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Syndication

Harvard is the oldest and, arguably, the most prestigious university in America.  Not surprisingly, the competition for admission is stiff.  Only about 5% of those who apply are actually accepted.  Listen to these academic credentials for incoming freshmen:

  • the average ACT score is 35 (36 is the highest score possible)
  • the average SAT score is 1250 (1260 is the highest score possible)
  • the average GPA is 4.04

To get into Harvard, you have to be nearly perfect academically.  Truth is, it is hard to get into Harvard.

Let me pivot and ask you: “Is it hard to get into heaven?”  Let me offer an answer: No, it is not hard; it is impossible--based on your own qualifications (and mark those final words well).

Listen to Jesus give the admission guidelines for heaven: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  Were that standard not sufficiently high, he adds: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  What Jesus is saying is that you don’t have to be nearly perfect; you have to be perfect.

Gulp. 

Perhaps you’ve been tempted to take solace in the hope that God might grade us on a curve.  We just have to be better than the scoundrel scribes and Pharisees.  Piece of cake, right?  Not so fast. 

There’s no curve in God’s grading scale.  The passing grade is 4.0.  36.  1260.  Perfection.

If this prompts a rising sense of alarm in you, good.  The Sermon on the Mount, with its remarkably high moral demands, is not primarily given to tell us how we ought to live (though it does that).  It is instead given chiefly to awaken us to the fact that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and that we don’t (and can’t) measure up left to ourselves. 

It is given, first, to drive us to our knees in brokenness for our shortcomings, and, second, to lift our eyes heavenward in hope of mercy. 

Join us this Sunday as we continue our walk through the Sermon on the Mount in our series called, “Culture Flip.”

 

 

Culture Flip

“How to Get in to Heaven”

Matthew 5:17-48

 

  1. Inscribedrighteousness
    1. Jesus confirms the word of God
    2. Jesus completes the word of God
  2. Implementedrighteousness
    1. Jesus expects a greater righteousness
    2. Jesus explains a greater righteousness
  3. Imputedrighteousness
    1. Our guiltis placed upon him
    2. His graceis provided to us

 

Direct download: IBC_20190519.mp3
Category:Culture Flip -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Culture Flip Week 2

Direct download: IBC_20190512.mp3
Category:Culture Flip -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Every year the Gallup organization releases a “World Happiness Report.”  It ranks the countries of the world as to their happiness.  Happiness is measured, in part, with survey questions such as, “Are [you] very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?”  “Very happy” responses are worth three points.  “Pretty happy” is worth two points and “not too happy” is worth one point.

You might be interested to know where the United States ranks in the 2019 report.  Let me go ahead and break the suspense: we are not #1.  Despite our relative affluence and power, we don’t even make the top five or top ten.  We barely squeak inside the top 20 at the #19 position.  That’s ironic, isn’t it? 

There’s an entire chapter in the “World Happiness Report” that explores this disconnect.  Chapter five’s title begins, “The Sad State of Happiness in the United States.”  Here’s a paragraph from that chapter:

“This decline in happiness and mental health seems paradoxical. By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the last few decades. This is the Easterlin paradox: As the standard of living improves, so should happiness – but it has not.”

We all want to be happy, but many of us are not.  To make matters worse, we may not even know how to be happy. 

But here’s the good news--there is a king who knows how to be happy—truly happy.  It’s written into the very constitution of his kingdom.  That King is Jesus and his constitution is outlined in the Sermon on the Mount.

Our U.S. constitution guarantees the right to the “pursuit of happiness.”  And, to be sure, we’re all frantically pursuing it, but Jesus’ “constitution” guarantees the “possession of happiness.”   

 

 

This Sunday we begin a study of that unparalleled teaching.  It show the way to a happiness that is soul-deep and abiding, no matter what turn life takes.

 

Culture Flip

“How to Be (Truly) Happy”

Matthew 5:1-12

 

  1. The pronouncement of happiness
    1. The right authority
    2. The right attitudes
  2. The paradox of happiness
    1. As to culture
    2. As to consequence
  3. The progressionof happiness
Direct download: IBC_20190505.mp3
Category:Culture Flip -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In 2018 the average American spent $150 on Easter gifts. That adds up to a national total of $18.2 billion spent! Somewhere along the way the practice of giving gifts at Easter has grown.

I don’t remember getting gifts at Easter beyond the boiled eggs that we colored and hid. But I’m not bitter, really;-). Just because my generation didn’t get gifts, doesn't mean that kids today shouldn’t get them. I've resolved not to be a scrooge.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the Bible relates gifts to Easter and its effect! An excerpt of Ephesians 4:8 says, “When he ascended on high he . . . gave gifts to men.”

Now to be sure, these gifts are not chocolate and stuffed bunnies. They are gifts of infinitely greater worth offered by the One of infinite worth.

This Sunday at Istrouma we're going to answer the question, "What gifts are in the Easter 'basket?'"

Spoiler alert: they don't melt and they are yours for the receiving!

 

 

Easter at Istrouma

“The Mission of Jesus”

Luke 24:36-53

 

  1. The gift of peace

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” (24:36).

 

  1. Replaces our fears
  2. Reinforces our faith
  1. The gift of pardon

And that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (24:47).

 

  1. Has a requirement
  2. Has a reach
  1. The gift of power

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high(24:49).

 

  1. Empowers us to witness
  2. Empowers us to worship

 

Direct download: IBC_20190428.mp3
Category:Easter -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest golfer of all time.  He had a meteoric rise to fame, success, and wealth.  For 683 weeks he was the number one golfer in the world. 

 

Then life crashed in around him.  He was caught in scandal.  His wife left him.  He suffered a string of injuries that necessitated multiple surgeries including four on his back.  Some wondered if he would ever walk again, much less compete in golf. 

 

He fell out of the top 1,000 golfers in the world.  For eleven years he failed to win a single major tournament.  His career was as good as dead.

 

Until last Sunday.

 

He teed it up against the world’s best at the Masters.  In a fairytale-like ending he came from behind to win his fifth green jacket—22 years after he won his first.  Most sports commentators say that this is the greatest comeback in all of sports history. 

 

But, let me be clear, as great as is Tiger’s redemption story, there is a greater comeback story than that. 

 

And it happened on a Sunday morning too!

 

It is the story of Jesus—once dead now raised to life! Now that’s a comeback story for the ages!

 

British sports writer Jim White said, “Tiger Woods’ Masters’ triumph showed yet again why there is no greater storyline than redemption.” 

 

I couldn’t agree more.  Redemption is the greatest storyline in sports and life!  And Jesus’ resurrection makes possible our redemption!

 

Join us this Sunday for Easter at Istrouma as we celebrate history’s actual greatest comeback!

 

Easter at Istrouma

“The Resurrection of Jesus”

Luke 24:1-12

 

  1. Empty tomb

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus(24:2-3).

 

  1. Explanation 1: Confusion
  2. Explanation 2: Conspiracy
  3. Explanation 3: Comeback
  1. Expected triumph

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise (24:6-7).

 

  1. That was foretold
  2. That was fulfilled
  1. Excited testimony

And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest(24:8-9).

 

  1. Remember his words
  2. Return his witnesses
Direct download: IBC_20190421.mp3
Category:Easter -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Death of Jesus

Sermon Series: Easter at Istrouma

Luke 23:32-46

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon April 14, 2019

https://www.facebook.com/istrouma.org/videos/2368027016760807/

https://vimeo.com/330572354

 

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. The cross of the rebel

       39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (23:39).

  1. His sinfulness
  2. His stubbornness

       

  1. The cross of the repentant

       40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”(23:40-42).

  1. His repentance
  2. His request

 

  1. The cross of the redeemer

       43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”…46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last(23:43 & 46).

  1. The promise he made
  2. The price he paid

 

 

Now, today, I want you to open your Bible to Luke Chapter 23, Luke Chapter 23. As you’re turning there, I want to draw attention to the fact that you can have two people facing the same dilemma, but they make different decisions, and they end up with different destinies. 

 

You probably have heard the story about a small plane that experienced engine failure mid-flight.  The only souls aboard were the pilot and four passengers – a famous doctor, a brilliant professor, an old preacher and a young student.

 

As the engine sputtered to a stop, the pilot opened the cockpit door and stepped into the cabin.  He shared the bad news, grabbed a parachute, and jumped.  The shocked passengers did a quick count and discovered that only three parachutes remained for the four of them. 

 

The doctor said, “My medical expertise is desperately needed so I must live.”  He grabbed a chute and jumped. 

 

The professor said, “I am the world’s smartest man, so I must live.”  He grabbed a parachute and jumped. 

 

Now only one parachute remained.  The pastor said to the student, “Son, you are young, you have your whole life ahead of you.  I am old.  I’ve lived a blessed life and I’m ready to meet the Lord.  You take the last parachute.”

 

The student said, “That’s ok, pastor.  The world’s smartest man just jumped out of the plane with my backpack.”

 

The people on that plane faced the same dilemma but ended up with different destinies. 

 

This morning we are going to meet the two men who were crucified on either side of Jesus as he was crucified on that Good Friday so long ago.  They faced the same dilemma but they ended with different destinies. 

 

Like them we all face the same dilemma—a brief life of joys and sorrows and then death and judgment.  Eternity awaits us all.  There are two destinies—heaven and hell—and what we do with Jesus Christ determines which is ours.

 

Would you stand as we read God's word, Luke 23 beginning in verse 32. By the way, it's Easter at Istrouma. We're celebrating for three weeks this greatest of all celebrations. We're going to begin this week by looking at the death of Christ. You really don't appreciate the resurrection unless you ponder the death. So today is the death of Christ. Next Sunday the resurrection of Christ. Then finally, we'll look at the mission of Christ that he’s left to us, his followers. So, with that, we now read from Luke's Gospel where God says:

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him [that is, of course, with Jesus]. 33And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and [the other]on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, [the]Chosen One!”36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour [By the way, we don’t calculate time as they did. The sixth hour would be the sixth hour after sunrise, or noon. Then the ninth hour would be 3 PM. So from noon to 3 PM, darkness was over the earth. And so, verse 45 says], 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

 

Let’s pray.

