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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - What's Really Happening?

Mark Batterson - What's Really Happening?

Mark Batterson - What's Really Happening?

What's really happening when what's happening is happening? That question has ricocheted through my mind, through my soul, hundreds of times this year. Now, it started earlier this year. I was in Miami, mid-winter. That's the right time to be in Miami. So I'm in a pool, sunlight shimmering off the surface of the water. And that question just fires across my synapses. "What's really happening right now"? Well, the reality is there's a star 93 million miles from Earth, and every second, it's about 4 million tons of matter that is turned into energy via nuclear fusion. That energy equivalent is a trillion megaton bums every single minute of every hour of every day.

And here's the thing, if Planet Earth was a little bit further away or a little bit closer to the sun, we would freeze or fry. But providentially, we find ourselves in the Goldilocks zone. So what's really happening is this amazing combustion of energy, and it all goes back to something God said, four words, "Let there be light". Without those four words, without light, there's no photosynthesis, which means there's no food chain, which means there's no you. I mean, without light, there's no sight. You don't get to enjoy the colors of the rainbow without light. There aren't any radio waves or X-rays or microwaves without light. There's nothing. What's really happening when what's happening is happening?

Let me see if I can pull this off on one foot. I don't know. Right now, it feels like you're sitting still. The truth is you're on a planet that's spinning at 1,000 miles per hour. You're speeding through space at 67,000 miles per hour. So even on a day, you didn't get much done, you did travel 1.6 million miles. This is harder than it looks. We're also part of the Milky Way Galaxy. And let me see if I can get this right, that is spinning it 468,000 miles per hour and speeding towards something. Isn't this interesting that astrophysicists called the great attractor at a mind-blowing speed of 1,342,162 miles per hour. All that spinning and speeding, I'm still on one foot, not half bad, huh?

What's really happening when what's happening is happening? I think my point is there is so much more happening in any given moment than we're aware of. I mean, just look inside for a second. In fact, take a breath. With every inhalation about 25 sextillion molecules. Oh, and you have about 30 trillion red blood cells, and every red blood cell has about 260 million protein called hemoglobin. And hemoglobin will deliver oxygen to about 100 trillion cells in the human body. And we're not even talking about the 37 sextillion chemical reactions happening simultaneously in your body all the time. Would it be fair for me to say that there's more happening than what we are aware of in any given amen moment? It's not lost on me that the fact that there are sound waves coming out of my vocal cords and they're hitting your outer ear, and then they travel into the middle ear and into the inner ear. And it is pretty remarkable.

Those vibrations will stimulate three of the tiniest bones in the human body. The hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. Then those vibrations spiral through a snail-shaped structure called the cochlea, which contains thousands of microscopic hair cells, which amplify and turn that mechanical energy into electrical energy that is transmitted almost like Morse Code through the eighth cranial nerve into the auditory cortex. And then you have an association cortex that can somehow make sense of what I'm saying. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Everything is more complicated than we can imagine. There are miracles all around us all the time.

I think as we go into 2024, I think my prayer is, Lord, give us a greater awareness of how You're working, what You're doing, what's really happening. Can I tell you what's really happening? God is ordering your footsteps. What's really happening is God is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Listen, I watch the news like you do. Can I tell you what's really happening? The kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Can I tell you what else is really happening? The angels in Heaven and the elders and the living creatures never stop singing. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. That's what's really happening.

What's really happening are the things that are beyond our five senses. What's really happening is God's good pleasing and perfect Will being executed. What's really happening is not the struggles that we experience as flesh and blood, but we wrestle against powers in principality. What really is happening is this Spiritual warfare that's happening around us. And I'm just, Lord, open my eyes to see, open my ears to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Give me a greater awareness of what's really happening. And by the way, what are we really doing when we're doing what we're doing? When we gather for House of Prayer this Thursday, yeah, we're back. We're not going through the motions. This is not some perfunctory thing. We're writing history before it happens. That's what we're doing when we pray.

When we worship, we harmonize with Heaven. And that's why it feels so right, because we're doing what the angels were doing in time before time and what we're gonna be doing in time after time. What's really happening when what's happening is happening? But I wanna look in the mirror. This is a good day. Last day of 2023. We're staring down 2024. It seems like a really good day to take a long look in the mirror. And I feel like Haggai, he's one of the minor prophets. It's one of the shortest Books in the Bible. You can, you can meet me there, maybe go to Matthew's Gospel and hang a left and it's a couple of Books over. And by the way, can I just recap? You could recap almost all of the minor prophets and major prophets this way. It's really bad right now. It is gonna get worse before it gets better.

