November 14

Written by Bill Grandi on November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

 

November 10

Written by Bill Grandi on November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.

 

November 9

Written by Bill Grandi on November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.

 

November 8

Written by Bill Grandi on November 8th, 2022

I hope to answer Ryan’s comment on yesterday’s post tomorrow. I had planned it for today but something else is on my mind. (And my other mind would be upset if I didn’t write this).

A dubious anniversary.

That is what I would call it. Usually anniversaries are celebratory occasions. We call them birthdays. We call them golden and silver (speaking of weddings. Fun fact: Jo and I will celebrate, Lord willing, #50 this coming June 16th).  We call them holidays. All days or moments of celebration. A highlight. A star.

So why do I write “a dubious anniversary?”

Yesterday, my daughter, Tami, texted me early in the morning to tell me I had an anniversary. More specifically, her memory feed on FB said it was the 6th year anniversary of my hit-n-run accident. Not me hitting and running, but someone using me as their personal practice dummy by using the mirror of their SUV to see if they could hit me and put me down. They succeeded. (Yay for me). Then I laid on the road watching him drive on, not even slowing down or using a brake light. November 7, 2016 around 1:15 in the afternoon. Clear day. Sun was out. Bright clothes. Day ruined. A trip to the ER. It was followed by a couple of weeks of pain and a huge hematoma on my left hip. A trip to a clinic about a week or so later due to a swollen leg. Gradual healing.

The first time out riding after that I was very cognizant (translated: highly alert) of every vehicle that went by me. Still am to this day. In the summer of ’17 I was buzzed by a car and when I stretched my arms as if to say, “Why?” he made a not so nice gesture out of his window. Yeah…it was on purpose. It happened a year or so later when a Jeep got real close, gestured and sped along. But it wasn’t so funny when two days later I was coming on an intersection, saw that same Jeep, pointed and he took off like a “bat out of you-know-where.” (Sorry for the rabbit trail).  Anyway, that first ride past where it happened, I rejoiced and prayed a prayer of thanks. Even to this day, I remember it when I ride past it.

It is a dubious anniversary. But it was also an awakening time. A realization that my life could been snuffed out that quickly. A spiritual awakening that began that day, was reinforced 3 months later when I went over the handlebars while going downhill (I still don’t remember what happened).  I broke my collarbone, 3 ribs, and split my helmet in 3 places.  That accident was like the exclamation point on the spiritual awakening which had begun on November 7.  It climaxed in spiritual awareness, repentance from drifting and taking things for granted, relaxing boundaries, and a new appreciation for life.

It is a dubious anniversary, but one I look back on with gratitude. My life was spared. A 16 pound bike with a 205 pound rider has very little chance against a 3000 pound machine at 60 mph.  That is simply no contest.

More importantly though, God used it to say, “Wake up Bill! You are relying to much upon yourself.”

“Thank  you Father, for your gracious heart toward me. For the lessons taught (and hopefully learned) I thank you. Take whatever days I have left and let me use them wisely for You.”

 

November 7

Written by Bill Grandi on November 7th, 2022

I have always had trouble with statements like “Good Luck” or “You were so lucky.” The same goes for “May the force be with you.” 🙂 Ditto on “It just happened to open up” or some form of “It just happened.”

This recently came home to me in spades.  Almost 2 weeks ago I hit my leg just above the ankle on a metal rod used to move a weight bench at the Y. It hurt like fire.  (And no I didn’t use words I shouldn’t, but I do confess to slamming a weight on the bar). I quickly developed a “goose egg” that looked like a hard-boiled egg in size. I came home and iced it then iced it off and on for the next couple of days. About a week ago I noticed my foot turned black and blue, as if I had sprained my ankle. I also noticed the nail of my big toe also had turned color (blood pooled under the nail). I had a nurse friend who came to take a look and recommended I get to a doctor to get checked for cellulitis. So the next morning I began calling a few minutes before 7 and got through right at 7:00. No openings.  In fact, she told me to call a central number and see if an opening was available. Nope. Nada. Zip. But she said she would take one more look and said, “Oh, I have an opening at 9:05.” So I went and the diagnosis was gravity was causing the bruising; the discoloring of the hematoma was due to some varicose veins I have; and she prescribed antibiotics for the developing cellulitis.  The metal rod must have broken my skin and allowed infection to fester.

But here is the kicker: I told her about my efforts to get in to see a doctor and found her (a PA in the same doctor’s office I use) open. Her answer…wait for it…”I just happened to have a cancellation this morning.”

“Just happened.” Oh…if she only knew. I didn’t have a chance to say anything to her because she was already walking down the hall. If she only knew what I know. “A man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can a person understand his way?” (Pr. 20:24)

“The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Pr. 16:9)

Chance? Luck? Just happened? I don’t think so. Luck, chance, or just happened are not words in God’s vocabulary.  And I refuse to have them in mine as well.

 

November 3

Written by Bill Grandi on November 3rd, 2022

I’d like to continue with my devotional thought from yesterday’s devotion.

Have you ever had tinnitus? It is a ringing in the ears, a very unpleasant sound. It hinders hearing.

Have you ever had too much wax in your ear, so much so that it weighs against your ear drum? Not only does it have a physical side effect (vertigo) it also makes it hard to hear. Been there done that.

