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SPIRITUAL GROWTH TAKES TIME
There was once a farmer who went to town to purchase seeds for his farm. As he was returning home one of the squash seeds he had purchased fell from his pocket onto the ground. It happened that within a few feet was another seed of a different type. The place where the two seeds lay was rather fertile, and miraculously they took root.
After about a week the squash seed showed signs of growth. The second seed showed none. After two weeks the squash began to sprout leaves. The second seed showed none. After seven weeks the squash began to show fruit. The second seed still showed no progress. Four more weeks came and gone.
The squash plant reached the end of its life bearing much fruit in that time, but the other seed finally began to slowly grow. Many years later, the squash was all but forgotten, but the other tiny seed, an acorn, had grown into a mighty oak tree.
So many people want their faith to be like the squash. They want to experience it all right now... Spiritual training -- like Epaphras understood, requires hard work and patience -- as anything worthwhile does.
(From a sermon by Steve Smith, "Pursuing Godly Living" 2/15/2009)
Ridgecrest is a large Baptist-run assembly ground, nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. All summer long, every year, thousands of Christians come to Ridgecrest for training, inspiration, Bible study, and challenge.
A few years ago, during a conference, people began to notice a man hanging around the grounds. He did not look like he had just stepped out of your typical Sunday School class. His clothes were tattered and torn; they looked like something even the Salvation Army would throw away. His face had not been visited by a razor for a long time. His shoes could best be described by the title of Hymn No. 2 in the book – “Holy, Holy, Holy”! And worst of all, there was the BO. You know about BO? Let’s just say that when you got close, you did not get a whiff of Chanel No. 5. This young man was clearly “not one of us”, not the kind of person you normally see at Christian campgrounds.
What did he do? Not much, really. He did not approach anyone. He did not harass anybody. He did not ask for money. He mostly just hung around. When chapel services were held, he would walk across the front and sit down. When classes were under way, he would lie down on the grassy slopes nearby. And when meals were being served, he would stand on the dining hall porch, not far from the long lines of people clutching their meal tickets. No begging, no demands, just standing around.
At the end of the week they announced that there would be a special speaker for the closing service, and that he would speak on the theme, “Inasmuch as you have not done it unto one of the least of these, you have not done it unto me.” They promised that the audience would truly remember this message. The hymns were sung, the prayers were prayed, the choir sang, and the special speaker approached the podium. Who do you think was that special speaker? Who brought that memorable message?
That scruffy young man! That hangaround bum with the worn-out clothing, the messy beard, and the offensive BO! It turns out that he was a young pastor who had been asked to play a part by the organizers of the conference. And his message stung as he said to the crowd, “No one tried to include me in anything. No one asked me if I needed help. No one invited me to the dining hall. No one sat down to listen to my story. A few put religious tracts into my hand. One or two pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to me. But most of you turned your eyes and pretended not to see me. My appearance offended you, and you left me out.”
Appearances are deceiving. He looked like a beggar and a bum, but he was a pastor. (Please don’t anyone say that’s all the same thing!).
OPENING ILLUSTRATION… Mother’s Day Background, Pulpit Helps 1991
It was a woman named Anna M. Jarvis who first suggested the national observance of an annual day honoring all mothers because she had loved her own mother so dearly. At a memorial service for her mother on May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis gave a carnation (her mother’s favorite flower) to each person who attended.
Within the next few years, the idea of a day to honor mothers gained popularity, and Mother’s Day was observed in a number of large cities in the U.S. On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established the day as a time for "public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."
“A Bruise Is Better than A Bite!” 1 Samuel 1:1-8 Key verse(s): 8:“Elkanah here husband would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?’”
“Constructive criticism is when I criticize you. Destructive criticism is when you criticize me.” If we could make this clear and plain to everyone we met, all our lives would be so much easier. If people just realized that criticism is applicable to everyone but the person delivering it, it would be a lot easier getting along with folks. Unfortunately, no one seems to grasp this basic concept of human co-existence.