The best is yet to come. And I think that that is where we live our lives, right? And that's why these prophets resonate. They confront the brutal facts, but they do it with unwavering faith. And so that is Haggai in a nutshell. And he asks a question or makes an observation four times. And that's what I wanna focus on. And I would almost paraphrase it as the question I'm asking what's really happening When what's happening is happening? And we will get there in a minute, but can we begin at the end and then kinda work our way backwards? 'Cause I love, I love the ending of this Book, Haggai 2:19. Just kinda let this get in your Spirit. Just kind of sink into your Spirit. What a promise this is from this day on. And it doesn't matter what day you preach this. Isn't that great? There is no expiration date on God's promises. God is so good at keeping promises, not when we want Him to. "From this day on, I will bless you".

Now, I know He's speaking through Haggai to rebel. I get it. But all Scripture is God-breathed. I believe He's speaking to you. That's His heart for every single one of us. How do I know this? Because it's the first thing God does after creating us in His image, God blesses humankind. This is God's most ancient instinct. And to read the Bible any other way is a misreading of the text. Before original sin, there was original blessing. And that sequence is not insignificant. If you miss that, you'll relate to God in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. That's why God establishes a covenant of blessing with Abraham. I will bless you and I will make you a blessing. This is why God tells the priest to pronounce blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn His countenance towards you and give you peace. Twice a day, they would pronounce that blessing.

Now I need it at least twice a day. Am I in the right room, online, are you with me? Who needs it three times? Anyone, four, five, 10, 20. Who? And then we get to the new covenant and what is that communion cup called? It's no coincidence. It is the cup of blessing. So you have a covenant of blessing, you have a priestly blessing. You have a cup of blessing. I think what God is trying to get across to us is, "From this day on, I will bless you. All you have to do is receive it". And then Paul doubles down every Spiritual blessing. How many? All of them. Every Spiritual blessing belongs to us in Christ. And so that's where this Book is heading. And then there's just this one little moment where God says at the very end, I think we might have the verse, "'On that day,' declares the Lord, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and,' declares the Lord, 'And I will make you like my signet ring.'"

Now I missed it 'cause I, thanks to our production team for putting these slides together. I left off the end of the verse because it says, one more time, "Declares the Lord". And that strikes me because three times in one sentence, God says, "I declare". If God is making a triple declaration, this is something we probably ought to double-take or triple-take. Yes. Well, what does this even mean? Well, what a beautiful promise, a signet ring. And I don't know why I would've been worn on the least dominant hand on the pinky finger, but the King would take that signet ring. All I have is an Oura ring, thanks to my wife who got me that for Christmas. They would sign, seal, and deliver by declaration, by proclamation. And what the King would invoke could not be revoked. All the authority of the King and His Kingdom resided in that signet ring.

So when God says, "You are my signet ring," you better take a long hard look in the mirror because you were designed and destined to exercise the full authority of the King and His Kingdom. But nothing less, nothing else. Our Holy confidence comes from the fact that we're His signet ring. You gotta operate within the good, pleasing, perfect Will of God, right? You gotta do the right things for the right reasons. I mean, and just for the record, when you reach the highest level of authority, Spiritually speaking, it gives you the right to relinquish all of your rights to put a towel around your waist and wash feet. This is the true expression of authority.

Well, Pastor Mark, that doesn't make any sense. Oh, it makes perfect sense 'cause you know who's able to humble themselves, those who understand that their authority comes from God. We're not operating for our own selfish purposes or for wrong intentions, we're doing what we're doing to glorify God to see His Kingdom come, His Will be done. And I don't wanna read right over this 'cause I just, I think we got some declaring to do as we go into a new year. And this isn't pulling things out of a vacuum. I'm just talking about declaring the promises of God because no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ. And so, those promises are so critical to our identity.

Now, I have a friend who's a pitching coach in the major leagues, used to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds. And he told me the story about when he was called up to the big leagues, he, the Cincinnati Reds were playing the Montreal Expos. And he had never been out of the country. So he's going through customs in Canada and you know what comes next. But he didn't, the custom agent said, "Do you have anything to declare"? If you've never heard that question, that really doesn't make a whole, like, what? So Steve said, "Pardon me," agent said, "Do you have anything to declare"? He said the first thing that came to mind, "I'm proud to be an American". He ends up handcuffed and detained and is late for his first game in the major leagues, which I think is hilarious because evidently, he declared the wrong thing. Be careful what you declare.