Have you ever felt like you were underwater and all you could hear was a sound like a seashell against your ear? It makes it hard to hear.

Have you ever been wearing headphones and found people talking to you and you either had no clue or could not make out what they were saying?

I have described some common, sometimes everyday occurrences. All of them affect our hearing. Okay, let’s move it into another realm.

Each day you read, watch, listen, or “veg out” to the news. Hour after hour of the same old garbage. This or that politician is off the rails. This or that legislation is good or bad. This or that country is considering going to war.

There is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on in the world. We can’t hide our heads in the sand. But the more we listen, the louder the voices get. Meanwhile, the one who has a steady diet of this nonsense sinks deeper and deeper into despair. As I said, I’m not opposed to knowing what is going on in the world, but enough is enough. There comes a point in time where we have to shut down the voices clamoring for our attention, stop, and listen to another voice.

It is the voice of the Father saying, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice.” The question that comes up and needs answered is “How can I hear His voice if I’m not listening? And how can I hear if I’m listening too much to others?”

In a noisy world, we need to shut down the distractions and the steady diet of outside noise and take time to hear the voice of the Father.

Shut off the news. Silence the ringing in the ears of annoying claptrap. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling you to Him.

 

November 2

Written by Bill Grandi on November 2nd, 2022

As I sat down at the table this morning to have my Encounter Time, I prayed, “Father, let Your Word come alive to me this morning. Let me find something this morning that I will be able to learn from and use today.”

The point of this devotion is not to say, “Here is what I learned today” and then write about it. The point is the prayer. Not my specific prayer, but the point of my prayer.

I think many people do read their Bible. I do think some even try to read it on a daily basis. But, for many, that is all it is. Just reading. Almost like “I can now say I read the Bible today.” We sit down to read God’s Word as though it is just another book. We read it like the latest novel.

Now, please understand, I’m not knocking even this type of reading the Bible. We are told His Word will never return void so anytime a person opens the Word to read, there is a chance it might penetrate the heart. In fact, I count on that, especially if I’m not in a listening mood (for a myriad of reasons).

But God’s Word and my reading of His Word is so much richer when I pray for open eyes and an open heart.  You see, when you or I spend time in God’s presence, when you or I have been with Jesus and grow spiritually, we will become more like Him.

Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse of many (take a moment to read it). It is one of those go-to verses people use. But that verse does not and should not stand alone. Verse 29 must come along with it, but how many know it? The purpose Paul says of things working together for our good is so that we might “be conformed to image of His Son.” Reading God’s Word shapes and conforms us to Jesus and that is what people will see when they look at us.

Pray for open eyes and an open heart. Then read. Meditate on those words. And anticipate being changed into His likeness.

 

November 1

Written by Bill Grandi on November 1st, 2022

When people choose to serve God and make a difference, they often think it means doing something big. I can remember watching a movie many moons ago that was about a man who felt his call to follow God would involve something great or grand.  One example was that he dreamed of being a “Billy Graham type” evangelist.  He eventually found out that doing what God wanted sometimes is in the small things. (I think the movie was Kevin Can Wait but I’m not sure).

It is not unusual for us to feel that way. We equate big = successful. Not true.

Faithfully doing what God desires often means doing the small things well. “Faithful in little, faithful in much” is the way it goes.

Take a look at people in the Bible. David was a shepherd doing the shepherd-thing. When he was called he was doing the sheep thing. When he took down Goliath, he wasn’t seeking a big event. He was delivering cheese to his brothers as a messenger boy from his father. God found Gideon threshing grain in hiding out of fear of the Midianites. Elisha was plowing a field. Moses was tending sheep and minding his own business.

They were faithfully doing what they were supposed to be doing. Everyday mundane tasks. Just like us. Don’t wait around for some grand calling from God to go do something popular or great. That’s not saying you won’t.   But it is far more likely you and I will make a difference just by being available to God, by being faithful in our everyday life.

Faithful in little, faithful in much.  Don’t wait around for some grand action or calling. GO. DO. Let God deal with the results.

 

October 31

Written by Bill Grandi on October 31st, 2022

Have you ever noticed how some people hide well? Some do it on purpose. They don’t want to be seen. Anonymous is the best way.  There is both good and bad in that.

There are also those who like to labor behind the scenes. Unseen by many, each week they do “their thing.” Teach children. Work in a nursery. Safety and security. Work the sound board. Do Power Point. Clean up afterwards. Collect garbage. The list could go on.

They like it that way. They want it that way. Praise and accolades is not why they do what they do.

Just before kickoff at Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award-a tribute to the player who had best combined on-field excellence with off-field community service. It represents a commitment to giving and sacrificing to others.

Paying homage to those who serve is not a new concept. It isn’t that they clamor for it. A servant doesn’t do that. One who serves does just that: serves. Jesus once said, “I came not be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” He becomes the example the servant follows.

But every once in a while it is nice to be “seen” and recognized. Have you taken the time to let a volunteer know how much you appreciate what they have done?  If not, take the time today to drop them a note, text them, call them, or take them out to eat as a treat and a thank you.

You will be glad you did.

 

October 27

Written by Bill Grandi on October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?