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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Tears of Joy

Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Tears of Joy

Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Tears of Joy
TOPICS: Dream 24, Joy

"Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I've got a beautiful feeling. Everything's going your way". That was my alarm clock as a kid. My mom would walk into my room and wake me up with that song. I thought she wrote it. I had no idea it was a Rodgers and Hammerstein. Opening song in "Oklahoma". I'm in my 20s, I'm in a store, and I hear that song. Mom? Mom, they stole your song. I think all of us have a soundtrack. And that song was the first song in the soundtrack of my life. I think it seeped into my subconscious. I think it shaped my psyche in some ways that maybe I wasn't even aware of. Isn't it true that there are songs during different seasons of life that just mark those moments that mark our life?

I remember in high school I would work out, and I had a portable cassette player, cutting edge technology in the '80s. And I'd clip my Walkman to my elastic shorts, short shorts, and I would listen to the "Eye of the Tiger", 'cause that's what our high school band played when we came out after halftime. When Laura and I started dating, I remember this moment, driving from the University of Chicago, northbound on Lake Shore Drive, and oh, it came on the radio, y'all, Roy Orbison, "You Got It", that was our makeout song. I'm kidding, not. Yes, I am. Fast forward a few years, and July 23rd, 2000, my intestines rupture. Emergency surgery in the middle of the night, two days on a respirator, lost 25 pounds, wore an ostomy bag for six months.

Can I tell you what got me up outta that hospital bed? Darrell Evans, "I'm Trading My Sorrow", I'm trading my sickness for the joy of the Lord. I must have played that song 400 times. That song is part of the soundtrack of my life. We're in a series on Psalm 126, Like Those Who Dream. It is 1 of 15 songs in a soundtrack. This is the playlist that the Jewish people would play with their Walkmans on the way to Jerusalem. Imagine your movie without a soundtrack. It doesn't work, does it? I mean, the scenes are not the same. If you take "Night Fever" outta "Saturday Night Fever", all you have is Saturday. You're barely staying alive. It's "Frozen" without "Let It Go". It's "Barbie" without, "I'm Just Ken". Anywhere else that'd be a 10. It's "Star Wars" without "Star Wars". "Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars. If they should bar wars, let Star Wars stay".

It's a singing Sunday at NCC, my apologies. Imagine Rocky training in Siberia, running up that mountain, you gotta love it in the leather jacket, right? He's doing inverted sit ups in the barn, he's doing shoulder presses with an oxcart, we're lunging through waist deep snow. But you gotta have the training montage, right? It's not the same without it. I think there's something about music, there's something in particular about worship, for the record, what was happening in time before time? Worship was happening. What was happening in time after time? Worship. Worship predates Genesis, worship postdates Revelation. So what we're gonna do for all eternity, now, it's certainly not just singing, right? It's so many things. But I wanna talk about the soundtrack of your life. Now, we lost the melody, but we still have the lyrics, and we'll get there in just a second.

Welcome to National Community Church on MLK Weekend. So glad you're here, shout out NOVA Campus, love our new digs, 400 parking spots at the Waterford. I'll be there live at the 10:30, can't wait. Shout out to our extended family online, much love. And we're gonna jump right in. Grab your Bible, you can meet me on the southern steps that lead to the gates of Jerusalem, and I'll show you a picture. This is where pilgrims from all over the ancient world would arrive in Jerusalem. So imagine them climbing these steps, and it's almost like the last song in the soundtrack, right? And they're finally, just the celebration, these are like the Rocky steps, if you will.

This is where they would sing the Psalms of Ascents. Psalm 126:1, "A song of ascents, when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed". We'll dig on that next week. "Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes like the streams in the Negev. Those who sow in joy will reap in joy". Come on, you better chickity-check your pastor. No, "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy". "Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow will return", oh, let it be Lord, "With songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them". What is most striking about these lyrics to me, this song, is that they've just spent 70 years as prisoners of war in Babylon. Talk about trauma.

Now this long before PTSD was added to the "DSM-III", but it was no less real. The the Babylonians destroyed their temple and then desecrated all that was sacred to them. They stole their homes, they stole their children. But there was one thing they could not steal, you cannot take our joy, you cannot take our songs of joy. Listen, like slaves in this country who would sing spirituals, they worshiped their way through some of the hardest times they had ever experienced. Can I tell you today, that there is a joy that the world can't give and the world can't take it away? Who knows what I'm talking about? It's the joy of the Lord. It's the joy of our salvation. It's joy unspeakable and full of glory. "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay".

