In this past year, I feel like I lived for 1 year but aged 10 years.  Do you feel like that?  The feeling like you are stuck, stressed, frustrated.  Almost like you feel frozen and there is nothing you can do about it.  This past year has been filled with chaos.  And it has led to people feeling exhausted. Exhausted emotionally, physically, politically, I could go on and on.

Let’s quickly walk through what we have dealt with in this past year.  We faced our generation’s first pandemic leading to no toilet paper – that was a treat.  What was that all about?  In the beginning we were told to not wear masks.  Then we were told you must wear masks.  Then we were told, maybe two masks would be better.  That mask thing has created so much rage on both sides – right?  We experienced radical change like the 6-foot rule, businesses being forced to close, school changes, holiday changes, travel changes, stimulus money, new vaccines developed in a year.  We faced the most passionate election cycle – ever.  In 2016 one side said, the elections were stolen.  Then in 2020, the other side said, the elections were stolen.  And to add to that, we have faced fast social change.  BLM, Antifa leading to over 2 billion in damages and 25 people dying.  Rioting at the Capital leading to five people dying.  We are living in a cancel culture and the Equality Act to be voted on.  And to make all this change more volatile, to throw gas on the fire, the media outlets can’t agree on what real news is.  If you watch different cable channels, you would think they are reporting on different countries. One word: chaos.

What is the driver of all this chaos?  Fear.

What has this done to us?  It has divided us and created loneliness, depression, anger, anxiety and on and on.

What are people focused on?  What do they talk about?  Fear and all the most recent news stories and chaos.

What is the one thing people struggle to focus on?  God.

Let’s stop and ask the question, what is going on?  What has happened?  Would it surprise you, if I told you, the answer is in the Bible?  I want to read what the bible says.  Before I do, I need to give you context.  Paul is writing the church in Ephesus.  He writes about what it means to be in a community of believers in a godless culture.  He explains what it looks like to be committed to each other and walking in unity.  Paul says the church should have the highest moral standards and not go along with the godless culture around them.  He wants the church to know, they are in a spiritual battle against dark forces, so they need to pray.  Knowing this context, let’s read.

And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. MSG Ephesians 4:17-19

Did you see that?  Paul calls the culture an empty headed, mindless crowd who refuses to deal with God.  That means, people refused to make the decision to put God in first place.  And they have lived this way for so long, they have lost touch with God.  They ignore God.  They have no moral compass.  They don’t care about God or the things of God.  They don’t know God.  They don’t experience His love and grace.  They have no hope for the future.  They shut their minds and hardened their hearts about God and the things of God.  They have turned God off.

Just a quick time out.  If you want to see what happens to a culture after the people ignore God for a couple hundred years, read the book of Judges.  Remember last summer we walked you through what happened?  Their culture spiraled into spiritual chaos.  It’s happening today.  Judges is a story about us.  We are only reliving what we have already read in scripture.

This is what is recorded.

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. NLT Judges 21:25

In Judges, they took their focus off of God and ignored Him.  They did what they thought was right.  The result?  Chaos.

Now fast forward to the days of Paul writing to the Church in Ephesus.

They took their focus off of God and ignored Him.  They did what they thought was right.  The result?  Chaos.

Paul said, not only did the culture lose touch with God, they couldn’t deal with reality.  Isn’t that us today?  People today can’t deal with truth, with facts, with reality.  If you tell people the truth today, you can be considered insensitive, hateful, lose your job and you will be deplatformed from social media.  Last year, if I said, God created man and woman, that would have been accepted as okay and truth.  Today, that is considered offensive.  Why?  Our culture can’t handle reality.  We are creating a fake world and calling it reality.

What is happening in the world we live in today?  Quite simple.  We are only reliving what we have read in scripture.  We have taken our focus off of God and ignored Him.  Everyone today does what they think is right.  The result?  Chaos.

And before we point the finger at our culture, I think it can describe many people who attend church in North America.  People say, “I’m a non-practicing… fill in the blank.”  Or, they say, “The Bible says this but I believe… fill in the blank.”  The people in church struggle to do the most simple of things.  To surrender their lives to God and meet with God daily in reading the Bible and prayer.  A couple weeks ago I said, that doesn’t mean you are struggling to be a good Christian, that means you are struggling to be a Christian.  It’s the foundation to following Christ.

What has been MRC’s response to this past year?  The one year that has aged us for 10 years?  We are encouraging everyone to engage God more.  Why?  Because we read scripture.

What do the prophets tell us?

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it. NLT Isaiah 30:15

The messages from God over and over and over is rest in Me.  Trust Me.  Put Me in first place.  For goodness sake, what does God tell us in His 10 simple commands?  Don’t put your trust in anything but Me.  Rest in Me.  Don’t worship idols.  What does Jesus tell us?  The greatest thing you can do is love God.

What does Paul tell us in his letter to Ephesus?

God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. MSG Ephesians 1:20-23

Paul says, Christ is the center.  Our culture is peripheral to the church, the church is not peripheral to culture.  That means Christ is the center of church and we are inviting people into what Christ is up to.

