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For Thine Is The Kingdom - Mark 4:21-34

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02.11.2024 notes
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I know some people think of me as the “young” pastor - but I am old enough to remember the invention of the smart phone. And probably the biggest step was the increase in the quality of cameras. Do you remember the cameras we used to have on flip phones? Whew - those pictures were rough! But then along came the smart phone, and FINALLY we could capture decent photos with the camera in our pocket. And I remember, my dad loves to tell this story of the first time he ever used the camera on his smart phone. He was at a leadership retreat out on Lake Huron. I don’t know if any of you have ever been over to the Lake Huron Retreat Center - but it’s beautiful, and right on the water. And my dad is at this retreat, watching the sunset. And it’s incredible - God’s power and glory out on display. And my dad, with his brand new phone, thinks to himself, “oh man, I’ve GOT to capture this moment. And he pulls out his little iPhone 4, and takes a picture. Then he takes a moment and looks at the picture on his phone, and he’s marveling at it. Wow, isn’t this a great picture. And he turns to his friend - another pastor and says, “Hey, check out this amazing picture of the sunset.” And the friend, who does not look away from the horizon says, “Why on earth would I want look at it on your phone, when I’ve got it right in front of me?” Hmmmmm. Now for me personally, I’ve always found cell phones (even the ones with the BEST cameras) - I’ve always found those phones to be disappointing. I’ll see something incredible in nature, and then I’ll try to document it - and even the good pictures just don’t fully capture the amazingness that’s in front of me. 

I actually think that’s a lot like the kingdom of God. I have a theory I’ve been working on that the kingdom of God is super hard to explain. Like, Jesus had been there - he knew exactly what it was like, and yet it was a bit of a struggle to describe. It’s hard to capture exactly what the kingdom of God is like. A little bit, Jesus is like, “look, you just have to come and check it out.” Rather than just one big story or a famous passage - Jesus gives us these little nuggets. Tiny stories about what the kingdom of God is like. It’s like a lamp on a stand, like a mustard seed, like a farmer scattering seeds, like a woman with a coin, like a man who found treasure in a field, like a man who found a pearl - and each one is like 1 or 2 verses and that’s it. Each one gives you a little sliver, like a little puzzle piece of what the kingdom of God looks like. 

As many of you know, today is the last sermon in our series The Lord’s Prayer. For 2024 Aldersgate Church is going to be focusing on fellowship and prayer. Last year we did the Chronological Bible study - which was awesome, but this year we really wanted to shift our focus to prayer - and what better way to do that than to start with the prayer that Jesus taught us. So we have been walking through the text these past few weeks, and all of it comes together for the finale - “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

So let’s dive in to some of these puzzle pieces that we find in the gospel of Mark. Chapter 4, verse 21 gets us started. [read v.21]. Boom. One verse. A lamp is placed on a stand where it’s light will shine. And you see, the lamp is really a matter of priorities. One of my favorite CS Lewis quotes, I actually have a coffee coaster with this quote on my desk in my office. It says, ““I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun…not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.” In your life you might think you’ve got a lot of really important things to do - but if you don’t put the lamp on the lamp stand, you’ll be working in darkness. In our lives as Christians, there’s a lot of things we do - but we can’t do any of it without putting God first. There is a point of surrender where we turn to God and we say, “okay God - your kingdom come, your will be done.” For THINE is the kingdom, it’s not my kingdom, it’s thine. There’s an old philosopher Vernon McGee who once said, “This is God’s universe, and God does things his way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.” It’s God’s universe, and when we acknowledge him as our lord - we set him up as the first priority, and everything else flows from it. The first step in living out the kingdom of God is alignment. Our priorities change, we put the big things in first. Actually, there’s this really great video that tells a story of a professor - maybe you've heard this before, but it's just such a helpful illustration - can we roll that [play the video]. For Christians God is the biggest rock. God is the highest priority. In the kingdom of God, our priorities are changed. 