"Joy", said C.S. Lewis, "Is the serious business of heaven". Joy is our JND, it's the just noticeable difference. Joy is our apologetic. Can I just be blunt today? If your life lacks joy, ain't nobody want what you have. We're entering revival week, and I'm praying God does some amazing things. Now, can we just be honest with each other? You can't schedule revival any more than you can plan Pentecost, right? But you can posture yourself, you can prepare yourself. And so I'm believing for God to revive some marriages that need reconciling, revive some bodies that need healing, revive some hopes and dreams. But this would rank right up there for me, I'm praying for a revival of joy. Not the kind the world can give, the kind only God can give. I'm not talking about superficial joy, I'm not talking about circumstantial joy, I'm not talking about joy as a function of personality, I'm talking about joy as a function of theology.

I wanna zoom in on this one little phrase, "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy". Let's talk about it. I wanna talk about joy, then we'll talk about tears, then we'll double back to joy with two challenges. Now, I haven't done this in a lot of years, but I have a word of the year this year. And that word is delight. It is the Hebrew word tov. Now the English language has about 170,000 words, and we keep adding words, right? Like, so last year, the word of the year Oxford dictionary was rizz. Now, I have a niece, her name is Renzie, but I call her Rizzie, 'cause she's got charisma. By the way, the runner up was swifty. And I'm sure Travis Kelce was sad. So be it. Biblical Hebrew has 8,000 words. So English has 170,000, biblical Hebrew has 8,000 words. So English has more words, but Hebrew words have more meaning.

Now, Lois Tverberg said it this way, and I love this, "The richness of the Hebrew language comes from its poverty, because the ancient language has so few words, each one is like an overstuffed suitcase, bulging with extra meanings that it must carry in order for the language to fully describe reality". So tov is like one of those overstuffed suitcases when the gate agent stops you and makes sure that it fits in, right? But it doesn't, right? It's like two bulging to fit in the overhead bin. Six times in Genesis 1 a little phrase is repeated, and God saw that it was tov. That's the word.

Now, tov is not just good, it's gooder than good. Tov is as good as it gets. Tov is too good to be true, yet it is. But it's not just good, oh, stick with me, there's a payoff here, it's a good feeling. Oh, this is James Brown good, "I feel good". I'm gonna have mercy on you, right, right there. I would argue, don't miss this, that tov is originally emotion. This is big, this is the first feeling recorded in scripture. God's reaction to light is delight. God's reaction to plants and animals. Oh, that's tov. And then we get to Adam and Eve, these image bearers, oh, that's very tov. You know what God's doing right now? He's rejoicing over you with singing. He can't not. He's doing what he did on day one, two, three, four, five, and six of creation. Tov is this feeling of pure delight. It's overwhelming awe in the face of something that's just too beautiful. Tov is joy unspeakable and full of glory, and I'm praying for it, for you and for me, it is my word of the year.

Now, here's the thing, it's one thing to define it, this is a tough picture to paint. So lemme tell a story. Is it okay? I mean, this is cathartic for me, it's helpful for me, I'm living in this word this year. But I want us, if you don't have a word of the year, come on, let's go, jump on this tov train. So May 27th, 2005, we are in Ethiopia. And what a joy, we were there to help Pastor Zeb Mengistu and Beza International Church as they launched their first service. And by the way, I think there were a couple dozen people there, half of them were our team. Don't despise the day of small beginnings. Do you know that right now they're constructing a 7,000 seat auditorium right there in Addis. But they're not just believing for a capital city, not just for the country of Ethiopia, they host Africa Arise, they're believing for a continent.

And we got in on the IPO. This is what we love to do as a church, this is what our dream collective is all about. It's like, oh, there's a God ordained dream, oh, there's a God-sized dream, let's get behind that and see what God can do. And so we went and we served that week and loved every minute of it. But then they wanted, on the last day, to just kinda bless our team with a game drive in Awash National Park. And so we got up early, we drove out of the city, and we stopped for a little lunch. And we were taking some pictures of some cows when all of a sudden these armed shepherds carrying AK-47s come outta nowhere. And we're pretty much held up at gunpoint. Evidently, if you take pictures of their cows, they want cash, they were cash cows. Have you ever had one of those experiences that is just, it's scary when it's happening, but immediately after it was awesome? Yeah, we're driving away and I'm like, wow, we just got held up at gunpoint in Ethiopia. Laura was not as excited about that.

So we get outta Dodge, we go off road, and they take us to a natural spring heated by a volcano. And they say it's 114 degrees. Oh, it was. Like, one guy on our trip fainted within five minutes flat. Fortunately Pastor Joel, he had a camcorder, this is back in the day. He had a camcorder. And he captured the entire thing on video, when this guy was going under the water, plunging to his certain depth, camera didn't even move. We're gonna get this, we're gonna get this on video. Fortunately, someone else on the team had to get to mercy, right, and rescued them. We may have watched that video more than once. That was fun. So we're checking into the campsite, oh my, and there are like 80 baboons kind of hanging out in the trees doing, listen, do not tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor.

