Archive for March, 2018

We’re Talking Power Here. Real. Life-changing. Power.

Christianity isn’t about how to be spiritual, achieve your goals or have your best life now. Christianity isn’t about philosophy. It’s not about talk. Christianity is about power.

Power to obey God. Power to change. Power to love those who are messed up. Power to get back up after being pummeled by wave after wave of affliction. Power to wield the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to extinguish the devil’s fiery darts.

The gospel itself is the very power of God:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

DA Carson, says of this verse, “One might have expected Paul to say, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the wisdom of God.’ Instead, he insists it is ‘the power of God.’  

And: 

“The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel IS God’s power to those who believe.”  (emphasis mine).

God’s word confirms this:

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power1 Corinthians 4:20.   

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Do we believe prayer has great power? I don’t feel electricity when I pray. I feel weak. I’m a jar of clay. But God puts his power in pots. We connect with God’s power through our mustard seed faith. An electric cord is weak and flimsy. But when we plug it into a socket, it connects to all the voltage of the electric company, which courses into our sabre saw or vaccuum sweeper.

Ask God for his mighty power today. Thank him that he promised your prayers are powerful and effective. Remember, the kingdom of God isn’t talk; it’s power.

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational
:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

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So on this Sunday, after church, I walked to the patisserie to get me some cake and Ice cream.

As I stood there tired, knees numb as I queued because I am not the only one with sweet-mouth.
I saw the Visa card sign on the table, it read… ‘VISA, ACCEPTED HERE’

Something just snapped inside of me when I saw that sign, my heart just instantly became so heavy and from where I come from, I think I knew why. Church for me has been my place of strength and forgiveness, and I wondered if broken people felt so when they came through our doors. 
There is one story in scriptures I love so much, it is the one of the adulteress that was being accused by the Pharisees, remember that story?
Jesus only wanted one thing, to be alone with her, so he could speak to her heart. So he asked them one question. “Let the one among you without sin be the one to throw the first stone”
“they went away one by one” after hearing those words. “The Gospel, with an amount of irony, says they went away, one by one, starting with the eldest: clearly they owed a lot of money to the heavenly bank!” So now, Jesus has his alone time with her…
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

More like; “We are alone, You are before God, no accusations, no gossip: you and God”
“No one condemned me, Lord.” And so Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
What’s more, Jesus “was pure and could have himself cast the first stone.” But Christ “goes further than that. He does not say adultery is not a sin, but he does not condemn her with the law.” This is “the mystery of the mercy of Jesus.”
That He forgives without condemning.
Sometimes I wonder how hard the hypocrisy in our sermons over the pulpit and the reflection of our personal lives is chasing people away from God.
I remember that Andy Mineo’s song where he goes “I am only a beggar pointing to you where the bread is at”.
That got me personally!
And sometimes I wished Christians will show others that there is life in Jesus because we have experienced a genuine fountain of forgiveness from the father rather than act like “Gatekeepers of salvation and detectives in the Department of Holiness and Perfection Affairs”
Just a little prayer!

Father, I thank you because the entrance of your word will lighten up the hearts of your people, you will teach them the acceptance that only comes from you and the unconditional love that the cross shares abroad in their hearts”
YOU’RE ELOHIM, GOD IS LOVE


So, in that story, we see the merciful attitude of Jesus: He defends sinners from their enemies. He defends the sinner from a just condemnation.
He who is the forgiveness of sins tells the woman that she is accepted, that she is forgiven, isn’t it just liberating?!!
I remember God asking me once, “Do you clean up before going to have a bath?” I was puzzled and just responded “Isn’t that what a bath is for?” 
I remember a Friend of mine being confused when I asked her this and in turn, Imagine the confusion in heaven when we act the way we do.
A lot of us are waiting to be good enough for God before we court his presence; before we go to the throne room, but like that sign reads, God is bringing us to a place where He says ‘Darling, your weaknesses are ACCEPTED HERE, In fact, my presence is a fountain of forgiveness!”
He is calling you to a place of knowing that He has loved you even from the foundations of the earth, while you were dead in sin, he has forgiven you. Hard to believe but it is the truth.
Remember what he told Jeremiah? “Even in your mother’s womb, I knew you”
His love does not call you to shrink under the responsibilities of knowing that the one who placed the stars in the sky and called them by name calls you friend, NO.
His love says “The hair on your head is numbered, it all works together for your Good” That’s his love for you!
His love calls us to a place where we are loved enough to say ‘Father, a thousand times I have failed and your mercy didn’t leave me, and should I stumble again, still I am caught in your grace’…
The medicine is there, the healing is there—if only we take a small step toward God or even just the desire to take that step.”
God leaves nothing untried in reaching out to you, He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.
God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son. But if weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.
Jesus goes beyond and forgives us not with a decree but with a loving caress.
What is God saying to you? accept my waterfall of forgiveness, the blood paid for you.
His blood chose you unconditionally, so stop cleaning up before coming to me, stop trying to get right with me before coming to me, no I don’t need you to, I just need you to come.
God is saying, don’t clean up before you come, because I am the bath, I am the fountain of ever so abounding forgiveness… DARLING, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
In my presence, you can come boldly to the throne of grace, however dirty you think you are, let me clean you up, just come
However weak you are, let me give you strength, allow my grace to flow in the areas of your weaknesses, your insecurities, your fears, allow me to work through you both to will and to do.
Will you let him?
Adam said “Lord, I heard you were in the Garden, I was AFRAID, so i hid, because i was naked” and guess what God’s response was? 
“Who told you that?” 
Sometimes our skewed perception of God is what keeps us away from him. We shrink because we don’t deserve the love we get.
But the cross deserved it for us.

