Under Pressure: Rising Above
October 18, 2015
Anybody out there need a HUGE dose of HOPE? Rather than downsize your dreams, use this season to elevate your expectations - speaking out and acting on the faith God's given. No turning back now, this weekend Pastor Mike's message is JUST what the doctor ordered.
UNDER PRESSURE: Rising Above
Questions to go Deeper
UNDER PRESSURE: Rising Above
October 17 & 18, 2015
Under Pressure: Rising Above
Pastor Mike Slaughter
Thank you for joining us for this week’s message, Under Pressure: Rising Above.
Good morning, Church. Open your Bibles to Psalm 126. This Psalm is part of the Psalms of Ascent. They are written for times when God’s people are going through really complicated times.
Now to give you the context, this Psalm is referring back to a time when Israel was carried into Babylonian captivity, which is modern day Iraq.
If you’re part of our Wednesday night class, Old Testament Survey, you know about this. I encourage you to come. There are seven Wednesday nights left. Tom Dozman, an incredible New Testament scholar from United Theological Seminary, is teaching us on Wednesday night right here at 6:30pm.
To get a picture of what this is like Babylon invaded Israel. They killed, they raped. With hot prongs, they burned out the king’s eyes. They carried the strongest people who could be servants back to Babylon.
It would be much like modern day Syria today—the Christians in Syria. The oldest Christians in the world live in Syria. That’s where the apostle Paul established the church at Antioch. So they’ve been there for 2,000 years.
Now ISIS comes in. They’re murdering Christians. We’ve seen pictures of Christians lined up on the beach refusing to renounce their faith, and they brutally cut off their heads. You’ve seen these pictures. So they have become refugees in a foreign land. Most Christians have fled to Lebanon.
By the way, we need to pray for Dan Bracken. He is flying to Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday by himself. A mission organization in New York is paying for his trip in which he will hire a Lebanese film crew to get the story of these Christian refugees. Our hope is the “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” theme will spread to churches around the country to make this Christmas about the global refugee crisis.
To get the reality of the situation, the Israeli people are defeated. They’re humiliated. They were in captivity forty-eight years—that’s five generations of hopelessness.
One poet wrote this in Psalm 137--to get a sense of the humiliation—“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” When we remembered how it was. “There on the poplars, we hung our harps, for there our captives have asked us for songs. Our tormentors demanded songs of joy. They said sing for us some of the songs of Zion.” It was the day the music died.
These are songs of ascent—songs of elevation. Wherever you find yourself—when you come into that complicated, hopeless time in your life—it is to bring you back, to elevate you to the place of God’s promise and God’s presence. It’s where the song that some of you may remember, the old hymn, we’re marching to Zion. It doesn’t mean heaven. It literally means in this life, the place of God’s purpose for your life.
There are four words, sisters and brothers that become actions to commit to. We are going to constantly repeat these four actions in this Psalm. Four actions:
The first is dream.
The second is speak.
The third is pray.
The fourth is act.
Dream. Speak. Pray. Act.
So let’s begin, right there, first verse: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.”
How big are your dreams? Your dreams or lack of dreams or small dreams determine your expectations. Your expectations determine your life destination. It’s how important dreams are.
Your dreams determine life expectations; and life expectations determine life destinations.
How big are your dreams? We were like those who dream.
Carolyn and I like the Smoky Mountains. Do you know why they call them the Smoky Mountains? Every morning, there is dense fog from all of the green vegetation and from the gases that come from the decaying vegetation. I like to run when we’re down there. I leave the mountain we are on; and go about 500 feet down. I can literally not see from here to that first candle sometimes. It is so dense. Am I going to run into a tree? Am I still on the path?
It’s the same way sometimes when we find ourselves in a situation. It may be a sickness—someone you’re close to or even yourself has been diagnosed with cancer. You may go through a really struggling time with one of your children. You’re going through divorce. Whatever that may be, a loss of employment, you find yourself in a funky fog.
Now, when we go just 500 feet up out of that dense fog, a 500 feet change in altitude totally changes our perspective.
Here’s a picture from our back porch in the mountains. It’s a sunrise. The view from 500 feet up changes our perspective. Altitude determines attitude. Right? You have to elevate your expectations. You have to elevate your altitude for the elevation of your attitude.
So when you find yourself under pressure in these kinds of situations, you have to begin to see yourself and your life from God’s perspective, from God’s altitude.