Have you ever seen the backside of a baboon? And one of them poops on someone on our team. Sarah, can you believe it, that that would happen? And at first, I felt sorry for them. And then I felt a little envious, because what an icebreaker. Like, hey, tell us something about yourself? Well, I was once pooped on by a baboon in Ethiopia. Like, you can't top that, right? What a story. And then finally we did what we had gone to do, we're sitting on top of Land Rovers, and we're on this game drive, and I'm seeing animals that are uncaged in their natural habitat. I'm seeing animals, I don't know your name, but you're beautiful. And the African sun is setting, and then we go back to the campsite and we make a campfire, and we're just worshiping the Lord, the guards who are there because of the wildlife, quiet us down at one moment, and we hear a lion roaring, we hope in the distance.

And so finally at the end of the day, I crawl into my pup tent, this is a little embarrassing, but I brought my computer. And so it was a very iridescent, glowing pup tent. But I'll tell you what I did, I just started typing furiously, capturing every moment, absolutely everything from that day, taking delight in every moment, stepping back, thank you, Lord, for this, and that, and that, and this, what a moment. And then I penned what is now one of my rules of life, and it's so memorable because when you come up with it in a pup tent in Awash National Park, you aren't gonna forget it. The the rule of life is this, don't accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences. That is as close as I've ever come to tov. That's as close as I've ever come at the end of the day to truly taking delight in everything that had happened.

And I know exactly what you're thinking, "Pastor Mark, what world are you living in?" Oh, the same world you are. I watch the same news cycles, it's heartbreaking. I have the same issues. There's not a person online, in person that doesn't struggle with anger, pride, lust, should I keep going? We live in a fallen world, a broken world, but I want to tell you something, there's something called the law of first mention in hermeneutics, that the first time a word is mentioned, it carries a little extra weight, it sets precedent. And I would argue that what's happening in Genesis 1 is God sets an example for us. We talk so much about this weekly rhythm called the Sabbath, six days of work, one day of rest. Well, what about the daily rhythm called delight? What about just doing it the end of every day? But Pastor Mark, I have bad days. You and me both. I have been there and done that, right?

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord". Even on the most ordinary day, you travel 1.6 million miles through space, your heart beats 100,000 times. You inhale and exhale 23,000 times. You know, my favorite gratitude that Laura puts in her journal, I'm still here. See, after two bouts with cancer, after ruptured intestines, you take much less for granted, and you take much more for gratitude. Listen, life is hard, but it's gonna be impossible without joy. And so may we learn to tov. So let me ask the question, how many smiles per gallon are you getting these days? Studies have found that children smile 400 times a day, adults smile 20 times a day. So somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose 380 smiles a day. We gotta get those back.

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, then your face will really show it. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands". Alright, let's flip the script. Can we talk about sowing in tears? One of my strengths is positivity. I make no apologies for that. There's a piece of poetry hanging in my office, it's an Emily Dickinson, "I Dwell In Possibility". I'm like the little boy who got a pile of manure for his birthday and was absolutely giddy, because with this much manure, there's gotta be a pony in here somewhere. Like, welcome to my world. But every strength has a weakness. So when a situation gets too stressful, too serious, too sad, this is the guy that cracks the joke for years and years thinking I was doing everybody a favor. I had a bout with sadness a couple of years ago, I'm like, where did this come from?

Well, Mark, maybe you've been repressing some things forever. Everybody has closets, closets of sadness, closets of grief, closets of pain and suffering, closets of disappointment. And those closets come in all sizes and shapes. Some of them are like, really ordered, like Marie Kondo. Some of them are totally disorganized, like Albert Einstein. Some of them are locked, some of them are unlocked. But I think one of the things that I've learned in my life is that whatever you repress will eventually depress. If you don't own it, it will own you. If you don't name it, it will name you. So I just finally got enough courage to talk to a counselor about it, and it helped me immeasurably. And guess what? I sowed some tears. I still sow tears.

Someone on our staff, Kirsten said that, "Pastor Mark, I think you have the gift of tears". I don't want it, but I think she's right. I used to call them negative emotions. Are you kidding me? What a gift from God. If you don't feel sadness, there's nothing that you really love. Dr. Anita Phillips wrote an amazing book, "The Garden Within". She'll be with us Friday night for revival, you do not wanna miss it. She tells a heartbreaking story about a mother who lost a daughter when a neighbor boy intentionally, arson, set six homes on fire, a dozen people dead, including this mom's daughter. She finally went to see Anita, why? This is eight years later. And one of the neighbors who had also lost a child, had committed suicide, it had become too much.

