January 13

Written by Bill Grandi on January 13th, 2022

I once had a pastor (a mentor early in my ministry) tell me to never get close to anyone in the church I serve. In other words, don’t have or make friends. Say what?

I can tell you that did not work with me. I am a naturally gregarious person. I laugh a lot. I can be too loud at times. But one thing I need and want is friends. I broke his rule. In just about every church I have served I have gotten close to someone. Sure, there have been occasions where it came back to bite me in the butt, but the friendships I do have and are still ongoing are special to me.

There’s Doug. A college friend who still meets with me 2-3 times/year at a place in between where we live for pizza. For now it requires over a 2 hour drive for me. But it is worth it. A thousand times over.  Granted, he is the exception to the church “rule”.

There’s Jim. I met Jim over a common “like”-he liked to ride bikes. We have pedaled many miles together. His cancer and relocation and his retirement has made it tough but we still try to get together. I’ve known Jim since the 90s.

There’s Ryan. I met him in 2007 after he corresponded with one of our men about the church after seeing us online. They were moving to this area and so we corresponded by email first and I was able to welcome he and his family to OVCF and to the area.  Our first time as families was lunch at Chicago’s pizza buffet in the town they lived in at the time. It became one of many Sunday lunches after church as our friendship was cemented. He had to move about 45 minutes away several years ago but Jo and I still get together with them.

Friendship is amazing! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ friendship with people? He spent time with the strangest people- a tax collector, a prostitute, a leper, an immoral woman (Jn.4).  It didn’t matter because a friendship with Jesus meant a changed life.  There is verse after verse in Proverbs which talks about the value of friendship.  Even Jesus mentioned its importance.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know my life has been richer and fuller because of my friends. I pray it has been reciprocal. 

“Father, we sing a song about Jesus being the friend of sinners. Help to follow His example, all for the purpose of enriching someone’s life.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 12

Written by Bill Grandi on January 12th, 2022

My mind is not here right now. Oh…it is in my Encounter Time and it has been a good “learning” morning. But as I read my mind was also on what I need to do later today and I was seeking advice and solace. Strength. Wisdom. Guidance.

I have a funeral today. No, not mine that I know of. 🙂 A good man named Kirby went to be with Jesus last week. We are laying to rest a man who fought long and hard. There is so much to say. He was the epitome of a family man and a man of grace-one who made everyone feel important.  He wasn’t into tooting his own horn. Diagnosed with MS in 2005, I never knew until years later when I saw him walking unsteadily one Sunday afternoon at a restaurant. I asked one of his children about it and he said, “Oh, that was his MS.” “MS? I didn’t even know.” I’m not sure they will ever be able to figure out what he died of. He had been in the hospital for close to two months (mostly ICU). He did get COVID but that is not what took his life (no matter what they may say). Complications set in each time he looked forward to getting to rehab. I think his body finally said, “Enough.”

It was a shock. Still is. I simply cannot imagine the pain his bride of close to 30 is going through. They have been together since Jr. High.  I can’t imagine the emptiness she feels, nor what the two young 20s son and daughter are feeling.

I’m praying for grace. Strength. Wisdom. He was a Christ-follower so that makes it somewhat easier, but the heart know what the heart wants (in this case).

Would you mind praying for his family today? Ronda. McKenzie. Hunter. And multiple other family and friends. I suspect it will be a packed house today. And please say a prayer for me and the other pastor (their former pastor who retired). Words are often forgotten but some stick with you. I’m praying I eulogize him but lift up the name of Jesus.

Thanks.

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 11

Written by Bill Grandi on January 11th, 2022

I may be grasping at straws here, and I may be way off the mark, but I think we as people, many of us at least, spend way too much time and effort trying to prove our worth. No matter how it shakes out, we very often are consumed-to the point of going way beyond normal-trying to prove to ourselves and others that we have got what it takes. We are driven by the desire to feel important or to show our importance to ourselves and to others.

We will even go so far as to act humble or to drop our head as if to say, “Awww shucks” while all the while straining our shoulder muscles to pat ourselves on the back or to hear more of how helpful/indispensable/worthwhile we are.

Something we should really grasp is that looking to others (or ever deep inside ourselves) for our sense of well-being is pointless. That’s right…pointless.  Honestly? We will never be good enough or consistent enough to garner the regular praise of people, many of whom are in the same boat as us.

And let’s face it: we may succeed in one moment and then face-plant in the next. That’s a fact of life. Life is a series of ups and downs. Praise. Disappointment. Accolades. Removal. Cancel culture is real good at that. Agree and all is good. Disagree and bye-bye.

Our worth, my worth, is not found in what I do or what others think of me. No, it is found in Jesus Christ. My unrighteousness is replaced with His righteousness. That’s why when I look in the mirror I don’t see “Wreck,.” “Misfit.” or “Loser.” I see “Loved one.” “Special.” “Redeemed.” “His.”

