Salvation

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January 18

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

A couple of nights ago Jo was watching TV and as I was walking through I stopped to watch. It was an episode I had seen before on NCIS about the death of a homeless vet. It was at the end of the show when Gibbs was scrolling through his computer looking at vets who died homeless.  Director Vance walked in and said, “There but for the grace of God.”  Gibbs said, “Yep.”

That is a very familiar saying (“There but for the grace of God go I”). It is also a saying which can be said with no religious connotation at all. It is simple an acknowledgment of gratitude and recognition that another person’s fate is not our own.

But for the Christ-follower that phrase takes on a much deeper meaning. Think about it: all we are/ all we are not; all we have/all we have not, comes down to grace. Consider these words: “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.” (Is.53:6- NASB2020)) Other translations conclude that verse with “and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity (sin) of us all.”

We were not left alone, lost, or hopeless in despair. Not with Jesus! Isaiah tells us that Jesus chose to identify with us and become our substitute all. because. of. grace.

I would be lost. I would be lonely. I would be hopeless. I would be aimless. “There but for the grace go I.”

“Father, thank You for Your unlimited grace. Thank You for rescuing my sorry and lost soul and raising me to new life.”

December 22

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Christmas around the Grandi household was magical. It had its challenges (traditions and money) but mom and dad made the best of it. We never had an empty tree. I found out later that sacrifices were made for us to enjoy Christmas. Lights went up early in the windows but the tree not until we went to bed Christmas Eve. That was largely due to the fact that we didn’t get the tree until Christmas Eve day because they were so much cheaper to buy. But Christmas morning was magical. We went to bed with nothing and woke up to the whole living room being transformed-tree, lights, trains, gifts. I can still see pictures of me on the steps with my two, then three brothers, as we stared at what was before us.

I wish I could say I didn’t cheat but I can’t. We hunted for the gifts and usually found them but, and this is a big but, I never knew ahead of time what I got. We went against my parent’s wishes by searching out the gifts, but I never opened a gift; never looked at one; never shook one; or never cut the paper only to tape it back together. I think as I look back I would say because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

I like surprises. I guess in some way that is why I like to think about grace. I am surprised that God’s love is so evident in His grace. Grace can radically change a life; it is always there. We don’t have to go hunting for it or sneak around looking for it. We don’t have to wait for one special moment and say, “OK God. I open grace.” Grace is always there. God’s grace may be a surprise to us, but not to God. His grace has always been there, always extended, always for the taking. Christmas is about grace. God’s grace. John 3:16 tells us that.

“Father, may grace be my song this Christmas. But not just for Christmas but for every day, all day.”

November 30

Tuesday, 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.”

October 7

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

One of our culture’s big battles these  days is what is called “Deconstruction.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is one of Christian culture’s big battles since the non-believing world could care less about the reality of God and His existence…except maybe to pooh-pooh it.

What is sad is that in both cases is that the denial of God’s power is at stake. The unbeliever denies His existence or involvement in our daily lives. “God? Who’s God?” The one who is deconstructing is also denying the reality of God and His power in his/her daily life.

I read an interesting story recently. Atheistic communism proclaims there is no God. When Leonid Brezhnev died (the Soviet dictator who embodied Marxist unbelief), VP H.W.Bush was our representative. He reported that just before the casket was closed, his widow reached in and made the sign of the cross on his chest. Evidently, she hoped that what her husband had denied was somehow true. Perhaps before he died, she was privy to something no one else was? Who am I to say?

David said it well: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son. I believe in His death and bodily resurrection. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity (who is not a force but a Person, hence “the” Holy Spirit). I believe Jesus will return to take us home.

Do you?

“Father, You are I Am. You are the Creator of the ends of earth and there is no one like You. May you be praised and recognized for Who You are.”

August 20

Friday, August 20th, 2021

The reality of life is sometimes a kick in the pants.

As I wrote yesterday about the death of a friend, the truth is that death has perfect odds- 1 out of 1. No one escapes it. Unless you are Enoch or Elijah, death visits us all.

