Story

...now browsing by tag

 
 

January 20

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

If you were given $86,400 each morning what would you do?  Oh…one stipulation: use it or lose it. You either use all $86,400 each day or you forfeit the unused portion. What would you do? Withdraw it, of course.

The point to be made is that each day we are given 86,400 seconds. We have to use them all because they don’t carry over to the next day. (I think that is why when we say, “I’m going to catch up on my sleep” we don’t. We can’t because that ship has sailed).

As followers of Jesus we are told to “redeem the time.” I take that to mean we are to use it wisely. In Psalm 90:12 it says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (NASB2020). We are told elsewhere that our steps are ordered by the Lord.

We only have so many days here on earth. And there is only ONE who knows how many. Redeeming the time means that however many days I have here on earth, I will use them wisely. I am currently 69 years old. You have to tack on a few months since my birthday is in October. If I figure only 365 days/year-not counting Leap Year-and don’t count the days since my birthday, I have lived over 25,185 days. (No wonder I’m tired). I’ll let you do the math on how many seconds that is.

Truthfully, that is not what is important. What IS important is how I have marked my time today and will mark whatever is left in the future. Today is the day God has given me. I need to use it wisely.

Are you?

“Father, thank You for the time we have had together and thank You for the time we will have. Help me to mark my days and use them wisely.”

January 13

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

I once had a pastor (a mentor early in my ministry) tell me to never get close to anyone in the church I serve. In other words, don’t have or make friends. Say what?

I can tell you that did not work with me. I am a naturally gregarious person. I laugh a lot. I can be too loud at times. But one thing I need and want is friends. I broke his rule. In just about every church I have served I have gotten close to someone. Sure, there have been occasions where it came back to bite me in the butt, but the friendships I do have and are still ongoing are special to me.

There’s Doug. A college friend who still meets with me 2-3 times/year at a place in between where we live for pizza. For now it requires over a 2 hour drive for me. But it is worth it. A thousand times over.  Granted, he is the exception to the church “rule”.

There’s Jim. I met Jim over a common “like”-he liked to ride bikes. We have pedaled many miles together. His cancer and relocation and his retirement has made it tough but we still try to get together. I’ve known Jim since the 90s.

There’s Ryan. I met him in 2007 after he corresponded with one of our men about the church after seeing us online. They were moving to this area and so we corresponded by email first and I was able to welcome he and his family to OVCF and to the area.  Our first time as families was lunch at Chicago’s pizza buffet in the town they lived in at the time. It became one of many Sunday lunches after church as our friendship was cemented. He had to move about 45 minutes away several years ago but Jo and I still get together with them.

Friendship is amazing! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ friendship with people? He spent time with the strangest people- a tax collector, a prostitute, a leper, an immoral woman (Jn.4).  It didn’t matter because a friendship with Jesus meant a changed life.  There is verse after verse in Proverbs which talks about the value of friendship.  Even Jesus mentioned its importance.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know my life has been richer and fuller because of my friends. I pray it has been reciprocal. 

“Father, we sing a song about Jesus being the friend of sinners. Help to follow His example, all for the purpose of enriching someone’s life.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 11

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

I may be grasping at straws here, and I may be way off the mark, but I think we as people, many of us at least, spend way too much time and effort trying to prove our worth. No matter how it shakes out, we very often are consumed-to the point of going way beyond normal-trying to prove to ourselves and others that we have got what it takes. We are driven by the desire to feel important or to show our importance to ourselves and to others.

We will even go so far as to act humble or to drop our head as if to say, “Awww shucks” while all the while straining our shoulder muscles to pat ourselves on the back or to hear more of how helpful/indispensable/worthwhile we are.

Something we should really grasp is that looking to others (or ever deep inside ourselves) for our sense of well-being is pointless. That’s right…pointless.  Honestly? We will never be good enough or consistent enough to garner the regular praise of people, many of whom are in the same boat as us.

And let’s face it: we may succeed in one moment and then face-plant in the next. That’s a fact of life. Life is a series of ups and downs. Praise. Disappointment. Accolades. Removal. Cancel culture is real good at that. Agree and all is good. Disagree and bye-bye.