Believer, the price on your life is an overpayment, Jesus paid the bounty on your life, you have received liberty by the cross.
I will meet you where you are, stop the hide and seek… I love you unconditionally, I won’t ever condemn you.
My love is forever, guess what it made me do for you? it made me hang on the cross, it made me take whips for you, I took a spear by my side for you, I am not stopping until I have you… Until you say yes!
… A little scratch here and there, some bruises here and there is not enough to take you away from me, you are my pristine and priced possession, stop pushing me away because you don’t think you deserve this love that I give, no, you are totally worth it.
He is saying… hey you, woss, I made you, I love you just the way you are, I don’t want you to do better just to please me, nah I want you like that, don’t put on the make-up when you come into my presence, I want you without a snapchat filter, I made you remember?
Like the Samaritan woman, he asks us to drink and not thirst anymore, he says, when you get to the end of yourself, free refills are ACCEPTED HERE! 
So, tossed around by weaknesses, insecurities,chained by sicknesses, what is he saying like Visa Card? YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
Come when you think I don’t deserve you, when you don’t like what you see, when you think your card will be declined, and you will still be ACCEPTED HERE.
His words are not empty, because he proved his love by his sacrifice.

Here’s what John the Beloved says of Jesus…
“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13
He went to the bottom for you, descended to the depths, suffering the consequences of all your failures and totality of your fears.
Thoughts of you keep him awake, you are ACCEPTED HERE!
Feel free to Come, Come when you feel like the worse Sinner, come when you feel higher, Come when you are depressed, come when you are less impressed, COME, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE. 

#Selah

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational 

:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

Inestimable Value 

If we follow Jesus’s advice to fear only God, we come to his intriguing question: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” The Greek actually says “two assaria,” which were Roman coins made of copper and together were worth about one-eighth of a day’s wage for a laborer. It would take, in other words, roughly half an hour’s worth of work to earn enough to buy a sparrow at the market. A day laborer could earn enough to buy a sparrow without breaking a sweat. And yet, Jesus assures his disciples, God remembers each sparrow individually. 

If we are to think rightly, we must look up—at the birds. But what do sparrows have to do with the preceding command to fear God, not man? Simply this: if we cast our lot with God, he will not forget us, no matter how insignificant we may appear. In fact, Jesus assures his fearful disciples, God knows the very number of hairs on our heads. That’s intimacy beyond our wildest dreams. He made us. Nothing about us or our disheveled lives surprises him. God has things under control and can be trusted completely in the face of any difficulty. 

Even for the disabled, who are often considered to be worth less than birds in today’s culture. Stephanie Hubach is the mother of Timmy, a child with Down syndrome. She has struggled with the anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and brokenness that her son’s chromosomal condition has brought. But she has also seen God bring light to what many consider to be an unremittingly dark path. 

“Disability is essentially a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience—a normal part of life in an abnormal world,” Hubach writes. “It is just a difference of degree along a spectrum that contains difficulty all along its length. Due to God’s common grace, no one exists in the extreme of complete brokenness. Due to the fall, no one enjoys the extreme of complete blessing. We all experience some mixture of the two in every aspect of our humanity.”

God has the mixture just right for each of us to seek him and show forth his glory: neither too much blessing to make us forget him; nor too little to make us curse him. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

This question about sparrows, which touches on our inestimable value in God’s eyes, follows his commands not to fear man but God, and it is followed by one more command not to be afraid: “Fear not,” Jesus still says to us, “you are of more value than many sparrows.” Thinking about this fact, straight from the lips of Jesus, gives unshakeable courage. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again touches on things avian. “Look at the birds of the air,” he says; “they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) The answer is obvious.

