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March 2019
S M T W T F S
     
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Syndication

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

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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