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated.

 

This morning we're going to take a look at the three men who were crucified at Calvary on that Good Friday so many centuries ago. Each one of these men faced the same destiny. Death was upon them. Yet, two of them made different decisions, and because of their distinct decisions, they ended with different destinies. Now the point of this is not just to talk about the two thieves and Christ. The point of this is to examine our own lives and to see which of the thieves might best represent us and the decision that we have made, because I'll tell you, we too all face the same dilemma. What is that dilemma? Listen. It's a brief life full of joy and sorrow, soon enough to end, and after that the judgment. And we all face that dilemma. But the decision we make with regard to Christ determines our eternal destiny. So with the weight of that upon us, let's look at each of these three men.

 

I want to begin with the first of these three, and I'm going to call the cross upon which he died “the cross of the rebel.” The cross of the rebel. Now here, I'm thinking of verse 39. Look at it again. Verse 39 says:

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

 

Now, how might we describe this rebel? I'm going to give you two words that describe him. First of all, I could describe him as sinful. His sinfulness stands out. He is called here a criminal. In another Gospel, he's called a thief. So we know the nature of his crime was to steal. However, I would just add in this historical anecdote, it's likely that he was not a petty thief because crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals. It was capital punishment, obviously; it meant your death. So it is very likely that this man, when it says he was a criminal, he was much more than a petty thief. He probably wedded to his thievery something like the abuse of his victims. Perhaps rape. Perhaps brutality. Perhaps even murder. Some have theorized that he might have been an insurrectionist, in rebellion against Rome’s authority, perhaps an ally of Barabbas, who was set free, you remember. And Christ died in his stead; figuratively dying in all of our stead. Perhaps he was allied with Barabbas, but this was a bad man. A bad dude. He was a sinner. In fact, the word here when it says “he railed on Christ,” the word “railed on” is literally in Greek, the word “blasphemed.” The man was blaspheming Christ. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself.” He was cursing him. So he was a sinner.

 

Now, I want to hasten to make this point. Please don't think I'm looking down my spiritual nose at that thief on the cross, because, the truth is, every one of us is likewise sinful. There's not a one of us that’s without sin. We've all rebelled against God. We've broken his law. And thus we've broken his heart. And so, this man very well might represent every one of us as I describe him as a sinner. The Bible says, in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Pope has sinned. I have sinned. Your grandma has sinned. Don't mean to bust your bubble, but you have sinned. All of us have sinned. And so we could be represented by this thief.

 

Now the thing that makes it even worse is not just that he was a sinner, for we all are, but that he was stubborn in his sin. His stubbornness really stands out, does it not? Here he is. His life is literally ebbing away, blood drop by blood drop. The time is ticking. The sand is falling through the hourglass. His moments are numbered. You would think, would you not, that at this juncture of life, or I could say at this juncture of death, something in him would have cried out in desperation, “Oh God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” You would think that there might be some humility in him, some repentance, some remorse, some self-reflection, but none of it. No, instead, he, in a sense, raises his fist to heaven. Very selfishly says, “If you're the Christ, save yourself and us. No interest in a relationship with Christ. Just, “Christ, if you can be my ticket out of this mess, be it for me.” But no surrender to the Lordship of Christ. He is stubborn.

 

I was reminded of a story that was told by a man named Ravi Zacharias. Ravi is a famous apologist for the faith, wonderful ministry. He had a personal relationship with a reporter from Britain, Malcolm Muggeridge, the legendary English journalist, author, and media personality. Muggeridge had spent some time with Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, while they were working together on a BBC production on the life of her father. Joseph Stalin was, of course, the communist leader who once ruled Russia with a sadistic mentality and an incomprehensible coldness. During his reign untold millions of people were put to death by his command. The numbers are so high that experts can only give broad estimates as to the actual total.

 

“According to the story that Svetlana told Muggeridge, and Muggeridge in turn told Zacharias, Stalin was plagued by terrifying hallucinations as he lay dying on his bed. Then suddenly he sat halfway up in bed, clenched his fist toward the heavens, fell back upon his pillow, and was dead. It was if his last gesture in life was literally a clenched fist toward God.

 

“It would be easy to assume that Stalin lived his entire life in steadfast opposition to the concept of God, but that would be a wrong assumption. The fact is that when he was sixteen he received a scholarship to a Georgian Orthodox seminary. He even did well in his classes there until he missed his final exams and was expelled. Not long afterward he began reading the writings of Vladimir Lenin and became a Marxist revolutionary.

 

“Looking back over Stalin’s life it isn’t hard to deduce that he had an excellent opportunity not only to receive Christ as Savior but also to spend his life in service to Him. That is, after all, what seminary students usually do. But somewhere along the way Stalin came to a spiritual crossroad and chose to reject Jesus.” It reminds me of this thief on the cross. He is a rebel. Sinful, yes, but add to that, stubborn, and refusing to repent and find mercy and grace.

 

Before I go to the second cross, I'll tell you a story I uncovered this week. There's a fellow who lives in Chicago, David C. Nicosia, a business owner in Chicago. He was outside the Cook County Courthouse there in the greater Chicago area, and he was going to have a court case. While he was waiting outside, there was a very attractive elderly black woman. She's 79 years old. She was sitting outside, and for some reason they got into an altercation. He's about 50-ish; she's nearly 80. And for whatever reason, he got angry with her. He spit in her face. He then slapped her with his open hand and he made some comment along the lines of “You’re no Rosa Parks.”  But, come to find out, the woman he insulted, spat upon, and slapped was none other than the judge herself. She had been outside on a brief break. Her name is Judge Arnette Hubbard. She was the first female president of the National Bar Association and the Cook County Bar Association. Judge Hubbard is a community icon who has served as an election observer in Haiti and South Africa and had long been a voice on civil rights and women's issues. She was the judge. Little did he know, he thought he was just mistreating some insignificant woman, when all the while, she was the judge.

 

I thought about this thief. He's insulting Christ. Had he been able to, perhaps he would have spat in his face and slapped him. He certainly did with his words and his attitude. Yet, all the while, the one he insulted and the one he pleaded with to come down from the cross was, by his insistence in being on the cross, working out the salvation of that very man. Oh the mercy and grace of Christ. He had said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And this man, Nicosia, didn't know what he was doing when he slapped that woman, and so many of us may not realize that in our rebellion we're slapping, in effect, the face of the one who could bring about our forgiveness and salvation. So that is the cross, first of all then, of the rebel.

 

Could I just challenge us all this morning; let's don't be rebellious against God. I know we're sinners. Let's just confess that. But we don't have to stay in our rebellion against God. We can come to him and plead mercy and grace and find it full and free in Jesus.

 

Now, let's come then to the second cross. Remember, two different men, two different decisions, two different destinies. There's the cross of the rebel. He dies in his sin, not repenting. But now I want to come to this cross, and I want to call this one “The cross of the repentant.” The cross of the repentant. Look at your Bible, please, again, and I want us to go down to verse 40. There, the Bible says:

40 But the other [that is, the other criminal] rebuked [the first], saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man [he said, referring to Jesus]has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 

This is one of the most poignant moments in all of the pages of the Bible. This man represents all those who repent of their sins and find salvation in Christ. How might we describe this man? Well I want to speak, first of all, of his repentance. Now, the word “repent” means literally to turn around. If I'm going this way and I repent, I'm going to turn and go 180 degrees in the opposite direction, and that's what's going to occur in this second thief’s life. He was going one way. If you look in the companion story of this in Matthew's Gospel, you're going to discover something very telling, something very interesting, something worth noting, and it’s this, that when they began that trek, when they began the trek up Cavalry, both of the thieves, the Bible says, were hurling insults at Jesus. Both of them. Not just the one on one side, but both of them were, basically saying the same thing, cursing Christ, calling on him to deliver them. But as he makes that journey, something happens in his heart, something radical. Perhaps it was the effect of seeing Jesus cry out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He saw the mercy of grace of God in Christ, and he saw his tenderness toward his mother Mary as he called on John the beloved apostle to take care of her. And he heard the sayings on the cross and saw the mercy and grace in Christ’s eyes, and it did something to the man. He repented.

 

I heard about a Sunday school class of children, and the lesson that day was on forgiveness. The teacher was instructing them from the Bible about that topic. When she concluded, she said, “Now boys and girls, I've got a question for you. What must we do to be forgiven?” And so one little girl raised her hand and she said, “Well, to be forgiven, we've got to confess.” The teacher said, “That's right.” Then another student raised his hand, and he said, “To be forgiven, we've got to repent.” The teacher said, “That's right.” Then this one little mischievous boy raised his hand, and she said, “Johnny, what do you have to do to be forgiven?” He said, “Sin!” Good point. To be forgiven, you’ve got to sin and then confess and repent.

 

The reason I bring that little story up is to say this, “Whatever happened to sin?” There was a book written by that title a generation ago by a famous psychiatrist, and basically in the book, he was saying, “What happened to sin?” It’s like no longer is there any sin. There are sicknesses. There are addictions. There are complexes inflicted upon us by those who may have mistreated us, but as far as me personally having done anything that might be categorized sinful, it's as though we know nothing of it. But here's the truth: To be forgiven, we must recognize that we have sinned. And I love what we see in the man hanging on the second cross, his repentance.