God is crazy about you. How crazy? I mean, you know, we’ve repeated it so much, ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his only son.’ God loved you so much he sent his son for you. That’s incredible. We are just enveloped in the love of God. Nothing can separate from you and the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Now when you see what you’re going through and you know that God, all-powerful God, Father, has this kind of love for you. You can begin to see your future from God’s perspective. You can begin to see what God wants to do in you and through you.
See, I don’t want to dream my dreams. I want to dream God’s dreams because God’s dreams are infinitely better than yours or mine, sisters and brothers.
Someone asked me a question several years ago and I still think about this. They said, “Mike, when you dream, do you dream in black and white or color?”
Think about that for a minute. You don’t know, right?
So this morning when I woke up from a dream, I asked myself, “Was that in color or black and white?” I asked Kim Miller this morning when we got to church. Did you have a dream last night? She said there was a little color, but it wasn’t vivid.
I asked the congregation last night, “How many of you have never seen a black and white tv?” I was shocked at the number of people who have never seen a black and white tv!
Carolyn parents gave us a black and white tv when we got married in 1972. When I was in Chicago this week, I found myself in hotel room at night by myself just flipping through channel. There was an auction show on the tv. Two guys were auctioning two ceramic coconut mugs from Gilligan’s Island. There are people turning to the person next to them right now saying, “What’s Gilligan’s Island?” It was a 1960s television show.
The ceramic mugs were clearly the cheap kind that you buy in a souvenir junk shop. The guy on the show said they were used and certified on Gilligan’s Island. The other guy said, “well, they looked real when I watched it on tv!” He said that is because we did not have high definition. It was grainy black and white tv!
You know, fifteen years from now, someone’s going to be standing on this stage and they’ll say how many of you never saw a tube tv? And people will raise their hand because we’re so used to this flat screen, high definition.
Well, you see, I want God’s high definition picture in my life. I don’t want the grainy version. So it’s very important that we be specific—because God has a BHAG. Remember that word? BHAG—Big Hairy Audacious God Purpose—for each of our lives.
In the Bible, when God gave the person a dream for their purpose, God was always specific about the details.
I’m going to read from Genesis, the 13th chapter, when God called Abraham. And folks, Abraham was 75 years old so you may be like me, 64, and think, ok man, I’ve really attained where God wants me to be. No, there’s always an ascent! God always wants to elevate you to the next place.
So the Lord said to Abraham, after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are to the north and the south, to the east and west. All the land that you see, I will give to you and your offspring forever…”
Wow, some of us aren’t looking far enough.
And if you’re struggling with your children right now, guess what? Don’t die in your dream, in the circumstance, which you find yourself. Look at God’s promise for your offspring. Claim God’s promise for your offspring.
“…I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth so that if any could count the dust then your offspring could be counted. So walk around through the length and breadth of the land for I am giving it to you. So Abraham went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.”
So Abraham moved into God’s picture. You have to move. All through scripture, we see it in Joshua. Joshua never saw the Promised Land, but before he moved into the Promised Land, look at the scripture, God said, “I will give you every place you set your foot as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon.”
Look at how specific God’s dream is. “From the great river, the Euphrates all the Hittite country to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.”
I’ve shared this with you before—when Carolyn and I came here in 1979 to this little tiny country church—I went out behind the church into a farmer’s field and I said, “God, I’m not going to leave here until I have a picture of what you want to do.” And at the end of that day, I saw a church where 3,000 people would gather to worship. It’s amazing. Here’s the power of the dream. We can’t hardly get beyond that 3,000. Our average this year is 3,100. As a person thinks within themselves; so they’ll become.
Now up to that time, I’ve shared this with you, the biggest church in Ohio was 1,200. So I knew I needed to move into God’s picture. So what did I do? I flew out to the west coast to where the big churches were 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, right? And I pictured God’s dream. I listened. I pictured to the pastors who were leading those kinds of churches.
Think of the power of dream. The cab driver who drove me to the airport in Chicago this week was from northern Africa. I knew I was teaching this sermon on the power of dream, so I ask him, “What do you think about America?” Well, man, I hit his talk button.
He said, you’re kidding! America is such a great, great country. When I came here, I couldn’t even speak English. Now I own this limousine. He said, I brought my parents here. He said, my children are in a grade school. My children will go to college. He said, it’s a great country. And then he said that quote that I’ve heard so many times. He said, “People are literally dying trying to get into this country. Who do you know who’s dying trying to get out?” Right?
That’s the power of dream.
Now, here is the second action that we see in this scripture. What is the first? Dream. The second is Speak. We’ve got to speak faith.
Look at verse 2 with me. “Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.”
So what did they speak? The Lord has done great things for us and we’re filled with joy. They didn’t speak their circumstances. They didn’t speak their emotions. They spoke faith. We have to understand, sisters and brothers, the power of words.
