At The Movies

April 17, 2016

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Mike Slaughter

Epic battles between good and evil remind us that we too have battles waging inside. Humans are fully susceptible to the darkness that roams the earth yet gifted with other-worldly weapons should we choose to harness the power. Join Pastor Mike this week in worship as we listen for God to speak through this hugely anticipated blockbuster...

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Today's Focus



Seduced By the Darkness

  • I Kings 11:4-6
  • II Corinthians 11:14
  • Romans 7:14-20


Naming the Real Enemy

  • Ephesians 6:12
  • I Peter 5:8


Use the Force

  • Mark 1:9-11
  • Luke 24:49
  • Galatians 5:13-25  


See this week’s REFOCUS questions for deeper reflection.

Sermon Questions

Epic battles between good and evil remind us that we, too have battles waging inside. Humans are fully susceptible to the darkness that roams the earth yet gifted with other-worldly weapons should we choose to harness the power. Let God’s life force dispel the darkness in your life. Daily devotionals that accompany each day's reading are also available on Facebook. They are created by a great Ginghamsburg unpaid servant team. You do not have to be a Facebook user to access them. View here.
MONDAY: 1 Kings 11:1-16
Although Solomon was known for his wisdom, his relationships led to his turning to the “dark side.” What influences in your life are turning you to the “dark side”? How can you get rid of those influences? 
TUESDAY: 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
Have you ever been duped into thinking that something bad was really good? How did you respond? What steps are you taking in your life to guard your heart from manipulation or deception? 
WEDNESDAY: Romans 7:14-20
You may know Jesus, read your Bible and even pray, but sometimes we still do things we don’t want to do. Name a few ways that you can relate to Paul’s (writer of Romans) struggle, and ask God to give you the spiritual strength to overcome sin’s hold on your life.
THURSDAY: Matthew 3:13-4:11
What happens to Jesus after his baptism? How does he overcome temptation? Write out the Bible verses that you need to pray in order to overcome the temptation you are facing. 
FRIDAY: John 14:15-21
What does Jesus teach the disciples about the Holy Spirit (force)? What questions do you have about the work of the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced the Spirit’s work in your life? 
SATURDAY: Acts 2:14-21
After the Holy Spirit is poured out over the disciple, Peter teaches on the Spirit’s work in our lives. What does Peter say? Whom is the Spirit poured over? Do you think that includes you? Why does God gift God’s people with the Holy Spirit? 
SUNDAY: Galatians 5:13-25
When we say yes to Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. What are the “fruits of the Spirit”? Are these “fruits” evident in your life?   
Read the Daily Reflection post at

Sermon Transcript

Pastor Mike Slaughter
I Kings 11:4-6
At the Movies – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Film clip: History of Darth Vader, from young Jedi to choosing the Dark Side

So how many of you saw the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens? How many of you saw the original in 1977? I was pastoring in Cincinnati at the time – and it was amazing – even my friends who never wanted to talk about any God kind of thing, all of a sudden wanted to talk to me asking, what’s the Force?

You know when Lucas wrote this movie – when he began the series – he never intended it to be a Christian kind of movie, but there are all kinds of parallels, right? And probably the most obvious is the battle between good and evil, between light and darkness. Then also a major parallel is the Force. How does the Force – the power of the Force – what’s the parallel for us as Christians? It’s the Holy Spirit. In all of the (Star War) movies, it’s set up about the power of the Force, both the light side and the darkness, the power of evil. In this latest movie, there is a character by the name of Rey, a young woman, and we’re going to find in the sequel that she is a Jedi knight, which she is just discovering in this movie. Then there is a Yoda-like creature by the name of Maz who helps identify the strength of the Force. Watch this clip -Rey and Maz.

 God always wants to do more than we can ask or imagine. Before we come to the table this morning, will you just bow your head with me and open yourself to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Just open yourself to the work of the Spirit.

Father, as we prepare in honesty to come to your table this morning, we confess we struggle with an internal battle. It is our prayer that you empower us to live deeper into the Force of your Holy Spirit, that every day there will be more of you and less of me. In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

One of the key messages – there has been seven – of the Star Wars movies is that children of light can be seduced by darkness. Darth Vader wasn’t always Darth Vader before his seduction and fall. He was a Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker. And, yet this is the story of scripture – Genesis, the very first book of the Bible. What is it about? Adam and Eve seduced by darkness, seduced by the serpent, and Paradise is lost. But the whole story of the Bible is a redemption story, so we get to the last book, Revelation and it’s Paradise restored!

