The other cheek

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Living under the other shoe

shoe dropFor years I toiled under the weight of a “works” oriented salvation. I believed that to please God I had to work to earn His favor and His grace. When  I did good things I believed my deeds were pleasing to God and, for the moment, I had gained His favor. But, when I sinned (and I did.  A lot) I believed, even when I repented, God would make me pay with some consequence or retribution.  I considered it, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

It was a miserable way to live. I went about my day trying to figure out what the
shoe would be. Would it hurt? Would it drop when I least expected it? Would it drop when I was enjoying pleasant times? Would it drop on my friends? When it dropped would my friends abandon me? Would it grieve me or cause me emotional pain? Would I suffer?

Then in August, 2000, I learned my true identity in Christ. God showed me His grace and taught me I didn’t have to pay for any or all the sins I committed. He told me, “They’re all already paid for. Stop waiting for that shoe and let me show you how much I love you.”

I’ve never worried about that shoe again.

 

What’s your AQ — Attitude Quotient?

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A tale of two Bibles

Which Bible looks more like your Bible? Continue reading

I can do some things through Christ who strengthens me.

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Do I have to draw you a picture?

“Well, [pause] yes,” he said. [Pause again] “Sometimes you may have to.” Continue reading

. . .and on the 8th day . . .

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The Shoes of Peace Aren’t Flip-Flops

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Are you a Sea of Galilee or Dead Sea believer?

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“Christian” is a lousy adjective

A Jewish lady answered a knock at her door. The young man asked her if she wanted her house painted. It needed painting, so she took his card. She noticed a fish symbol on the card and asked him what it meant. “It means I’m a Christian painter,” he said.

In my opinion, calling yourself a “Christian” anything presents two problems. First, no one has ever explained to me what a Christian is in Biblical terms. Any definition fails to capture what Jesus taught us about following Him.

And second, using “Christian” to describe a “painter” does not help me learn anything about the person holding the brush and ladder. Does a “Christian painter” paint differently from a “Catholic painter” or a “Muslim painter” or, “atheist painter”? The woman wanted her house painted. All she cared about was whether or not the guy could paint.

Too many times I think folks use “Christian” to describe their business to persuade their customers they’re more honest or ethical than “non-Christian” businesses. That somehow their “Christian business” ethics or integrity or quality of work is superior to their competitors who don’t flash a “Christian” label in their front window or on their business cards.

Too often we hear stories of bad experiences some consumers have with “Christian” businesses who flash their fish symbols then act just like the world in the market place. Those “Christian” business folks drive people away from The church and away from Jesus. One bad “Christian” business deal can destroy dozens of potential good business deals with authentic followers of Jesus who take Jesus to work every day.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Colossians 3:23

Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to flash a “Christian” label to attract more customers, or to describe one’s integrity or character. Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to convince others of their faith. The way we love others is all we need to bear witness to our integrity and our character.

The Struggle In Today’s Church

Editor’s Note: I ran across this post on Writinggomer’s  blog and wanted to share it with my readers. Greg has some of the same issues I have expressed on this blog before about the state of the church today.  Is the church more like a harlot or the Bride of Christ?

By Writinggomer
Published on his website: Believing God Today

How would you like your eggs today, over-easy, scrambled, fried, sunny-side up, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, poached, or shirred?? How about your steak; rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, or well done?? Choice of potatoes? This sounds like questions for a meal in a restaurant right?

Can you relate the above questions to today’s Church? Depending on the meal you choose when eating in a restaurant, you, the patron, sometimes have Continue reading

How do we know the one true Church?

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Baskin Robins Christianity

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What is your FQ–focus quotient?

By Dr. John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

One of my good friends in ministry was Dr. Bill Hinson.  We knew each other injohn ed college, and we were in seminary together at Emory. He became the pastor of the largest Methodist Church in America at First Methodist in Houston, Texas.  I had the privilege to work with him on a lot of things for renewal in The United Methodist Church.  He retired early to North Alabama; sadly, he suffered a heart attack and died.

Bill was a great preacher.  I’ll never forget his telling about lion tamers who go into the cage with lions.  They carry a four-legged stool.  They also carry whips, poles, and pistols, but the purpose of the stool is fascinating.