And by the way, words create worlds For better or for worse, the power of life and death is in the tongue. And so this is why in Scripture you'll read here and there God saying, "Do not say," like to Jeremiah, "Don't say, you're too young. Don't make excuses for me". God says. Watch this, "I can use you". There's no ageism, no sexism, no racism when it comes to the plans and purposes of God. That would be a good place for an Amen. Each and every one of us, God wants to bless, use as His signet ring. And so, can I just declare for the record, you are the image of God. You're the apple of God's eye. You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, prepared for you in advance. And even on a day when you feel defeated, I know your true identity. You are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.

Well, that's how the Book ends. Why don't we go all the way back, Haggai 1:2. This is what the Lord Almighty says. "These people say, 'The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's House.'" Oh man, that makes me wanna ask the question. If not now, when? And if not you, who? I was with someone a couple of months ago. He said something that just, he said, "Most of us say to the Lord, 'There they are, send them.'" No, no, no. Here am I. Send me. If you're taking notes, maybe just jot this down. Delayed obedience is disobedience, but it's not yet time. Oh, trust me, you'll never be ready. Can I just say, I'm so proud of so many of you who took huge steps of faith this year that took tremendous courage to leave the security of some things behind.

And I'll just pick on this, for instance, some of you started nonprofits, some of you started businesses like that. That takes a lot of courage. Can I also say like, it also takes a lot of courage to get into a romantic relationship, for example, to put a ring on it. Like, that takes courage too. Like you're never gonna be, I've never been ready for anything. I was gonna say, Lora and I weren't ready to get married. I better say I wasn't ready to get married. I don't wanna presume that upon her. I think she was more ready than I was. We weren't ready to have kids. I've never met anybody who's ready to have kids. We weren't ready to plant a church or launch a second location or start a DC Dream Center.

Here's where my job as a pastor is pretty simple. It's to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And it's the second half that I want to try to do right now. Faith is taking the first step before God reveals the second step. We're gonna be right back here in about 365 days. Is it a leap beer next year? Yeah, 366. We'll be right back here. And the question will be, "Did I step out in faith when the Spirit of God prompted me"? Let me, well, I love this. "The youth gets together, his materials to build a bridge to the moon," said Henry David Thoreau. "Or perchance, a palace or a temple on Earth, and at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them".

There's nothing wrong with woodsheds, but I would say, go after a dream that's destined to fail without divine intervention. Live your life in a way that's worth telling stories about. I think when I say what's really happening, when what's happening is happening, it's waking us up to the plans and purposes of God. Here's what I know for sure. God's vision for your life is bigger than yours. And that doesn't necessarily mean I need to influence a million people. No, no, no. That might mean devoting your entire life to one person that the rest of the world gives up on, or discounts, or says they aren't important. That's not for me to define. But we have a little core value at NCC. And it's counterintuitive because the old idiom is, "Ready, set, go". We operate the opposite way, "Go, set, ready".

Do your homework, do your groundwork, do your due diligence. But at some point, when God says "Go," let's go. Let's go. You will never be ready. So Ecclesiastes 11:4 is not just a verse, it's a prescription that occasionally, I'll give to people and say, "I want you to read this twice a day for 30 days". Ecclesiastes 11:4, 'cause it made such a huge difference in my life. "Whoever watches the wind will not plant. Whoever looks at the clouds will not reap". In other words, if you wait for the right circumstances, you'll never find them. George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want. And if they can't find them, they make them"..

And that brings us to verse 3. And we'll close with this then. "Then the Word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai, 'It is time.'" It is time. By the way, most of us have a hard time telling time. It's kind of fun, I have a nephew, Bert, who got a watch, just learned how to tell time. And let's just say I knew what time it was on Christmas day. About every five minutes. There's chronological time. Chronos is the Greek word but then there's kairos. It's this other word for time that can be translated. Time or opportunity, it's carpe diem. It's seizing the opportunity. When I ask the question, "What's really happening when what's happening is happening"?

What I'm saying is, may we have a growing awareness of where and how God is at work. And then how we can join that. There's a time for everything, right? There's a time to cry and a time to laugh. Go read Ecclesiastes 3. "There's a time to grieve and a time to rejoice". And by the way, could we have sensitivity to other people's timelines? I think you have to know what season you're in. Some of us wanna be in harvest season right now. No, no, no. It's planting season. You're gonna have to plant that seed in the ground. It's going to take a minute. And it's still gonna take me a minute, Pastor Josh. So everything, you have to know what season you're in. You have to discern the time that God is working. And that's not easy. We also have to really discern what are we really doing when we're doing what we're doing?