 

I see it in two things. First of all, he confesses his faults. I see his repentance in the fact that he confesses his faults. He says to the other thief, “We’re getting what we deserve.” He's acknowledging his sin. Have you ever done that? Have you come to God and said, “God I know that I'm a sinner, and were I to receive what I deserve, I would be punished. I would be separated from your grace and mercy. God I am guilty.” Have you done that seriously and from your heart? You must to be forgiven. This man confessed his fault. But then, add to it this truth. Not only did he confess his fault, but he confessed his faith, and that's how salvation comes. We confess our faults, and we confess our faith. He said of Jesus, “We're getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Now get this, he saw in Christ the sinless Lamb of God, given as a sacrifice for our sins, and he believed it, and he said, “Lord, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” He confessed his faith in the Lordship of Christ. If you’re to be saved, and if you're to go to heaven, you must do as the thief on the cross did so long ago. Repent, confessing your faults and your faith, and then you need to make a request of the Lord, and that's what this thief did.

 

I see his repentance, and now his request. He said, “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.” That's a prayer.

 

You know, there's a phrase; perhaps you've heard it before. We term a certain kind of prayer the “sinner's prayer.” Have you ever heard that phrase? And fact, someone may ask you, “Have you ever prayed the sinner's prayer?” In modern times, I've actually got a sense that some people disparage that as though somehow that's not appropriate. But I want to stand today in defense of the sinner's prayer, and say to you, if you don't pray the sinner's prayer, not in any kind of like magical incantation of certain words, but a sincere cry of confession, repentance and appeal for mercy, you're not going to heaven. You've got to do like this thief did, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Could I ask you, have you ever prayed the sinner's prayer? Have you ever gotten on your knees, whether physically or figuratively, have you ever gotten on your knees and just said, “Lord, I'm guilty, but I know that you’re sinless and you died in my stead. I'm asking you, Lord, to apply that mercy and grace to me, and save me.” That's the way to heaven. Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That's what the sinner's prayer is; it's a sincere cry to God for forgiveness and mercy. If you've never before called on him to be your Saviour, I'm going to invite you to do so today.

 

So now, let's come to the last cross. I've taught you about the cross of the rebel. He died in his sins, and had a certain destiny. I’ve talked to you about the cross of the repentant. He didn't die in his sin; no, he died to his sin and turned to Christ, and he had a certain destiny. What determined the destiny of both was what they did with the man in the middle, Jesus. His is not the cross of the rebel nor the cross of the repentant because he never rebelled, and he never had anything for which to repent. No, his is the cross of the Redeemer. He didn't die in his sin, and he didn't die to his sin. He died for our sins, the innocent for the guilty. Christ died for us.

 

I want you to notice the promise he made to that thief on the cross. Look at it now in verse 43:

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

 

Oh, if I had the time to just take every one of these words and let each word sit heavily upon our hearts. They're all worth the world. He said, “Truly.” Do you know what that tells me? It's a promise; it's a promise made by none other than the Lord Jesus himself. “Truly, I say to you.” To whom did he make this promise? To the thief on the cross. Listen to me. Some people think that to get into heaven; watch this, watch, some people think that to get into heaven, God's going to have there in heaven a large scale. And on one side, God's going to put all the bad things that you've done – disobedience, lust, pride, jealousy, thievery, abuse, all the bad things you've done – he's going to put that on one side of the scale. Then on the other side of the scale, he's going to put your good deeds. You know, you went to church on an occasion, and you gave something at Christmas time in the red kettle, and you're nice to the little lady across the street, and if you can manage to get enough good deeds to outweigh your bad deeds, then you get to go to heaven. That's what people think. Did you know that you could look throughout the whole of the Bible; you'll never find that to be the case? The best case in point to prove that that is not the path to salvation is the thief on the cross himself. Now, if we were to stack up all the thief’s bad deeds over here, it would be a pretty big stack, would it not? He's lived his whole life a rebel to God. Now on this side, what has this thief on the cross done to merit forgiveness? Had he gone to church? Not that I know of. Had he been baptized? Never. Had he given an offering? No, he had probably robbed from some offering plates, but he had not given anything. No, there was nothing that he had done to outweigh the bad that he had done – except that he had called out to the Lord for mercy and grace, and by that cry of repentance and faith, the scale was tipped.

 

There's a story that I've loved across the years. It's the story of a man who went to heaven, and Saint Peter met him at the gate. You know it's fanciful because that's not the way it's going to be, but Saint Peter met him at the gate and said, “May I help you?” The man said, “Well, I want to go to heaven; I want to be admitted into heaven.” Saint Peter said, “Well, tell me what you've done on earth, and we'll see if you can come into heaven.” Saint Peter said, “You’ve got to score 100 points and every good thing that you've done has a certain value, and if it adds up to 100 points you get to come in.” So the guy started sweating, and he started thinking of what he had done that was good, and he said, “Well, I went to church on an occasion.” Saint Peters said, “All right, I'll give you a point for that. Then he said, “I gave to charity on an occasion.” Saint Peter said, “All right, I'll give you a point for that.” He started sweating more profusely, and he said, “Well, I went to the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and I served the homeless.” Saint Peter said, “Okay I'll give you a couple of points for that.” He said, “I was married to my wife for 40 years and I never cheated on her.” Saint Peter said, “Okay, three points for that.” He's just struggling, right; he doesn't nearly have enough points. The guy, in exasperation, finally says, “The only way I'm going to get in is by the grace of God.” Saint Peter said, “100 points!”

 

It's the grace of God. That's the only way you get in, the grace, the unmerited gift of God. His grace tips the scales.  The thief on the cross portrays this so beautifully. Nothing he had done earned his way into heaven, but God in mercy heard his cry, and washed his sins away.

 

That's good news for us, folks. Now, ought we to do good deeds, ought we to go to church, ought we to give, ought we to be nice to the little lady across the street, and ought we to be a witness for Christ? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But we ought not do it to earn forgiveness; we ought to do it out of gratitude for having been forgiven.

 

So, the promise that he made was that the thief would be in heaven, and the price that he paid was he breathed his last. Do you see that? How is it that we get to go into heaven, sinners as we are? We get to go because someone who was innocent paid the price for our sins. The Bible that says we have all sinned also says “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Our Lord.” Someone must die for the sins that have been committed, and the good news is someone did die. Someone did, as the text says, “breathed his last.” When he breathed his last and died for us, the way to heaven was opened for those who would repent and believe.

 

Two different men; same dilemma. But two different decisions, and thus two destinies.

 

I'm going to conclude with this. Let me describe for you a feature of our continent. There’s a backbone to the Western Hemisphere. It runs from the frozen tundra of Canada and the Arctic all the way down through the United States down through Central America, on down into South America, and that backbone is largely constituted of the Rockies and the Andes. It forms what is called the Continental Divide. Now do you guys know what the Continental Divide is? It's a curious thing. Every raindrop that falls lands on one side or the other of the Continental Divide. If the raindrop happens to fall on the western side, every one of those raindrops runs to the Pacific Ocean. By whatever tributary, it makes its way to the Pacific. If a raindrop falls, by contrast, on the eastern slope of the continental divide, that drop of water will eventually make its way to the Atlantic Ocean. It may come through the Gulf; it may go through the Hudson Bay, but it's going to the Atlantic Ocean. It is all determined by on which side of the Continental Divide it falls.

 

Now, what's my point in telling that? Jesus is the Continental Divide of humanity. Jesus is the Continental Divide of all of human history. Where you end up determines on which side of Christ you fall. If you fall on the side of the cross of the rebel, sinful and stubborn, your destiny is separation from God. If you fall on the side of the cross of the repentant, your destiny is heaven, Paradise, to use Jesus' word in this text. Could I ask you, “On which side of Christ do you stand today, rebel or repentant?” Before you leave this room today, if you’ve not made the decision to get on the right side of Christ, confessing your fault and your faith, I'm going to invite you to do so, so that your destiny might be with him in Paradise when you leave this life, so that you might have joy as you do live this life in obedience to him.

 

Let's stand together with our heads bowed. I want you to join me in thanking God for his word.

 

[Prayer and Invitation]

 

Thank you for having come today. We celebrate the victory of Christ. Here's what the Bible told us today: “He breathed his last.” Were that the end of the story, we'd have nothing to celebrate, as great as his death on the cross was.

 

Next Sunday, we're going to tell the rest of the story. Until then, have a great week. God bless you.

 

Direct download: IBC_20190414.mp3
Category:Easter -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

7.6 billion.  That’s the reported population of the world.  It’s a big number.  We are called by Christ to reach the all the nations with the gospel.  The task can seem overwhelming.  Just in the United States alone there are some 328 million people, 246 million of whom do not claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord.

 

How can we reach them with the good news? 

 

We must reach them one by one.  In our everyday conversations with our friends and acquaintances, we can share the love of Jesus.  The Bible teaches that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when one person repents.  That is God rejoicing.  And he rejoices for the one.

Who’s Your One?

“One”

Acts 8:26-40

 

  1. Ready servant

 

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the southto the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went(8:26-27a).

 

 

  1. Restless seeker

 

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship (8:27b).

 

 

  1. Remarkable scripture

 

And [he] was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah(8:28).

 

 

  1. Redemptive symbol

 

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him(8:36-38).

 

In this Sunday’s message at Istrouma, we will follow the exciting encounter between a believer named Philip and one other person from Ethiopia.  That one man discovered the joy that Jesus brings and, according to tradition, he went on to impact a nation. 

 

It’s a story that God wants to replicate in our lives—one at a time.

 

Who’s your one?

Direct download: IBC_20190407.mp3
Category:Who's Your One -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

SERMON TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

You’re probably familiar with the tragedy of “friendly fire,” but have you thought about the potential of “friendly faith”? Let me unpack the difference.

Friendly fire refers to incidents when, in the fog of war, a soldier will accidentally fire upon his own forces. The history of warfare is replete with examples. Perhaps the best known is the case of Pat Tillman. He was a gifted athlete who played in the NFL. After 9-11 he voluntarily gave up that lucrative career and became an Army Ranger. He died in the mountains of Afghanistan as a result of “friendly fire.”

Friends can hurt friends (and not just on the battlefield!). But, it is equally true that friends can help friends.

