Appearance vs. Substance

What a glorious morning here in the Meadow! We’ve been having rain off & on these past few days. I’m not complaining because we need it badly. I just wish we would get some of that good ground-soaking stuff. The previous rains have been just enough to wet the roots of the grass/weeds. It makes things ‘look’ green & pretty, but doesn’t go deep enough to offer substance to other life, including our well.

I’m just coming out of a bad spell and finally feel like I can get back on track. I’ve got some catching up to do. So much falls by the wayside when it’s not tended to each day. I took my little garden plants outside to start hardening them off this morning. The weather is supposed to be a little overcast today, which makes the adjustment to the outside world easier for plants that have been started indoors.

Growing up, I used to hear talk comparing ‘hot-house’ plants and those plants that grow outdoors, exposed to the elements. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination; but I know that my little plants grown downstairs in the mud-room tend to grow under artificial light, but their stems are weak and in time wouldn’t be able to support the top-heavy leaves that grow.

In my gardening catalogs, I’ve seen all kinds of artificial elements that are designed to be used in greenhouses, such as large turbo fans to simulate wind, etc.. For those who have large greenhouse businesses, I bet they works slick. But, I’d rather grow my garden the old fashion way ~ outdoors. Our growing season is really short here, so I’ve found that starting plants indoors really helps boost productivity. As soon as the outdoor temperatures come up to match the indoor temperature, I set the plants outside under some light-filtering shade for a few hours at a time to get them used to everything. It’s a tedious process to take them out & bring them in each day; but eventually they have adapted and can move out to the full sun, wind, and rain and thrive.

A thought occurred to me this morning as I was reading the newest Barna Research report. According to the latest Barna survey, Christians and pastors are real mixed up on what ‘Spiritual Maturity’ is. I’m curious, how would you define Spiritual Maturity? With thousands & thousands of churches across the United States, how can so many be unsure what Spiritual Maturity is?

The Scriptures say,
Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.” Isaiah 28:9

I’m sure some may cluck their tongue and fuss about the above illustration. But, stop a moment and think about it. Faith in Jesus Christ is the key to our salvation. That is the absolute starting point for Christians. Unfortunately most Christians don’t seem to grow past that point. They are a lot like the hothouse tomato plants I talked about earlier. With that little bit of knowledge, they go out into the elements of the world and get blown around and eventually their faith withers and dies.

Isaiah goes on to say, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10).

Another question: how do you raise a child? In my experience, the best way to teach a child is to teach object lessons a little at a time. Repeating the lesson consistently until it is learned. Eventually I became a certified teacher, but in all truthfulness, I was an awful student. When my high school teachers would tell me that there would be a test the next day, I would almost make myself sick with dread. I would take my books home, open them, and stare at them. I had absolutely no idea how to study. All I knew was to read & re-read the text in hopes that something might stick. I guess enough things stuck, I graduated from high school; but I didn’t feel any smarter coming out of high school than I did going into it.

I didn’t learn to study until I became an adult. When there was something I wanted to learn to do, I would gather all the books I could find on the subject and dig in until I understood it. If I could find someone who already had the knowledge, I would hound them to death until they told me everything they knew and then I would take notes. This served me well when I eventually went to college.

I guess what frustrates me the most is when a person is introduced to Christ, we just leave them to fend for themselves. We tell them to just go study the Bible or leave them to migrate to a church that either doesn’t teach the whole Word of God or one that keeps them on the milk.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the Bible isn’t the easiest book to understand. Even the newest translations need translation. There are countless study guides on the market to help the process; but so many of them are as hard to understand as the Bible is. A dear sister in the Lord gave me a “Willmington’s Guide to the Bible” several years ago. It’s the Old Testament edition. This is the absolute best resource I’ve found for learning the Old Testament. Without someone to help point the way, what’s a new Christian to do?

We went to a church once where the pastor simply did not teach his flock how to dig into the meat of the Scriptures. At first it appeared that the lack of depth in his Spiritual teaching was deliberate. But after awhile it occurred to me that it wasn’t that he didn’t want the Saints to grow in the ways of God; it was because he, himself, wasn’t beyond the milk stage either. He was just teaching what he knew. His little flock had a hard time adapting what they learned in church on Sunday morning by the time Monday morning came around.

Over the years, I’ve seen churches create ‘programs’ on top of programs and considered it to be teaching Spiritual maturity. Granted they kept the members too busy to get into much worldly trouble; but indoor basketball gyms & weight rooms don’t necessarily teach Spiritual maturity. To me, it seems to encourage “hot-house Christianity”.

Do we want the topsoil moisture, or do we want that real ground soaking rain? Do we want to grow to just have the appearance of being a good Christian, or do we want roots that reach deep and hold us strong as the sun beats down and the winds tear through? Maybe it’s time to do some evaluating of both ourselves & our churches and start getting God’s definition of “Spiritual Maturity” and not only grow toward it, but take someone by the hand and teach them as we learn.

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14)

I’m off my soapbox now. Just food for thought. One last word: If you are a new Christian, find the strongest Christian you can, attach yourself to them, and glean every bit of Godly knowledge you can from them. Don’t be satisfied with just a little knowledge ~ there’s a whole lot of wonderful things God wants us to know!

May the Lord bless you.

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