And I think this mom realized like, ooh, I better walk into that closet, I better open the door. And here's what she said to Dr. Anita, "Everyone wants me wearing a t-shirt with #blessed printed on it. I hate it so much. It makes me feel like I'm falling short of the Christian victory". If that's you today, you're not falling short. This is the human experience. You know the hardest thing to forgive, to forgive reality. I can't tell you how many times in the last four years I've said, it is what it is. Here we are. What do we do now? Can I make two quick observations about grief? One, please let people grieve at their own pace, in their own way. Please, don't punch them with platitudes.

This mother, when she came to see Anita, and she opened that grief closet, just like a flash flood of tears, she said, "This is the first time I have cried in front of another person since my daughter's funeral". Dr. Anita said this, "That first tear was her first step to living a powerful life". But Pastor Mark, I thought we were talking about joy? Oh, we are, we're talking about a joy that is sowed with tears. Two, there is something about grief that increases capacity for joy. I wish that wasn't true, but that's my experience. We love the apostle Paul, "I wanna know Christ and the power of His resurrection". And we flex on that first half of the verse. "And the participation in His suffering", not so much. It's a package deal. "Jesus wept".

Shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. Oh, but it speaks volumes. You know, there are three times that Jesus weeps, one of them there, and then He weeps over Jerusalem, and then in the Garden of Gethsemane. Imagine, He's about to be crucified by His creation. There's this old saying, cry like a baby. And there are different connotations, so I wanna be careful, but it could connote that it's somehow immature to cry. The problem with that is this, Jesus cried frequently, authentically, and publicly. And so I would say cry like Jesus. It's okay to not be okay. God wants to heal those hurts, God wants to sanctify those emotions. But in my experience, joy can't get out of the closet until sadness does, until grief does.

Good news, friend, there is a God who gives beauty for ashes, there is an oil of joy for mourning, there is the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Two challenges this weekend, one, curate a playlist. And two, keep a gratitude journal. Let me touch on those two real quick, and I'll start with the second one first, keep a gratitude journal. This has been so healthy and so holy for Laura and I. It's like one of the things that we're religious about. Our Sabbath is Monday, 'cause I pastor a church on Sunday. But what we do is we share our gratitudes with each other, and it doubles our joy. It's like we get to rejoice all over again. Like, I'm not the greatest counselor in the world.

In fact, if you come to me for counseling, you're gonna need more counseling. But I would say a couple of things right here, find a wife, find a husband who worships, 'cause there's gonna be some seasons where you gotta worship your way through it. That's how you're gonna get through it. You know, fascinating study that gratitude and anxiety cannot coexist in the human mind. The autonomic nervous system is binary, right? There's the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system. And I am more and more awed that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And so the sympathetic nervous system, of course, is fight or flight. But that's a lot of cortisol happening in your body, this is where stress comes from.

Parasympathetic is rest and digest. By the way, half of the nerve endings attached to your lungs are on the lower half of the lungs. Take a deep breath. And it's the nerve endings on the lower half of your lungs that are connected to the parasympathetic nervous system. So literally, by taking a deep breath, you can activate it. But what I'm getting at is gratitude flips a switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system. And I just, I don't have any more time to talk about that one. But oh, I will say this, instead of numbering gratitudes this year, I have a word every single day.

So day one was delight, this is how I started the year. And I'm gonna nuance by narrating what that word means to me. I mean, every January we mark the day that my father-in-law passed away 26 years ago. And on that day, the word was legacy, just grateful. Sadness was one of the words, 'cause it got the better part of me one day. Puppies was another one, Matt Johnson, little golden retriever named Cassidy running around our offices. We have a new policy, you have to bring your dog to work. So you can number 'em, you can come up with a word, but who's in, keep a gratitude journal? Come on, come on, let's get in on that game. And two, curate a playlist.

Now I'll go quick. I have a playlist for lots of things, I have a writing playlist, it's instrumental so I don't get distracted. I have that workout playlist, "Eye of the Tiger". We have our make out playlist. Can I just say, nothing wrong with that? Amen. But I'm talking about a worship playlist, okay? A worship playlist, why is this so important? Because whatever you don't turn into praise, turns into pride. Whatever you don't turn into praise, turns into pain. Listen, I don't care if you're on Spotify, Apple, or Walkman, what you need to do is let these songs seep into your subconscious. What you need to do is let those songs shape your psyche. It was Dan Campbell who said, "Music lulls children to sleep and marches men to war".

And it does everything in between, music lets the child in us play, the monk in us pray, the cowgirl in us line dance, and the hero in us surmount all obstacles. I mean, Andrew Fletcher said, "Let me make the songs of the nation and I care not who makes its laws". But what I'm getting at is two things, one, you can't not worship. Yes, you can't not worship. If you do not worship God with a capital G, you will substitute to a lesser God. And two, you become what you worship. So we're just gonna take a few minutes and worship the Lord. And as we do, there's something about worship that can turn those tears into joy. In Jesus' name, amen.
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