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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Jesus: The Power of a Single Seed

Mark Batterson - Jesus: The Power of a Single Seed

Mark Batterson - Jesus, The Power of a Single Seed

In 1963, Israeli archeologists were excavating Herod the Great's palace at Masada. As they dug, they found ancient remains, skeletal remains, but the most curious discovery was a jar with seeds perfectly preserved in inside of it. Radiocarbon dating dated those seeds somewhere between 155 BC and 64 AD. So 2000 year old seeds. And DNA testing revealed that they belong to an extinct species of trees called the Judean date palm. Those seeds were put in storage for 40 years at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. In 2005, three seeds were planted in the Arabah desert. Eight weeks later, 1 of those 2000 year old seed sprouted, making it the oldest seed to ever be germinated, so they called it Methuselah. By 2008, that's single seed had grown into a five foot palm with a dozen leaves. It flowered for the first time in 2011. At last measurement in 2015, Methuselah was a 10 foot tall pollen producing palm tree.

In the field of botany, there are two types of seed, orthodox and unorthodox. What differentiates those two types of seed is survivability. Unorthodox seeds cannot survive a deep freeze or a drought. Orthodox seeds can survive a glacier. Orthodox seeds can survive a famine. Orthodox seeds can survive centuries, even 20 centuries, like Methuselah. If you're taking notes, I want you to jot this down. Faith is an orthodox seed. I think you could, amen, help your preacher preach today. Faith is in orthodox seed. So is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the fruit of the spirit does not rot, but it returns as God designed it when you plant mustard seeds of faith.

Come on, get this in your spirit today. You never know when, or where, or how they are going to take root or bear fruit. Got some good news, some good news, you my friend, are not responsible for outcomes. That's past your pay grade. You are responsible for inputs. So here's the whole deal. We plant water, God gives the increase. Whether you are in person, you're online, warm welcome to National Community Church. We are in the fourth episode in our journey through Mark's Gospel. You can meet me in Mark's Gospel. I want to talk about the power of a single seed. Mark 4:1. "Once again, Jesus began teaching by the lake shore". Someone online is by the lake right now watching this. We're a little jealous. "A very large crowd soon gathered. So He got into a boat. He sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore, and He taught them by telling stories".

Now, we read right over this, but this is a play on words. The sentence structure in Greek is fascinating. In English, it says He sat in the boat, but a literal translation from Greek would read, Jesus got into a boat and sat on the sea. Wait, 'cause that's a little different. Why is this significant? Because those who were listening to Jesus knew that God and God alone sits on the sea, that God and God alone splits the sea. Jesus is sending us subliminal message, He is starting to assert His authority. Over what? Over everything. Including the sea. I mean, come on, He walks on it, right? And here's what we're about to see, Jesus doesn't just preach two sermons from the boat.

And by the way, this is brilliant with a British accent, incredible acoustics. Just imagine yourself right now on the beach, you're on the beach, kids are building sandcastles, that's kids' church 2000 years ago, Jesus is in the boat, you've never heard anybody preach from a boat, like just the proximity, the geography, I mean, has them captivated. But He preaches two sermons, one with words and one with waves. He preaches one with a story, and He preaches the second one with a storm. I like that second sermon. We're not gonna get there till next week. Let's talk about this first one. And by the way, when we share these things, I would call them Old Testament echoes. That whenever we read, and that so much of what Jesus says and does echoes the Old Testament and it's lost on us. But these overtones and undertones would've caught the attention of these original listeners.

Well, it says, "The crowd gathered". So we're only four episodes into Mark's Gospel, and the word crowd has been used eight times. Mark will use this word 45 times in his gospel. When an author uses the word over and over again, it's not just part of the narrative, it's a meta-narrative. Everywhere Jesus went, everything Jesus did drew a crowd. There was something about Jesus that was so magnetic that you could not keep people away. They would walk around the Sea of Galilee just to get to Him. They would go into the wilderness and go without food for days just to listen to Him. They would climb trees just to get a glimpse, right? Remember that? They would free solo onto rooftops and repel into houses, they would crowd surf mosh pits just to touch the hem of His garment.