Your faith in the Lord can encourage and transform the lives of your friends. That’s what I mean by “friendly faith.” A great illustration of this is the biblical account of four friends who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. There he found healing and, more importantly, forgiveness for sins.

God wants to use our lives and, particularly, our faith to influence others for Christ. Whom can you pray for or encourage today? Whom can you “bring” to Jesus? A kind deed, a quick email or note, a word of witness, an invitation--all of these are examples of ways that we can live out a "friendly faith."

Join us this Sunday at Istrouma Baptist Church as we continue our series entitled, “Who’s Your One?” We'll learn more about living out a faith that makes a positive difference in the lives of our friends.

 

Friendly Faith

Sermon Series: Who’s Your One?

Mark 2:1-12

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

9:15 AM Sermon March 31, 2019

https://vimeo.com/327794391

https://www.facebook.com/istrouma.org/videos/1013316938861397/

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. CooperativeFriends

       And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men (2:3).

  1. Come the same way
  2. Carry the same weight

       

  1. CreativeFriends

       And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay (2:4).

  1. Are desperate
  2. Are determined

 

  1. ConfidentFriends

       And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”(2:5)

  1. Have a faith that is visible
  2. Have a faith that is victorious

 

 

You’re probably familiar with the tragedy of “friendly fire,” but have you thought about the potential of “friendly faith”? Let me unpack the difference.

 

Friendly fire refers to incidents when, in the fog of war, a soldier will accidentally fire upon his own forces. The history of warfare is replete with examples. Perhaps the best known is the case of Pat Tillman. He was a gifted athlete who played in the NFL. After 9-11 he voluntarily gave up that lucrative career and became an Army Ranger. He died in the mountains of Afghanistan as a result of “friendly fire.”

 

Friends can hurt friends (and not just on the battlefield!). But, it is equally true that friends can help friends.

 

Your faith in the Lord can encourage and transform the lives of your friends. That’s what I mean by “friendly faith.” A great illustration of this is the biblical account of four friends who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. There he found healing and, more importantly, forgiveness for sins.

 

God wants to use our lives and, particularly, our faith to influence others for Christ. Whom can you pray for or encourage today? Whom can you “bring” to Jesus? A kind deed, a quick email or note, a word of witness, an invitation--all of these are examples of ways that we can live out a "friendly faith."

 

Today, I want to speak on the theme, not friendly fire, but its exact opposite, “Friendly faith.” That is, your faith in the Lord Jesus, lived out, can be a blessing to your friends. It can change their lives and their eternity. I’m going to take you to a story in the Bible where it’s a case of friendly faith. Four friends living out their faith influenced their lame, paralytic friend for time and eternity.

 

The story is found in Mark chapter 2. So if you have a copy of the Bible, I want you to open it there, please. Mark 2. And in honor of God's word, would you please stand as we read these verses. Mark 2:1-12. There God’s word says:

1And when he [that is, Jesus]returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.

 

Could I pause right there and just note what Jesus was doing? As the crowds came, Jesus preached the word to them. You might think that Jesus was a great miracle worker who occasionally preached, but you'd actually have that backwards. He wasn’t a miracle worker who occasionally preached. He was a preacher who often enough did miracles. There is an emphasis in the word of God on the preaching of these truths because it is the preaching of the word of God that is used by him to bring folks to eternal salvation. So today, in the tradition of Jesus, we are preaching the word. Now look, please, to verse 3 and we’ll continue the reading.

 

3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4And when they could not get [him near] because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, [take]up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!

 

Let’s pray.

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated.

 

God wants to use our lives and particularly our faith to influence others for Christ. He wants us to live out what I'm going to call today a “friendly faith.” Now today, we're continuing our series entitled “Who's Your One?” We're going to learn more about living out of faith that makes a positive difference in the lives of our friends. You'll know that we have challenged one another through the course of 2019 to pick one person that God would lay on our hearts, a friend that we could pray for and seek to influence in an effort to bring them to faith in Christ. Do you have your one? I trust that you do. All throughout this week, we've been praying day by day, have we not? I hope you have been using your prayer guide. For the 30 days leading up to Easter we're going to be praying for our friends, and I want you to encourage you to invite them to come and worship with you here. If you'll go to the Welcome Desk before you leave, we have a lot of invite cards that you can pick up and use to invite others to come and worship with us, particularly on Easter that's right before us.

 

Now, the four friends in the story that we’re studying today are great examples for us of what it means to live out our faith with our friends. I'm going to describe these men with three words, and I'm going to give you the three words, and then we'll go back and look at them each in turn. They are Cooperative. They are Creative. And they are Confident. These are going to be the three key words for this morning.

 

Let's begin, then, by first of all describing them as “Cooperative friends.” Cooperative friends. Now here, I'm thinking of verse 3. Look at your Bible again, please. There it says:

 3And they came [these four friends], bringing to him [Jesus]a paralytic carried by four men.

 

Now, there are two things that I notice about these four friends. First of all, they come the same way. That is, they’re traveling the same road. They have the same destination. They have the same North on their [compass], and he is Jesus. Notice that it says “they came...to him.” They are all going the same way. Now here they are, each of the four friends, I can imagine them, each one at a different corner of this cot on which the man is lying. Had they been going different ways, they would have drawn and quartered the poor fellow. But instead, they’re going the same way. They are coordinated. They are cooperative. And did you know that churches function best when we are like these four friends, and instead of us each going our own way, we cooperate together to do the Lord's work.

 

I'm so thankful here at Istrouma we have a North. We have an aim. We’re going the same way. And what is that way? We have a mission, and I think all of you probably can now quote our mission. It is, “We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.” Now, I want us to quote it together. Are you ready? “We glorify God by making disciples of all nations.” That is our aim. Our aim is to get people to Jesus and to help them become followers, dedicated followers, of the Lord Jesus. Let me remind you, here's our process that we follow. It's very simple. Four key steps in it. Number one, Connect. We're looking to connect people to Jesus by salvation and in active church attendance. Connect. Once connected, we want to help them Grow in their faith. Primarily, we do this by helping people get connected to a small group. A lot of these projects that you heard described that went on on Go Day, those were driven by our small groups. Cooperative friends working together to carry out the mission of the Lord. Growing in our faith. Connect. Grow. Thirdly, Serve. That is, get your hands dirty. Put your hands to the plow. Pull your weight. These projects, and projects like them that we do around the world, are avenues for you to put your spiritual giftedness to work for the Lord. And then, the process culminates by us actually going, locally and globally, to the very ends of the earth. This is our mission. This is our North.

 

I think it's largely because of this that Istrouma, now listen to this, you won't believe it; if you've been a Baptist for a long time, you really won’t believe it, Istrouma is almost a hundred years old – next year we celebrate 100 years – and did you know, to the glory of God, this church has never had a church split. We have always walked in harmony. Have you ever wondered why, why is it we don't fuss and fight? It's because we cooperate. We have the same mission. We have the same goal. We have the same aim. Jesus is our Lord, and we're cooperating together going the same way.

 

I remember a story I heard some years ago about this fellow who was moving. He was moving from his house, and so he was there in the doorway of his home, the front door, and he was working with a refrigerator. A passer-by walking there, a Good Samaritan, happened to note the fellow wrestling with the fridge in the doorway. The Good Samaritan said, “Hey, could I help you?” And the homeowner said, “I'd love it.” So the man jumped up the steps and came up, and each one got on one side of the refrigerator, and they began to struggle with that heavy fridge there in the doorway. After a couple of minutes they paused to kind of catch their breath. The Good Samaritan said, “Whew! I don't know if we're ever going to get this refrigerator in your house.” To which the owner said, “In? I'm trying to get it out!”

 

Now, I’ve loved that story across the years, because the truth is we've got to know which way we’re going. We've got to know which way we’re carrying this load. As a church, we don't ever need to be confused. We are working together, and our aim is to make disciples of all nations. If we’ll have the same North, and if we’ll have the same mission, if we’ll go the same way, we’ll be in harmony with one another. So these men, they’re coming the same way.

 

Secondly, they’re carrying the same weight. They're carrying the same weight. Have you ever heard this saying, “Many hands make light work”? It's true. Many hands make light work. I don't know if you’ve ever had to sustain someone who is what we’d call dead weight. Maybe someone passes out, and you realize how heavy the body is when there’s no life force at work in them. Here's this man, he's a lame man, he can't carry himself, and what a struggle it would have been for just one of these men to have borne him all the way to where Jesus was. But thankfully, there was not one friend or even two friends; there are four friends working together sharing the load.

 

Now the application is very easy to make, is it not? We, God's people, each need to take hold of our corner of the cot. Each one of us has a load to bear in helping our friends get to Jesus. Each one of us has a load to bear in helping the work of the church go forward, in giving life, and bringing the life-giving news of Jesus to a waiting world. I tell you, it's amazing what can be done when people cooperate together.

 

I want you to watch a video clip. It's from Perth Australia. You're going to get a glimpse of what people together can do [Video clip was shown]. Here's the story: In Perth Australia, and you can Google this and watch it, there was an incident several years ago where a man was waiting on a commuter train to come through, like a subway. As the train arrived, the doors opened and this fellow began to make his way into the train. There was quite a lot of traffic, foot traffic, and as he was stepping into the train, his foot accidentally slipped down into a crack between the platform and the train itself, and it went all the way up to his hip. There he was, stuck between the platform and a 43-ton train. Soon enough, that train is going to roll out of the station. Well, when the passers-by saw what was going on, they all rallied to where the man was and they, with their bare hands, they leaned into that massive locomotive, and together the crowd relieved the weight of that train enough; they rocked it off that man enough, that the man was able to escape. Now, can you imagine such a thing, the power of working together that they could move a 43-ton train off the leg of that trapped man? It's a lesson to us that if we work together, there's nothing that we can't do that God would will for us to do. We, God's people, have all about us people who are trapped, if you will, in their sins. The Bible even describes us as dead in our trespasses and sins. As good as dead if there isn't some help brought to bear to help them escape from the snare of the devil. And we, God's people, bring that help when we are connected and when we grow and when we serve and when we go together the same way, sharing the weight, God will use us to change the world.

