March 26

Written by Bill Grandi on March 26th, 2024

I had someone say to me the other day, “Getting old s**ks.” (I can’t stand that word hence the astericks.  However, it is a quote so…). While I hate the way he said it, I can’t totally disagree.

At age 71 I’m getting older. Well, so are you, but let’s think about this for a moment. As we age, lines develop on our face. We call them crow’s feet. Some develop “wisdom wrinkles” which become more prominent as one ages. Depending on your body fat, skin will hang and wiggle. Skin will get crepe-y. Bruises (blood) will show up in the arms and forearms or skin nicks will show up when you can’t even remember bumping or scraping them. Your stamina is not what it once was. For example, I used to ride 20-30 miles a day. If I do that today, I need a day or two between rides to recover. I might do 20 miles for 2-3 days in a row, but then I have to give myself a day or two off the bike.

Getting old is an adjustment, that’s for sure. That’s why I have issues with the “preacher” i.e. self-help guru who tries to tell me my best life is now. No, Joel, no it is not.

My best life is yet to come. I recently held the funeral service of a man whose last 2-3 years were spent fighting the effects of diabetes, a nasty bed sore caused by neglect of a rehab facility, the amputation of a leg at the knee, and a couple of strokes which affected his right hand strength and his communication (he could communicate but was slow in responding and putting sentences together). His best life was not now, laying in a bed. Not here. He is enjoying his best life NOW, living in the presence of the Savior he loved so much.

Do not look at your present or even your past life, as the pinnacle..as your best life. It’s not. For the follower of Jesus, the best is yet to come! That, by the way, is what the story of “Easter” is all about.

 

March 25

Written by Bill Grandi on March 25th, 2024

This week is called Holy Week because it is the last week Jesus spent on earth. Palm Sunday was celebrated yesterday. It is tied to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and even laid them on the ground, all the while yelling, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

All of what took place that last week ultimately had its sights set on the crucifixion and resurrection. With that in mind, I want to share with you something I read this past weekend and shared with the church on Sunday morning. It comes from a new devotional book called Overflowing Mercies by Craig Allen Cooper. I leave it with you to ponder:

Christ sacrificed His perfect life to secure our eternal life. Jesus’ love is everlasting, eternal, unceasing, unchanging, steadfast, and unrelenting (Jer.31:3), and it has nothing to do with your own performance, your own good works, or your own achievements. It has everything to do with His one great love, wholly and completely unmerited, unearned, and unalterable, laid down for you.  (p.20-21)

Sounds a whole lot like grace. Just sayin’.  🙂

 

March 21

Written by Bill Grandi on March 21st, 2024

Let’s consider a word this morning which is often overlooked in our culture today. The word is M.O.T.I.V.E. Why do we do what we do?

There is no question that many of us tend to have a guard up when it comes to a relationship with people. While it’s true there are some people who are naturally skeptical of others and they already have their guard up, there are those who are suckers for every dog and pony show that comes down the pike. I’m talking both religious and non-religious. While it is easy to take potshots at every fly-by-night wheeler dealer who pitches something when that person makes no profession of faith (except maybe in getting rich), it gets even more troublesome when that person claims to be “working or speaking for God.” Honestly? It curls my insides. Sadly, hucksterism is alive and well in the religious world.

That begs the question we must ask: what is the motive? Why is that person doing or saying what they are? That is really an important question to ask and it calls for discernment. It goes without saying that all that glitters is not gold. For the naturally skeptical people or the ones who are willing to practice discernment, they can recognize the shadiness behind actions. But for those who want to be more trusting and “see the good in people” they fail to see the sketchiness of someone doing something.  Truthfully, the hucksters rely on that mentality. They rely on folks who don’t take the time to investigate and analyze the “why.” Therefore, they will find themselves used as pawns in a big game…and they come out on the short end of that stick.

In Proverbs 21:2 it says, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their hearts.” (NLT)  Right there is the key to the whole thing. While some people may be able to fool others, there is ONE who cannot and will not be fooled. We need to be discerning, but ultimately the judgement for their motives will be made by God.  And I don’t want to be standing close to that person when judgment comes and all is revealed. Jesus consistently, i.e. more than once, condemned the religious leaders because they did what they did in order to be seen by men. He took them to task for their hypocrisy.

So now is a good time and place to ask the question: Why do you do what you do? Why do you help out at that shelter? Why did you reach out to the homeless person? Why did you give a note of encouragement to a co-worker? Why did you compliment someone today? Remember: people may see you and praise you, but as the proverbs tells us, God knows the heart.

 

March 20

Written by Bill Grandi on March 20th, 2024

Have you ever played the “what if?” game? You know how it works. You might make a statement and say, “What if I hadn’t…?” Or you might look back on something you have done, slapped your forehead and said, “I could have had a V-8.” Just kidding. 🙂 You might, however, say, “What if I had or had not done…?”