And so these crowds would gather. And Jesus tells a story, the parable of the sower. And I'm not gonna deep dive this story, because Jesus then tells another story. And this is a literary device, as you read through Mark, you'll find this, it's called inclusio. Mark will start telling a story and then do what sometimes when my ADD kicks in, what I do, he'll start telling the story, then he'll start telling another story, and then go back to the original story. And I kinda love this. Scholars sometimes call it a Mark sandwich, which Mark likes sandwiches, okay? I'll give you the cliff notes, some seed falls on the path and it's eaten by birds. Some seed falls on rocky soil and it fails to take root. Some seed falls among the thorns and it's choked out by weeds.

And then some seed falls on good soil and it produces 30, 60, 100 fold return, which begs the question, what kind of soil are you? What kind of harvest is God's word producing in our lives? If you're taking notes, I want you to jot this down, faithfulness equals fruitfulness. Okay, faithfulness is not holding the fort, faithfulness is not breaking even. We talked about it week one, you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right, goodness is not the absence of badness. We focus on sins of commission, don't do this, don't do that, and you're okay. Problem with that, it's more about sins of omission. Potential is God's gift to us. What we do with it is our gift back to God. To me, success is stewardship. Just as faithfulness is fruitfulness. I just have to do the best I can with what I have, where I am.

Where are you planted right now? It may not be where you wanna be. You can't control that. Oh, but you can make the best of a bad situation. I'm gonna bear fruit right here. Against all odds, I'm gonna produce a harvest of righteousness right here, right now, in Jesus' name, amen. Did anybody need that? Anybody online? Put it in the chat, you needed that today. You just, okay, all right, I'm gonna quit complaining, and I'm gonna start producing some fruit. Verse 30, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like? And what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds, yet when planted, it grows and becomes one of the largest garden plants and puts forth great branches so that the birds of the air nest in its shade".

Now, on the way in this weekend, did you get a mustard seed? Can I get one? I didn't get one. Pastor needs one. Anybody have an, oh, look at this, can we thank Pastor Joel? Now, I can't say you never gave me anything. I want you to take it out, come on, look at that seed, just take a good look. If you're older than 40, you might need to do this. Okay, I can barely see that seed. Now I want you to now look at what it has the potential to become. Check that out. Wait, what? What? What the what? A mustard seed only measures two millimeters in diameter. Yet somehow, some way that tiny little seed in a matter of months turns into a plant that's 20 feet tall and can span its branches 20 feet in diameter, and we don't give it a second thought, but that's unbelievable. That tiny little seed, it's packed with vitamin B6, B12, C, E, and K. It contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc.

Oh, and it's the key ingredient in one of my favorite condiments, mustard. I mean, imagine getting a hot dog at Nats Park without mustard. Sin of omission. What's the point? Where are my mustard people? Okay, online, I want you to jump in here, where are my Classic Yellow people? Classic Yellow, yeah. Spicy Brown? Okay, we got some spicy people today. Grey Poupon? There's always a few fancy people in the house. Can we take a second? Can we take a second? I know this is church, it's not a science class, but can we take a second just to celebrate seeds? We read right over Genesis 1:11. I will go on record and say that Genesis 1:11 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Verse three, day one of creation, God says, "Let there be light", which makes photosynthesis possible, yes? Then on day three, God says, "Let the land produce vegetation", and here it is, "Seed bearing plants and trees that bear fruit with seed in it, according to its various kinds".

Last time I checked more than 300,000 species of seed bearing plants, those plants are a gift from God. And please don't miss this, the seeds are the gift that keeps giving. Average watermelon has 176 seeds with a standard deviation of 40. Add a little basil. Feta cheese. Balsamic glaze. Hmm, let's go. Picnic on the National Mall, right? Watermelon salad. But it's pretty amazing. Would you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine that that beautiful green exterior, you can see it right now, in your stomach's eye, you can see it, beyond the imitation of art, and then you've never seen one before, let's just pretend, you cut it open. Hmm, and this beautiful red heart, oh, with the right crispness, and kind of the right density, oh, and just the right sweetness.

I'm killing you right now, aren't I? How does that come from a little black seed? There is no way on earth, you could never convince me of that, that can't happen. And yet it does. Can I riff right here? Science is amazing, and I would consider myself a science guy. I'm cut from Albert Einstein cloth, "That science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind". Science has done some amazing things. We have landed a man on the moon. We have found all kinds of cures for all kinds of diseases. We can bounce light waves off of satellites that then deliver HDTV in real time. Like this stuff is ridonculous, right? When it comes to agriculture, we can synthesize seeds. We can genetically alter the DNA to produce a higher yield or increase resistance to disease, and all this is amazing. But science can, has not, and I dare say, will not ever create a seed ex nihilo. Only the God of science can do that.