Look at what it says in Proverbs, the 12th chapter: “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood but the speech of the upright rescues them.”
Our words have the power to destroy or the power to build up.
Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death. And those who love it will eat its fruit.” In other words, our spoken words become physical realities. What words are you speaking? What words are you speaking to your children? What are you telling your children? Our spoken words become physical realities. It’s why Jesus said be careful what you speak. He said, for whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you let loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Now bind means to forbid. So what I forbid out of my mouth is forbidden of what comes out of heaven. So what do I want to forbid? I want to forbid negativity. I want to forbid unhealthy.
I don’t know. I may be coming down with something. Or my knee hurts. Go to the gym. Right?
I want to forbid criticism. I want to forbid gossip. Gossip is destructive. We have to be careful what we loose. What we bind means we forbid.
Now, loose means to permit. So what comes out of our mouth, we permit. So what do I want to loose? I want to loose health. I want to loose a promising picture of God’s future.
You know, some of you get upset and you say to me, I love you, but you say to me, Pastor, we just don’t like it because you don’t tell people what’s wrong with them. They know what’s wrong with them. I don’t want to let that loose. I want to let loose God’s promising future. I want to let loose blessings in people’s lives. I want to let loose anointing, God’s anointing in people’s lives.
You know, if you have young children, I’d stop all your young children and I’d put my hand on their shoulder, and I say ‘God has an incredible plan and purpose for your life. Did you know that young man? God has a big plan for your life. You remember this. You remember that I told you this today, that God is going to use you in a powerful way.’
Do you know why I do that? Because in my worst times in trouble, Christian people laid their hand on my shoulder and said, ‘When God harnesses that energy in you, God’s going to do incredible things.’
Now, when I see young people – like yesterday morning when I went to my four-year old’s soccer game in Cincinnati. A young high school kid was working with the team. Walking out to the parking lot after the game, I ask him where he goes to school. Go goes to one of the Lakota schools. I then ask him where he was planning to go to college cecause I always want to speak elevation. I always want to speak ascent.
I choose a word to focus on every year on New Year’s Eve. An area of my life to focus, and this year, it is response. How am I going to respond to people?
So a week ago Friday night, Carolyn and I were in Kroger. We had been running some errands. She said do you want to eat out or just grill burgers. I said let’s just grill burgers. So she said, well, I don’t have any potatoes at home. Now what she does is she slices potatoes and bakes them. Baked fries are a lot healthier for your heart. So she said let’s stop at Kroger and get some potatoes. So I forgot how crazy grocery stores are on Friday night. I was a cashier for three years; and I hated Friday nights. This was before scanning. So every number, you know, if something cost $1.25, you would hit the 1 with your thumb; I could still do this forty-some years later in my sleep. And on Friday night, you look down the aisle, and people were halfway down the aisle with their grocery cart. They would have two of them overflowing, two carts, overflowing.
Well, it was so bad at Kroger Friday night. Every cashier was open. All we had was a bag of potatoes, so we went to the self-scan line. There were like seventeen people in the self-scan line. You know how people start cheating—they’ve got the little carts, but they’re this high through the self-checkout. You’re not supposed to have more than nine items or something.
So, I get up to we are about fifth and I’m already anxious to get home, worked a long week, and have to work on the weekend. And so, one young man, late teens, early twenties just kind of butts up in the line. The guy in front of me, probably about my age said to the young guy, hey buddy, the line is back there. Now there are probably about 27 people in this line. And he doesn’t move. And he goes, ‘Young man, the line’s back there.’ And so this kid looks at me, ‘He’s right, it’s back there.’ And the kids says, ‘Hey, my line is right here and if you don’t like it, we’ll take it to the parking lot.’
I turned to Carolyn and wanted to explode. Now, what’s my word for the year? Right?
What we speak becomes physical reality. And so anyway, we got through because we just had a bag of potatoes. And he’s still going through his cart that he was kind of cheating on. So I go over to him and I said, “My name is Mike and I’m Pastor of Ginghamsburg Church. Have you ever tried church?” He said God hates me.
I said God doesn’t hate you, man. God loves you. I mean, you’re important to God.
I just lost my job. I’m behind on my house payments.
And I could tell from stuff in his cart, he probably had a baby at home.
He said, I’m on food stamps.
I said, man, we’ve got a food pantry. We’ve got a bunch of stuff. Man, we can help you out. Come and see us man. I want to help you out.
So we’re walking out to the parking lot and I say to Carolyn, Isn’t it amazing when we really understand that our words have the power to give life or the power to destroy.