 

I tell you, we do this as Southern Baptists in a great way. If you don't know, Istrouma is part of a larger network. We’re not an independent church. We are autonomous but we’re not independent; we cooperate, just like the word I'm using to describe. And it's often call “CP Missions.” Cooperative Program, that's what “CP” stands for, the Cooperative Program. Many of you may not even be aware of this, but we’re part of a network of about 45,000 churches, all of us cooperating voluntarily. We, every dollar that you give in the offering plate here, we take a portion of that dollar, and we actually send it away. The very first thing we do with your offerings is we give from our receipts to the work of the Lord around the globe through what we call CP Missions.

 

Let me tell you some of the things that are done with your gifts through CP Missions. First of all, we have the world's largest Evangelical missions sending agency. It's called the International Mission Board. By the way, we happen to have a couple of our international missionaries with us today, the Melancons. Would you please stand, Pat and your wife? God bless you guys, missionaries around from around the world with us today. Pat's going to come and dismiss us in prayer when we conclude our service. He directs a ministry called Baptist Global Relief. Can I say all these things publicly, Pat? Okay, very good. Sometimes we serve in sensitive areas where there are security concerns. But whenever there's a disaster around the world, let's say that there's an earthquake in Nepal, how do resources get to Nepal to not only alleviate human suffering, but to take the good news of the Gospel? They do it through our CP gifts, and we're supporting missionaries just like the Melancons who serve 365 days of the year taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So we support the International Mission Board, more than 4,000 career missionaries.

 

You know, sometimes we celebrate that we support a young couple in central Asia who are from our church; that Abbie and Tyler are about to go to Eastern Europe. We celebrate these young couples. But again, I say to you, you're not just supporting them. You’re supporting thousands of missionaries, many of whom you will not know their names until you get to heaven. But they're going to come and they're going to say, “Thank you for giving. And because you gave, I was able to go to Afghanistan or to Pakistan or to China or to Ecuador or wherever it may be in the world. Your gifts go. You go by virtue of your gifts. Not only the International Mission Board, but the North American Mission Board. Again, thousands of missionaries serving full-time across our nation, supported by your gifts. We have six seminaries, and many of them are multi-site. We're training probably in the neighborhood of 15,000 new pastors and missionaries and ministers who will serve all over the world, and your gifts sustain those seminaries.

 

We have the world's third largest disaster relief organization. I’ve already referred to Baptist Global Relief, but here in the states, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The yellow hats and the yellow shirts that do relief in places like New Orleans when Katrina hit. Believe me when I tell you, much of the work that is done is done by our network of corporation. So I want to encourage you that God is using you in ways perhaps you never dreamed or never knew. But that's what happens when all of us get against that weight and we do our part in carrying our share of the load. All right, that's the first word, “Cooperative.”

 

Now, the second word. How could we describe these men? I want to use as my second word the word “Creative.” These men were creative, were they not? Look, if you will, in your Bible again to verse 4.

4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

 

Now, I've entered homes by a variety of means. I've rung the front doorbell and I've going in through the front door. If I'm a close friend of the family, I might come in through the carport door. Maybe even I'll come in through the back door. Maybe you've got sliding glass doors to the patio; I've come in through sliding glass doors. I even, I have to confess this, I’ve even come in through the window a time or two. I remember when I was in high school, I stayed out late one night, and my mom and dad, I guess they thought I was already in the house and I was already in bed, all the doors were locked when I got home. I was a teenager, so I began to look for a window that was open. I found an open window in our dining room. So I'm about halfway in the window when I hear this shriek. It's my mother who sees this strange man climbing in through the dining room window. So I’ve come in to a home by variety of means, but I'll tell you this, I've never entered a home through the roof. And I don't suppose these men had either. But the Bible says, they could not get near him, and because they could not get near him through a door, or even through a window, their ingenuity kicked in. Their creativity kicked in. I love this. Churches ought to be seedbeds of creativity. But instead, we're often known for quite the opposite. In fact, somebody has said that the seven last words of the church, do you know what they are? I've told you before. The seven last words of the church: “We've never done it that way before.” The seven last words of the church.

 

I can take you to a lot of churches today, and they're doing things the way they did them in the 1950s. You open up the door, you walk in, the music they play, the technology they utilize, it's like you've gone back in time. It's like a time warp. And very often, those churches are dwindling.

 

Now, we're never going to change the message we preach. Don't be alarmed. We're preaching the message that was once for all delivered to the saints. It's an unchanging message, but we ought to bring creativity to bear in our outreach. Let me just ask you this, off the top of your head, I want you to think of the most creative company, or the most creative entity, that exists today. All right, you got one? Let me see a show of hands, you’ve thought of a company that you think's pretty innovative, pretty creative, raise your hand. All right, you got one in mind?

 

What's the one you have in mind? [Disney.] How many of you thought of Disney when you thought of creativity? All right, a few of you. Someone else, raise your hand. What did you think? [Apple.] Okay, very good, how many thought of Apple? All right, a lot of you did, I see a lot of hands. Maybe one more, any other creative company that came to your mind? [HelloFresh.] Pardon? HelloFresh? What is that? All right, very good. I've got to get more current, I can tell!

 

How many of you thought the most creative entity on earth today is the church? Wow, okay, one or two of you. I don't think very many people think of the church when they think of creativity, and could I just say, shame on us. Now why would I say that? Because we have the image of God stamped upon us, the Imago Dei. He said, male and female, he made them in His image. He made them. We're in His image.

 

What does God like? Let just start at the beginning. In the beginning God…? Created – the heavens and the earth. You see, he is creative. Just think of the flowers that he made, the beauty of them, the grandeur of them, the delicacy of them, the colors of them. Roses. Irises. Daffodils. But the Lord is so creative, is he not? And here's the thing: the church is to be creative. You say, “Yes, but I like the way we've always done things.” I know that. I know that. I know you like the way it's always been done. Y’all sit in the same pews every week! I know you like it the same way, and the truth is, I do too. We're all creatures of habit, aren't we? We get in ruts. Have you ever heard this definition of a rut? A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. You may ought to get out of your rut. And the truth is, we do get out of our ruts. Most of you didn't get here by horse and buggy today. Most of you heated up your coffee with a microwave or Keurig, or whatever those things are.

 

You love innovation in certain spheres of life, and we in the church ought to appreciate creativity. I just want to say on behalf of Istrouma, and I want to say to the praise of God, we're a pretty creative bunch around here. By some measurements, relatively speaking, we're pretty creative. I can't say that for myself, I'm not that creative, but we have staff members who are quite creative. I would just put a piece of artwork here on the screen. This is from our artist here on staff. This was a design that was made by our art staff, and it was for our student DNOW event. That kind of artwork is very, very cutting-edge, and they were doing a Bible study on the Battleground, Ephesians 6, and the armor of God, and how to win in life. That's creative.

 

You know, the bumpers that you see before I get up to preach each Sunday, that's our staff, they produce those bumpers. Folks like Jim Szalay and Josh Boyd and Jana and Laura Fuson, very creative people, and it’s to the glory of God. We ought to rejoice in it. We're creative not just in artwork; we're creative, for example, in our outreach in sports. You know, it's not every day you have a church that has a whole sports ministry, and we're blessed that we have it. And I just want to say, Thank you Lord for giving us this ample property and that there were leaders before I came that had the vision to build ball fields and gymnasiums, and we utilize those for the Lord, and that's the way it should be.

 

A couple of Sundays ago we had a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and of course this is the time of March Madness, so our Sports Ministry said, “Let's capitalize on that and let's have a basketball tournament.” But the real goal, and if you know ML Woodruff who directs our Sports Ministry, we don't play sports for sports’ sake. We don't even play sports for the children's sake. Well, we do, but I'll explain how. We really play sports for the Gospel's sake – and in that sense, for the children's sake and their parents and their grandparents that they might come to know Christ. For crying out loud, we even have a Pickleball League! That's right, pickleball. Very creative.

 

I think about our age-graded ministries. They're so creative. A recent Sunday, our children’s staff put on what I think they called “Pajama Day.” They let the children come in their pajamas to Sunday morning, and I know this out of the box, a little bit creative, but they wanted to do something fun for the children, something creative, something out of the box. And here's our children’s staff, just being creative. Don't be mad at them; rejoice that they’re being creative, trying to reach those boys and girls!

 

Our Student Ministry, they recently had what they called Paint Wars and they just throw paint on each other as a fun activity, and again, when they conclude that, they sit the teenagers down and they tell them the Gospel. Now, are y'all tracking with me? What are we talking about? We’re talking about creativity. Really, when you think about it, that's what Go Day is. Go Day is an expression of creativity, reaching out. We had teams yesterday wash EMS and first responders’ vehicles to touch them with the love of Christ. How creative!

 

I led the donut team, and we took donuts to Home Depot and just gave them passers-by. Had a team go to Istrouma High School and give out donuts there because our Sports Ministry was doing a baseball clinic, so there those two creative outreaches dovetailed.

 

We had a block party, and I can’t list all the projects. 53 projects scattered across the city, each one unique, creative, God-honoring, and that's how we ought to live our lives, for the Gospel. Let's do it.

 

Now, there's a couple of things about these friends and their creativity. The engine of their creativity was their desperation. They are desperate. Have you ever heard this saying, “Necessity is the mother of _____?” Invention. Exactly. These men were desperate. They knew they could not heal their lame friend. They’d known him perhaps all their lives. They knew no doctor could heal their friend. This is the time, this is the place, this is the person, this is the opportunity. If they don't seize it, it may never come their way again. They are desperate. If they can't come through the door and they can't come through the window, they're going to come through the roof, because they're desperate. And I’ll tell you what. One of the reasons our churches are not as creative as we ought to be is because we are not as desperate as we ought to be to see the lost come to Christ. I'm not as desperate as I ought to be, so one of our prayers this morning ought to be, “Lord, make us desperate to reach our friends with the Gospel.” If you're desperate to see your friends come to Christ, you will pray for them. You will invite them. You will share the hope of Christ with them, and I will as well. God help us to be desperate.