And so we celebrate the science as we should. I'm just saying it's okay to celebrate the seed. Come on, help me preach a little bit. We can celebrate the seed. Here's the big idea, don't miss this. If you didn't know what this was, you would never imagine what it could become. And in the same sense, we plant these mustard seeds of faith, and it's beyond believable to us that they could move mountains. But I'm with Jesus, I'm gonna believe what He said, that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. In 1936, a sociologist named Robert Merton wrote an academic paper titled "The Unanticipated Consequence of Purposive Action".

Simply put, every decision we make, every action we take has consequences beyond our ability to control and beyond our ability to predict, is that fair? None of us is omniscient. It's the law of unintended consequences, and they come in two basic varieties, unexpected drawbacks and unexpected benefits. This farmer plants this mustard seed for one reason, he wants mustard on his kosher hotdog. That's it. But there is an unattended consequence. There is an unexpected benefit in this story. There's a so that in this story, it says, so that, are you ready for this? "The birds of the air find shade in its branches". No, back up, this is not why the farmer is planting this mustard seed. All he's worried about is his hot dog. We are part of the kingdom of unexpected benefits. You cannot break the law of measures. You will get out what you put in, it will make or break you, but there is an X factor, there is a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to His power that's at work within us.

Warren Buffet said, "If someone is sitting in the shade today, is because someone planted a seed". Just to bring it down to earth, got a wonderful card note. And it's from someone who started attending this church a year ago and talking about how this church has changed their lives, they've gotten involved in small groups, part of House of Prayer, even taking along with more than 600 NCCers that prayer walk challenge where we are prayer walking the city, and just kinda went on and on, just so grateful for this faith community that's changing my life. But my favorite part of the whole note was the first time she came, you know, it's a little, you're nervous, right? Like what's it gonna be like? I don't know where to go.

Is there anybody there like me? The good news is, I dare say that if there's any church you can go to that there would be someone like you, it's probably National Community Church. Praise God for the wonderful diversity that's in expression of His creativity, right? But I love what she said, "When I first approached the Capital Turnaround", here it is, "The tone set by the parking lot attendants was so positive that I knew I was in for a great experience". Come on. It wasn't the message, it wasn't the worship, it wasn't NCC Kids, it was someone serving on our parking team who planted a mustard seed. And a year later, look at the fruit that it's producing. Praise God. Can I get excited when I preach?

Verse 26, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows", and this is my favorite part, "Though he does not know how". Anybody else, am I in the right room, so many things you don't understand? So many things past your pay grade. I love this so much, why? Because it takes all the pressure off of us. You don't have to do amazing things for God, that's not your job. God's the one who does amazing things for us. You can't move mountains, newsflash, but you can plant mustard seeds of faith, and God can move mountains, if you do little things like they're big things, God can do some big things like their little things.

One of my favorite plants is the moso bamboo. When it's planted, there is no discernible growth for five years, the seed disappears beneath the soil, and to the naked eye, nothing is happening. Oh, but wait. It's growing a root system that can stretch for miles underneath the ground. When it finally experiences a breakthrough, when it breaks through the surface of the soil, are you ready for this? I don't know if you're ready for this. It can grow two and a half feet per day. Within six weeks, it can be 90 feet tall. Like that's like Jack and the beanstalk. Some of you're frustrated. It's been five long years. I've been to counseling, I'm trying to pay off that debt, I'm exercising and I'm dieting, I've been praying for the prodigal, I'm doing the right things, and there's just no evidence to the naked eye that anything is happening.

Please hear me today, God is growing a root system, God is working beneath the surface, we just sang about it, didn't we? Even when I can't see it, He's working. Even when I don't feel it, He's working. He never stops. He never stops working. As we were singing it, could you feel it in the house? Could you feel it online? I felt faith rising. I felt it, a renewed resolve. I'm gonna keep planting, I can't control the output, but I can't control the input. I'm gonna keep planting seeds of faith, I'm gonna keep planting seeds of love, and grace, and joy, and peace, and patience. And I'm gonna trust God to do what He does. "Do not become weary in doing good", Galatians 6:9, "For at the proper time you will reap a harvest".

