Istrouma Baptist Church Podcast


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March 2019
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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





  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.




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 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]




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