Kindness

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March 19

Tuesday, 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 11

Monday, 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.

February 12

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is now part of what is being called President’s Day which is a celebration on February 19th, a conglomerate of Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday (22nd). I can remember when we used to celebrate them separately. Now I can’t even remember when that changed. Perhaps that happened when we got all “revisionist history?” I don’t know. My post today is not going to go down that rabbit trail.

Instead, Abraham Lincoln was known for making wise statements. I’d like to take a brief look at two of them.

One actually finds it roots in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Lincoln once said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Those words are very similar to those found in Proverbs 17:28.

The other is a bit more confrontive. With the Civil War spawning bitter feelings all across our country, Abe saw fit to speak a kind word about the south. A shocked bystander asked him how he could do that. His answer was poignant: “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?”

Jesus once said, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:43). “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If you are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will reap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” (Pr. 25:21-22).

Instead of responding tit for tat, let’s respond as Jesus has told us, and as Proverbs has encouraged us to. There is power in our actions…or inaction.

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

January 30

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

I’m celebrating today. My bride of 50.7 years has a birthday today. They say it is not wise to ask or tell a woman’s age so I won’t. I’ll just it is somewhere between 72 and 74. You do the math. 🙂

Just to show you what kind of woman she is: I was going to surprise her with a trip to Ohio to see our daughter and grandson. Things didn’t turn out so well. He is with his dad this week so after baseball practice (over at 8 p.m.) he will head off to his dad’s. Janna’s significant other has to work so that would leave the three of us (which would have been okay). Braden has baseball practice until 8 Wednesday morning then has to be back at school by 10 for class. That would make for a very short “wham-thank-you-ma’m” breakfast. Then Jo saw it was supposed to snow in Ohio (90%) and that scared her off. So I cancelled the hotel reservation. To top it off, I started losing my voice by the time the second service was done and I ended up with the creeping crud. Coughing. Sneezing. Aching. Lots and lots of sleep. (I haven’t been like this in years so it is a strange experience). So…not much of a birthday.

But she took it all in stride, much like she has during our 50+ years of marriage. While there have been moments of frustration (as in all marriages), I could not have asked for a better helpmate. I read the following this morning:

Adam was created first, then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence. Adam was the head; Eve was his helper. Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader. Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper  (40 Lives in 40 Days- MacArthur- p.62)

Jo has always been there. The above words fit her to a “T.” They are not misogynistic or any other “istic” or “phobic” you can come up with. I can give her no greater compliment that to say she was just like Eve: a filler of empty space; a helper who stuck with me through thick and thin; a mother who gave her all to our two daughters, but also allowed them to fly (and she is still there if they need her). Well done, my dear, well done.

Now…if I can only get her to read what I wrote about her I might win some brownie points. 🙂

January 18

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

As one reads the Bible, it is not unusual to read of someone and think they must have always been like that. Case in point: the Apostle John. We read today from the vantage point of 2000+ years later and we see an apostle of love. We see the aged John-respected, loved and depicted as one full of grace and truth.

But he wasn’t always like that. John had a temper. He also had a vengeful streak. We might even call him sectarian to some degree. Mistreatment of Jesus led to he and his brother, James, wanting to call down fire from heaven to consume the city. In another incident, he and James wanted Jesus to promise they would get preferred seating in the kingdom-one on His right and one on His left. Jesus was not fond of that idea. They wanted Jesus to rebuke a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but because he was not with their “tribe” they wanted him silenced. (Mk. 9:38).  That didn’t work out too well either.

Over time, John was changed. That’s what happens when people spend time with Jesus. John reminds me of those who are committed to the truth, who “tell it like it is.” But that is all you see. Love? What’s that? All truth. No love. Over time John became known as the Apostle of love. Shall we say “more balanced”?

I read the following:

John was always committed to the truth, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people. Truth without love has no decency; it’s just brutality. On the other hand, love without truth has no character; it’s just hypocrisy. (40 Lives in 40 Days-MacArthur-p.19)

I’ve heard it said that “all truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentality.” True that.

There needs to be a balance. We may take pride in being a “tell it like it is” kind of person, but honestly, what good is it if we turn everyone off?”

Find the balance. Truth AND love go together.