“Father, help me realize and remember my self-worth is not tied to how I feel about me or what others think about me. It is based on what You think.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 10

Written by Bill Grandi on January 10th, 2022

Before I get started I would like to ask you to pray for two of my readers: Martha Orlando is in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia (not COVID-related) and Diane Ronzino is in the hospital with COVID-pneumonia.  Thanks.

One of the emotions many Christ-followers struggle with is bitterness. Frankly put: bitterness will eat a person alive. There is no one reason why bitterness rears its ugly head.

In 2 Kings 5 there is a story of Naaman. Naamen was a well-loved general but he was afflicted with leprosy. The real hero of the story is not Naaman (although he did have to exhibit faith). It is not Elisha, the prophet who told Naaman to wash in the Jordan 7 times. The real hero is, of course, God. But someone else is a player-a young Israelite girl who had been taken captive.

She approached her mistress, Naaman’s wife, about a prophet in Israel who could heal his leprosy. Her words were, “I wish my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.”

She had every right to be bitter. But instead, she had a tender heart. She wanted the best for her enemy, rather than hoping for the worst.

Taken as a captive how could she possibly do that? By refusing to be bitter. She sets an example for us. What is interesting  is how it shows Jesus to us.  She was not a bitter person. If anyone shows us we should not have bitterness it is Jesus. If anyone could have or should have been bitter it was Him. But instead of raining down invectives and hateful remarks and holding a grudge, Jesus chose to use very few words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  That sounds like a great example to follow! It sure beats allowing ourselves to get eaten alive by poison inside us.

“Father help me to follow the example of the Israelite girl and ultimately, the example of Jesus. Help me not to hold a grudge or get bitter. Help me live in freedom.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 7-9

Written by Bill Grandi on January 7th, 2022

I am not normally going to post on the weekends, but this devotion came to me so I thought I would share it.

I wonder what it was like to be in Paul’s shoes. In 2 Corinthians 12 he speaks about being taken up into the third heaven. But he quickly changes his focus to his humility. Not bagging about it (because if he did he would no longer be humble!). Instead, he talks about how God keeps him from getting proud. His words: “to keep me from exalting myself.”  {Hmmm: does that speak to those who like to tell their stories for their few minutes of fame?}

But even more importantly is the lesson he is taught:  God’s grace is sufficient for any weakness. What an important truth to remember!

There is a saying, a thought, I often hear expressed which I think is very appropriate here: when you come to the end of yourself that is the best place to be. It is when you have nothing left, that you realize Christ is all you need.

Paul learned that.  He goes on to say, “Most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (v.9b)

That’s a good lesson for today and for the weekend. Well…for the future.

“Father, may I realize I am incapable on my own to counter all that comes. May I seek Your strength and grace to live a life which glorifies You.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 6

Written by Bill Grandi on January 6th, 2022

As I read 2 Corinthians 11 this morning I highlighted a couple of verses.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (v.3)

Then I read these two verses:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verses 13-14)

I drew a line connecting them. According to verse 4, the Corinthians were good at welcoming false teachers. They were not very discerning. The word we would use is they were “tolerant” of false teachers.

On one hand that is easy to see. Someone comes in and very subtly teaches something which sounds good but really isn’t. The undiscerning don’t catch it. They accept it as “gospel.” What makes it hard is more often than not it isn’t the big things which cause the slip-the deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Scriptures, that Jesus was fully God and fully man, etc. What I would call the “biggies.” It’s often the small things, say like a grab for power over time that cogs the wheel and gums up the engine. Or even legalism which sneaks in as “this is how a follower of Christ lives.”

I certainly am not dismissing having a discerning eye toward whacky things, like those pushed by Bethel and those of their ilk.  Ideas like calling themselves apostles, gold dust falling from the ceiling, and other non-biblical ideas. We need to be aware of cults like that, of those who sneak in putting our faith at risk. Given the infamy of today’s date, I’d even go so far as to say those who believe politics should be preached from the pulpit need to be examined more closely.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes and heart open to Your truth. Help me to be discerning to recognize what is not truth.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 5

Written by Bill Grandi on January 5th, 2022

If I was a betting man (which I am not), I would be willing to wager that most, if not all of us, will at one time or another in 2022 ask or want to ask Why? Now, I’m not talking about the little one who has a thousand questions and they all seem to start with the word why?

No, this is much more serious. When a health event hits us our first question might be Why? When a catastrophic event hits us-a death, fire, destruction, car accident-we might be inclined to ask Why? When a financial hardship hits we may be tempted to ask Why?

We may never know the answer to that question while here on earth, but we can take comfort in the truth of One who does. Just this week (Monday) I finished writing a sermon from Daniel 2. In that chapter is a verse which speaks to this issue: Daniel 2:22- “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” (NASB2020)

We can take comfort in the fact that God is never surprised or afraid. He is never caught off guard. And while the event that happens has me rocking backwards on my heels and a tad bit flustered, God is not wringing His hand wondering, “What am I going to do?”