Fearing the Future

Sometimes, however, our primary fear isn’t from without but from within. We know God is both powerful and good and can protect us from others, but we are anxious about ourselves. Somehow we think we still have the power to mess things up. We fear that we cannot provide for ourselves, that we can get into messes that even God cannot clean up, knots that even he cannot untie. Ultimately we think our well-being, and that of our families, is up to us, and such thinking paralyzes us.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.(Luke 12:22-31)

Blinded by what passes for reality, we become transfixed with our lives, our bodies, our spans of life—as if we are autonomous, untethered free agents trying to get through a dangerous world as best we can. Or we fear that, no matter what God has promised in his word, we are somehow different, that even if the Lord can keep chaos at bay for other believers, he cannot or will not do so for us. We fear that somehow or other our mistakes are special and beyond the power and reach of God. This is sinful conceit. 

We forget to whom we belong. “Once God takes us into covenant with himself,” J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom write, “as he does the moment we put faith in Christ and are born again by the Holy Spirit, our relationship to God is of child to Father and sheep to shepherd, and that means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will hold us fast and not let go of us, even if in moments of madness or sadness, or just plain badness, we stray into the wilderness of sin and death.”

After introducing the disciples to sparrows, Jesus moves on to ravens. Just as we are of more worth to God than the sparrows for which he cares, so we are more valuable than the ravens that he feeds. If God feeds them, he will feed us

God’s care is not theoretical. It is intensely practical. Remember that God used ravens to feed Elijah, his depressed and frightened prophet. (1 Kings 17:6) God is not playing games, promising and not delivering. His care involves real, physical stuff—such as food. 

When I was unexpectedly laid off from my job and groping to regather the shards of my shattered career, our church and other Christians came through. Friends across the street picked up low-cost groceries for us at their church. Another bought and installed more memory for our ailing computer. Others prayed, took us to lunch, pointed us to job leads, and helped with faxes and resumes. Some gave us money—frequently and anonymously. I felt carried along by their prayers and practical expressions of concern. 

God’s family was our family, too. As Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)

Then come the clinching questions. Even if we choose to disregard the truth that God is for us, Jesus points out the utter futility of anxiety, asking, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25) If Jesus’s positive, spiritual encouragement to trust God fails, then Jesus is not afraid to get brutally honest. And the honest truth is this: Anxiety doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:26) Anxiety says, “My fate is in my own hands. It is all up to me.” With that kind of thinking, no wonder we remain wide-awake at three in the morning! 

Not only does anxiety fail to produce any positive results for us. It often does the opposite, draining us of life itself. Those who are anxious over debt, for example, are at higher risk of ulcers or digestive tract problems, migraine headaches, severe anxiety, severe depression, heart attacks, muscle tension, losing their temper, and having trouble sleeping or concentrating. Worry kills. 

Author and counselor Bob Phillips tells the story of a man who met Death on the way to a far country. Death told the man he was going to kill ten thousand people in a city, and he went on. Later the man met Death going the opposite way and pointed out that he had heard that seventy thousand had perished. “I only killed ten thousand people,” Death responded. “Worry and Fear killed the others.”

We cannot control life, so we should not worry. Of course we are called to plan and work, but we must leave the results to God. This is because the results, no matter what “self-made” Americans may believe, are ultimately out of our hands. The best-laid plans of mice and men can fail, while God’s providence can bring us to unimaginable (and undeserved) heights. We are not in control of our lives—and that’s okay. 

In fact, our lack of control means we should worry not more, but less. Children have little to no control, yet few display symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder. They have the least control, and probably the fewest worries. There’s a reason babies sleep like babies. Without the crushing burden of responsibility, they don’t have a care in the world. Children have their problems, of course. They are not immune to bullies, bad parents, or disease. As they get older, the stress of school or relationships can rob them of their sleep and wipe the smiles off their faces. But the norm for most kids, who live at the pure mercy of others, is joy. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus tells us we must “become like little children” to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Worry, which is evidence of misplaced self-reliance, has no place in God’s kingdom. We can control nothing. The King will provide. 

Looking Down 

To drive home the point of God’s unimaginable concern for his children, Jesus next tells us to look down, turning from his high-flying avian creations to the humble grass beneath our feet. Jesus points out how our heavenly Father provides wildflowers to decorate the ground more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory. (Matthew 6:28-30) As this simple yet profound act demonstrates, God’s provision is extravagant, promiscuous, sovereign, unasked for, and free. God is not a miser seeking to hoard his goodness. It is in his very nature to share his best, to hold nothing back. 

No wonder Jesus exclaims a rhetorical question, “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) Such grace, illuminated for us by creation, calls for awe-filled expressions of worship, as when David blurted out in sheer wonder: 

When I consider your heavens, 
   the work of your fingers, 
   the moon and the stars, 
   which you have set in place, 

what is man that you are mindful of him, 
   the son of man that you care for him? 