And to just think what was going on inside that young man that made him respond the way he did to me.
Folks, what life songs are you singing right now? Are they songs of hope? Are they songs of life?
You know, when people grab the hymns out of the hymnals. I know we don’t have any hymnals here, but if you go find a hymnal, you’ll find this. We shall overcome became the anthem of the civil rights movement. Remember? We shall overcome. We shall overcome. I loved it. I’m a child of the 60s and you saw, the symbol would be a white hand and a black hand grasping together. We’ll walk hand in hand. We’ll walk hand in hand. We’ll walk hand in hand someday.
What songs are you singing?
Look at that third verse again. It says, ‘The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.”
You know, Carolyn and I have a practice when we’re going through challenging times or hard times. We’ve got this thing we do. Can you believe God did this? Or can you believe God gave us this? Can you believe our children are where they are and doing what they are doing? Can you believe, Carolyn, we’re in our mid-sixties, can you believe that God has allowed us to give all of our adult life to a church that’s really making a difference in the world?
And folks, it’s the Holy Spirit that made the difference in the world. It’s not me. I was just smart enough to hang out where the Holy Spirit’s working.
Do you see?
And it’s amazing how it changes our altitude that determines our attitude.
What’s the first action here we see? This little Psalm is packed. The first is dream. The second is speak. Now here’s the third: pray.
Now notice the fourth verse, they turn from dreaming and speaking to the source. Now they turn to prayer. “…Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.”
Now folks, this is so important, I’m going to do a whole series on prayer. When you make a commitment to steer your life in God’s lane. And you wouldn’t be here this morning if you’re not determined to make that commitment because most of America is not sitting where you are this morning.
When you make that commitment, you are going to meet with resistance. And that resistance is going to come from unexpected places. It’ll even come from friends who you trust and respect.
And I want to be honest. We are dealing with unseen powers, dark forces, supernatural forces that you can’t explain things like ISIS and Nazi Germany, you can’t explain that stuff apart from unseen ugly powers, sisters and brothers.
And because you’re sitting here, and you’re making a commitment to steer your life in God’s lane, you are now dangerous to the enemy. So we are dealing with spiritual warfare that not only would have you, would have your children through you. That would wear you down, to get you out of the lane.
That’s what the Word means. Do not deviate to the right or the left off of this path that God has set before us.
Remember the disciples tried to cast a dark spirit out of a young boy. Jesus did it. That night, the disciples came to him and said, Jesus, why couldn’t we do it? And he says there is a kind that can only come out through prayer and fasting.
And some of the circumstances in our lives will not change because we try harder. There are unseen dark forces that can only come out through prayer and fasting. And this is why this is so important I am going to spend a whole series, sermon series, on prayer and fasting.
I find that at this time in my life, I’m spending at least two hours a day in prayer. And I begin in an hour in the morning and then through the rest of the day.
Now, here is the fourth. What is the first? Dream. What’s second? Speak. What’s the third action? Pray. Here is the fourth. Act.
Start at verse 5.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow…” Now that’s a physical action, you see. So they have a dream. They’re not going to let their speaking, they’re not going to let their circumstances, right, define their focus. But they have to, when God begins to grow in the heart a dream, there must be a corresponding faith action.
“…carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying fruitfulness …” Right? The fruit of the dream – “… with them.”
When God begins to grow a dream in your heart, there must be a corresponding faith action. Weeping must not hinder sowing.
When we started this series four weeks or so ago, I started with the question, Jesus’ question: what are you worried about? What are you worried about?
And we said we’re going to leave that with God. And you filled out the prayer cards and you put them on the prayer wall. Well, a man came up to me afterward, and I’m guessing him late 30s or early 40s. And he said to me, pastor, I’m a machinist. I’ve been a machinist all my life, but our shop is not doing real well right now and there may be layoffs by Christmas.
I said, if you could do anything – I’m trying to get to his BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious God Purpose) – what would it be?
He said, well, I would like to work in the medical field.
Well, I wanted to push that forward because I believe God had put a dream in his heart that had never really been actualized. He had the dream, but he didn’t have the corresponding faith action.
So I said, well, what would you do in the medical field?
He said, I’d be a nurse. That’s what I’d be.
I said, ok, you have a dream. Now, what is the corresponding faith action? Here’s what I want you to do. I said call Sinclair Community College this week. Don’t wait until next week. Don’t wait until the third week. Don’t wait three months because then you may be laid off. Now. Put this – “… carry seeds for sowing.”