The lion tamer always holds the stool by the back and points the four legs toward the face of the wild animal.  The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once.  When he does this, a kind of paralysis comes over him, and the animal becomes weak and disabled because his attention is fragmented and is unable to focus.

Too often we try to focus on too many things, and we become victims of discouragement and disappointment, and ineffective living.  A lack of focus is destructive.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 12:1-2.  The backdrop is an athletic event, the race.  The writer describes that the runner always runs with focus and purpose.  He says, “We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, who is the Alpha and the Omega of our faith.”

You never see a runner win who is multi-focused while he is running.  You don’t see him waving to people up in the crowd, or “hot-dogging.”  The runner who wins focuses on the finish line and runs straight towards it.  He  doesn’t  look at his competitors!  He doesn’t get distracted.  He is focused!

One of the big differences in success and failure is how well we are able to focus.  Someone has said, “The successful man is the average man – focused.”

When a football team goes out of town for the big game, much of the planning centers on how to keep the team focused.  Play off and championship games carry with them many distractions.  The more focused a team can be, the better it will perform.  Last year a German soccer team immediately changed hotels for its training camp.  They found that a beauty contest was taking place at that resort hotel with 400 Russian models.  Smart coach!

There is a convicting Old Testament story about a guard who was looking after an enemy who had been captured.  His responsibility was to focus on keeping the prisoner secure.

When his leader came to check on him, they discovered the prisoner had escaped.  The leader wondered how that could happen.  Was the guard overpowered by the prisoner, or did some colleagues come and help the man escape?  He asked the guard to explain.  His explanation was, “While I was busy here and there, the prisoner escaped” (1 Kings 20:39-40).  The guard had not stayed focused on his duty!

Stay focused on your purpose.  A huge traffic jam recently occurred in Alabama where a truck driver took his hands off the wheel to pull out a loose tooth.  He crashed his 18-wheeler along Interstate 20.  While he grabbed hold of the troublesome tooth, he lost control, jack-knifed and veered off the road.  He forgot about driving and focused on pulling his tooth.  The highway patrol verified his dilemma when he said, “He had the tooth in his shirt pocket as proof!”  But that did not untangle the traffic jam or fix his truck.

Remember, a lack of focus can paralyze you.  Stay focused!

What is your FQ – Focus Quotient?

John Ed’s blog posts appear in For His Glory each week.1
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

1Listen to John Ed Mathison's one-minute daily devotional on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/johned.mathison/ and click “PLAY" on the audio YouTube in order to listen.  Or you can go to his ministry page at  https://www.facebook.com/JohnEdMathisonLeadershipMinistries/

7 ways to resolve conflicts

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2-decades-old prayer still strikes a nerve

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What’s your QQ –your Quit Quotient?

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What is your TQ-Team IQ?

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A book of discipline

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My remote connection to Dr. Martin Luther King

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Banging on the door

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Have A “Mary” Christmas

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She defied death and discovered new life

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What is the church doing about mental illness?

Nothing.

But church folks can minister to families struggling with mental illness in effective, loving ways. Continue reading

I’m okay. You’re okay. It’s okay. Okay?

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Potluck religious stew

Someone once told me we’ll be able to pick out the Baptists when we get to heaven. They’ll be the ones the covered dishes. Eating has always been a hallmark for us church folks. We love to eat and gather around the dinner table.

The trouble is, it seems to me the church is guilty of treating church like a pot luck supper.  More and more we’re ignoring God’s banquet table and cooking up our own “kitchen religion”.  The church would rather eat whatever tastes good than feast on God’s Word.  The church would rather roast a bunch of rules and regulations than feast on the Bread of Life. The church would rather gorge on opulence than taste obedience.

“I’ve made myself available
    to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
    by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
    to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
    to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
    who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
    are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
    a potluck religious stew.
Isaiah 65:1-3 MSG

What’s your social intelligence quotient?

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Time to exercise. No excuses.

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A young man with the right answers

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Why do “they” go to church?

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When is the last time you really blew it?

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Let go (of what?) and let God Response

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Mr. Smith Has Left The Building

Even Mr. Smith found it impossible to function honestly in Washington. Continue reading

A Ford and The Father

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Could you go an entire day without breaking at least 1 of the 10 commandments?