We see this all throughout scripture – children of the light being seduced by darkness. We started with the very first human beings, Adam and Eve, but we go all the way through. Look at Samson - he was someone who lived powerfully in the power of the Force, but he was seduced by Delilah, and lost the power of God. Then there’s the first king – the first king of Israel. Who remembers who was the first king of Israel? Saul was God’s first choice, but he was seduced by the power of darkness and was overpowered like so many of us can be by pride, making himself to be his own god. Then we have David, a man after God’s own heart, and Bathsheba seduced him. We see it again and again and again. 

Then there’s David’s son, Solomon. Now I want you to read this one. If you have your Bibles, go to first Kings, the eleventh chapter. Solomon was given the gift of wisdom by God – wisdom is not enough.  Wisdom is not enough. There is a power of darkness, folks, that is stronger, stronger than we are, that we can be seduced by. So this is what we read about King Solomon, fourth verse, eleventh chapter of first Kings.

“As Solomon grew old, his wives” – he married, against the law of God, many foreign wives –“his wives turned his heart to other gods.” Have any of you ever experienced – you were kind of like walking in the path of God and through a relationship you turned – your heart was seduced? Don’t look at that man next to you now. Keep your eyes straight on me. How many times, young people, relationships cause us to turn from the power of light to the power of darkness. “His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord your God as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Asheroth, the god of the Sidonians and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  He did not follow the Lord completely as David his father had done. Drop down to the fourteenth verse. How many times do we find ourselves in some kind of mess and we don’t understand it? And we’re, “God, if you’re there, why am I in this struggle right now?” Now notice the fourteenth verse. 

Folks, there’s a message in the mess – and it’s not for your destruction. It’s for the purpose of getting you once again to turn towards the light. “Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary Haddad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.” So folks, if you’re going through a struggle in life, sometimes look for that message that is in the mess because God uses the mess, not for your condemnation, but to get you to turn back. We see that again and again and again. Judas seduced by darkness. Peter, three times denied Jesus, seduced by darkness. Now the Scripture says this – and it’s important for us to understand – Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So what darkness gets us to focus on the rewards of the immediate without weighing the consequences of the long term? You see it with the serpent with Eve – the Lord said we’re not supposed to eat of that, but just look at how good that apple, look at how tempting it is. You know, as pastor, so many times in my 37 years being pastor of this church, I have seen families destroyed by the seduction of darkness. Two people who come together and make the most intimate commitment that anyone can make, to be exclusive to each other for life, when all of a sudden here comes that apple and you’re seduced. Well, it would be better to stop and think. One of the things I always do, I stop and say, what effect would this have on my children before I make any decision in my life. What effect will this have on my grandchildren?

 See, we cannot, folks, take lightly the power of the dark side. The dark side, the power of darkness is strong. Turn to Romans seven with me. In the seventh chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul says this –  look at the fifteenth verse – here is Paul. He is strong in the spirit. There is no question. He is strong in the spirit. Fifteenth verse, “For I don’t understand what I do, for what I want to do, I don’t do it, but I do what I hate to do.” Any of you find yourself in that situation? You believe in right, you commit to right, and you end up doing the wrong? Anybody in the room? Am I the only one? Am I it? “ For what I want to do, I don’t do, but I do what I hate to do.” Any of you do things you hate to do?  “I’m never going to respond that way again.”  Right? Never again! How many times have we said never again?  “And if I do what I don’t want to do, I agree that the law of God is good.” Now, here it is:  the power of darkness.  “As it is, it is no longer myself that does it, but it is sin living in me.”  The sin living in me is stronger than my want-to. It is stronger than my will. “I know that good itself does not dwell in me. That is my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” See, that’s the problem with religion – religion is knowing what’s right, but not having the power to do it, sisters and brother, and continuing to find ourselves repeating things that we hate.

 Now what is so important, folks, is that we are able to name the real enemy.  The real enemy is not a person. Right now, we see all the evil going on in the world with Isis and everything else – racism and sexism. The real enemy is not people. Scripture says, in Ephesians, “The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” You know I think that Satan’s best trick is to convince people that he doesn’t exist. Right? And makes us point the finger of blame against people instead of against this spirit of hate. We battle against this spirit of hate that defies logic. We are battling a spirit of hate that has as its sole purpose the destruction of relationships. God is a God of relationships. Why does Satan want to break up families? How does God get to our children? Through us. The enemy wants to destroy relationships and other human beings through us. That’s why right now through these political debates, I absolutely hate it because it’s people demonizing people. That is not of the Spirit of God, sisters and brothers. It is a spirit of darkness.  =Now the enemy’s sole goal, we read this in first Peter 5:8, the enemy’s sole goal is destruction. To destroy in you what God has given and created.  That’s the enemy’s sole purpose. How many of you have ever heard the name, General Omar Bradley?  Have you heard that name?  He was a great general of World War II. Here’s what he said, “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.“ That’s a great quote from an Army general!