Call a counselor at Sinclair Community College, meet with them and name the path to become a nurse. So he came back two weeks ago and he said to me, he said, pastor, you won’t believe it. I met with them. I can take night school and still continue my job as long as I have my job to support my family.
See. Do not let weeping prohibit sowing. The bible reminds us, do not be deceived. Everyone, whatever you sow, that is what you will reap.
So wherever you are right now, I don’t know what it is. It may be marriage. And you’re sitting there and you have this dream for marriage. That it can be better. That’s it’s just kind of stale and stagnant. Well then, what’s the corresponding faith action? Go to a counselor.
Or if your marriage is pretty good, it can be better. Get involved in one of these classes. Carolyn and I, I was fortunate. I got back twenty ‘til nine at the airport Friday night so I got to stop in to the last half of the men’s retreat. And it reminded me, what it means to be a husband. It was great. It means that I am priest in my home. I am prophet in my home. I’m provider and protector in my home. It reminded me even after 43 years of marriage, I don’t need to stay where I am; I need to ascend. So I mean, there is always a next. There’s a higher place that God wants to take us.
You may be sitting here today like the machinist who is now pursuing becoming a nurse, and you really want to find God’s bigger purpose for your life.
Pastor Rachel’s teaching a class every Wednesday night down at the little original church building, Dare to Dream. It’s at 6:30pm. Become part – do the next thing. You dream corresponding faith action.
Finances. I know in this room there are people frustrated with their finances. Don’t live in your frustration. Dream God’s higher purpose.
We’re going to start a new series in a couple weeks on finances. Dream God’s higher purpose. Become part of a get out of debt class or a retirement kind of program. How do you save and provide for retirement?
A deeper walk with Christ. What is the corresponding faith action? If you’re not serving; jump into service and see what God will do.
Or if you really want to sell out and totally make a commitment to Jesus Christ, take the next step. Baptism.
So four clear actions in this short Psalm.
What is the first? Dream. What’s the second? Speak. What’s the third? Pray. And what’s the – Act.
JK speaking -- Hey church family. How are you? I wanted to come before you today and first just tell you how much I love you. I love this church, and I am so grateful for how you have embraced Denise and I and our family. And some of you know about three years ago, my father died suddenly, and at the same time, Denise’s dad, my father-in-law got the West Nile Virus and became very ill, was in the hospital for 179 days, and is still in recovery. And since that time, Denise and I, we’ve been longing to be closer to family. And feel like God has been pulling us in a season of honoring our family with our presence. And so, I’ve got to also say how much I appreciate Mike and I appreciate Carolyn and how they have mentored us and loved us and also supported us over the past five years.
When we came to Ginghamsburg, when we moved from Alabama, we made a five-year commitment to Ginghamsburg and September 1st was the end of our five-year commitment. And it really propelled us into a time of discernment and prayer for what God has for us for the future. And this week, we accepted a position at Frazier United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, which allows us to be right in-between my mom’s house and Denise’s parent’s house. And we’ll be leaving December 1st.
And I just wanted to stand before you and to just say thank you. And how honored I have been to have been a part of this community. And I will forever take it with me and use everything I’ve learned here in the ministry.
Mike speaking -- There’s one church of Jesus Christ across the world. It’s not like this church is better than another church. And so our purpose is not to manipulate folks to what we need. Our purpose is to really help them clarify God’s dream.
And James Keith, when he came, he said I make a five-year commitment. But after he was here a year, he said, I really want to be a pastor, and you’re moving more into that kind of role. And he’s here one year. He’s got this incredible instrument, you know. And I went … (pause) But our job, my job is, right, to continue to clarify what’s next, what’s next. And so he gets to move into next, which we celebrate. And tell them what’s going to be happening here, how music’s going to go on.
JK speaking -- Yeah. So you guys have a reason to celebrate. Rusty Eshleman, who I’ve had the honor and joy to work with for the past five years will be moving into leadership for worship and music for Ginghamsburg.
Mike speaking -- So Rusty will be here leading music next week even though James Keith will be here for how many more weeks after that?
JK speaking – Five more weeks.
Mike speaking -- Five more weeks. How many of you know who Rusty is? He’s led worship. So Rusty will be leading us. Will you close us today in prayer?
JK speaking -- Let’s Pray. God, we are so grateful for this opportunity to come together as a family and to worship you through our singing and through our prayers and through the Word. Lord, I just pray that you give us clarity that we might see the God call that you have for our lives. The God dream that you have for our lives. And give us the words to speak hope and love and grace and peace over each other and over this community. We give you praise and honor today. And it’s in the holy name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Go in peace.
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