December 2

Written by Bill Grandi on December 2nd, 2021

There is a big difference between someone who says something and someone who does something. We all tire of listening to some talking head who tells us what do, how to live and how to act, but then do something different. (That is not a political comment). Hypocrites bug us. It’s even worse when we are that hypocrite and our actions don’t match our words.

A big case in point would be Jesus. How many times does He say, “Love God with all your heart” or some variation of that? How many times does He call us to surrender? “Leave your father and mother.” “Follow me.” It would be maddening to hear Him say (or read his words) and for Him to disregard His own words. Can you say, “I’m not following Him”?

Think of the Christmas story. Philippians 2 tells us it was one of obedience. But the reality of it all is that “if anyone had a right to have His own way, in every way and all the time, it was Jesus.” (Quote from Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp-p.69)

But we see Jesus submitting in obedience and surrender to His Father. The cradle. The Garden. The cross. He committed Himself to His Father’s plan. 

And here is a real truth: when He asks us to surrender, He isn’t just blowing smoke.  He’s already done it. Not just talked it! DONE IT. LIVED IT.

Can I do any less? The excuses falter when I try to worm my way out.

“Father, Jesus was obedient to You and surrendered to Your will. Cradle to grave. May I be willing to do the same.”

{Note: Jo and I will be leaving for Ohio today and be gone all weekend. I will read and approve the comments when I have a chance. Please pray for safe travel for us}

 

December 1

Written by Bill Grandi on December 1st, 2021

Well…today is officially the start of the Christmas season. I say that in spite of and a rejection of the display of Christmas things in October. (Some day Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by 8 tiny rabbits). I also say that in spite of Black Friday, which has now officially become Black Friday Week and Cyber Monday. Ugh!! I’ve received ads from vitamins to bicycle stuff to shave kits to (fill in the blank) telling me all about the sales pre and post Thanksgiving.  And there is, of course, Hallmark showing movies since November and they even had a Christmas in July! If that wasn’t weird seeing snow on the TV when it was 90+ degrees outside. I prefer the latter myself.

But, in my mind, December 1 starts it. That’s not saying I haven’t been using Christmas devotionals for the past couple months. I am, after all, a pastor who needs to prepare for the Christmas season. AHEM!

All that to say we are going to spend a lot of time this month-here, at work, at home, everywhere-talking about Christmas. With that in mind I give you a quote from Bob Goff’s book for something to think about:

We {Editorial note: his family) knew the way to show Jesus to people was to love the way He loved. When He went away, He said He was leaving His Spirit with us so we could become like Him and act like Him. It means we can love people who are excluded and alone during the holidays. It means we can love people who don’t love us back, the ones who seem to find joy in antagonizing us. The way we love difficult people lets everyone know the baby in the manger isn’t just a decoration. (#334-p.386)

Those are some really good words to start off thinking about Christmas. I especially like that last sentence. Just as the cross is more than piece of jewelry, so the manger is more than a prop in a scene on a lawn.

“Father, may I let others know this month (and always) that the manger is more than a prop. It shows love came down.”

 

November 30

Written by Bill Grandi on November 30th, 2021

Romans 10 has always been one of my favorite chapters to read. It is an informative one, but also a challenging and convicting one.

Paul begins by saying his heart’s desire is for his kindred Jews to know Christ (v.1). In fact, I think you can include chapter 9 with that. In 9:1-5 Paul even says that he would be willing to be accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of his countrymen (v.3).

But while he is willing to sacrifice himself for others, and even though his heart’s desire is for their salvation, he knows they must hear and respond. Each person must hear and respond on their own (10:10,13).

I like how he lays out the progression in verses 14-15:

  • How will they call on Him on whom they have not believed?
  • How can they believe if they have not heard?
  • How can they hear without a preacher?
  • How can they preach unless they are sent?

And then his ending: “Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (v.17). Faith/salvation does not happen in a vacuum. That speaks volumes as to why it is so important to get the message to others.

“Father, may I be used to get the message of Jesus to others so they can come to faith in You.”

 

November 29

Written by Bill Grandi on November 29th, 2021

Full disclosure: I actually wrote this on the 26th.

Everyone is still asleep in my house so I thought I would take the time to journal. I’m reading through Paul David Tripp’s book, Come Let Us Adore Him. This is my 7th time through. i read it 3 times in 2017 and once each year since. It is a daily Advent devotional that I have used to prepare for Christmas. I read the December 11th devotion today. His opening prep statement says this:

The baby in the manger comes as a conquering King to dethrone us and then to enthrone Himself in our heart and lives forever and ever.

The whole devo is about the tug of war that goes on between us and our offspring and us and God. Our son doesn’t fight us about what to eat because he read a book on the Paleo diet and our daughter doesn’t argue with us about her bedtime as a result of an in-depth sleep study. They fight with us because it’s about kingdoms-theirs and ours.

