Today I want to talk about Counting on Every 1. Counting on Every 1. And the text is from Hebrews 11, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; Evidence of things not yet seen.” This is not the easiest for me because I’m a trained researcher on empirical evidence. What you see, what you can touch, what you can measure. That’s evidence. But as a Christian and as a woman of God, the holy bible tells me that faith, faith is the evidence, the evidence of things NOT yet seen.
Have you heard the story, it’s a true story of Angus Buchan. Angus Buchan was a Scottish farmer who didn’t farm in Scotland. He farmed in South Africa, of all places. His father was an immigrant and he was a descendent. And Angus, he was a bitter man, he was an angry man. And he was invited to church one day by another farmer because nothing was going right for Angus. And so he went begrudgingly to church where he heard another farmer get up there and tell how Jesus had transformed his life. And they gave an opportunity to accept Jesus. And Angus this tough, hard farmer, his heart was as hard as the ground he was trying to plow. But that day he opened his heart to Jesus and he was absolutely transformed. He loved to spend time talking with God. He called it in the green cathedral because it was his field and he would lay down in the field and he would talk to God.
But in the ‘90’s, it was the drought and God said to him, “Angus, plant potatoes.” Angus said “but God, potatoes require more water than the average plant. I don’t have irrigation.” “Plant potatoes, Angus,” God said to him. Angus took God at His word and he plowed that dusty hard field and he put in potato buds, he put in potato buds.
His banker called and said “Angus, I’m really concerned for you. None of the other farmers are planting. You are going to lose your farm; you are going to lose everything.” Angus said “thank you so much for your concern, but I truly believe that God wants me to plant these potatoes, and I’m praying for rain.” In fact he was able to get a stadium out there and got 35,000 people who came and he said “we’re going to pray for rain, farmers. We’re going to pray for rain.” You want to guess what happened? Not a drop of rain. Not one drop.
Meanwhile Angus had put his faith on the line and he had said I believe in a God of miracles! And there he sat and he looked at his dead field and he saw no evidence of the things he had hoped for. But Angus on harvest day, he went out with his servant and they took that pitchfork and they put it in the ground, and miracle of miracles, there was a big huge bountiful crop of potatoes. Those potatoes had grown, those potatoes had grown. How do we know? Nobody saw the rain. Nobody saw the water, but God is a God of miracles and He grew those potatoes under ground without rain. And Angus went on, he had such a bountiful crop that he and his wife were able to open up their home and an orphanage for 24 Zulu children and his ministry now, he’s a farmer but he’s really truly a minister, you can read his book in a story called Faith Like Potatoes. And he says that the condition for a miracle is an impossibility. A miracle is only possible when you’re facing the impossible.
Are you facing the impossible today? Then hallelujah because now you have the conditions for a miracle. Are you facing the impossible today? Hallelujah. A miracle is possible. That’s the message that God wants you to hear today. It is also, I learned this week, that we are right now in the time of the barley harvest. I’ve never heard about this before but in my sleep the other night, I was sleeping and I heard the Lord say to me, don’t think I’m crazy ‘cause I was sleeping, and I heard the Lord say to me, “Sheila, its harvest time.” Harvest time? I thought harvest time was in the fall. My parents were on the farms so weren’t your harvest times always in the fall? I thought harvest time, its spring. I thought that’s when you planted. Well I became very curious and I started to dig around and this is what I discovered. The Israelites had several harvests and this is the time of the first harvest, the harvest of the first fruits. And it’s called the barley harvest. Because the barley and the barley is a grain, is also symbolic and it’s called the seed or the grain of over-comers because it can withstand drought, because it’s hardy and after a long hard winter, there’s the barley harvest and it’s right now in the biblical calendar, right now. This is the very first day of the barley harvest season.
Well I’m going to tell you a trilogy of three stories, if you’ll let me. The first one, you all know these stories but I’m going to give a little different twist on them that I learned this week. I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. You remember Ruth. She was a Moabite, a Gentile and she married one of the sons of Naomi. And when Naomi’s husband and her son’s were all killed, Naomi said to her three daughter-in-laws, I need to return back to my home land. And she went to say goodbye to her three daughter-in-laws. When she got to Ruth, Ruth said no. The bible says she entreated her. “No, don’t leave me Naomi. I want to go with you. You’re people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” And so Naomi took Ruth with her back to her home town of Bethlehem. And in Bethlehem they got there during barley harvest time. And being poor and having absolutely nothing they did what the very, very poor did, they gleaned. They went out into the harvest of the barley harvest of Boaz and he said you may come and glean barley from me.
