitation that whenever I hear of someone or am asked to do a funeral of someone I do not know, I always wonder if possibly I have met them before. I go to the Y on a regular basis and have since I moved here in ’05. I have also been active in the community for that many years so it is totally possible I have met someone but not known who they were. I did not know (let’s call him John).  I know exactly where he lives since I have been by there numerous times.  But I had never met him.

All in all I thought the service went well. It is my practice to neither send someone to Hell or to Heaven, unless I know they were a Christ-follower to the core. John was a man of faith. His family was telling me of the churches he attended in the area.  (Funny aside: OVCF bought this building in 2010 from the Mormons. When the 3 siblings met with me this past Sunday, they knew exactly where the building was because they used to attend here. This was one of their dad’s stopovers during his search for meaning).  Neither of them are now or ever plan to become Mormons…ever.

Anyway… the service went well.  I was able to use their eulogy and their suggested Scripture and implement them into my words from Psalm 23 (the requested Scripture from them).  I do believe an open door is there for future interaction.

I learned something which I already knew but needed to have reinforced in this day and age of militancy. Just like no one likes to be put into a cookie-cutter and classified at “being just like all the rest,” John broke the mold. I can honestly say I do love gay people. I have no animosity with or toward them. I try to be kind and respectful toward them as individuals. I do not agree with their lifestyle choice (and he began questioning it big time the last year of his life).  As I said, John broke the mold. He was not flashy. He was not the “typical” gay man. He was not flamboyant. He kept to himself and he kept his lifestyle to himself. That doesn’t make it right in God’s eyes, but it flies in the face of the militant ones who want to garner so much attention.  He lived with questions and the last year of his life the question of “Have I sinned too much? Could God love me?” surfaced in conversations with his children. I wish I had known him to tell him that no one sins too much and yes God loves Him. Does He approve of the lifestyle? No. But he had already decided a friend is all he wanted, not a relationship.  I met his friend and he was a true friend with none of the “fringe benefits.” John was done.

Jesus once told a parable about the man who had laborers in his field. He needed more so he went and got more. He needed still more and got them. At the end of the day he paid them all the same. It doesn’t matter when a person comes to Jesus. Early in life; middle of life; or on their death bed. The reward of heaven is the same. I cannot say whether John bowed his knee to the Father in Heaven.  He knew. He had been taught (outside the Mormon faith) of his need for Jesus. I can only hope and pray he made his choice. But it is still not my place to say yeah or nay.

As for the 3 siblings: I am hoping and praying for fruit. One lives out of town so I don’t see much interaction from her family.  The other daughter I had a chance to talk with and she expressed an interest in coming to OVCF. In fact, she said, “Don’t be surprised if some Sunday you see us walking in.” I told her I would look forward to that.  The son? He pretty much kept to himself but since I know where he lives, I can keep in contact.

So as I close this rather long (and I suspect sometimes rambling) post, would you mind praying for the Lawson family? Pray for them to find the wisdom and peace they crave. They are definitely going to need God’s direction as they sort through things. And pray for fruit to come from my ministry to them. I am thankful to God that He brought them my way. And I am thankful that He made it possible for me to be His representative. 

And I thank you for praying for me.