December 6

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

When I was a young ‘un growing up, I will admit (now) that I looked forward to Christmas. I’d like to be spiritual and say that it was because of the focus on the birth of Christ, or I truly believed it was more blessed to give than to receive, but would not be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I had no idea how cash-strapped my parents were; I just know it was a magical time of the year.

Part of that magic (before I knew better) was SC. No…not Scott Calvin. Santa Claus. The big guy. Part of Christmas Eve in the young Grandi household was watching an animated version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (15 minutes) followed by a 15 minute retelling of the birth of Jesus.  Later it was the Peanuts cartoon with Linus’ famous rendition of the Luke 2. I know…I’m really telling my age. 🙂

Anyway, SC was part of the magic. Stories abound in my head of scenes from my childhood of the ghost of Christmas past. SC is intriguing though. Little did I know, as a child, of the history and legacy of his coming to be. The person we know as Saint Nicholas (Saint Nick) was born around AD 270 to a wealthy Grecian family.  Tragically, his parents died when he was a boy, and he lived with an uncle to loved him and taught him to follow God. When he was a young man, legend says that he heard of 3 sisters who didn’t have a dowry for marriage and would soon be destitute. Wanting to follow Jesus’ teaching of helping those in need, he took his inheritance and gave each sister a bag of gold coins. Over the years he gave the rest of his money away feeding the poor and caring for others. Down through time he has been honored for his generosity and held up as a standard for giving.

Sadly, many today want to rail against the commercialization of Christmas (with some merit I might add) and SC, the symbol of that commercialization. Rather than rail, let’s refocus on what he represents-giving, and in a sense, the spirit found in Matthew 25:24-40. (Please take a moment to look it up).

It is much better to give than to receive, especially when it is for and to someone less fortunate.

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Again, please let me remind you to check out my other blog (link to the right of this post) and subscribe for totally different content than this daily devotion. Thanks.

November 28

Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

I found myself saying quite a few times this past month during my sermons that “we have been blessed to bless others.” (Sure is different than that clap-trap of the health/wealth people who bless themselves with planes, mansions, cars, etc). What has been given to us in the way of material blessings was never intended on being kept to ourselves or to enrich our lives. Being selfish is never a fun thing to see or to experience.

The same can also be said about something else: being hurt. When we are hurt-either by God (so we think) or by someone else-one of several reactions takes place: 1) we scream and shout in anger; 2) we “hole up” or withdraw within ourselves. We become almost numb to the world; or 3) we use that pain to help others. The first two are often out go-to reactions. “This pain is so deep the only person to blame is God. If not, then you, the one who caused it.” Or as I’ve mentioned, to withdraw in numbness, wondering if this pain will ever go away.

The third option is the best and preferred reaction. Instead of wallowing in anger and self-pity or misery, use this experience to help someone else. There is a saying” “Hurting people hurt people” and sadly, that is true. Childhood trauma acted out later is a perfect example of that. But let’s flip flop that:

Hurting people help people

Hurting people can turn their hurt and agony and pain and distress into empathy for others. Instead of turning inward and focusing inwardly, turn that pain outward and let your hurt minister/help someone else. Allow your life lessons-and if you are a follower of Jesus the lessons the Holy Spirit is teaching you through the Word and others-to make your heart sensitive to other hurting people.

I’ve noticed one HUGE gain from that: focusing on others-helping others-helps ease your own pain and aids in healing. If nothing else, the joy you feel from helping someone else is worth the effort. Don’t waste pain. Use pain to see another through different eyes.

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On Sunday morning, Jo’s sister went to be with Jesus. She has been in a nursing facility with diabetes, kidney dialysis, and dementia which went into full bore Alzheimer’s. It was a blessing in more ways than one. We leave this morning for Sandusky, OH to meet tomorrow with the nursing home and the funeral home (all arrangements were made a couple of years ago) and the graveside committal is Thursday morning. Following the service we plan to head to Columbus, OH to see our daughter and grandson. We will be back home Friday. You can pray for safe travels and you can pray for a smooth transition for all Jo needs to take care of.  I am not sure about posting any devotion over the next few days. It will depend on my availability. Thanks.

November 27

Monday, November 27th, 2023

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get lost? I’m not talking about those who are what we affectionately call “directionally-challenged.”  🙂 They are those who couldn’t read a map or follow directions to save themselves.