As an athlete (in my younger, former days) there have been times I was tempted to quit, to give up. to say the pain to continue was too great. I now look back and see that extra practice effort; that extra game effort; that push to get that rebound was worth it. I would have missed out on the prize-whatever it was. What if I had quit a tad bit earlier?

There’s an interesting story in the OT which has always captured my fancy. You can find it in 2 Kings 5. It’s the story of Naaman, the leprous, Gentile, military leader. He had a little Jewish girl as a servant who recommended he go see the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. Long story short: Naaman gets a letter from his king requesting safe passage for Naaman and an audience with Elisha. Elisha sends his servant to tell Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan River. He protests because the Jordan is muddy and, he thinks, inferior to the rivers in his home land. His soldiers basically tell him, “What could it hurt to do what the prophet says?” So he does. Seven times and he comes up clean! No more leprosy!!

Here is your list of “what ifs?”

  • What if he had refused to dip in the Jordan?
  • What if he had stopped at #6 out of frustration or disbelief?
  • What if he had thought this was effort in futility?
  • What if he had blown off the servant girl’s suggestion? You know…kids don’t know squat.

We are often hamstrung by the “what ifs” in our life, missing out on blessings God wants to give us by being paralyzed by the “what ifs.” So we short-change ourselves.

Take it from Naaman. The what ifs can be crippling. Break through them and see what God has on the other side.

 

March 19

Written by Bill Grandi on March 19th, 2024

I think we have all used or heard a variation of “Who you hang around with is who you become.” There are, of course, all kinds of people.

Some build us up; some tear us down.

Some lift us to keep going; some drag and hinder us.

Some push us to excel and not quit; some pull us back withholding progress.

Some are genuine shoulders to cry on; some are hard as stone and move away from us.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”  (NLT)

Jo and I experienced that last night. After a tough past couple of weeks (which I wrote about here), we spent the evening with friends. By the time we made it to their house, my tough couple of weeks had another brick piled on top. They were a welcome shade tree. After the initial bl-a-a-a-ch of what was going on, we moved on. Went out to eat. Laughed (even raised an eyebrow when Jo ordered something totally different than her normal fare). Went back to their house. Laughed some more. Chuckled at the antics of their dog. Laughed some more. A welcome balm for a scratchy soul. Hugs and “I love you’s” were given and Jo and I were on our way. Richer. Better. Refreshed. And, in some small way, healed. Every time I leave them I tell Jo, “I say it every time but I sure do miss them.” (They used to attend the church I pastor but moved to another city where they attend another fortunate church). I said it again last night…less than a block away.

They know what it’s like to be a friend. A sheltering tree. A shade tree (not the negative use of shade 🙂 ). We love you guys…more than you know. And thanks for the meal at Chili’s. Maybe Jo won’t surprise us all the next time.  🙂 🙂

 

March 18

Written by Bill Grandi on March 18th, 2024

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? That has been me the past week to two weeks.

First, a little backstory. For over 30 years I have had a friendship that started out with riding bikes together at least once a week. Over the 30+ years countless miles have gone under our bicycle tires and plenty of meals have been eaten. Not even distance could put a damper on our friendship. His prostate cancer changed all that.

Another man was one of the leaders in the church. When I was threatened and encouraged with termination he stood in front of me. When the church was embezzled, he stood strong. But diabetes and a downturn physically hit him hard. So did some lies that caused a rift between us. But being bed-bound gave me the opportunity to visit him almost weekly, take communion, and repair the tear in our relationship.

My cyclist friend has been told he has 3-6 months to live. That was over a month ago. His cancer is everywhere, in spite of every effort with chemo and experimental stuff. When Jo and I got back from AZ on the 27th I went to visit my former leader on Thursday at the rehab center. He died that Saturday. The following week I went to visit my cycling friend and that visit hit me hard. There are also some other daily issues that are weighing on me.

The song that has been my go-to, the one that has not left my mind, my bulwark, the one that has pointed me to the ONE has been Morning by Morning by Pat Barrett. You can listen to it here. With lyrics like “Morning by morning great is your faithfulness to me,” I am reminded I’m not in this alone.  Psalm 62:6-7 says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor comes from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 63 follows it up with the following: “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (verse 7-8).

I’m not alone. Neither are you. You can put a nail through that promise.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

 

March 14

Written by Bill Grandi on March 14th, 2024

Fear. Say the word and our minds tend to go immediately to something…well…we are afraid of. We go to that movie that scared the heebie jeebies out of us. Or we think of an event that truly scared us and we have never been the same.

