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Syndication

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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