I’m talking about those who are “small.”  Not height-wise. They feel small. Unsure of themselves. Insecure to a point. They are those who feel that what they do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What they do often seems insignificant to the “bigger” people or things.

Years ago the late Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled No Little People, No Little Places. Not only is that a great book title, it is a great thought. The world is filled with people who feel “little.” Tragically, we have often been the ones who have made them feel that way.

Allow me two examples-one social and one Biblical.

* I recently read that when the funeral procession for the late Queen Elizabeth took place, thousands of soldiers were deployed to escort the casket. Insignificant? To the outsider. But not according to one soldier who said, “It was an opportunity to do our last duty for Her Majesty.”  One of thousands but what an outlook!

* In the Old Testament, the Levites were commissioned by God to set up and tear down the Tabernacle. Along with that to carry the furniture. What a seeming meaningless job. Set up. Tear down. Carry. Set up. Tear down. Carry. You get the point. Sounds like boredom to me. Sounds insignificant. We know the names of Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and others. Can you name one of the Levites?

Nothing we do-in service to God-is small. Nothing is insignificant. I may be the pastor of the church but in the eyes of God it is no more important than the teacher of children; the nursery worker who takes wonderful care of a child so the parents can worship; the one who does the Power Point; the one who runs the live stream; the one who controls the sound; the one who cleans up after the worship gathering is done; the janitor who cleans for Sunday; or myriads of others.

Why? Because there are no little people. In church. In life. That is one of the reasons I tell our waitress “Thanks for waiting on us today” (and leave a generous tip if they have done a good job). That is why I try to thank the hotel clean up crew, or the one who works in a gas station, or makes sure things are clean in a bathroom. Why? I repeat: because there are no little people.

Do you take the time to recognize and thank those who have seemingly insignificant jobs?

#JustDoIt!

Friday, November 17th, 2023

Victory

There is a profound difference between thankfulness as a concept and thankfulness as a practice. This is true in so many ways. Take, for example, car companies. Every year they have a grand extravaganza of a car show.  Included in this show are “concept cars.” Cars of the future. Cars that are dreams of people. But in most cases, they remain concepts. I’ve seen some wild ideas that are just that…ideas. How much more practical to reveal a car that is a reality.

Think for a moment about gratitude. People who think rightly about God’s provision are thankful, and rightly so. And they say so. Thankers (that is not a word according to spell check) feel something because their gratitude is felt, sometimes deeply. We may stumble on words or how to express our thanks (like when we are put on the spot in a crowd), but we have this overwhelming sense of gratitude for what we have received.

This week I am continuing my series on More Than a Holiday by talking about “we have been blessed to bless others.” There is no better way to say thanks than to pass along that thanks by doing something for others. So, after a look at the 10 lepers in Luke 17 we will be going to James 2 and try to put a “handle” on some practical ways to show gratitude.

Join us in person if you are able. If not, please watch our live stream. We meet at 9:00 and 10:45. I look forward to seeing you or hearing you were watching.

October 17

Tuesday, October 17th, 2023

Two verses stopped me in my tracks this morning. They are from Proverbs 17:27-28- “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (ESV)

WOW! Or is that a GULP?

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” Whether he said it or not is not the issue here. What IS the issue is the truth of that statement. Don’t you think it sound strangely like verse 28 that you just read?

The truth of the statement rises to the top. How many times have you said something and as soon as it passed through the doorway to your mouth you wished you could suck it right back in? But we all know the truth of that. You can’t. What is said is said and what is heard is heard.  There is no “Return Unsaid” button. I know I have been guilty way more than I care to admit. I know I have hurt a lot of people over my 71 years-a lot more with my words than I have with a gun or a weapon. Unless, of course, you consider my “rapier wit” and my “fire-breathing tongue” a weapon (I do and so does James in James 3).  My words have bitten, hurt, wounded, damaged, and even killed people’s spirits. Oh, how I wish I could have them back.

But I can’t. You can’t either. Words cannot be unsaid. Worse: they cannot be unheard. In this case, though, words that do matter are “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me.”

Two verses will give us the right perspective as well as close our thoughts today. Psalm 119:101 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” God’s words are words we ought to be feeding ourselves with. What goes in comes out. The other Scripture is one we ought to memorize and then paste it everywhere: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Ps.141:3 ESV)

Be careful of what you “eat” today and what you say.