As silly as it sounds, rare is the individual that does not at least think this from time to time. For many of us criticism is one of the hardest things in this life to bear. I know! Comparing the pain of a compound fracture to that of the well-aimed criticism, I would prefer the ache of the break to the sting of the sling. If confessions are appropriate, I must own up. Like most people I try to avoid criticism and I certainly am not the kind of person who goes around seeking it. Reacting to just criticism isn’t fun; but reacting to unjust criticism is even less of a picnic. Since it is so difficult sometimes to differentiate between the two, perhaps avoiding any criticism at all costs is the better path to take.
Unfortunately, life presents us with both types of criticism on a pretty frequent basis. Dealing with the just requires patience and forbearance. Dealing with the unjust requires a deep kind of loving patience and forbearance. Criticism well directed and delivered with care may still cause bruised feelings. But criticism that is unloaded upon us, inflicted and perpetrated on us breaks the skin of our lives and opens gaping wou...
"God honors radical, risk-taking faith.
When arks are built, lives are saved. When soldiers march, Jerichos tumble.
When staffs are raised, seas still open.
When a lunch is shared, thousands are fed.
And when a garment is touched -- whether by the hand of an anemic woman in Galilee or by the prayers of a beggar in Bangladesh -- Jesus stops.
He stops and responds." (Lucado, 69)
Like the children of Israel in today’s Bible reading, Hannah Hurnard, author of Hinds’ Feet on High Places, was once paralyzed by fear. Then she heard a sermon on scarecrows that challenged her to turn her fear into faith.
The preacher said, "A wise bird knows that a scarecrow is simply an advertisement. It announces that some very juicy and delicious fruit is to be had for the picking. There are scarecrows in all the best gardens...If I am wise, I too shall treat the scarecrow as though it were an invitation. Every giant in the way which makes me feel like a grasshopper is only a scarecrow beckoning me to God’s richest blessings." He concluded, "Faith is a bird which loves to perch on scarecrows. All our fears are groundless."
Our Daily Bread, April 6, 1995
The doctor told Marsha Mark and her husband they would never have biological children. In their disappointment, Marsha clung to a friend's words: "Somehow, God is going to use your struggle with infertility for his glory." Marsha began to pray for a glimpse of that glory.
"I asked everyone I knew to pray," she said. "One five-year-old prayed, 'Dear God, please send Marsha a baby. Maybe someone could give her one, or she could just find one on the street.' "
Marsha's husband, Tom, a scientist, stopped praying when Marsha showed signs of menopause. Tom had seen lots of data. And in his lifetime, he'd never seen prayer change scientific facts.
Six months later, Marsha made an appointment for another pregnancy test. The doctor said no because Marsha hadn't had a period for seven months. "Asking for another pregnancy test indicates you are not accepting things as they are," he said. Marsha begged for the extra test anyway. And it came back positive.
"Over the next fourteen days, I had four more pregnancy tests and three more sonograms at the hospital's request. I think this time the doctor was having trouble dealing with the facts," Marsha said.
Her full-term pregnancy was uneventful. On October 22, 1996, Amanda Joy was born. "We call her Miracle Mandy," Marsha said.
[Marsha Marks, "Special Delivery," Christian Reader (September--October 2000) Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]
A study once disclosed that if both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, 15%. If neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. The statistics speak for themselves - the example o...
Cartoons at times will have a scene where someone, let’s says Wild E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, falls off the edge of a cliff. As he falls, he grabs hold of a twig sticking out of the side of the cliff. He hangs there for a short time. Then the twig snaps and he falls. It doesn’t matter how strong his grip was. When the twig breaks, he falls.
Today we want to keep that picture in mind as we talk about our faith and learn about about the faith of a Israelite slave girl and the faith of foreign military commander, named Naaman. For you see, the key to a great faith is not how strong the faith is but what the faith holds on to. If faith holds on to a breaka...