Sunday, November 20, 2011

Becoming a Reflection of the Kingdom of God

Pastor Brad began the service by reminding us of the mission statement for New Life Covenant: Connect, Grow and Become. Connecting to Jesus Christ and to one another is a starting point, but God's design is for us to grow. Today's theme would be about becoming. Jesus talked repeatedly about the kingdom of God. It is not small matter. It is God's desire that we reflect the kingdom of God in this world.

Before entering into worship Brad shared that each year our congregation adopts a needy family to help make Christmas special for them. Next week there will be a sign-up sheet for ways you can help the family we have selected.

Thursday this week is Thanksgiving. This is a reminder that people who don't have a place to go and would like some friendly company on this holiday can join us at the church. Leonard will be cooking a special Thanksgiving dinner, to be served at 2:00 p.m. If you know someone who needs transportation, give us a call. The meal is free. Donations will help replenish the benevolence fund.

Last Wednesday evening was devoted to packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. This morning the children brought these gift boxes to the front of the church, 68 in all.

After Darlene's introit, Brad and Darlene proceeded to lead us into worship, beginning with Lenny LeBlanc's beautiful song, Above All.

An offering, Scripture reading and prayer followed and then Brad presented the message.

Becoming a Reflection of the Kingdom of God

If we are to reflect who God is in this world, our community and how we connect really matters. Life is more than just meeting minimum requirements and treading water till we die.

What is the Gospel that Jesus preached? How would you respond?

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” ~Mark 1:14-15

Brad then read an overview of verses about this theme that so permeates the New Testament. THIS is the Good News, that we can live in the realm of God's power and reign.

The message of the Gospel is not about knowing the "correct answer" to get into heaven.

When Jesus said, "Repent" He wasn't just talking about changing your behavior, but was aiming at the idea that we must change our thinking. Jesus' Gospel is not only about the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life by grace, but it's so much more than that. Jesus lived a life designed to manifest the reality of the kingdom. He wasn't just putting in time until His death on the cross.

The change in thinking that is integral to kingdom living permeates every aspect of life. In Matthew 6 Jesus explains how far this goes.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Brad pointed out that in order to understand the kingdom of God we need to understand the meaning of kingdom. Essentially, it is the range of our control where our will has power or, in other words, our sphere of influence or rule. We may not sit on thrones or feel like we have a lot of power over the world, but the region where we do have power is the scope of our kingdom. It is you who decides what flowers to plant in your garden or where to build the hutch. Unfortunately, our kingdoms are junked up by sin.

There are bigger kingdoms than our personal ones. Families, towns, cities, nations are all a part of what is called the kingdom of earth.

The kingdom of God is wholly other. It is not geographic, but a realm where all that takes place meets with God's approval.

Jesus said that this kingdom, God's realm, is available to all who want it. In one place He stated that "whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This statement is not fully understood until we realize that a child was essentially the lowest rung in society, a non-person in the larger scheme of things. The kingdom of God is for people who give up on their notion of status. It is a community where everyone is beautiful and sensitive to others' hurts and needs and loneliness. It is a community where there is no hurtful gossip, no anxiety, and joy reigns. All of this is overseen by the Father of Jesus, who Himself is the origin of self-giving love.

When Jesus taught us how to pray it included the phrase "Your kingdom come." In other words, that God's kingdom of love and service up there would be manifest down here.

In contrast to God's kingdom we see a broken world where 80 countries practice state-sponsored torture, 8 countries cut off hands and feet as punishment, and millions of children die of starvation.

Jesus said that the kingdom is not intended to just be "up there" but also manifest down here, is intended to invade this earth, and it is through us, the church, through our community of faith that God aims to achieve this, reflecting the kingdom of God here in our time. Let's be this and do this.

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