 

And not only were they desperate, they were determined. Yes, desperation makes you determined. They were not going to go home unless that friend got to Jesus. I can imagine it was hot. I've been to that part of the world. I remember one occasion Nell and I were in Jericho; it was 125 degrees in the shade. And here come these men. It's hot, that lame man's heavy, but they're not to be deterred. They're determined to get him to Christ, and they will not take no for an answer.

 

One last word I want to give you, and that is these friends were Confident. They were confident. Would you look now to verse 5?

5 And when Jesus saw their faith [you could just circle that word “faith”, When Jesus saw their faith], he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 

Now, I want to be clear about something because I don't want you to misunderstand me, and I don't want to fail to be clear. These friends were not confident in themselves. In fact, I would say they had no confidence in themselves. It was for that reason they made the journey to Jesus. They knew their resources had been exhausted. No, they had no confidence in themselves or in their flesh. In whom, then, was their confidence? It was in Jesus. That's why he was their North. They said, “We've got to get to Jesus.”

 

Two things about their faith stand out to me. Number one, it's visible. Jesus saw their faith. I'll submit something to you this morning. Listen. All genuine faith is visible. You say, “Where do you see their faith?” That hole up there in the roof. There's the evidence of it. You see, their faith drove them to that decision and that action. James said it this way, “You show me your faith without works; I'll show you my faith by my works.” He said, “I will show you my faith.” Now, we’re not to make a show of our faith, but if we have faith, it will show. Should I say that again? We're not to make a show of our faith, but our faith, if genuine, will show.

 

Their faith was visible, and then, because it was, that is because it was genuine, it was victorious. That is, their faith reached its goal. In fact, it not only reached their goal, it want far, far beyond their goal. I love what happens in this story. They let that man down in front of Jesus. Jesus looks at him. Well, let me back up. The Bible says Jesus saw their faith and he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now here there ought to be a sound effect. There ought to be [screeching of brakes]. What? Like the needle coming across the record. Your sins are forgiven? Who said anything about sins? I don’t think they brought him there to get his sins forgiven; how embarrassing is that? Right there in front of God and the world, “Your sins are forgiven.” What sins; who is talking about sin? No, Jesus, he makes a turn here that is sudden and is telling.

 

You see, the greatest need of that lame man that day was not that he would walk again, as great as that need was. No, the far greater need was that he be saved. That he be forgiven. I don't know in what condition you’ve come today. You may be here a paralytic, and God can heal you and we would rejoice were he to do so this day. But your greatest need is not to be healed of your physical malady. You may be here with intense pain, and I know several of you have aches and pains and sicknesses, and O that God would heal you. But the greater need is our spiritual healing. You may be here in bankruptcy today, and I'm heartbroken that you’re in bankruptcy. But perhaps it is the bankruptcy that will bring you to Christ so that your greater need can be met, and that is that your sins be forgiven.

 

I think I may have misunderstood this passage for years, because it says “Jesus saw their faith,” and I always thought that meant the faith of the four. And he said he saw their faith, and then he said to the paralytic, quite apart from that, “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” as though they were a separate thing. But I’ve evolved in my thinking on that question. I actually believe that when he said “Jesus saw their faith,” it encompassed the five. He saw the faith of those four friends, and I believe he saw into the heart of that lame man. After all, the lame man was willing to be borne to Jesus. He was willing to come through the roof; he was anxious to. And so I believe Jesus saw right into his heart that that man had faith not only to be healed but to be saved, to be forgiven.

 

You say, man, what, you think Jesus can see into the hearts of men? Yes I do. Upon what basis? This very story. Because don't you follow the story? It said there were some Pharisees sitting nearby who said – in fact, they didn't say it, let me correct that, they were thinking it in their hearts – “Who is this man?” I can just hear the disdain in their voice, “Who is this man that he could forgive sin?” Jesus perceived what was in their heart while it was yet unspoken. So of course Jesus could see into the heart of that lame man, and he saw faith there, and he responded to the faith that he saw and he healed that man and saved him of his sin, because I'm going to tell you something, the only way to get saved is to exercise personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Here's what the Bible says.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

 

The key to heaven is faith. The key to heaven is committing in your life in faith to Jesus as Lord. And I believe that's exactly what that lame man did.

 

And in Lagniappe, he got the great thing, forgiveness, but lagniappe came when he was healed. He was healed. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And then they questioned him, the Pharisees did, the religious crowd, and then Jesus put a question to them. He said – and I want to put the question to you; are you ready? Here comes the question: Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven, or rise, take up your bed and walk? Church, how do you answer that question? Which is easier, and I'll give you a hint, which is easier to say? “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” I'll answer it for you. The easier thing to say is “Your sins are forgiven.” And do you know why that’s easier to say? Because if I say to you, “Your sins are forgiven,” no one can verify whether it occurred or not. I'm clouded in this cloak of invisibility. You don't know if sins have been forgiven or not. But, by contrast, it’s harder to say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk,” because everyone will be able to see whether it happened or not, whether you’re genuine or not. So the harder thing to say is, “Get up and walk.”

 

Well Jesus took the easier route when he said “Your sins are forgiven.” But then he said to the religious rulers,

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” [lest you think I’m a charlatan]… rise, [take]up your bed, and [walk].”

 

That man took up his bed and he walked, and do you why that miracle occurred? That miracle occurred to confirm that Jesus is who he claims to be. Jesus is God come in the flesh to redeem sinners, and I'll say every miracle that occurs, occurs to verify and certify that Christ is Lord. It's pretty easy to say “Your sins are forgiven.” But it's not easy to accomplish.  Relatively free to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but excruciating to accomplish.

 

You know it's interesting, in the Bible, much of what occurs in the Bible occurs by virtue of God speaking it into existence. By divine fiat, God created all that is ex nihilo, out of nothing. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, no action required. No price to be paid. He spoke it, and it was. One of the few things, if the only thing, that required his action was to redeem us of our sins. He didn't just say “Your sins are forgiven.” No, justice demanded, holiness demanded, that sin be punished, it be atoned for, a price be paid. Justice demanded it, and love paid the price. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and to prove that price was paid, he arose from the dead. And he lives today to bring forgiveness and salvation to all who will put their faith in him.

 

Hey listen friend; I was talking a moment ago about the faith of these five. I honestly don't know of what quality their faith was or of what quantity it was. It could be that they came hopeful, not certain, but their faith was sufficient for them to make the journey, and what saves us isn't the amount of our faith, the quality of our faith. What saves us is that we exercise what little, feeble, weak faith we have. Come to Jesus, and when you come to Jesus, you'll find him sufficient to pay every sin.

 

Would you stand, please?  What a great story, a story about friendly faith. These friends brought their friend to Jesus. He got his cake, and he got to eat it too. He was healed of his illness and he was saved from his sin.  

 

I know that God today wants to heal our sin-sick souls, make us his own. If never before you’ve called upon Christ as Savior, would you this day?  I want to lead you in a prayer to do that. From your heart, cry out to God.

 

[Invitation and Prayer]

 

[Lord’s Supper]

 

[Singing]

 

Direct download: IBC_20190331.mp3
Category:Who's Your One -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Stay thirsty, my friends.”  So ended every commercial in a well-known marketing campaign.  The ads featured an older, debonair fellow dubbed, “The World’s Most Interesting Man.”

 

In each commercial he would do something exotic and daring—cliff diving in Acapulco, riding a monster wave on some exotic coastline, freeing an angry bear caught in a trap, sowing up his own injury while chatting with medical staff.  You get the idea.

               

His signature sign-off was “Stay thirsty, my friends.”  The idea is akin to YOLO—"you only live once.”  Go for the gusto.  Get all of the pleasure you can from life.  Stay thirsty.

 

But if there’s one thing that we humans need no encouragement to do, it’s to “stay thirsty.”  We are driven by thirst—a thirst for wealth, for adventure, for pleasure, for relationships. We are a people parched with thirst!

 

The truth is, they miscast the world’s most interesting man.  The mantra of history’s real “most interesting man” is not “Stay thirsty, my friends.” We have no trouble doing that. Instead, his polar-opposite offer is, “Quench your thirst, my friends.”  Jesus satisfies the thirsty with living water so that we never need thirst again. 

 

Turns out, he is not only the world’s most interesting man, he is also the world’s most powerful, most compassionate, and most redemptive man!  He is worthy of our admiration and allegiance.

 

By the way, in 2016 the company ditched “The World’s Most Interesting Man.” I guess the company was implementing its own slogan. They ditched their pitch man in their thirst for a younger, hipper guy.  But I digress.

 

This coming Sunday morning we’re going to sit down at a well with the world’s true “most interesting man.” A very thirsty woman is going to come to the well and her encounter with Jesus is going to quench her thirst.  For the first time in her life she will be satisfied.  What she experienced that day so long ago can be our experience as well as we drink the water that he alone gives.

 

Who’s Your One?

“Quench Your Thirst, My Friends”

John 4:1-30

 

  1. A solitary woman

 

A woman from Samaria came to draw water(4:7a).

 

 

  1. A satisfying water

 

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (4:14).

 

 

  1. A sincere worship

 

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him(4:23).

 

 

  1. A strong witness

 

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”(4:28-29)

 

Direct download: IBC_20199324.mp3
Category:Who's Your One -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

It was an exciting day when I got my high school senior ring. Not long afterward I was riding with my friend in his new pickup truck. We were headed to play a basketball game. I decided to take off my ring and lay it on the dashboard of the truck.  As we rounded a curve in the road, the ring slid along the dash and promptly dropped into the AC vent. 