EXCEPT…

Except if Jesus returns before I die. Honest confession here: I  have never been one to spend time worrying about signs, signs of the times, pouring over Revelation and Daniel and trying to figure things out, nor reading books on the Second Coming (SC)  I have just always accepted it at face value. It was going to happen.

How? No clue. Except there will be a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God.

Where? I understand Jesus will “set down” at Mt. Moriah, the same place where He left. Sorry Islam. You lose.

Why? Because He seen enough. And it is time.

When? NO CLUE. Call me naive but wouldn’t it be better to just be ready for whenever that day may come (or your death) than to worry about when?

The older I get the closer it gets. Death or the SC. Both sound good to me. No regrets with either. Part of me wants to be alive when Jesus comes. To see it. To marvel. To worship. Then again, if I’m already in heaven, I’ll have a front row seat.

“Even so, come Lord Jesus. Perhaps today!!”

August 19

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

I went to a funeral visitation of a friend last night.

A brief bit of background:

I was the pastor of a church in Terre Haute, IN from 1987-2000. During my time there I performed a lot of weddings and funerals. With that amount of time in one place, one is bound to do weddings and funerals that overlap. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. This family was one of them. This was a big family and I was trying to calculate how many. I gave up. I was even asked back once, after moving to Spencer, to perform a funeral for the family.

The lady I honored last night was one of the 4 or 5 sisters. She had been divorced for several years when I first met her and she had met a man who captured her. Their marriage was a dream one for her, when one morning about a year after the wedding she woke up to him making a loud noise in the bathroom. Dropping things and just making all kinds of racket. He had suffered a stroke that totally affected his right side. No more speech. No more use of his right arm.  A metal brace on his right leg, knee to ankle. But she stayed with him. I’d visit and although he could not communicate verbally, he talked with his eyes or shook his head. She loved him well. Sometime after I left she had no choice but to put him in a home. She could no longer take care of him.

She died having dementia. I spoke with her daughter as we stood at the casket. I married she and her husband in 2000, and then as he put it: “You hi-tailed it out of town.” Not really, of course. Like me he is a pastor and loves to joke. That sounds like I was John Dillinger-rob a bank and then get out of Dodge. 🙂   Her then 9-ear old daughter is now 30, married with a child of her own. Sheesh! Am I that old?  Well, yes. I have been gone for 21 years this past June.

Her daughter captured it right: “I am sad for me, but not for mom. She’s having a big reunion, a big party in heaven.” That captures my sentiments. Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” The answer? For the follower of Christ the answer is ZERO.

When it comes to Linda, death you lost. When it came to my mom, you lost. When it comes to me, you will lose again.

“Father, thank you for salvation. Thank you for the promise of heaven and eternal life with you.”

August 4

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

I love the picture of adoption. The Bible speaks in several places about adoption. (Romans 8: 15,23; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:3)

 I have a brother and sister-in-law who adopted Lia from China in 2003. We have one family in the church who adopted 2 girls from China at different times-one a baby and one who was 9 or 10 years old.  That latter young lady just graduated from high school as did my niece!  (They are getting old but not me!)

So many others could tell stories of adoption. Despite what some evil proponents will say, they were not “colonizing” anyone. They wanted the opportunity to either fill their empty arms or to give a chance to someone who would not have had one. Is it colonization when someone born with a severe cleft palate deformity is adopted and given a chance? A new hope? I think not.

The picture of adoption finds its real beauty in the story of God adopting us, taking us from a life of hopelessness and lostness (I know that is not a word), and being made part of a family. A forever family. All the rights and privileges of being a member of a family are ours. Just as the adopted child is given a new home and new last name, so are we in God’s adoption.

While I was not adopted physically, nor did Jo and I adopt a child physically, I appreciate God’s adoption of me. All rights and privileges, inheritance and blessings are mine. I’m glad God loved me and adopted me and made me His child by welcoming into His family.

“Father, thank you seems such an inadequate way to express how I feel. But I want to say ‘Thank You’ for adopting me into Your forever family.”

August 2

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

For the longest time I felt I “just had to read my Bible.” For several years I used a guide that took me though the whole Bible in a year. Three  years in a row. I can’t say it was that exciting or revolutionary.  I mean, I was reading the Bible but at what cost? It is hard for it to be exciting when “obligation” sets in.

