God habits…

September 19, 2017

“If you God, kept records of wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshipped.” Psalm 130:3-4 The Message

God has a three-way habit:Forgiveness. The Father .. The Son .. and The Holy Spirit are forgivers. It’s their habit. They’ve crafted it over thousands of years. Actually .. It’s just who God is. And for that .. you walk along in your life and learn just how deep His forgiveness goes in you .. how far His forgiveness reaches into your memories .. how high His forgiveness lifts you from darkness .. and how wide His forgiveness stretches with generous grace. God is a full-price-buying-you-back God. When you were at your lowest Jesus paid His highest. And even now when you walk in and out of low moments … His Spirit whispers: ‘You’re forgiven .. You are loved .. You can stand on it .. You can live out of it’. God doesn’t keep records of all that junk that’s cluttered up your life. In fact .. He steps right in the middle of your messes and begins cleaning you up from the inside out. And for that .. you discover the gift of worship: hands raised .. arms wide .. kneeling .. sitting .. standing .. dancing .. lips moving .. singing .. and utter silence. When Jesus lives in you .. memories are healed .. restored in the true knowledge that God is good .. the gospel is real .. and that Christ is in you. It’s because God forgives that He assures and reassures you that Christ has taken the heavy-weights of your sin and you don’t have to carry or wear them anymore. His love is light and His grace is lining all those walls of your once damaged heart and scarred mind. And for that .. you worship the One who has a ‘firm grip on you’ and is ‘not letting go’! You’re free to live out of the indwelling habit of the Forgiving One. It only takes a moment …

“When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won’t find them — Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, “Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you. … I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel.” Isaiah 41:12-13,15 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Habit-forming followers of Jesus (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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What do you have..?

September 18, 2017

And He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.” …And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied..” Mark 6:38, 41-42 New American Standard

Jesus may ask you the impossible today. It could be a monumental task with few resources available. It could be a simple act of kindness to a stranger. Even more, it could be a life-changing display of forgiveness. All three require more of you than you possess. Because the work Jesus asks of you always requires faith .. a trust and surrender that God is at your side. His work in you always points your life towards the Son.  Jesus asks you the same thing He ask the disciples: “How many ……….. do you have?” His question is personal to each of us. He’s not trying to shame or embarrass you. He’s asking for what He sees in you. What He does next with what you give Him is unfathomable. He gives thanks and blesses the offering from your life. He doesn’t condemn or critique what you give Him or how you gave it. He receives it .. gives thanks .. blesses .. and multiplies it for others. That’s what He longs to do in you today. Even so, He may do it for you so you can taste and see His faithfulness and goodness for your life. What a difference today is when you know “the Lord is for me”. That is the deep work of His Spirit speaking into your heart and mind. Jesus wants you to know that He is for you. That reality points to the cross .. always in the background .. and always out front. He’s for you this day. What is before you today? It only takes a moment …

The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 New American Standard

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to the Fellowship of Loaves and Fishes (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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The reach of Jesus…

September 15, 2017

“..As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession — a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her, “Don’t cry.” Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I tell you: Get up.” The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.” Luke 7:12-15 The Message

Jesus seems to walk up on every kind of life .. yours included. He’s picking up a man in ditch one moment. He’s running down the road after a Father-hungry son the next. He’s stopping to touch a diseased man who’s unwelcome everywhere. He looks at a “humiliated-woman-thrown-at-his feet” and tells her he doesn’t condemn her .. not even a little. If you’re following this Jesus you’ll find yourself crossing every kind of life as well.  He’s never caught off guard around  broken .. hungry .. blind .. lonely .. diseased .. discarded .. worn out .. and God-starved lives.  What do they and you have in common? A longing for a kind of love that makes you more alive than ever. His heart breaks over a widow at a funeral.  His heart still breaks at loss .. grief .. death .. and being all alone in your life. Just like a widow being given her son back alive .. Jesus loves to present you with life-raising grace. He’s never surprised when He walks up on a sin-dead life. His heart still breaks but His love breaksout beyond measure. If Jesus touched a coffin .. how much more will He reach into your life? His mercy is wide enough for a Father-hungry-pig-smelling son to find his way home. His love looks into the eyes of a “caught-woman” and indelibly speaks into her heart: “Neither do I condemn you”. Wherever He goes .. Whoever He encounters .. and Whatever situation He walks upon … there’s always a place in His company for you. It only takes a moment …

“Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” Ephesians 2:4-6 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to the company of Jesus followers. (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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You’re the proof…

September 14, 2017,

“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom. He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will be with me in paradise.”Luke 23:42-43 The Message