Some you need to take that promise to the bank. You need to endorse that check and deposit it today. And then go right back to planting seeds. Big picture, 27 years ago we planted this church and this church started planting mustard seeds in this city. 19 people gathered in a DC public school, and I'll tell you this, the national in National Community Church seemed like a misnomer. I remember our first Easter, 42 people showed up, and I was over the moon, 'cause we broke the 40 barrier and was so excited. You know this past Easter, more than 10,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial, across our campuses, that's unbelievable to me. How does that happen? Can I just say something? Get this in your spirit, obedience earns compound interest. You overestimate what you can do in a year or two, but you underestimate what God can do in 10 or 20 years, long obedience in the same direction.

So we just do what we do. We take our five loaves and our two fish, we're staring at 5,000 people, it doesn't add up, but it's not gonna keep us from doing what we can do. And so what we do is we give those five loaves and two fish to Jesus, and in our hands, five plus two equals seven, in His hands five plus two, equals 5,000, remainder 12. And your obedience can become a miracle for 5,000 people. I'm gonna tell you, what's really happening, when what's happening is happening? That's what's happening. We're planting mustard seed and God begins to move mountains. Oh God, in Jesus name, mountains of shame be moved, in Jesus name. Mountains of pain be moved in Jesus' name. Mountains of anxiety, and fear, and depression, in Jesus' name. Move them. God, we pray healing, we pray deliverance, we pray salvation, and we pray it in Jesus name, right here, right now we plant our mustard seed of faith. Do it again, Lord, do it again.

Please hear me, God has been delivering on Mark 4:27 for 27 years. "Night and day the seed sprouts and growths, though we don't know how". Had a little bit of fun with this, in 1996 we gave our first $50 check to missions. And that's not much, but it was our mustard seed of faith, and we stood on a promise, give and it will be given unto you. And it cultivated a core conviction that God's gonna bless us in proportion to how we give to missions and care for the poor in our city. As long as we are doing what is near and dear to the heart of God, I'm not worried about our bottom line as a church, 'cause God's got our back. The fact that we are debt free. We're debt free. The fact that we are debt free, oh, and by the way, a few weeks ago, retired another church's debt because of a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It's a function of this conviction.

And so we're just gonna keep doing it. Is that okay if we just keep planting mustard seeds of faith? Fast forward 27 years and we've taken more than 300 mission trips as a church, you've given more than $25 million to kingdom causes outside the walls of this church. I wanna show you a map. Now, we have invested in hundreds, if not thousands of ministries and missionaries, but right now, 72 ministries and missionaries that we support on a regular basis in 16 different time zones. So really, now we're International Community Church, right, the sun does not set on the seeds that we're planting all around the world now. But I know that's a lot of numbers, but every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God. So let me just make it personal. It was about a decade ago that we had the joint privilege of beginning to support new missionaries, Tony and Jamie Sebastian.

Now if you put Sebastian into a text, it might auto correct to sensation. So our family just affectionately refers to them as the Sensations. Their first stop was Greece, where they started a coffee house, inspired in part by Ebenezers, called iheart cafe. But check this out, it was a few months ago that Tony came back, spent a week with our team at Ebenezers, with Bill, and Terry, and Adrian, and others, taught us to roast our own coffee, and so now all the coffee we serve at Ebenezers is roasted by us and we're about to start wholesaling Ebenezers coffee now. Don't you love full circle moments like that? Now, while in Greece, Tony and Jamie found themselves at ground zero during the Syrian refugee crisis. When the border was closed, 10,000, you remember this, 10,000 refugees were stuck.

And so Tony and Jamie just put a towel around their waist, it's not why they went to Greece, but when a need presents itself we're the hands and feet of Jesus. And so they started loving and serving in those refugee camps, several teens from NCC, my wife Laura and Nina, Dave and Kate Schmidgall, and so many others went, and we just loved on and served in those camps. But we came back with a vision to make a difference here. And so we started listening and learn events. Let's just hear stories around food, and then soccer camps, and then we started setting up apartments for newly resettled refugees. NCCers started Homes Not Borders. And the next thing you know we're resettling 65% of the refugees in the DMV. What? How does that happen? A mustard seed wasn't just planted in Greece. A seed from those refugee camps was planted in our hearts, and then it was transplanted right here.