You know, when we look, when we point today at all the things that are irrational. Everything from Isis--how rational is it that men and women strap explosives on themselves to murder innocent people as well as blow themselves up? It’s not rational. How rational was Nazi Germany? How rational? I have a document hanging on my living room where my great-great grandfather signed a document to release his slaves. How rational is it – that I’m only two or three generations removed? How rational was it that Whites Only segregation in this country was in my lifetime? I remember when Coney Island swimming pool was whites only as a child in Cincinnati. How rational, folks?  This is not rational. We fight a spirit of hate that defies logic. How many of you were part of Ginghamsburg when 9/11 happened? I don’t know if you remember, we were averaging about 2000 people in worship at that time that Sunday right after it, 4000 people showed up. Then, the next week 4000 people - same thing all across America. By the third week (after 9/11), everything went back to normal. It doesn’t take us long to forget who we’re dependent on. You know, I pulled out part of the sermon that I preached right after this happened. This is what I said that Sunday because it’s too easy to begin to look as Muslims as the enemy instead of some deeper force that drives it.

So here’s what I said in that sermon, “Evil has had its play on Planet Earth since Cain murdered his brother Abel. It has slithered and hissed its way through little formidable opposition through the millenniums.  But there was a cosmic operation being planned under the code name Lion of Judah. Supreme Commander over its execution was Jesus of Nazareth, Prince of Peace. In the early hours of the morning approximately 2000 years ago in a Middle Eastern community named Bethlehem the armies of Heaven invaded Planet Earth and established beachhead communities of Light. These communities have continued being the scenes of the fiercest fighting.” 

That’s what’s going on inside of you. That’s that war zone that you fight. But the True Light has come down to Earth and darkness can never put it out, sisters and brothers. And darkness can never put it out. So I love it in this movie. What is it always saying?  What is the reminder? Fighting evil, we can never win. We can’t defeat it. It is a force more powerful than we are. So what do we keep hearing?  “Use the Force.” Right? Use the Force. So in this, the Holy Spirit. Use the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit. Use the Spirit. So in this last clip I’m going to show you, Rey comes up against Darth Vader’s grandson, who is the child of Hans Solo (played by Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fisher) – right? Which we find out – and he has turned to the Dark Side. So Rey, now is confronting the Dark Side, this Darth Vader’s grandson, and they’re both going for the light saber at the same time. We see that the power of light is greater than the power of darkness. Watch - Princess Leia vs. Kylo Ren.

Now our weapons, what the Scripture says, now here’s another parallel. The light saber?  Our weapons are not the weapons of the world. Our weapons are not carpet bombing and all that kind of stuff. Our’s is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. That’s our light saber. Now we live – we celebrated Easter three weeks ago and Easter brings in the Age of the Spirit. Christmas brings in the Age of the Son. Easter brings in the Age of the Spirit.  Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away. If I go away to send you what the Father has promised.” Now when Israel – I’m so thankful, sisters and brothers, that I have this Book. I started in this Book at 5:10am this morning. I spend hours in this book, but you know, Israel didn’t have this Book. When they were in the wilderness those 40 years, when Israel camped, they didn’t camp with the Book. They camped in the Presence. When will we discover this, Church? When we discover the power of the Age of the Spirit? They were led forth in the wilderness, not by a Book but by the Presence. Now Jesus, when he was baptized – we have to remember that Jesus didn’t do what Jesus did because he was superhuman. Jesus did what he did through the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  Remember? Everything was normal until the day of his baptism. And on the day of his baptism we read, “Heaven was rendered” – like, ripped. It’s the same Greek word used there where on the Day of the Resurrection the veil in the Temple was ripped asunder. Heaven opened and the Spirit descended on Jesus. And the voice said, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.” And then the Spirit, we read, led him out into the wilderness where he was confronted by Darkness. Right? But it was through the Spirit – what was his weapon? “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Am I right?  Jesus did what he did through the Presence – through the Presence. Now the first words out of Jesus’ mouth to his disciples after the Resurrection, “I am sending you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on High. For when you receive the Spirit, you will be clothed with Power.” So folks, I am so thankful for this Book, but we have more than this book. We have the Presence. We have the Spirit. 