We put God FIRST. Matthew 6, verse 33 tells us [read it]. Some other translations say, “seek FIRST the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” And how do we know if God is first in our lives? There’s some really easy ways to check yourself. The number one way - finances. In modern America, if you can access someone’s checkbook - you can find out what’s important to them. Have you made God a priority in your financial life? Second way to check your self is putting God first in your intellect and your interests. Have you dedicated the work of your mind and your thoughts to God? Philippians 4 verse 8 tells us, [read v.8-9]. Make God a priority in your finances, make God a priority in your intellect. The next check on making sure you are putting the first things first is asking yourself, “is God a priority in your relationships?” Whether it’s a friend, a husband/wife, children, that weird co-worker - are we honoring God and making him a priority in our relationships. I’m sure you guys are starting to see the framework here. We put God FIRST, by making him a priority in our finances, our intellect, our relationships and the next check is making God a priority in our struggles. When you are going through a season - a valley full of challenges, in that moment ask yourself is God the first thing you turn to? This comes back to raising kids. When you are going through some hard times - if you reach for comfort food, you teach your children to reach for comfort food. Or if you have a bad day, and you medicate that by going on a shopping spree - your children are going to medicate by going on a shopping spree. OR if you are faced with a challenge and your first response is to reach for God in prayer - to set him as your number one priority, your children will learn to set God as their number one priority. 

I remember I was talking to a buddy of mine a couple years back. And his whole world was falling apart. He was in a custody battle over his daughter, messy break up, lost his job, thought he was going to lose his apartment - all raining down on him at the same time. And I remember, I asked him - “man, where’s your prayer life? Like, what’s your devotion life look like right now?” And he looked at me, with this exhaustion in his face and he said, “Come on man, I’m already overwhelmed. Why are you piling on the guilt?” And I was confused for a minute, sort of taken aback - but then I realized that for him, prayer and devotion was something to feel guilty about. He thought the reason I was asking was to make him feel bad. But the real reason I asked was that I wanted to make sure he wasn’t working in the dark. You put the lamp on the lamp stand. You put God first and then build off of that. Because if you are standing on the foundation of God….if God is first in your struggles - you will handle those struggles better. Time spent praying to God, prioritizing God - it’s not bonus points to make yourself feel extra spiritual - it is preparation for when the struggles of life show up. Put God first in your struggles.

And finally, the way you can check to see if you are putting the first things first - is TIME. Is God the FIRST thing you take off the calendar when life gets a little busy? OR is God the most important thing ON your calendar? There’s an old story about Martin Luther, who was a priest a couple hundred years ago. And he always started every day with an hour of prayer. And one time he was in a really busy season, and there’s a very famous quote, he said,  “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He was feeling the squeeze, but he knew what his priorities were. And even I hear that and I go - good grief, that’s crazy talk. 3 hours! I was struggling to wrap my head around 1 hour. But I can spend a full two hours on my phone scrolling social media and I don’t even bat an eye. For Martin Luther, when he felt pressured to take God OFF his calendar, he actively pushed back to make SURE God was going to come first. First in our finances, our intellect, our relationships, our struggles and our time. In the kingdom of God we have to realign our priorities to make the first things go first.