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
   and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Meditating on these facts should bring great assurance. Even if we don’t receive everything we want, we will get everything we truly need—God himself. “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” Paul asked, reflecting on God’s plan of salvation. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Persistent Anxiety 

That should be the end of the matter, but it isn’t. Over and over the Bible tells people who should know better not to be anxious. 

• “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

• “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:4)

• “He [who trusts the Lord] is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

• “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

• “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matthew 10:19)

• “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

But we naturally turn to worry rather than to God. Why? Yes, there is much to legitimately fear in this sin-scarred world in which the devil is constantly on the prowl. The night we sent one of our sons on his first overnight church camping trip, a late-spring tornado ripped through a Boy Scout camp in the next state and killed four young men and injured dozens more. You can be sure I regularly checked the weather reports. Our son returned home on schedule, but this did not lessen our grief for the parents of the boys who didn’t—or our protective parental instinct. 

I must confess that, whether for reasons of history, genetics, or choice, anxiety is my natural default mode. Much as I try to project an image of quiet confidence, a lot of my inner life is characterized by fear. I get anxious about how I will look. I fear heights. I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet a particular challenge. I even get anxious when writing a chapter about anxiety! And I suspect I’m not all that different from most people. Partly, anxiety represents a perfectly natural response to perceived threats. The fight-or-flight response to danger is deeply imprinted on our humanity. And let’s face it: those who live without fear often find themselves without their health or their lives. Living without due concern for the consequences of your actions will buy you a quick ticket to the hospital or cemetery. That’s why so many teens die from alcohol overdoses or reckless driving: they believe (wrongly) that they are invincible. The anxious person, however, sees himself as completely vincible, as it were. 

And Jesus, far from denying the frailty and danger of the human condition, affirms it. Not only that, he takes it upon himself, day by day, month by month, year by year. He takes it upon himself and gets mockery, slander, arrest, torture, and death for his trouble. As we saw in the introduction to this book, Jesus has the serenity amid life’s storms that only trust in one’s heavenly Father can bring. 

And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Jesus’s question remains: why are we afraid, O we of little faith? If he can rebuke the winds and the sea, what is there to fear? The answer: absolutely nothing. Think about it.

Excerpted from:

All That Jesus Asks by Stan Guthrie
Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Copyright 2010

Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Mark Altrogge

In Romans 4, Paul tells us Abraham “grew strong in his faith” and urges us to walk in Abraham’s footsteps. To believe like he believed. How do we do this?

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Look to God’s promise not your circumstances.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations (18)

Abraham’s situation looked bleak. God promised him multitudes of descendants, but the only problem was he was well past child producing. “He considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old).” He also considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Not only was Abraham almost 100 years old, but Sarah his wife was very old, and she had never been able to have children her whole life. How are they going to have children? If Abraham had based his hope on his circumstances he would have given up. But In hope he believed against hope—God’s promise gave him hope in his hopeless situation. He put his hope in God’s promise, not his circumstances.

We may feel hopelessly unrighteous. We may feel like God could never forgive us for the sins we have committed, that he would never accept us. But we must not look at ourselves, just like Abraham didn’t look at himself, but like Abraham, we must believe God’s promise of grace. He counts me righteous in Christ!

Our teenager may seem hopelessly lost. Our finances may be out of control. We may lack direction for our lives. Our marriage might be frustrating or our church might be a mess. Look to Jesus Christ! Don’t look to yourself. Look to the promise of the gospel—everyone who believes in him shall be saved. Look to his promises to draw near to those who draw near to him. Promises to hear and answer our prayers.

Give glory to God

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (20–21)

Abraham strengthened his faith. Here’s how: “He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Begin to give glory to God—start thanking and praising him for his every promise. Thank him for saving you and declaring you righteous in him. He has promised to be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through fire. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that nothing will be able to separate us from his love. He has promised to give us everything we truly need to glorify him. He has promised that we can do all things he requires through Christ who loves us. Praise him for these things!

We can look to our circumstances—it may not LOOK like God is being faithful. It may not FEEL like God is with us in these waters. It may FEEL like he has abandoned or forsaken us. We may not SENSE his love. But WE MUST NOT WAVER CONCERNING THE PROMISE OF GOD! Rather, we grow strong in our faith as we GIVE GLORY TO GOD, as we are fully convinced that God is able to do what he had promised.

In Ps 43 the Psalmist says “Why are you cast down O my soul? Hope in God for I shall yet praise him.” Keep thanking God, keep praising him in faith in the midst of your hard times. Say, “Jesus thank you that you are with me. Thank you have promised that your steadfast love never ceases. Praise you that your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

Growing stronger in our faith is not complicated. Look to God’s promise and glorify him. So, what are you going to believe today—God’s word or your circumstances? God’s promises or your feelings? God’s bedrock pledge of faithfulness or your wavering emotions? Walk in the footsteps of Abraham and strengthen your faith.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.