By James Corwin
James blogs over at DirtyHands.com

 Which commandment do we all break?

Typically for the sake of clarity we condense and number them. Different groups of Christians number them slightly differently. I won’t get the why and how of that now. It’s interesting but not important to the overall question. This is how I learned them.

  1. You shall have no other gods. (no idols)
  2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  3. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  4. Honor your father and mother.
  5. You shall not murder.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

So back to that first question. Which commandment do we all break most often?

I’ve heard many people say it’s numbers 9 and 10; coveting. Living in an affluent North American context this is obviously a problem. Our whole economic system would collapse in about ten seconds if we all gave this one up. After all our economy is built on consumerism; buying things. Companies spend literally billions of dollars to make you want what is not and in some cases should not be yours. But coveting isn’t the most frequently broken commandment.

Few people ever say it’s numbers 5 or 6. The reasoning goes like this, “Sure some people do murder or commit adultery. But those are the outliers. Most people don’t have serious issues with these two.” That reasoning works unless you happen to consider what Jesus says about numbers 5 and 6 in Matthew 5. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” OK. So, seen in that light numbers 5 and 6 are broken more often than we would think at first. But they still are nowhere near the commandment we break most often.

The commandment we all break is the first. “You shall have no other gods.” Martin Luther once said the fundamental problem in law-breaking is always idolatryIn other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the commandment against idolatry. (A Treatise on Good Works parts X, XI) Let that sink in a moment. In his explanation of the first commandment he wrote, “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And so anything that you fear, love, or trust more than God has become an idol for you.

When a person steals and breaks the seventh commandment, they have already broken the first. Their desire to have what they stole grew out of a violation of the first commandment. They did not fear, love or trust in God above all else. And so to fill their desire they took what was not theirs. And you can go down the list like that with all the other commandments. Each violation can be traced back to a breaking of the first commandment; “You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Idols aren’t only or necessarily funny little statues made out of wood or metal that the unenlightened people of the past prayed to, but that we have outgrown. An idol can be anything. Anything you fear above all else. Anything you love above all else. Anything you trust above all else. The gods of today that vie for God’s place in your life are so ordinary and commonplace that many of us don’t even give them a second thought. The false gods of today don’t go by the name of Baal, or Molech, or Ashtoreth. They are our retirement funds and bank accounts, they are our homes and our families, and they are our countries and our smartphones. And we do our bowing and kneeling to them with our schedules, our credit cards, our imaginations and our work.

Yes, we all break the first commandment. And we break it often. The good news in all of this is that the Big Ten were never meant to be a checklist to get into heaven. God doesn’t attach a percentage to them and say, “If you keep them 90 percent of the time, or 60 percent, or 40 percent, then I’ll let you in. No. They do detail how God wants us to live. But in trying to keep them we learn not only the depth of our sin, but also our utter incapability to keep them.

Once Jesus was asked by a young man seeking to justify himself, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus expertly opened the young man’s eyes to the idol that was standing between him and God. The thing he feared, loved and trusted above all else was his wealth. He walked away sad, unable and unwilling to give it up. The disciples, watching from the sidelines, and realizing their own failings said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:16-30)

Yes we break the first commandment most often. We break it every day. How should we respond? By repenting and trusting in Jesus, the one who from the cross said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The 800-pound resentment in the room

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Today I found an uplifting, positive blog

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Detaching to detox

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Poke-Mon NO!

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Are we drifting?

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Having The Good Life

By Dr. John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

Do you want more of God’s kindness and peace? Do you want to john edknow God better? Do you want to be open to His power which gives many rich and wonderful blessings that He has promised? These are all questions that Peter asks in 2 Peter 1:2-7.

It all begins with faith. Faith is when we receive the gift of God’s grace and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord. Years ago someone shared with me an acronym of faith as Forsaking All I Take Him. That’s faith.

Peter reminds us that faith is the beginning, but not the end. Some people view faith as an insurance policy or ticket to heaven, but hope that it doesn’t interfere with their present lives. Faith is the beginning that leads to the life of peace and blessings and the gifts of God. Peter then lists four steps to what he calls “the good life.”