Now turn with me over to Galatians for a minute – Galatians fifth chapter, the thirteenth verse. I still like it when you bring your Bibles whether the book or on your phones because you can see it. I make notes, you know, in my Bible. You know, as a matter of fact, it’s time for me to send it to the rebinder. It’s getting kind of really beat up again, but I have so many notes, I have to just keep having it rebound.  Thirteenth verse, my brothers and sisters, ”You were called to be free.” Now where do we receive that freedom? We’re no longer bound by the power of darkness. We receive power in the Spirit. But don’t use your freedom to indulge your sinful nature, the flesh.  Jesus said, “Life is in the Spirit, but the flesh amounts to nothing.” Life is in the Spirit. So when I give in to my flesh, what happens? I have all kinds of problems, addictions, and so forth. Let us serve one another humbly in love. Everything about God is about relationships, remember that. God is a god of relationships. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command. Love your neighbor as yourself. “If you keep on devouring each other, watch out, for you will be destroyed by each other.” Now this is why I have no respect for the politicians in the political debates. Because they are biting and destroying each other, which is no – it has nothing to do with the power of light. It has everything to do with the force of darkness. So folks, please remember this in the next nine months. It’s that our salvation will not come from any political leader. One name we must focus on, and one name we must lift up, and that is the name of Jesus.

So I say, Use the Force. It says, ”Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Or literally that word is flesh. Flesh. Jesus says in John 6, “Life is in the Spirit. The flesh counts for naught.” That sinful nature here is the flesh that desires what is contrary to the Spirit. That’s that war zone you feel inside of you. Right? You all know, I’ve shared this with you – if I have ice cream in my house and I’m sitting there watching TV or a movie at night, and I keep thinking about the ice cream, what’s eventually going to happen? Yeah, that’s when you let your flesh rule over what you, I know what I want to do but I do what I hate. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” They are in conflict with one another so you are not to do whatever you want, but if the Spirit leads you, you are not under the law. Now here are the acts of the sinful nature –they’re obvious: sexual immorality-- isn’t it incredible how sexual immorality has such a pull on every one of us? Folks, two weeks ago on the cover of Time magazine, it was on the front cover – pornography. Harvard has just done a study. Get this, young people. Males, 47% of males are into Internet pornography by age 11 or 12.  And what has happened now, and this is a study out of Harvard University, is that by age 21 males are becoming impotent because they can only be charged by what they see on a screen, not by a relationship that they have with another human being. You talk about the destruction of relationships. And what this article in Time magazine, I’m not quoting this from any Christian source, says that pornography is more addictive than heroin. So please, we can’t use the rationale here. One demon’s name is “Only Once.” Remember that Jesus had to call it out before he cast it out?  So here are some of the demons’ names:  “Only Once”, “I can handle it.” Please, men, women, young people, look at what pornography is – It is an addictive force out of the pits of hell that destroys our ability to have true intimacy with one person. Someone said to me last night, “Well, pastor, you’re scaring us.” Well isn’t that my job, to scare the hell out of you?

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: “Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy” – see all of this, what we’re watching on TV. This again is what political candidates do– what do you see? Dissension, envy, selfish ambition – “Drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I’ve warned you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  See, we can’t play the world’s games. We can’t play there.  And we get tempted. Our anger comes up as we get into these political debates. 

That’s not our world. “My kingdom is not of this world, “Jesus said. “The Spirit is” -- Look at this, it’s everything about relationships. It’s “love, it’s joy, it’s peace, it’s patience, it’s kindness, it’s goodness, it’s faithfulness, it’s gentleness,” – look at this next one – “it’s self-control.” Self-control, not because I will it, but because I’m walking in the Spirit. I’m walking in the Force. Against such things there is no law. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” You know, I used to think that that was a one-time deal, but now that Jesus is in my life, I’ve been re-programmed. No, crucifying the sinful nature is a continuous moment-by-moment process of yielding my will to the will of the Holy Spirit. This is why just because you get older it doesn’t get easier. It’s just when you get older you spend that much more time in the Word and prayer. You realize the essentials, that you’re not just doing it out of a Christian duty, but you’re doing it to renew your mind in Christ Jesus. So let us keep in step with the Spirit. Use the Force. You see that? Let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.

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