Fredrick Buechner, one of my favorite authors, he said, "If I were to call upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say, both as a novelist and a preacher, it would be something like this. Listen to your life". And I think that's where I'm going this weekend. Listen to your life. Did I read the whole thing? I didn't. "It is time for you yourselves to be living in paneled houses while the house remains in ruins. Now, this is what the Lord Almighty says," and here it is. "Give careful thought to your ways". Now here's the thing. I can't do this for you and you can't do this for me. "Give careful thought to your ways, you have planted much, but harvested little". The NLT says, "Look at what's happening to you". The KJV says, "Consider your ways". The message says, "Take a good hard look at your life".

I mean, it's hard for me to preach this and not think about the question that Lora read when she was first diagnosed with cancer. And she's fought two bouts with cancer and she's on the other side doing great. Hallelujah. The question was this, "What have you come to teach me"? Some of us are so anxious to get outta situations that we never get anything out of those situations. And then we wonder why we find ourselves right back in those situations. You gotta take what Carol Dweck would call a growth mindset or what Ellen Langer would call mindfulness. It's a learning posture towards life that, what have you come to teach me? Consider your ways, give careful thought to your life.

Stephen Covey said, "Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant". Carl Jung said, "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate". I wanna, lemme try to tell a story real quick, and then we'll close. I, it's an interesting story for me to share. I don't even know why, but I remember this moment a few years ago, and I've had a few different counselors over the years that I'm just so grateful for their influence in my life. I've never met anybody who doesn't need counseling for something at some point. So I'm telling him about this experience I had as a kid.

Now, I grew up in Minnesota. We'd go out and play "Kick the Can," "Hide and Seek," "Capture the Flag," until my mom would ring the dinner bell. Now, this was the precursor to the smartphone. This is how parents called their children home at the end of the day. And so, I'll never forget this moment. I remember we were having so much fun and I ran into the house. I sat down at the table, and I said, and I'll never forget it, and it's so bizarre to me that I remember this moment, but it's so embedded into my subconscious. I said, "We gotta hurry up and eat 'cause my friends are waiting". And it wasn't a panic attack. It might've been like the first manifestation of FOMO, fear of missing out.

But there was this visceral anxiety that I felt probably at five that I didn't want to keep my friends waiting. And then, I said something to my counselor that almost like, "Wait, what did I just say"? 'Cause I, without a filter, I said, "I don't wanna disappoint anyone ever". And when it came outta my mouth, it was like, "Hmm. That might not be okay". And he was so kind, but he said, "Mark," and there was a lot of compassion, "Mark, that is an awfully big burden to bear". And then he kind of smiled and said, "Seems to me like Jesus disappointed everyone". I do wonder. And I, whenever I feel an impression to share a story like this, I figure the Holy Spirit has His reasons. Saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else. You might need to disappoint someone.

Please hear me. For the right reasons. You might need to even offend someone for the right reasons. Jesus offended Pharisees with great intentionality. And I'll just trust the Holy Spirit to figure out what's in your subconscious that maybe you haven't identified that's directing more behavior. Maybe you're a people pleaser like me. And at the end of the day, if you're afraid of offending people, you will invariably offend God. And if you don't want to offend God, you will invariably offend some people along the way. You can't have it both ways. Give careful thought to your ways. Let me close with this. Our predominant prayer. Lord, change my circumstances. Right? Change this situation out here. But sometimes the circumstances that we ask God to change, are the circumstances that God is using to change us.

Now that prayer doesn't work, our secondary prayer is, Lord, change them 'cause that's just so much easier than changing myself. And, come on, we think the other person is the problem. Yeah. And I just, more and more, I've realized like, here's my prayer going into 2024, okay, it's not real complicated. Here is my prayer, and I wonder if you might wanna make it your prayer. "Change me. God, change me". There's nothing wrong with asking God to change your circumstances. There's nothing wrong for praying for other people who are struggling with an addiction or struggling with a controlling behavior is something that you just, there's nothing wrong. Let's go to the altar, not just for ourselves, but to intercede on behalf of other people.

So, Lord, yeah, Lord, change our circumstances, change our city. Change our nature, change them. Oh, God, it's me, oh, Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Change me. Change my mind. Give me the mind of Christ. Change my heart. Let my heart break for the things that break the heart of God, change me, and transform me into the image of Christ. And I just, I'm not sure there's a way for that to happen without being betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, mocked by Pharisees, and crucified by soldiers. I'm just, I'm not sure there's a way to, I wanted to talk about forgiving reality, but I'll just leave it there. It is what it is. I've said that three dozen times this year, I'm just written in my journal, mm. Don't like this, don't like that. Don't like the other thing. It is what it is. Change me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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