This is why we believe one mission trip is worth more than 52 sermons. Because it's when we get outside the four walls that God begins to break our hearts for the things that break the heart of God. And one fun footnote, our son Josiah, just spent six weeks with the Sensations in Cyprus. They're now in Cyprus, run iheart cafe. And by the way, every Sunday, shout out to our extended family in Cyprus, there's a group that gathers in Tony and Jamie's homes, in other homes, and part of our NCC Online, our extended family, Josiah said that we need to send you some NCC swag, and so I'm just going on record, it's coming your way. Okay, can we just praise God? So we're making a difference all around the world, but we're also making a difference right here in our backyard. Not just trying to build a church, trying to bless city. DC Dream Center, exhibit A.

Last year, 3,264 people participated in 34 programs ranging from cooking classes to basketball camps, mom's night out, drum line, prayer meetings, reconciliation lunches, block parties, Santa's toy shop. And I love this, the Dream Center and Ms. Daphanie, who is clinically certified, is partnering with the University of Chicago, where I did some of my undergrad, to help people who are trying to overcome their addiction to opioids. Like what? And all we did was plant one seed. But now look at all of those different, and by the way, so many of you invested in that $5 million vision, you're a shareholder in every miracle that God does. You're a shareholder in everything that God does. Close with three thoughts, I'll make it quick, one, we eat from fields we did not plant.

Decade ago wrote a book, "The Circle Maker". Honi the circle maker, there's a more famous story about him. But a less famous story is one day he was walking by an old man who was planting a carob tree. And it caught his curiosity, he said to the man, "A carb tree does not bear fruit for 70 years, are you certain of living so long as the eat of it"? And the man said to him, "I found the world provided with carob trees, as my forefathers planted them for me, I likewise plant them for my descendants". Can I just say, love you, so glad you're here. But this church is about people who weren't here yet.

So grateful for you. I'm cognizant every pastor is an intern pastor. However long Laura and I have the joy of leading this church, that's up to God, but I'm still an interim pastor. We think right here, right now, God is thinking nations and generations. We think that what God does for us is for us, but it's never just for us. It's always for the third and fourth generation. Fun example, when we built Phase 2, our amazing NCC Kids Space, we dug 109 micro piles, 40 feet deep to the tune of a million dollars to reinforce 130 year old columns so that we could build on top of the Turnaround, 'cause we have an acre and a half, and in terms of land value, it's worth $25 million.

So that seemed like good stewardship. Here's the irony, we may never build on top of the Turnaround. We've got enough keeping us busy the east side of Marketplace that we are dreaming into. We have a block of frontage on Virginia Avenue that we still have to build out. We may not build on this roof deck, it may not be for us and that's okay, because it's not about us. We're gonna set up the next generation and the generation after that. It's about doing things that'll make a difference 70 years from now. If you are gonna dream big, you have to think long, you have to think beyond your lifespan. Help us, Lord, to have those eyes. We eat from fields we did not plant. Two, we want things to happen at the speed of light. Because that's a world we live in, that's how stuff happens, right? 15 minute delay for a flight.

So frustrated, are kidding me. It's gonna put you on an airplane that flies 500 miles an hour at 30,000 feet and get you across the country in six hours. Oregon Trail, my friends, right? Like we want things to happen to the speed of light. In the kingdom of God, just hear it and receive it, things generally happen at the speed of a seed. And it might be a moso bamboo. God, give us the patience, give us the vision, give us the faith to plant those mustard seeds, let 'em go beneath the surface, let 'em grow roots, let 'em do what they do, and then we are believing. Are you believing with me?

The best is yet to come. We are gonna see mountains move that are just gonna, we aren't gonna have words for it. 'Cause we look back and say, look at what the Lord has done. I look forward. Oh God, what is that House of Prayer gonna produce? Because prayer is the way we write history before it happens. God, what are you doing 5, 10, 20 years from now? I'll tell you, there's not a single person within earshot of my voice who is overestimating what God can do. "Now to Him who was able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that's at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen".

When you're out of breath, it's time to stop. Hmm, number three, just there's nothing fancy about this, keep sowing your seed. Keep planting mustard seeds of faith. Keep planting. Well then, Pastor Mark, what do I do after that? Keep planting. But what if the mountain doesn't move? Keep planting. What if the mountain does move? Keep planting. You are not responsible for outcomes, you are responsible for inputs. We're gonna keep planting seeds of faith, and we're gonna see mountains move, in Jesus name, amen.
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