That’s why I like the approach I use now. I’ll not belabor the details (unless you ask), but this past week and even now, I’ve been in I John. I’m taking my time.

Early on while reading I John, some Scripture “spoke” to me but I put it aside. Until this morning. I John 1:9 is a verse I hang my hat on. A LOT. But it is 2:1-2 that stuck with me and drew me back.  Here are three thoughts I’d like to highlight:

  • “If anyone sins”– we will. Trust me. Perhaps it is wiser to say it like this: “If anyone sins (and we will).” For further proof we will, look no further than I John 1: 8-10.
  • “Advocate”– Jesus is our Attorney.  He is the One who stands in our place, our defense. He is our Intercessor.
  • “Propitiation”– Jesus is our means of reconciliation. He is our sin-offering. Without Jesus we have nothing. No solution for sin.

It all comes down to Jesus. That’s Who we remember. That’s Who we worship.

“Father, may the memory of what Jesus has done for me make a difference in my life. Thank you for forgiving my sin, being my Attorney, and being willing to give Yourself for me.”

July 30

Friday, July 30th, 2021

I have a friend who always closed his correspondence with “Eyes to the Sky.” I was reminded of that this morning as I read about eternity.

We are all temporary. I know there have been those who said they were going to live a long, long time.  Years ago, when I was reading a very popular, monthly “wellness” magazine/booklet, the founder said he was going to live past 100, maybe forever. He died shortly thereafter. Only superheroes can get away with saying, “I am invincible.” But then again, they are comic book characters-the figment of someone’s imagination- and yes, they can do just about anything! One of those is defy death.

Humans-real life people-not so much. Our end will come. Eternity awaits. I realize the fervor of billboards, commercials, and road signs, but I question the value of them. Our society is cynical with many dead to the claims of Jesus. I saw one the other day: heavenorhell.com. Seriously? Unless I miss it, a “none” or purveyor of another religion will cynically NOT tune in, unless it is to laugh, criticize, or counteract the claim. A local church owns some prime real estate on the road coming into town and road signs have appeared (I think about 10 of them) which say about one or two words. The subject? Eternity.

Like I said, I’m not knocking the fervor or intent. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  (NASB2020)  That whole chapter of 2 Peter is about the Lord’s delay and return. He has placed eternity in our hearts.

I long for Jesus to return or to call me home. I’m fine with either. I know where I’m going to spend eternity. Eternity will come for all of us-even the “fitness nut”-who thinks he or she will cheat death or go on forever or live a very long and prosperous life. No one knows. And then, we will face eternity. Where-heaven or hell- will be determined by whether you know Jesus as your Savior.  I’m hoping you do.

“Father, help me to live with my eyes to the sky and beyond. When I go is in Your hands. So is where, but I took care of that many years ago.”

June 23

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Just a few short words this morning that are on my heart. One of the weapons of attack the enemy (Satan) uses against us is our words. More specifically, what we tell ourselves. The battle is tough enough and explosive enough without all the things we tell ourselves. A list but certainly not all of it:

  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You will never amount to anything.”
  • “Who would want you if they really knew?”
  • “You are a fake, a liar and a hack.”
  • “You are a hypocrite.”

On and on it goes…where it stops nobody knows. The enemy gets inside our head with those ugly words. Worse. He gets in our heart. We start to believe his lies. It is one thing to endure failure, but the worst part of failure is usually the story we tell ourselves.

I don’t know how many times I have to beat that demon who says, “If they really knew Bill about the ‘secret sin’ or ‘secret thought,’ they wouldn’t listen to you. They wouldn’t give you time of day.”

Shame becomes a real problem. This coming Sunday I’m preaching on John 8 and the woman caught in adultery.  A life of shame, now made public with humiliation by some arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees. That shame did not matter to Jesus. That shame was never an issue. It was never seen. The forgiveness Jesus gave her never mentioned her shame. He never said, “Shame on you!”

All He did say to her was, “Where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

How much more clear can we get? He was telling her that her sin, her shame, her failure did not define her. His grace was bigger than her sin.

Now that! I can live by!!!

“Father, thank you for not seeing my shame and letting me wallow in it. Thank you for Your grace.”