Our worth, my worth, is not found in what I do or what others think of me. No, it is found in Jesus Christ. My unrighteousness is replaced with His righteousness. That’s why when I look in the mirror I don’t see “Wreck,.” “Misfit.” or “Loser.” I see “Loved one.” “Special.” “Redeemed.” “His.”

“Father, help me realize and remember my self-worth is not tied to how I feel about me or what others think about me. It is based on what You think.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

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.”

December 16

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

During my communion thought this past Sunday, I shared a story I read. It really is quite moving:

In 2010, at the age of 94, George Vujnovich was awarded the bronze star for organizing what the New York Times called “one of the greatest rescue efforts of WWII.” Vujnovich, the son of Serbian immigrants to the US, had joined the US Army. When word arrived that downed American airmen were being protected by the rebels in Yugoslavia, he returned to his family’s homeland, parachuting into the forest to locate the pilots. Dividing the soldiers into small groups, he taught them how to blend in with the Serbs (wear Serbian clothes and eat Serbian food). Then over months he walked each small group out one at a time to C-47 transport planes waiting at a landing strip they’d cut out of the woods. Vujnovich rescued 512 elated, joyful men.

Every Christmas we celebrate what I consider to be the greatest rescue event in history. God became man so man could be rescued. He willingly gave up all He had to come to earth to give up even His life. But He didn’t go from heaven to miraculously show up on a cross. No, it started with a baby. And that led to the greatest rescue event in history.

“Father, thank You for the reminder of rescue we happen to observe each week. But what is important is that we recognize the impact and importance of what we celebrate.”

December 13

Monday, December 13th, 2021

An excerpt from Paul David Tripp’s book, Come, Let Us Adore Him struck me big time this morning:

“If God was willing to send His Son to restore our relationship of love with Him, you can be sure that He will not let anything separate us from His love. You see, the Christmas story is the world’s best love story {Ed. note: sorry Hallmark. 🙂 } It’s about a God of love sending the Son of His love to live a life of love and die a death of love, so that all who believed in Him would be welcomed into the arms of love forever and ever. Embedded in the Christmas story is a promise of unbroken love for the children of God.”

There is so much that is right about that statement. Do you realize how important and appropriate the Scripture in Romans 8 is that says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus”? (8:39)

The Christmas story is more than a baby in a manger (although that would be enough). It is also a love story. One of unconditional love. One of love given away when it is undeserved.

“Father, may that truth become clearer as each day draws me closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.”

December 7

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

I hate to admit that I’ve had a mixed “love affair” with Christmas down through the years. Maybe it is more accurate to say with Santa Claus. Of course, as a youngster I looked forward to Christmas.  What kid doesn’t? As a husband and father I was excited about my daughters’ excitement. But here is where things get a little “dicey.” I was not thrilled about the Santa Clause deal. And while I tried to focus the church folks on Jesus, I found myself getting “hard” against SC. We didn’t really talk about him with the girls nor did we talk against him. After all, Jo’s mom went all out and it would have been an effort in futility to do that.

Long story short: I’m ashamed to admit I became a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas time. While I enjoyed the nostalgia of celebrating Christmas as a child-the secrecy, the tree, the lights, the trains, the snow, etc-I was almost a Scrooge in taking that away from mine. Fortunately, Jo covered for me. 🙂 I enjoyed the laughter of my girls during Christmas. And I eventually straightened up. Strange that I would forget how much Christmas meant for me as a child and almost try to deny my own.

I know what my problem was…now. I was so focused on making sure others remembered the real meaning that I lost sight of it for me.  I focused so much negativity toward SC that I lost sight of Jesus. How crazy is that? Sure Christmas is more than being about presents and shopping and trees, all the trappings. But it is about giving.

And God set the standard! He gave the first gift! It doesn’t hurt to follow suit. And while I still try to focus myself and others on the meaning of the season (Jesus), I don’t want to lose the magic of the season either. The best gift I can give is myself. I can also give grace. My prayer is that will be my song this year.

Will you join in singing with me?

“Father, in spite of all that is going on around me, please help me to sing a song of joy to You this Christmas.”

Note: today is Veteran’s Day. Remember to thank one today for their service to our country and to preserving the freedom we enjoy.

December 2

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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 23

Tuesday, 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.”