 

We tried to fish out the ring but with no luck. My friend took his truck to the dealership but they said that it would cost more to take out the dash and retrieve the ring than it was worth. As far as I could see, there was nothing to be done.

 

Months went by and my friend sold his truck.  For all I knew, I had kissed that ring goodbye forever.

 

Years later my family and I were living in South America as missionaries.  The phone rang and my mom said that someone had returned my ring!  I could scarcely believe my ears.

 

Here’s the story of how it was returned.  The truck had ended up in a junkyard as scrap.  Someone had taken out the dashboard to salvage a part.  In doing so they spotted a ring.  They saw that it was from West Memphis High School and the year was 1979.  The initials “JBG” were carved into it as well.  Armed with that information (and a good dose of old-fashioned honesty), they were able to trace it back to my family. 

 

Few things are as joyful as when something of value is lost and then found.  What happened to my ring is a parable of what can happen with people.  People get lost.  Nothing compares to the joy of finding a loved one that was lost and bringing that person home.

 

One thing is clear from scripture--Jesus is intent on finding the lost and getting them home.  We are to be like him—intent on finding the lost.  That will be our theme this Sunday at Istrouma as we continue our series “Who’s Your One?”  Join us!

 

Who’s Your One?

“Lost and Found”

John 1:43-51

 

  1. Committed to findthe lost

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me” (1:43).

 

  1. Jesus’ decision
  2. Jesus’ discovery
  1. Committed to followthe Lord

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”(1:44-45).

 

  1. Philip found the one
  2. Philip found his one
  1. Committed to faith in the Lord

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”(1:49).

 

  1. Nathaniel’s curiosity
  2. Nathaniel’s confession
Direct download: IBC_20190317.mp3
Category:Who's Your One -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?  Commonly mentioned ones include “Elf,” “Home Alone,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”  But my personal favorite is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 

The main character is George Bailey.  As a young man, he is full of dreams about what his life will become.  He wants to leave his quaint hometown of Bedford Falls and see the world.  But family responsibilities keep him tied down there. 

 

He never makes a lot of money.  He never travels widely.  His name is not up in lights.  To make matters worse, a mistake by his uncle puts George in hot water with the law.  In desperation he wonders if his life has made a difference and whether it’s even worth living.  He contemplates ending it all. 

 

When word spreads about George’s crisis, friend after friend comes to his home to offer help.  As they do, they mention the ways that he has impacted their lives.  One would not have had a roof over his head were it not for George.  Another would have gone to prison were it not for George.  The last of his friends to arrive is actually his younger brother, Harry.  George had rescued him from drowning when they were kids.  Because of that, Harry was able to grow up and become a hero in WWII.  He was responsible for saving a whole ship full of men.  Had George not lived, Harry would not have been rescued and, in turn, none of those sailors’ lives would have been saved.

 

George Bailey learned that his had indeed been a “wonderful life.”  His life was wonderful because he had impacted others.  He was instrumental in saving the life of one who, in turn, was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds.

 

Now, as we all know, that movie is fiction.  But the Bible gives us several true accounts of individuals who impacted others for God.  This Sunday I will tell you about the real life story of a man that God used to help bring salvation to his brother and, through him, to many, many others.   I am speaking of Andrew and Simon Peter.  Though Andrew is less renowned than Peter, Andrew, too, lived “a wonderful life.”

 

The truth is that God wants to use each of us in a similar way.  We discover that “it’s a wonderful life,” as we impact others in positive ways—particularly in leading them to life in Jesus. Join us this Sunday at Istrouma!

 

Who’s Your One

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

John 1:35-42

 

  1. A declarationabout Jesus

The next day again John . . . looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”(John 1:35-36)

 

  1. John is the speaker
  2. Jesus is the substance
  1. A decisionfor Jesus

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus(1:37).

  1. A consideration of who Jesus is
  2. A commitment to who Jesus is
  1. A duty to Jesus

He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus(1:41-42a).

 

  1. To care
  2. To connect
Direct download: IBC_20190310.mp3
Category:Who's Your One -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In the early 1900s Los Angeles, California was rapidly growing.  To supply the city with needed water, a massive, concrete dam was built in the mountains above the city.  The St. Francis Dam was finished in 1926.  Once the reservoir filled, the seemingly indestructible dam held back more than twelve billion gallons of water. 

 

Almost immediately upon completion, cracks began to appear in the massive wall.  Fissures widened.  Seepage grew.  The engineers and architects were aware of these issues, but they felt that these faults were in keeping with a dam of this size.  They further believed that there was time to correct the problems. 

 

But two and a half minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam catastrophically failed.  Hundreds of lives were lost as a wall of water and debris swept down the St. Francisquito Canyon.  It remains the second greatest loss-of-life disaster in California history behind only the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

 

Small fissures and cracks should not be ignored.  Left unattended, they widen.  They threaten the integrity of the very structure they populate.

 

What’s true for concrete structures is equally true for our lives.  Small cracks in our character cannot be ignored.  They inevitably widen.  They put our families, our friends, our careers, and our testimonies at risk.  A catastrophic failure is the likely future of unattended fissures in our character.

 

Samson, the seemingly invincible strongman of Israel, started well.  But soon enough, cracks in his character started to appear.  He ignored them to his own peril.  Only God’s grace kept him from being a total loss.

 

This Sunday we will revisit the account of his life and learn how to avoid, detect, and correct the cracks that threaten our lives.  God’s grace is our hope as well! 

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Samson: A Good Start Doesn’t Guarantee a Good Finish”

Part 2

Judges 14-16

 

  1. He dishonored his parents
    1. By his rebellion
    2. By his reasoning
  2. He disregarded his pledge
    1. Through carelessness
    2. Through callousness
  3. He discarded his purity
    1. By his sensuality
    2. By his stupidity
  4. He distorted his purpose
    1. From a saving purpose
    2. To a selfish purpose
Direct download: IBC_20190303.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

A good start doesn’t guarantee a good finish.  I learned that lesson by running distance events in high school.  The runners that sprinted the first couple of hundred yards and gained an early lead were not necessarily (nor even likely) to be the ones that finished the race well.

 

This is illustrated well by a couple of world-class milers.  The first man ever to run the mile in less than four minutes was Roger Bannister.  He did so in 1954.  Later that same year, a second runner accomplished the same feat and set a new world record.  His name was John Landy.  Soon enough those two runners met in a long-awaited duel.  It was dubbed the “Miracle Mile.”  100 million people listened via radio to see who would win their match.

               

At the gun, Landy had a strong start.  In fact, he led the race until the final curve. Because of the way the sun was set in the sky, he could clearly see his shadow and Bannister’s cast on the track.  He estimated that he was some 15 yards in the lead.  To confirm this, he turned his head to gauge Bannister's position. Bannister took that opportunity to pass him on his blind side.  In doing so, he edged out a victory over Landy.

 

A sculpture of the race-deciding moment stands near the spot where the duel was held.

 

Landy later said, “I would have won the race if I hadn’t looked back; if I hadn’t taken my eyes off the goal.”

 

He had a good start, but that doesn’t guarantee a good finish.  To win we have to keep our eyes on the goal.

 

Landy reminds me of the biblical character whose story we will revisit over the next couple of weeks.  His name is Samson.

 

Samson started well, but finished poorly.  He fought the Lord’s battles by day but broke the Lord’s commandments by night.  He was strong before men, but weak before women.  His name meant “sunshine” but he ended his life blinded by the very enemies he was sent to conquer. 

 

Our consolation is that though Samson did not finish as well as he could have, God was not finished doing His work.  As we will see, God is going to carry through to completion what neither Samson, nor any of us, can do on our own.  He is going to save us from our sins and make possible an abundant life that stretches from now to eternity. 

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Samson: A Good Start Doesn’t Guarantee a Good Finish”

Judges 13

 

  1. A good birth

 

And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson(13:24a).

 

  1. Divine plans

 

  1. Dedicated parents

 

  1. A good blessing

 

And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him (13:24b).

 

  1. The blessing of growth

 

  1. The blessing of grace

 

  1. A good burden

 

And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol (13:25).

 

  1. Source of his burden

 

  1. Stirring of his burden
Direct download: IBC_20190224.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Chuck Colson was a young, aggressive attorney.  He rose to be a special assistant to the president of the United States during the administration of Richard Nixon.  He moved in the circles of greatest power and prominence.  He was known to be ruthless and willing to tackle the toughest of assignments.  He was sometimes referred to as the president’s hatchet man. 

 

In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal that rocked the Nixon presidency, Colson was prosecuted and imprisoned.  He was in a place of abject shame.

 

But something happened during those lowest days, Colson came to know Christ as His savior.

 

In an amazing turn of events, the prisoner became a preacher.  Over time he proved to be one of the most influential American evangelicals of the latter half of the 20th century.  He founded Prison Fellowship.  He authored more than thirty books.  He started “Break Point,” a news commentary based on a biblical worldview. He went from shame to fame.

 

This morning we’re going to meet the biblical character named Jepthah.  He too went from shame to fame as God worked in his life.

 

No matter what our background or failings may be, God can forgive and cleanse and use us to bring good to others and glory to His name.  He wants to raise us from our shame to the fame of His name!

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Jepthah.  From Shame to Fame”

Judges 10:6-11:40

 

  1. A lesson on value
    1. A troubled history

 

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute(1a).

 

  1. A trusting heart

 

So Jephthah went . . . and the people made him head and leader over

them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah (11).

 

  1. A lesson on victories
    1. Be diplomatic

 

Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” (12)

 

  1. Be dependent

 

Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah . . . So [he] crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand(29a, 32).

 

  1. A lesson on vows
    1. Be slow to makevows

 

And Jepthah made a vow to the Lord (30).

 

  1. Be sure to keepvows

 

For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow (35b).