Alright, back in our scripture lesson in Mark, Jesus has another kingdom of heaven picture for us. Lamp on a lamp stand, and then [read v.26-29]. Ah, the parable of the stupid farmer - that old gem. The farmer plants the seed, and then is absolutely baffled by what happens next. The leaves just poke right up out of the soil. How’s that happening? I love this illustration, because it really highlights the fact that even when we think we know everything - we really don’t have any control. The farmer can know everything you need to know about seeds and water and plants growing - but the reality is that watering a seed is is an expression of hope in the power of God. Normally when you water a seed, it grows. But without God, it won’t. Thine is the kingdom and the power. To live into the Kingdom of God, we need to lean on God’s power. The first step is alignment, the second step is empowerment. Your life is empowered by the Holy Spirit. There’s this line in first Corinthians, where Paul is talking to the church in Corinth. And they’ve been arguing over which pastor is the best pastor - should we follow Paul or should we follow Apollos. And Paul responds and he’s basically like, neither! We don’t matter - it’s all God’s power. He puts it like this, 1 Corinthians 3, verse 5 [read v.5-8]. We can churn out effort all day, but without God - it won’t grow. But WITH God, even if we don’t understand it - like the farmer with the seed - God can bring the growth. Let me show you what I mean. Do you guys remember the Asbury revival? One year ago, on February 8th, 2023 there was a guy who went and preached a chapel service at Asbury university. And at the end of the service, some of the students wanted to stay and pray. And the preacher left them praying in the chapel, and texted his wife “another stinker, be home soon.” When he reflected on his sermon - he thought he biffed it. Terrible sermon. But God moved, and those students didn’t leave. And one hour of prayer turned into 2 hours, and then 5 and then 10 hours later they were still there. They kept worshipping. And for 16 days straight, hundreds of thousands of people converged on Wilmore Kentucky from all over the world to worship and experience a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  People were repenting of sins, accepting Jesus as their lord, praying for one another and on and on. And I know if you ask ANY of the pastors in Aldersgate - we’ve all had this experience where we walk away from a Sunday morning thinking, “whew, that was a garbage sermon” - and it never fails, those are the weeks someone will come up to us and say, “that was the best sermon” or “that was exactly what I needed to hear” or something like that. And what I want you to realize this morning is that - that’s not us. Matthew, Michael - these are brilliant, clever men of God. But we’re not that good. It’s all God. We plant the seeds, we water the seeds - but only God can make them grow. In your life, if you want to walk in the Kingdom of God, you need the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. First, it’s alignment - then it’s empowerment. 

Jesus keeps going in Mark, chapter 4, verse 30, [read v.30-33]. Now I’m sure most of you have heard the parable of the mustard seed. When I was a kid we got, like, bookmarks with a little mustard seed glued in there. It’s a little tiny seed and WOAH it grows into a huge tree. And everybody gets really excited because it’s this message about something that was really tiny and then it becomes really big. Yay. But a lot of us overlook the last part. Read verse 32 with me again [v.32]. It’s not just about growing big - the branches grow long and birds can make nests in its shade. There’s an element of hospitality. We’re not just making a big tree, we are making a home for our neighbors. The kingdom of God lived out in a church community should drive us to hospitality. We are not spectators, we are participators. If you have aligned your priorities, and you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit - the third piece is that connecting in community brings glory to God. 2 Corinthians chapter 4 tells us in verse 15, [read it]. We’ve talked about this before - Christianity is a team sport. We NEED one another. It brings glory to God when we gather as a community. 

And I’m not talking about Sunday mornings. It’s a cheesy phrase, but Christians really do need to make an effort to “do life” together. Now I haven’t been to this campus in a while, but I saw the sign ups in the lobby - you guys are launching Life Groups over here too, right? I really do want to encourage you to participate in that program. Life Groups can be incredibly life changing. I had a buddy join a life group and he came to me the next week and he said, “15 minutes in a life group and I got to know my friend better than 15 years of sitting three pews away on a Sunday morning.” As a church grows, and our church is growing - we’ve got both campuses breaking records, whether it’s finances or attendance, the youth program - cardinal square just celebrated two baptisms last month. That campus hasn’t seen a baptism since 2017. But they got adopted by Aldersgate and we became a part of a church family - one church with two locations - and there is a change in the winds. But part of church growth is that we have to go beyond Sunday Mornings. God is glorified when we participate in community. The birds are in the branches of the mustard tree because hospitality is an important part of God’s kingdom. There’s a story from Rick Warren, former pastor out at Saddleback Church in California, the purpose driven life guy, and he talks about Life Groups and one of his favorite stories to tell is about a time when he, as the lead pastor, he tried to visit one of the members of his church. He heard they were in the hospital, and so he decided to drop by and do a little visit. They wouldn’t let him in, because the room was already FULL of members of the Life Group. That member was already being cared for and surrounded by the love of their life group members so much so that the Lead Pastor - the big guy, couldn’t even get in. He was thrilled, and was happy to wait his turn to visit the church member. To walk in God’s kingdom way, we need alignment, empowerment, and we need to be a participant in the church community.