Take heart. Those moments of darkness are not dark to Him. He is the light on the head of the coal miner. He is the compass in the hands of the explorer. As the old hymn says, “There is no shadow or turning with Thee.” (Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Father, what You do in the light, You do in the dark. When I have questions-especially Why?-help me to trust Your all-encompassing hand.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 4

Written by Bill Grandi on January 4th, 2022

Before I start would you please pray for one of my most faithful readers and commentors: Martha Orlando. Her husband, Danny, contacted me yesterday asking for prayer. She is in the hospital with pneumonia.  Thanks and I know she will appreciate it.

WOW! A wealth of info flooded me today. I’m narrowing it down to one dominant thought (at least for me).

God wants me to be present in the moment, but there is no way He expects me to focus here and live here forever.

We often hear people say-and rightly so-be in the present. What they are saying, I think, is don’t live in the past. For a mom or dad they are saying, “Be all there for your children. Don’t be playing with them on one hand and have a phone in the other.” For some-like sports teams-they are saying, “Don’t look ahead to the next game or games. Focus first on this one.” And that is so true. A person who focuses on the past will always be making crooked lines. The team (or person) who always focuses on the future games will lose sight of now.

I believe that I need to learn from the past and not dwell there. I also need to live in the present but not dwell there either. Although I do not know what my future holds, I need to remember that God does. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells me “Trust in the Lord with all my heart and do not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will make my paths straight.” (word changes mine)

Paul David Tripp wrote:

If eternity is the plan, then it makes no sense to shrink your living down to the needs and wants of this little moment. (Jan 3-NMM)

That reminds me of the unicorn in C.S.Lewis’ Narnia book, The Last Battle. When the unicorn sees heaven he says, “This is the land I’ve been looking for all my life.” For the Christ-follower that should be true. He has set eternity in our hearts. I’m not made for this world only. Neither are you. Let’s live for the now with an eye always looking to the future.

“Father, I trust you to take my past. I can’t change it. Help me to live in the now but not be stuck here. Help me to keep my eyes firmly planted on the future.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

Jan 3

Written by Bill Grandi on January 3rd, 2022

True confession: I wrote this on the morning of January 1.

At this point, I will be using 2 outside sources during my Encounter Time this year (besides the Bible reading I normally do). One, New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp (which I have used previously about 3 times. I took about a 2 year break), and Truth for Life, a 365 day devotional by Alistair Begg. Any reference I make to them will either be NMM (Tripp) or TFL (Begg).

To begin the year Begg focused on Genesis 1:1 (You probably know that by heart. 🙂 ). His basic thought was that God is God. He was before time, i.e. there was never a time God did not exist. He always existed in the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

I’m not going to belabor the point in order to impress you (I can’t do that anyway).  Instead, I want to lead off this new year with something I think is really important: no matter how deep a person wades into God; no matter how astute someone becomes by his study of God and His nature; no matter how conversant someone gets about God’s attributes, it is all for naught if God does not live in that person’s heart. It’s like the old saying, “Much learning doth make thee mad.” (Festus to the Apostle Paul in Acts 26:24)

Knowing about God is not the same as abiding in God. Knowing about God is not the same as allowing Him to reign over me and to change me.

“Father, I pray that this year will truly be a year of growing closer to You, of more than knowing stuff about You but really knowing You. As I read and journal help my words to be words You gave me, words that You are teaching me. Help me never to do this to impress others but to always lift Your name high.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

December 30

Written by Bill Grandi on December 30th, 2021

In this, my last post of 2021, I leave you with some words from Bob Goff. But first, my words. 🙂 As 2020 ended, it was not unusual to hear words like, “I’m so glad 2020 is ending. I am so ready for 2021.”  Hmmmm. My 2021 started with COVID long-haul that eventually led to a 48 pound weight loss in 4 weeks, several procedures and finally gall bladder surgery.  But all in all, other than some lingering smell and taste issues I can live with, I have no complaints as I can see God’s hand in all of it. Was I comfortable with it all? No, of course not. But I trust and rest in Him.

Here we are at the end of 2021 and I hear the repeat sentiments of the previous year. But I don’t hear the defeat and despair of people. Yes, the variant has reared its ugly head ahead bringing shut downs and dire warnings, mandates, and other nonsense. But I think people are tired of feeling defeated.

No one knows what 2022 will bring-except One. But it is because He knows that He also invites us to dream and to be involved in His work. Now for Bob’s quote:

When God gives us dreams, He wants us to change as we choose them. We achieve our dreams by bravely facing the lopsided odds. We might think achieving a dream is the point, but I think for God it’s more about seeing us become more like Jesus with each step we take forward. Of course, He celebrates with us too. (#365-p.418)

Those are good words to carry with us in 2022. Never stop dreaming. As Bob would say, “Dream big.” May 2022 be a year of new challenges seen; new mountains conquered; and new dreams fulfilled. All done in the power of the Spirit.

“Father, I give you my old year. It is done. I now give You reign over my new one-2022. May I follow Your dream(s) and Your plans for me.”