We disagree with God because it’s a battle of kingdoms-His vs ours. Tripp makes a great point about why I get angry when driving. I get angry, not because they have broken God’s laws, but mine. In reality, it’s that way all the time. My way or the highway.

Jesus came to take the throne. He won’t take it forcefully, but He does want me to lay down my life willingly. Only when I’m willing to do that will I find salvation, peace, and contentment.

“Lord, may I willingly lay my life down and give you the throne.”

 

Just a Word

Written by Bill Grandi on November 25th, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I know I don’t have many readers…at least many who comment.  Strange as it may seem I don’t really do this devotional blog for you all. I do it for myself. I love the early morning Encounter Time I have with Jesus and this blog is my journal entry which everyone can see. I need the discipline which comes with daily journaling.

I’ve made some adjustments lately. My day off is Friday. Lately God has gotten my attention-not by drastic measures but my reading and listening-that I need to honor that day off. I still have my Encounter Time but have decided to refrain from writing in my journal and posting it here. That is what I do all week long and a true sabbatical (day off) is NOT DOING what I do all week long.

All that to say: unless I am especially “inspired and led” to do so, I will not be posting on Friday, in fact, the whole weekend. I direct you to my other blog for a weekend post about my sermon for Sunday.  I usually do that on Thursday some time. I will approve and respond to any comments, of course, but I think it is wise for me to take some prolonged time away from the computer.

I’m going to continue with my “Shadow” blog into 2022. I love having you join me and would love it if you would bring some friends along with you. Not the four-legged kind, but some of the two-legged ones.  My dream is this would reach more folks. Of course, it would help if I was on social media but that “ain’t going to happen.”  I refuse to support blatant bias.

Again, I hope you have a grateful Thanksgiving Day. If you read this after the fact, I hope you had a blessed day.  Thanks for reading.

 

November 24

Written by Bill Grandi on November 24th, 2021

I used to love a good roller coaster. The feel of the air as it rushed past my face. The almost weightless feeling of topping the track and then dropping off at ungodly speeds was thrilling.

Two realities wrecked that for me, neither of which I could control. First, getting older. What my body once relished, it now rebelled. My joints would hurt from being jostled and my head complained because of the equilibrium being off. But worse was #2.

It was always an issue. Circles. I hate circles. Put me in or on anything which goes in circles and it is not a pretty sight. Like lose my lunch sight. I turn white. I sweat profusely. And BAM! So I stopped riding coasters. No…make that I stopped going to the amusement park. I even get sick on a Merry-go-round! Now…who gets sick on one of those? (hand raised). Anyway, the food was too expensive. And the people-the real reason I like to go to the park-got stranger and stranger.  95 degrees out and wearing long, baggy, black pants 10 sizes too big. Chains. Long sleeve black shirt. Piercings out the yazoo. Did I say weird?

Anyway, focus Bill. I used to love the thrill of the coaster. Start slow. Hit the high. Come in for the landing.

Psalm 19 reminds me of that:

Start slow. Verse 1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…”

Hit the apex. Verses 7-10. Four of the most powerful and greatest verses in all of Scripture.

Come in for the landing. Verse 14 says, “May the word of my mouth…”

Take the time to read the whole chapter on your own please. Then read it again and again. See the start. Feel the apex. Stick the landing.

And you won’t get sick. I promise. And I will take that ride any day.

“Father, thank you for Your Word and the vivid reality of it. Help me to relish the thrill of Psalm 19.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

 

November 23

Written by Bill Grandi on November 23rd, 2021

In all my years as a pastor, I think one of the most common thoughts I have heard is the inability of people to forgive themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter what that person has done-big or small-there seems to be a barrier to forgiveness. Or maybe I should say “Acceptance to forgiveness.” You see, the problem is not God. We hear about God’s forgiveness. We know we need forgiveness. We want to accept and believe that forgiveness can be for us. BUT we just can’t seem to pull the trigger.

We think too much of what we have done. We think too much of where we have been. We think our sins are too great to be forgiven. One of my favorite songs is Covered by Planetshakers. While I don’t subscribe to the theological bent of Planetshakers Church and its structure, this song speaks volumes to my heart. {Warning: song is a little over 7 minutes long…but worth the listen}

So does Romans 6, especially the first 10 verses. Allow me to outline it/highlight some things for you:

  1. We do not sin so God’s grace can be greater. If our sin is a 5, God’s grace is a 6. But we don’t have the freedom to sin to prove that.
  2. Baptism is a uniting factor. I personally believe this is water but I don’t believe it is saying baptism saves or washes away sin  It is a point of obedience, of unity with the Father.
  3. Our old self is crucified with Him so that we will no longer be a slave to sin. Sin loses its hold on me.
  4. Jesus’ death is once for all. He died once and never needs to die again. This is one reason why the continual need for absolution is unnecessary. It is also one reason why living under the OT Law is useless. The Law cannot save; only Christ can.

Sin is forgiven. Big or small. God’s grace covers it all. Verse 7 says, “For the one who has died is freed from sin.” (NASB2020) We are no longer a slave to sin.