Direct download: IBC_20190217.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The old saying goes, “Everybody loves an underdog.”  I think it is because underdogs exceed expectations.  They give us hope that we, too, though overwhelmed, can win. 

 

On Valentine’s Day in 1992, two Alabama high schools met in a regular season basketball game.  They were the Fort Payne Wildcats and the North Jackson Chiefs.  The game was hard fought and went into overtime.  The refs were calling a lot of fouls that night.  Player after player fouled out.  Before it ended, the Chiefs, who had a limited roster, only had 2 players on the court.  It was 2 against 5 and they were down by 1 point with 5 seconds left. 

 

Against those odds, what are the chances?  Little to none. 

 

The one Chief inbounded the ball to his teammate who streaked down the court with five Wildcats chasing him.  He shot a layup and missed, but no Wildcat thought to block out the player who inbounded the ball.  He was trailing the pack, got the rebound, and tossed in the winning shot as time expired.

 

The crowd went crazy because everybody loves an underdog.

 

We serve a God who loves the underdog.  He glories in exceeding expectations. Often our weaknesses are a platform on which His power is displayed.

 

The story of Gideon in the Bible is a clear example of how God shows Himself strong through our weaknesses.   Join us at Istrouma this Sunday as we will again see how God can exceed all our expectations as we yield our lives to Him.

 

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Exceed Expectations: Part 2”

Judges 7

 

  1. Committed warriors

And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you”(7:7a).

  1. Saved by the graceof God
  2. Serve for the gloryof God
  1. Confident worship

As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand” (7:15).

 

  1. Restson the word of God
  2. Responds to the word of God
  1. Curious weapons

Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”(7:20)

 

  1. Boldness: the trumpets
  2. Brokenness: the jars
  3. Brightness: the torches
Direct download: IBC_20190210.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

What an inspiration it is, when someone exceeds expectations! 

 

I want to tell you the story of a little girl who did just that—repeatedly.

 

She was the 20th of 22 children in her family. She was born prematurely. Doctors did not expect her to survive. But she did. She exceeded expectations. 

 

While still a young child, she contracted polio, causing her left leg to become paralyzed. Some people did not expect her to walk again.  But she did learn to walk again with the aid of a metal brace.  Again, she exceeded expectations.

 

When she was nine-years-old, they removed the leg brace and she began walking without it. When she was 13, she decided to begin running. She entered her first race and came in last. For the next three years, she came in dead last in every race she entered. But she kept on running, and one day she won.  She exceeded expectations. 

 

Eventually, the little girl who was not supposed to live, who was not supposed to be able to walk, who was not supposed to be able to run and win races, would bring home three gold medals and three world records in Rome's 1960 Olympic games.

 

That little girl who exceeded so many expectations was Wilma Rudolf.  She said, “My doctor told me I would never walk again.  My mother told me I would.  I believed my mother.”  Her mother was a woman of faith who instilled that faith in Wilma.

 

We serve a God who glories in exceeding expectations. Often our weaknesses are a platform on which His power is displayed.

 

The story of Gideon in the Bible is a clear example of how God shows Himself strong through our weaknesses.   This Sunday we will see how God can exceed all our expectations as we yield our lives to Him.

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Exceed Expectations”

Judges 6

 

  1. A serious crisis
    1. Caused by rebellion(6:1-5)
    2. Cured by repentance(6:6-10)
  2. A surprising call
    1. Because of the recipient(6:11-12)
    2. Because of the requirement(6:14)
  3. A spiritual commitment
    1. To worship(6:24)
    2. To warfare(6:25ff)
Direct download: IBD_20190203.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Many of us learned Mother Goose nursery rhymes growing up.  One of the best known goes like this:

 

“What are little girls made of? 

Sugar and spice and everything nice. 

That’s what little girls are made of.”

 

How about boys?

 

“What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

That’s what little boys are made of.”

 

Let’s tweak the question and word it this way, “What are godly girls (and guys) made of?”  That is, what are the ingredients that combine to produce women and men who impact the world for God and for good?

 

This Sunday, in our ongoing series through the biblical book of Judges, we’re going to take a look at a godly woman named Deborah and her colleagues.  Their lives impacted not only their own generation but thousands to follow.   The same factors that influenced them are available to us.  To the degree that we embrace them, to that degree God can bless and use us.

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“What Are Godly Girls (and Guys) Made Of?”

Judges 4 & 5

 

  1. The word of God

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time (4:4).

  1. Accept it
  2. Apply it
  1. The work of God

Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9 And she said, “I will surely go with you” (4:8-9a).

 

  1. Be an encouragement
  2. Be an example
  1. The worship of God

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day(5:1).

  1. Sing with God’s people
  2. Sing for God’s praise
Direct download: IBC_20190127.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.”  The basic meaning is that God can take imperfect instruments, like you and me, and do amazing things.

 

How old a saying is it, you may ask?  Well, here’s a version of it from over 300 years ago:

 

"Do not contemne thy weak brother.  God can raise his thoughts, or direct his follie to a happie end, he can make him an Instrument of glorie, who is now a subject of weaknesse, and can strike a streight stroake with a crooked stick." –Edward Corbet in a sermon to the House of Commons 1642

 

But I can go back further than 300 years ago.  Let’s go back some 2,000 years.  In 1 Cor. 1:26-28 the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Spirit of God writes,

 

“26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

 

You know what Paul is, in effect, saying?  He is saying that God hits straight licks with crooked sticks.  God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

 

A great recent example of this is the current head football coach of the Clemson Tigers.  His name is Dabo Swinney.  He has led his Clemson team to 2 national championships.  He knows and admits that he is an ordinary person through whom God has done and is doing extraordinary things. 

 

He is the product of a broken home.  His parents divorced and his father was an alcoholic.  When he went to college to play football, his mother came with him and lived in his apartment because she had nowhere else to go.  He lived through some tough times.  He credits the Lord for bringing him through the tough times of life.  He gave his life to Jesus as a 16-year-old.

 

His post-game interview after winning the national championship game this year as underdogs was so good!  In part he said,

 

“And I know we’re not supposed to be here. We’re just little ol’ Clemson, and I’m not supposed to be here. But we are, and I am! . . . Hey listen, I hope that you get a little hope from us and a little inspiration that hey, if we can do it, anybody can do it. And I mean that. If a guy like me — I said this two years ago — you can’t write a Hollywood script like this. Only God can do this, and that’s a fact. And people may think I’m crazy or quacky or whatever, but only God can orchestrate this. No Hollywood producer can write it.  But I’m just telling ya, if I can do it, if these Clemson Tigers can do it, hey, anybody can do it if you have a belief . . . .”

 

This coming Sunday, in our continuing walk through the Old Testament book of Judges, we’re going to meet some ordinary people through whom God did some extraordinary things.  He can hit “straight licks with crooked sticks.”

Join us at Istrouma!

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Straight Licks and Crooked Sticks”

Judges 3:7-31

 

  1. A spirit-empowered deliverer: Othniel
    1. His story
    2. His secret
  2. A strategic deliverer: Ehud
    1. His disability
    2. His dependence
  3. A simple deliverer: Shamgar
    1. His insignificance
    2. His impact
Direct download: IBC_20190120.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

There’s one sound that no relay runner ever wants to hear—it’s the sound of a dropped relay baton clanking on the track.

 

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both the United States men's and women's 4x100-meter relay teams dropped their batons—and heard that dreaded sound. 

 

Both squads were heavy favorites.  Both were leading their races and headed for certain victory.  But both dropped the batons as they headed into their fourth and final leg.  Their long-held hopes of Olympic glory were dashed.

 

On the surface, relaying a baton does not seem hard.  Batons are about a foot in length, lightweight, and cylindrical.  They go by a simple nickname: the “stick.”  But history has shown that it’s not as easy to make the pass successfully as you might think.  It requires dedicated training and a laser focus. 

 

To win, the team has to pass the baton well.  Repeatedly.  It doesn’t matter how fast or fearless or experienced the runners are.  If they fail to “stick the passing of the stick,” they are disqualified.

 

Similarly, the kingdom of God goes forward—it “wins,” if you will—as one generation passes the stick of faith to the next. 

 

This Sunday we will learn how to take and pass the baton of faith.  Join us at Istrouma!

 

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“Pass the Baton Well to Win”

Judges 2:7-16

 

  1. A loyal generation (Judges 2:7-9)
    1. Marked by an influential faith (2:7)
    2. Marked by an individual faith (2:8)
  2. A lost generation (Judges 2:10-15)
    1. Marked by their ignorance(2:10)
    2. Marked by their iniquity(2:11-15a)
  3. A loved generation (Judges 2:15b-16)
    1. God saw their distress(2:15b)
    2. God secured their deliverance(2:16)
Direct download: IBC_20190113.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ever feel like life is a merry-go-round, without a lot of “merry”? 

 

If you’ve seen many New Year’s come and go, you probably know the feeling.  Been here.  Done that.  New Year’s resolutions that are broken before they are cold.  According to statistics, the percentage of Americans who keep their New Year's resolution for one month is 55.  Who keep it for six months: 40.  Who keep it for two years: 19 (John C. Norcross, et.al.; and "Addictive Behaviors" reported in U.S. News & World Report, 1/16/89. Leadership, Vol. 10).

 

Truth is, there’s a long history of that kind of frustration and failure.  Starting this Sunday, we’re going to walk through the Old Testament book of Judges.  It reveals that the children of Israel were not so different from us.  We will learn from their experiences both what not to do and what to do to be victorious in the challenges we face.

Carousel: The Broken Heroes of Judges

“When Life Is a Merry-Go-Round (Minus the Merry)”

Judges 1-2

 

  1. Dependence on the Lord
  2. Disobedience to the Lord
  3. Distress from the Lord
  4. Deliverance by the Lord

 

Direct download: IBC_20190106.mp3
Category:Carousel -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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