The good news this morning is that Jesus teaches us to pray. He has given us instructions - he said, “pray like this.” And what he teaches us to say is an invitation to participate in His kingdom, HIS power, and HIS glory. We say these words - every time we pray, we say these same words, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever amen.” And I love those words - they are so beautiful and powerful, and I love that - but sometimes when we say the same thing over and over and over - we sort of turn off our brain. Do you know what I mean? We start the pray, “Our father, who art in heaven…” and then our lips keep moving but our brain wanders off. Hallowed be thy name - I wonder what kind of snacks I’m going to have during the game tonight - do you think Taylor Swift will make it back from Tokyo? - thy kingdom come, thy will be done… right? When you’re very familiar with something - we tend to turn on autopilot. And so, part of the reason the pastors wanted to bring these series to you to start out our year focusing on prayer is that we wanted to get out of the rut. When we take, even just a few seconds to pause and think about what we are saying - we find the power of the Lord’s prayer. Jesus teaches us to say these things, and what we are saying is an invitation to experience and participate in God’s kingdom, power and glory. Don’t miss that invitation. You are invited to be a part of God’s kingdom.

So our response to this very good news is that we need to move from “mine” to “thine.” It’s not your kingdom. It’s not your power. It’s not your glory. It’s all his. It’s His priorities, His power and growth, His community - so move from mine to thine. It’s a surrender, and it’s not easy - but I promise you, it is worth every effort. There is nothing that compares to life lived in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s not in our scripture lesson - but there’s another story, another one of those little puzzle piece pictures of heaven where Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that a man finds in a field. And when he finds it, he immediately goes home and sells everything he owns to purchase the field and obtain the treasure.” The kingdom of heaven is worth selling everything you own. So move from mine to thine, and there’s three pieces. First, we need to reset our priorities. We need to find the proper alignment. We need to put God FIRST. First in our finances, our intellect, our relationships, our struggles and our time. That’s my challenge for you this week. Put the first things FIRST.

The second challenge I have for you in the effort of moving from “mine to thine” is to plant the seeds, water the soil, but leave the growth to God. Once you are aligned with God, you need to be empowered by God. Lean on the Holy Spirit and not your own abilities. I think about life like the palm of my hand. I was just using this metaphor with some new friends last week. If my entire life is in the palm of my hands - I have a temptation to curl my fingers. I want to grab for control, and trusting God is like a process of constantly re-opening my fingers. I want to grab for control, but God says “no, no, no - you use my power. Trust in ME, don’t trust in yourself.” Alignment, empowerment and the third piece is to be a participant. To move from “mine to thine” we have to remember that our growth is aimed at hospitality. Spreading the love and care of our community is giving glory to God. So my final challenge to you this week is that if you are a spectator… if your faith is just a Sunday morning hobby, I want you to go deeper. Take that next step, dive a little deeper, and participate in this church community.

Sometimes there are things in life that are so difficult to describe. Like a cell phone picture of a sunset - it’s hard to capture the incredible beauty of what we’re talking about. Jesus gives us a whole bunch of puzzle pieces, trying to show us a picture of what God’s kingdom is like. And if we want the Lord’s prayer to move beyond ritual, beyond repetitive phrases that stay on our lips and never sink down into our hearts, then this final phrase is key. To move from mine to thine we need to have our priorities changed, we need to have our source of power changed, and we need to participate in the community God gives us, which brings Him glory. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory Forever and ever. Amen. Let’s pray.


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