He will never cease to amaze you. When you think you are on your last gasp of life, Jesus says: “Don’t worry, I will” (remember you). A man with nothing received everything because he believed that Jesus would make the difference. You may have blown it, really blown  it, and you wonder if Jesus would truly welcome you back? You were once “that thief”. Yes, He still welcomes back any man or woman who asks Him such a scandalous question. He’ll walk a beach .. meet over coffee .. look you straight in the eye and deeply in your heart and reaffirm His love to you. He’s the finished look of your life. The cross means no one is outside of His reach. The scars in His hands show He knows every wound or hurt you’ve ever experienced. And for this to happen .. Jesus still comes after those who wander and those who are caught and condemned. There’s no way back if Jesus doesn’t restore fallen and faraway lives. He’ll use the very circumstances you are facing to strip away all the pretense and good intentions. He sees through the excuses and reasons you’re in a bad place. He has heard every intention of serving Him if only “this” crisis will pass. He’ll ask the one question that will strip away all pretense and leave you with only one answer: “Lord, you know everything, you know in spite of my circumstances, that I love you.” That rings hollow in this world but grabs the attention of the Crucified One. He’s serious about restoring broken and battered lives. You’re the proof.  If you’re serious, He’ll use you to remind someone that Jesus will remember them too! … It only takes a moment ….

“then he said a third time? “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was upset that He asked for the third time: “Do you love me?” so he answered , “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Remembered and Restored followers of Jesus (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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There’s gold in the ditches

September 12, 2017, 2011

“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill — I’ll pay you on my way back.”” Luke 10:33-35 The Message

It doesn’t take much to end up discarded, bruised and beat up, and upside down in a ditch. You can spend a lot of your life just trying to avoid the unexpected or minimizing the possibilities of it ever happening to you .. or your family. But it happens .. everyday .. in this fallen and attacker-filled world.  Jesus became a “Samaritan” to find you. He found you .. His heart went out to you .. and He takes the pain-filled interrupting time to attend your wounds. Then He does something so holy: He makes you comfortable so you can begin to heal. Wounded men and women rarely feel liked. You become suspicious .. withdrawn .. and dressed in fear. It’s at these very points that Jesus finds us and “disinfects” our wounds with His life. He doesn’t leave us to take care of ourselves. He steps in those very places where we’re alone .. abandoned .. and aliened in our pain and problems. In the midst of it all you discover that He really likes you .. He really does. Just as He celebrated new life in a tree-climbing tax collector’s home .. so He celebrates restoring your life. There’s no one like Jesus when it comes to taking all the time you need to become whole .. loved .. and accepted.  Jesus never leaves you feeling condemned or obligated with how you’re going to pay Him back! If you’re in a ditch right now .. Jesus has the time. If you see someone in a ditch .. can Jesus use you to pay the bill?  It only takes a moment …

“Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” Luke 19:10 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Road-discarded .. Tree-lodged .. and sometimes Bruised and Beaten followers of Jesus. (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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Plenty to go around …

September 11, 2011

“Oh, thank God — he’s so good! His love never runs out. All of you set free by God, tell the world! Tell how he freed you from oppression.” Psalm 107:1-2 The Message

You can take God for granted. You can assume His love will cover you when you’re over your head. You can run from it .. you just can’t ever run away from the love of God. There’s no where to hide. He’ll find you in the darkest places .. He’ll wade through the worst conditions and circumstances to find you and bring you into the greatest love you’ll ever know. It’s a freeing love .. freeing you to know forever that the God of the universe .. the Lord of creation .. the nail-scarred Savior .. and the Forever-Alongside One will never let go .. never run out .. and never give up on you. This God .. this Lord .. this Spirit have a story to tell through your life. How you “sing”  may not look like someone else .. because Jesus loves to show the world what grace looks like in freed lives .. loved lives .. living deeply for His glory. It’s a big mission and you’re part of it. As a long-since-homebound Oxford schooled Jamaican pastor* once said: “The Lord offers you  a river of unending love and life. Why do you work so hard for such a trickle?” Yes… He’s a “nick of time” God who knows those precise and specific moments when you’ll turn back and turn toward the One who leads you out of prisons .. opens a way through a wasteland .. and in one Word heals what is broken. It’s just that you can’t believe it is that real or will really last. Jesus knows how fragile faith begins inside a healed and scarred heart. He knows fully how your mind tries to make sense of unconditional love. You can’t. You can however breathe deeply of such life changing grace and give thanks. That is one of the sweetest moments of worship you can offer this Lord … for His miracle mercy. It only takes a moment ..

Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death. So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what he’s done—sing it out!” Psalm 107:19-22 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Miracle-Mercied Followers of Jesus. (kchesterp1@gmail) *Dr. Sam Hines, former pastor of Third Street Church of God, Washington D.C.

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4????’s

September 8, 2017

“… do you love me more than these?” John 21:15 The Message

“Who do I love?” …  “Who will I miss?” … “How have I spent my life?” … “Am I ready for what’s next?”*

4 Questions: Maybe you’ve asked yourself these questions over time. Maybe they unfolded in a crisis or tragedy. Maybe the question(s) came by in the night when sleep cruelly flirted. Maybe you haven’t really taken the time to let your heart .. mind .. and soul retreat to hear your answers. Jesus asked one question to Peter after being betrayed? He didn’t ask him why? He asked: “do you love Me?” It’s the question He asks each one of us at some point. To answer that question is to have all other questions made subordinate. Because loving Jesus defines everything else. It sets your priorities. It means you’re going to be tested and refined by that same question. It means all those other loves are going to try and promise what this one question asserts. The only way to live a life of love is to be loved by Jesus and love others out of that fullness. Without Him, your reserves will run dry. He is the Source and Supply of the very question He asks you. It’s only 4 questions .. but they ask deep commitment and maybe even some course correction. And the answer Jesus gives to each one is: “Follow Me”. If you’re looking for something specific … it’s not something but SomeOne. And that path will be the most intense enduring love you can know.

“Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it.” 1 Peter 1:22 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent Christ Followers with life-changing questions.  *(4 Questions from Philip Yancey:  Epilogue to Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?)

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Seeing …

September 7, 2017

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory if His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19 New American Standard

A long time ago you were prayed for: to have the “eyes of your heart” opened. The Heart-Opener made it possible for your heart to come alive. It was the only way to restore your sight. You have to be made alive in your heart … alive to see .. alive to be loved .. and alive to love as well. You can’t “see” without it. It’s hard to live with a barely-alive heart and an anxious-cluttered mind. Two thousand years ago you were prayed for. (You can pray ahead)  He didn’t know you but he knew how to pray. He prayed you would know the “true riches of Christ”. He prayed you would live out of the same power that raised Christ from the dead. Your once un-saint-like life has been transformed from the inside out by His indefatigable grace .. forgiveness .. love .. and resurrection. Do you believe it all perfectly? No…! Even with your eyes opened you’ll still face moments with lingering questions .. moments of real temptation to not trust .. and moments of guilt-grasping memories that will try to turn you away. But you’ve been prayed for: prayed to see and live with your heart open .. your mind made new .. and your life gripped with grave-raising grace. You’re not walking alone today. The One who designed your heart now occupies it with His Spirit.  He wants you to see .. to see how much you are loved .. to see how alive you are in Him .. and to share that life with others. You’ve been prayed for. There’s no need to try to live on your own. You’ve been prayed for. Who can you pray for right now? It only takes a moment …

“..oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him — endless energy, boundless strength. All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule.”  Ephesians 1:19-20 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Wildly Changed Saints following Jesus (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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Before your day begins…

September 6, 2017

“The Lord is my light and my salvation — so why should I be afraid. The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalm 27:1 New Living Translation

Nothing about your life escapes God’s attention and care. You’re not just “one” more item or person on His daily agenda. He is and wants to be the real light for your day.  You know all too well what a day looks like when you’re walking in faith or living out of your own devices. One brings a sense of rest and the other yields a weariness that doesn’t lift. Christ wants to be that strength for you. It’s not impersonal. It’s very personal .. very present .. and very purposed. It’s rarely the big moments that wear you down. It’s usually all the clutter of “things” you’ve allowed to get in the way of Christ being your strength. There is only one foundation that makes life worth living .. and that is living your life in Christ. There is real trouble everyday ..  real temptations .. and real attacks that try to isolate you from trusting Christ. You may step into some uncertainties .. situations laced with fears .. and a list of unknowns confronting you today or this week.  That’s why Jesus wants to be the Light to your path .. supplying the grace you need today. God is so much more than someone who just fixes your life. He’s the One who wants to fill your life with grace and peace .. love and trust .. faithfulness and joy. The Lord is and wants to be the Source and Secret of your day. If He knows the sound of your voice .. He certainly knows the condition of your heart. Who is He in your life today? The Lord is my ……… . Is He the same at the end of the day? He is .. He will be .. and He wants to be.  It only takes a moment …

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1 New Living Translation

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Refugees-Living-Out-of-Grace as followers of Jesus (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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So you want choices.. really?

September 5, 2017

“As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy”. 1 Peter 1:16 The Message

It’s your choice. No one is going to force you.  You want one .. but if you belong to Jesus .. your life is to be completely His. That rubs some people the wrong way. We live in a “choice” world. Even though our choices lead us astray, we still harbor a soft spot for having the “choice” to make the decision. You make choices about everything .. all day. The real choice Jesus rescued you from was the choice to choose yourself first. His scars show just how far He went to break the dark side of choice. The world whispers “take care of yourself first”. It’s found in every level of  everyday living. Jesus didn’t choose himself because he wasn’t twisted up inside of himself. His choice was you .. always was. He didn’t have to put on a face to act sacrificially. Everything He did was aligned with His Father’s heart and will. There wasn’t a tension between doing the right or wrong action. There was just a choice of choosing you. The life God has for you is the same way: shaped and blazing with holiness. That life is lived out amidst the bumps .. detours .. and grace surprised moments. God’s secret: He knows it is impossible to live the Life he has called you to live without Him. So He steps in .. literally .. into your life .. and offers you His life. He could have demanded that you meet His standard first but He doesn’t. The Cross was Jesus at his highest .. meeting you at your lowest. You  still want a choice today ? Ok .. but it isn’t really a choice.  You can choose Jesus or stay stuck in your life. You can let go .. and let Him in. And He moves in! And when Jesus moves in He goes room by room through your life. It only takes a moment …

“I am God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Be holy because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45 The Message

Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to God-shaped lives following Jesus (kchesterp1@gmail.com)

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