Well here they were desperate. Ruth was in desperate need of a redeemer. And how unlikely, how unlikely that a widow, a Gentile woman would be embraced and married by this wealthy Jew of high standing Boaz because he fell in love with Ruth and took her as his wife. And it was during the barley harvest season time and what’s really fascinating to me is that if you trace the genealogy of Jesus Christ, you see what came from Ruth and Boaz, what they begot, was the lineage and Jesus was one of their descendants. Jesus was.. one of His ancestors was a Gentile, a Gentile woman which says He came for all, which is what we heard with Hyatt Moore. Jesus came for all. Impossible, impossible for this woman, this widow to marry this wealthy Israelite. But if it’s impossible, that’s a set up for a miracle, right? If it’s impossible, a miracle is possible and that’s what happened with Ruth.
Second story. It was during the time of Passover and Jesus had a throng of people around Him. The bible says five thousand men and we typically tend to think that there were only five thousand people there but we know that in addition to the men, there were also women and children, so conservative estimates are 12,000. This Cathedral seats at capacity under 3,000. Twelve thousand people were there and they were hungry. And the disciples said it’s impossible to feed all these people. It’s impossible. And Jesus said go see what you can find. Dad read it earlier. What was found was a lunch from a little boy. Right? The loaves and fishes. We’ve all heard the story. It was Passover season and those loaves were barley loaves. They were barley loaves because it was barley season. That was the grain that was available and that’s what his mamma made for him, she made him barley loaves to take and that’s what Jesus used to feed the throng, barley loaves.
If you are facing impossible situations right now, then a miracle is possible. That’s what Jesus did, He worked a miracle. He took those meager little offerings and turned them into more than enough. The bible says there are 12 baskets left over.
Third story. Jesus went into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover during the feast of the barley harvest. He went into Jerusalem knowing that He would be crucified. And as Daniel sang, walked that Via Dolorosa. He was crucified and He was put in a tomb. Raise Him from the dead? Impossible! But when it’s impossible, a miracle is possible. And on Easter Sunday morning, our world, our world which is need of a Redeemer, Jesus rose from the dead and we have our Redeemer. It happened during this time of the biblical year calendar, during the feast of the barley harvest. Any time you face the impossible, a miracle is possible because “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and just like Angus couldn’t see those potatoes growing, God is working.
You know it was back in June my dad asked me to help him lead this ministry. And many of you saw that we stood here in the pulpit dad and I, and we had our little bucket of seeds and we walked over to the doors and we threw the seeds out. Do you remember? We threw the seeds out. Couple months ago, I heard the Lord say to me “Sheila, you have sprouts. There are sprouts of new life in this ministry.” And I saw it; I saw the sprouts of a new life. Today, people, today its harvest day. Today we are going to harvest potatoes. It has been an economic drought. We have not seen rain, we have not seen evidence that God will save us personally, that He will save this His ministry, but people of God there are potatoes and it is harvest day today. I am so excited about what God is going to do.
I want to read to you some letters I received this week. “When I came to the Cathedral, I was in a miserable place. One Sunday my engine blew up in my car, leaving me without transportation. On Monday, after getting a ride to work, I was terminated. On Tuesday, I had been feeling ill so a friend suggested I get a pregnancy test. On Wednesday, when I found out I was pregnant, the person I was renting a room from told me to get out. It was all just too much. I was a mess. I was without a car, job, husband, pregnant and about to be homeless. My lifestyle had caught up with me and knocked me to my knees. But God had a plan and today I have a wonderful husband who loves me unconditionally. I have a job that I love. And I drive a pretty cool car. And my daughter is grown and beautiful. This happened because a friend invited me to this church and that is when I started to get back on track. This ministry truly did save my life.”
People are you facing the impossible? A miracle, a miracle, a miracle is possible. We received a letter this past week from a man who watches us on death row. We are his spiritual life line. With your help, we can continue to save lives. I received a call a few weeks ago from two sisters. The one couldn’t talk because she was dying of AIDS. They were surfing through their TV channels and they saw this crazy woman throwing sandbags from the pulpit up here and they said what in the world is she doing? But Kathryn was dying of AIDS so they stopped and they listened. They called and I talked and I prayed with Kathryn to receive Jesus and I said Kathryn if you said yes to Jesus in your heart, just make a noise so I know that you said yes. I’ll take that as a yes and I heard “ah.” Kathryn said yes to Jesus. We saved a life because a day and a half later, her sister called and said Kathryn is gone but thank you. Thank you. I say to you today thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Let us pray. Oh Lord God, we count on You every day and today You are counting on every one of us. We Your people, we are here, we are giving to You because we believe a miracle is possible because You said all things are possible through You and we believe that oh Lord. Thank You. When we were in need of a Redeemer, that You came. You walked with us, You talked with us. You walked the Via Dolorosa and You rose from the dead victorious. Thank You Lord, we love You. We praise You. Amen.