Step 1. “To obtain the gifts of God, you need more than faith – you must work hard to be good” (2 Pet. 1:5). I’ve been around people who say they are Christians but are not very good people. Their faith hasn’t filtered down to their language, or attitudes, or pocketbook, or motives. I don’t think that’s real faith, because faith expresses itself in being a good person.

Step 2. “We should learn to know God better and discover what He wants us to do” (2 Pet. 1:5). James reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Faith puts us in such a position that God’s gifts become evident as we use them to serve Him. The big struggle in life is determining whether we are doing what we want to do or doing what He wants us to do.

God has given each of us a gift. Many people are too often recruited to serve at church just to fill a slot. They feel guilty if they say no, so they try to serve in an area in which they are not gifted. That can end in frustration and burn out. People who know their spiritual gifts, and then deploy them in His service, discover the greatest joy there is in life. Jesus said, “When you lose your life in My service, you find Life” (Mat. 10:25).

Step 3. “Become patient and Godly, gladly letting God have His way with you” (2 Pet. 1:6). Being patient means we are on God’s timetable and not ours. It means we don’t put a period where God puts a comma. Patience is not a weak term, but a strong term, because it requires us to allow God to be in charge of our motives and actions (Tweet this). The word patient is followed by the word Godly which means that we do things the way God would do them.

Peter says “gladly.” I’m afraid a lot of times in life we only reluctantly let God have His way with us. We even complain about it at times. When we submit to Him gladly, we open up the possibilities of what God can do through us. Step 4. “Enjoy other people and like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply” (2 Pet. 1:7).

This means that we have to learn to relate to people. We have to communicate. We can’t harbor prejudice. We first begin to like people, then we can grow to love them. Read Matthew 22:37.

Peter then gives a warning –“Whoever fails to go after these additions to faith is blind indeed – or at least very short-sighted.” God has given us faith so that we “can live a strong, good life for the Lord” (2 Pet. 1:9).

The Good Life is a gift provided for us through faith and our works that are a result of that faith!

John Ed’s blog posts appear on For His Glory each week.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

I could get a PhD in “STUPID”

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“Pick up your mat and walk.”

When Jesus encountered a man who had been afflicted for 38 years, He gave him three commands: Get up; pick up your mat; and walk.

if I make a conscious, deliberate decision to get up, to obey Jesus, to do what Jesus tells me to do, my life will change. It’s a lot easier, and more comfortable sometimes, to remain where we are. To remain in the grasp of a place we don’t want to be, but don’t have the courage, or the faith, to do what Jesus tells us to do.

Like the sick man Jesus encountered, I need to make an effort to change, especially if I’m lounging on a mat of my own creation. I have to want to get well. I need to obey Jesus’ command. The man needed to take action.

Then Jesus told the man to pick up his mat. John 5:9 says, “Immediately the man became well.”

I’d be willing to wager he showed that mat to everyone he met, skipping through the streets testifying to how Jesus had healed him. His mat became his message. God used the man’s 38 years of affliction as his testimony to God’s faithfulness and powers of healing.

Finally, Jesus told the man to walk. It was finally time for him to act. Once Jesus has touched us, impacted our lives and healed us, He wants us to walk out our testimonies. To share our healing with others.

I am a victim of post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. We experienced a homicide in our home November 10, 2013. Following the murder the PTSD set in and it took several months of weekly counseling for me to work through it. When I did, I shared my story in recovery groups, church groups and with others who experienced PTSD. I walked my story out and could tell others, “I know how you feel.” Because I did. I was able to share understanding and compassion with them. And others shared their stories with me as well. We share a bond that others can’t share. But as we walk out our experience, we grow stronger and closer to the Lord. I am forever grateful for all the things God showed me as I lay on that mat.

Maybe someday I’ll write about all that.

If you missed the post, “Get up”, you can read it here.
If you missed the post, “Pick up your mat”, you can read it here.
If you’d like to read about the homicide and the source of my PTSD,  You can read the full post here.