Listen, because we read scripture, as we walk through the chaos of today, our challenge to people has been to engage God more.  But it has been difficult because many people seem to engage the chaos more.

We believe what God is up to, is reality.  What God is up to, is relevant.  What God is doing, is central.  What God is up to is more important than anything else.  And, everything else that we have lived through in the past year, has been a distraction to what God is doing.  The chaos in our world today is a result of sin and the damage it creates.  It’s a result of us refusing to deal with God for so long, we have lost touch with God and reality.  If we as a culture would put God in first place, our issues would go away.

Our challenge to people to engage God more, I will say, like the people in the days of Judges, has disappointed and inspired people.  For some, because we don’t preach for or against issues, they think we are ignoring the issues.  Maybe they even think we lack courage.  Truth is, we are living through the same chaos too and we know that preaching for or against issues only becomes a distraction to what God is doing.  Many churches will passionately take sides and fight because it appears relevant.  When that happens, the church is just reactionary to culture and fails to see that the world is peripheral to the church, the church is not peripheral to the world.

To some, staying focused on God has been inspiring.  They are passionately focused on God and enjoying their relationship with God as they walk through the chaos.  They are rising up and standing firm.  They are experiencing peace and joy and courage that only comes from God giving them the Holy Spirit.  We have received a lot of great feedback for the winter series that talked about courage.

What is happening in the world we live in?  Quite simple.  If you are reading scripture, you know, we are only reliving the Bible stories of old.  We are only reliving what Paul wrote.  We have taken our focus off of God and ignored Him.  Everyone today does what they think is right.  The result?  Chaos.

What has been MRC’s response?  We are encouraging people to engage God more.  Why?  Because we read scripture and believe, what God is up to is most important and everything else is a distraction.

What is God up to?  Glad you asked.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV John 3:16

God sent Jesus to save you, to rescue you from your mess and the chaos of this world.  This week is Holy Week.  It’s the story of Jesus walking to the cross.  And on that cross, Jesus would die as God poured our sin into Him.

Today is called Palm Sunday.  It’s the beginning of the week.  This is what is recorded.

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” NIV Matthew 21:6-10

Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.  It was a sign of peace.  He was entering into the last week of His life.  I want you to allow this moment to impact your heart.  This week, this is what Jesus walked into.  He would be betrayed by one of His disciples.  He would be arrested and beaten.  He would be whipped beyond recognition.  He would be openly humiliated.  All His friends would scatter in fear.  He would be spiked to a cross as a criminal.  He would hang there for six hours slowly suffocating.  It would be the most humiliating, painful and violent death.

Jesus knew exactly what He was walking into this week.  And He did it willingly.  And He did it for you.  And because of that, you get to walk into a personal relationship with God, free from sin and guilt and fear.

Scripture walks us through what happened.

Who has believed our message?  To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?  2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground.  There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

3 He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.  And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!  5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.  6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.  8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.  No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.  But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.  9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.  But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.  Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.  He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.

11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.  And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death.  He was counted among the rebels.  He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.  TLB Isaiah 53

What is happening in the world we live in?  We have taken our focus off of God and ignored Him.  Everyone today does what they think is right.  The result?  Chaos.

What has been MRC’s response?  We are encouraging people to engage God more.  Why?  Because we read scripture.  And we believe what God is up to is most important and everything else is a distraction.

What is God up to?  He sent Jesus to be spiked to a cross to pay our debt.

So how do we live in a world of chaos?

What do we do?  First, understand your enemy.

Our struggle 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 realms. NIV Ephesians 6:12

We have an enemy and it’s not people.  It’s bigger than that.  What we are facing are the spiritual forces of this dark world.  Our enemy isn’t people, so we love people.  We are in a spiritual battle.

Secondly, if that battle is against spiritual forces, you have nothing to bring to fight.

Jesus said:

I am the vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood. MSG – Jesus in John 15:5

You must understand, you bring nothing to the spiritual battle – seriously – nothing.  Not your knowledge.  Not your accomplishments.  Not all the good things you do.  You bring nothing to the battle.  You and I are completely dependent on God and his presence.

Paul said:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. NLT Philippians 4:6-7

Paul, the one who watched Stephen be stoned.  The one who passionately pursued and killed Christians.  The one who was radically converted.  The one who faced constant risk of death to talk about God’s grace said, pray.  Whatever you do, pray.  Paul’s whole life was facing chaos and he said, pray.

The chaos you are living in, is a spiritual battle.  What is happening in our culture, is a spiritual battle.  That means people are not your enemy.  And, you bring nothing to the battle – nothing.  All you have to survive and bring change is your relationship with Jesus.  That’s why Paul said, pray.  Whatever you do, pray.

We are in living days that require us, as disciples of Jesus, to engage God more.  Read your Bible.  Pray.  Fast.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it. NLT Isaiah 30:15

Will you be that person?  How do you respond to God today?