“Father, thank You for Your complete forgiveness. No sin is too great or too small. Your grace covers it all.”

 

November 22

Written by Bill Grandi on November 22nd, 2021

I read a great and touching story recently:

When a powerful typhoon swept through the city of Tacloban, Philippines, in 2013, an estimated 10,000 people died, and many who survived found themselves homeless and jobless. necessities became scarce. Three months later, while the town was still struggling to dig itself out from the destruction, a baby was born on a roadside near Tacloban amid torrents of rain and strong wind. Although the weather brought back painful memories, residents worked together to find a midwife and transported the mother and newborn to a clinic. The baby survived, thrived, and became a symbol of hope during a time of despair.

I know another baby who came amidst an upheaval (Luke 2:1). Other than an innkeeper who possibly offered the stable, shepherds who visited, and a caring husband, a mother brought forth a baby who offered the ultimate hope. He survived, thrived, died, rose again, and all while saying, “Come to me” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Trouble is unavoidable and we may feel like giving up and all hope is lost. That baby-Jesus-says, “No. Don’t give up. I have the power to rescue you.”

“Father, may I remember through all the good and bad which happens that You are my hope.”

 

November 18

Written by Bill Grandi on November 18th, 2021

Caution: longer than normal post

Ever since out daughter Tami’s heart attack, her life has changed.  One of those is the amount of weight she is allowed to carry.

Let me give you a back story. Ever since I can remember, Tami used to pack heavy. She would come home from class in high school and whether she drove or we picked her up, she would load herself up with as much as she could carry so she wouldn’t have to make another trip to the car. Book bag. Back pack. Basketball bag. Shoes. You name it; one trip. And one trip only. I didn’t know a high school kid could have so many arms.

Fast forward to her time as a teacher (23 years now). Same scenario. Why make an extra trip when you have a thousand arms to carry everything? Backpack. Check. Class work. Check. Lunch bag. Check. Clothes to walk in. Check. Head. Hmmmm seems to be attached but not sure. 🙂  (She is a kindergarten teacher after all).

Add to the mix that her apartment is upstairs (26 very narrow and steep steps) and when she came home she loaded her arms.

Anyway, the day she had her attack, we had to get her stuff from the school. I had to carry her back pack. I just became almost instantaneously the world’s strongest man! It felt like she had a ton of bricks in there! Nope. I checked. All school stuff.

Since her attack she has a weight limit of 20 pounds. I’m thinking she is testing that limit. 🙁

Jesus once told someone they needed to travel lighter. “Sell all your stuff and follow me.” Trust me when I say that isn’t easy to do. We are in a purging mode since Tami is moving in with us-at least temporarily-so we have to make room at home and in a storage. We have already made 2 trips to Goodwill and one to a local outreach as we purge our house and my sister-in-law’s storage. Last night we had a meal with some friends and he talked about downsizing, purging and living “small.”

I agree with Bob Goff who wrote:

To follow Jesus, we should learn to love big and pack light. The less we carry of our worries, stuff. personal vendettas, and poisonous relationships, the freer we’ll be to explore the frontiers of love. (#322-p.373)

Let’s purge the unnecessary and carry only the necessities. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Goodness. Meekness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

“Father, you know my prayer to purge all that does not belong in my heart. Continue that process in me.”

 

November 17

Written by Bill Grandi on November 17th, 2021

As a teenager two of the most frequent questions asked are “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” It is expected, I think, of teens as they try to find their way through life and their place in life. Those years are especially tough because acceptance and belonging and a sense of self-worth are tied up in the answer to those questions. I confess to asking them myself.

It doesn’t stop.

I’d like to say I stopped asking those questions when I become an adult, but I would be lying. They take a twist though. Instead of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” they morph into “Do you like me?” or “Do you approve of me?”

I spent way too many years seeking approval of others. As a youth pastor I wanted the young people and their parents to like me.  As a pastor I wanted the adults to like me, and their kids were a bonus. It’s human nature to want to be liked, but that can be taken too far. The need/desire for approval is a very poor (translated: dangerous) reason behind doing ministry. The root cause of that is often-not always-the hunger for approval from parents and peers. I always had and knew I had the approval of my mother. My dad was a different story. Play baseball? Spot on. Play basketball? Not so. I always stuck out like a sore thumb with my high school peers since I was not a drinker, a smoker, a swear-er, or a rabble-rouser.

I finally came to realize my acceptance from God was worth it all. I didn’t have to strive for it. I didn’t have to perform. Nor beg. Nor plead. Isaiah 43:1-3a says, “But now, this is what the LORD says, He who is your Creator, Jacob, and He who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overfl0w you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God.’ “  (NASB2020)  Those verses tell exactly how God feels about me.

It feels good to be loved and accepted and called “His.”

“Father, may I realize-always-my position with You. I’m accepted.”   Here is a song worth listening to.