The United(now and then)States of America

why

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Ten excuses for not changing

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When you want to hear from God

Editor’s Note: I can’t count the times I’ve wanted (needed) to hear from God and didn’t. I’m an impatient sort, so I feel uncomfortable when God says, “Wait.”  My blogging friend, Kelly Baker, wrote an excellent post on her blog about three things we might consider when we need to hear from God. I wanted to share her insights and thoughts with all my readers.  Be blessed.


By Kelly Baker
Guest author
Blogging at KellyrBaker.com

Don’t we love it when God gives clear direction straight into our spirit? Generally speaking, He doesn’t always do that! One day I longed to hear from God. I worshipped.

Silence.

I prayed. I asked. I went to battle with the Word.kellyrBaker

More silence.

I waited.

Again, exasperating silence.

A Psalm of David. I pray to you, O LORD, my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you are silent, I might as well give up and die. Psalm 28:1 NLT

This particular translation of this verse makes me chuckle. I’m sure there is a more productive solution than self-pity.😉 But, what do we do when He says nothing? Why does He say, “Wait”?

We all desire to hear His voice clearly, and when we haven’t we wonder what are the possible reasons. It’s not easy to be at peace with His temporary silence, but we can be sure He has a purpose in it.

3 Actions While Waiting on God’s Answer 

1. Spend time with God daily. Could it be that He wants to fill our hunger and thirst? He desires that we know Him more and more through His Word. When we study the Bible, we begin to know God’s character. I’ve thought of someone in the midst of a situation and said, “I already know what that person would say!” When we know someone well, we can easily hear that person’s voice playing in our head. When we regularly spend time with God, it becomes easier to “know” what He would say in those times when we feel He is silent. We can then more readily relate His Word to our circumstances.

2. Consent to character development. There may be times when we open our Bible while seeking Him for specific direction, and the Holy Spirit will illuminate the words we’re reading. Suddenly, there is an answer staring us in the face, maybe even from an entirely different angle. He might be telling us we need to make an adjustment. It might not have been the answer we thought we needed, but the one He knows we need. He often gives us what we don’t expect, but it’s still an answer. To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet (Proverbs 27:7b KJV).

Gears3. Trust Him. God is getting every detail in place. Have you ever looked at the perfect way gears lock together and turn when they fit properly? When we wait for His timing we see Him properly align every specific, necessary facet. Sometimes we think we are stuck, but if we could take a step back and see His viewpoint we would see the big picture. We aren’t all clock makers. He is working on our big picture. He’s got it covered.

Through His seeming silence, God might be saying, “Come and know Me more,” or “An adjustment needs to be made.” At other times, He may be wanting us to let go of the stress and trust Him. He will fulfill His promises. Let’s not allow doubt to be a hindrance. A prayer of doubt will nullify a prayer of faith.

What are other reasons God may be silent, or say, “Wait”?

“Pick up your mat”

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Come on. Get Up!

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I wish I had said (done) something.

When I published my “I with I hadn’t done that” post several days ago, I got an interesting flip side perspective. . . Continue reading

Living ready — Really living

By Ken Chester
Blogger over at Grace Gripped

Editor’s Note: Ken Chester is one of my favorite bloggers on the Internet. His grasp of God’s grace is singularly brilliant. I know you’ll be blessed today by his thoughts.

“But you dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is unending life, the real life!” Jude 20-21 Message

What a life Jesus Christ has called you into. It is a life unlike any other .. holy .. wide open with God’s love .. all blemishes wiped clean .. “real life”. He calls you by name personally. He knows the sound of your voice and heals all the broken places in your life so that you can know the sound of His voice. There is grace .. a lifetime of learning just how incredible the love of God is .. beginning at the cross .. a day to day walk by faith .. and discovering that your life is His method for reaching the world around you. Jesus is going to come back one day. It is as certain as the empty grave He left. It is right around the corner. And the life you are called to live is exactly the life the He lives in you. Anything less will always feel like less. Jesus hasn’t left you here to worry or live anxiously. He’s left His Spirit to guide  you and grow you in grace. He’s left His Spirit to remind you every day of how much you are loved. He’s left His Spirit to work in you all that Christ is for you. What a life Jesus Christ has call you into .. today. He only takes a moment …

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 NASB

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Waiting-Willing-Walking followers of Jesus(kchesterp1@gmail.com)