I used to watch scary movies until…until I was scared spitless. I cannot remember how old I was-maybe 14 or 15- when I went to a matinee with a friend. After the first two movies he had to leave but I decided to stay. Bad move. When it was over I was terrified. The two moves were The Curse of Dracula and The Horror of Frankenstein. I rode the bus home that night and was constantly looking around and over my shoulder for someone sneaking up on me. When I got home I would not open a door without first reaching around the corner and slapping the wall…just in case someone was  lying in wait. That was the end of my watching horror films and I have not seen another one to this day.

Fear is seen in terror or even paralyzing actions. But in Proverbs 14:27 we find it used another way: “Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain…” The fear of the Lord is not a terror or being afraid of some one or some thing, especially God. Fear of the Lord can better be seen as a healthy respect for Him. Being in awe and reverence. In Proverbs 1:7 we are told “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” We are told elsewhere that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

So when someone says, “Fear God” they are not telling you to be afraid of Him. They are saying to have a healthy respect for Him, to reverence Him, to stand in awe of Him. Do you have a healthy respect for God? 

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

 

March 13

Written by Bill Grandi on March 13th, 2024

We have several sayings directed at people who act rashly:

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

“Think before you speak.”  Or a variant of that is “Think before you act.”

Sadly, we are a people of inflamed passions. I’m not speaking of the sexual, although that certainly can be included. I’m actually referring to our emotional state. How often have you seen (or been guilty yourself) of acting or reacting before you have thought out the consequences? You blow someone’s doors off and the collateral damage is huge. I once confronted someone who had a habit of blowing up at people-telling them off in a sense-and then acting like nothing happened. I asked her, “Why do you do that?” “Do what?” “You blow up at people, tell them off, then act as though nothing is wrong, as though all is forgiven and over.” “I tell them so they will know how I feel, then it’s over.” I said, “So is a tornado or hurricane. It unleashes its fury and then moves on, but look at the damage it leaves in its wake.”  I let her think about that for a moment, then left. I’m not sure she ever learned the lesson!

Proverbs 13:16 says, “Wise people think before they act; fools don’t-and even brag about their foolishness.” (NLT)

Don’t be a fool. Think before you speak. Think before you act. Don’t be known as “one of those people.” You know…the kind of person others want to avoid.

 

March 12

Written by Bill Grandi on March 12th, 2024

Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest hurdles we have to need to get over.

When it comes to forgiving others, I have often shared that the failure to forgive others; the desire to hold a grudge; the unwillingness to move on; holding onto hard feelings or even feelings of hate, makes me a slave to that person. They own me. They control me.

But what about that which I consider possibly even harder-the ability or willingness to forgive ourselves? I have seen way too many people able to forgive others, but then wreck their own lives because they can’t or won’t forgive themselves. Big or little sin (usually a whopper) just will not let go. It’s like an albatross around the neck, choking the life out of us.

David’s psalm-known as Psalm 51-deals with this straight on. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up, is exposed by the prophet Nathan (full story in 2 Samuel 11). David is convicted of his sin and his guilt is palpable. One can feel his anguish as he lays it all out. “Have mercy. Wash me clean. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Forgive me for shedding blood.” One can not read those words and not sense David’s pain and agony over his sin. But one can also see David is moving on. He wasn’t going to allow his sin to define him, to hold him down.

Neither should I. Neither should you. There is nothing you or I have done, there is no sin you or I have committed, that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Confess it. Repent of it. Now…walk away in freedom being sure of God’s limitless grace.

 

March 11

Written by Bill Grandi on March 11th, 2024

You made the promise. Keep it!!

One cannot underestimate the importance of keeping a promise.  Keeping your word-being a person of integrity- is so vital to relationships that one cannot fathom its impact.

In the life of David, there is a phenomenal story that shows his character. He had a best friend-Jonathan-who had David promise he would take care of his family after his death. In all the shuffle involving David becoming king (he waited 7 years after King Saul’s death), there came a time when David remembered his promise to Jonathan. As he asked and they investigated, David was made aware of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth (M). M had been dropped as a child in his nurse’s haste to get him to safety, resulting in him being a cripple. He was called into King David’s presence and bowed before him. I’m sure he was petrified. “What does the king want with me?” David told him, “Don’t be afraid! I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan.” David ended up restoring all the land of King Saul to M; enlisted his servant, Ziba (and his sons), who had been with M for quite a long time, to take care of the land; AND M was to eat at King David’s table as long as he lived. (You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 9).

WOW! Talk about a promise made and a promise kept! Proverbs 11:20 says, “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but He delights in those with integrity.” For all of David’s faults (and ours as well), David’s heart was one of integrity. He made a promise and kept it. M’s life was richer because of it.

Follow the Father’s example. Keep your promises.  He showed us the way in that department. He has made promises and has kept His every word. I can think of one huge one. One word: Jesus.