Object Lesson 3: "The Faith of a Mustard Seed"

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LESSON:
 
Our faith in God is only as strong as our faith in the bible as God's word.  

SUMMARY:
 
In this exercise, several unbelievable tasks will be performed that will be viewed as miraculous.  These include opening a banana and finding it already peeled, submerging a hand in a jar of water and pulling it out completely dry, and using a playing card to prevent water spilling out of a glass of water even when completely turned upside-down and the card removed.  However, these tasks are but tricks of science.  The miraculous events in the bible, though, are true miracles, that by definition exceed scientific explanation.  The belief that these biblical events occurred as written in the bible is pivotal to building a connection to God; our faith in God is only as strong as our faith in the bible as God's word.  

QUESTIONS

What is a miracle?
What is faith?

VERSES

"Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’" Matthew 17:19-20

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

“But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” John 20:31

MATERIALS

Experiment 1: Pre-Sliced Banana

2 bananas (ripe with brown dots is preferred)
Sewing needle (at least a centimeter longer than the width of the banana)
Plate

Experiment 2: Dry Hand

Glass or other clear jar with opening large enough to put your hand inside
Tap water
Lycopodium powder (2-3 ounces) – available from various online sources (Ebay, etc)
Note: Lycopodium powder is a type of pollen.  People will allergies to pollen should avoid close proximity.
Salt shaker or similar device to evenly distribute lycopodium powder
Hand towel

Experiment 3: Anti-Gravity Water

Mason jar with metal screw-top cap
Piece of plastic screen (larger than the diameter of the jar, typically 4”x4”)
Index card (4”x6”)
Pitcher of water
Pair of scissors

PREPARATION:   

Experiment 1: Pre-Sliced Banana

Take a single banana and choose a spot on the peel about one inch from one of the ends, preferably on an existing brown spot (the needle hole will leave a brown spot itself).  Push the sewing needle straight into the banana, through the peel and into the soft center, but not penetrating the peel on the opposite side. With the needle in place, move it up and down a few times to cut the soft center, but not the peel. Choose another spot an inch or so down the length of the banana.  Repeat the process again and again.  This action will result in multiple slices of the interior soft fruit, while leaving only small pin-sized holes in the peel.  The result is a normal looking unpeeled banana that actually is pre-sliced.  Make a small mark on this banana to distinguish it from the other non-sliced banana.

Experiment 2: Dry Hand

Fill glass jar 2/3 full with water.  Place lycopodium powder into shaker.  Put jar on display table, with shaker and towel within reach. 

Experiment 3: Anti-gravity water

Remove metal screw-top lid and seal top from Mason jar.  Discard the seal top, as it is not needed.  Put piece of screen on glass opening of jar and put screw lid back on tightly.  Unscrew lid and pull off screen.  You will notice a circular pattern on the screen created from the edge of the jar.  Use the scissors to carefully cut approximately 1 cm away from this circle, creating a slightly larger circle than the diameter of the jar.  Once complete, put the screen back onto the jar and put the lid back on.  The result should be a jar with a metal banded lid with an opening in the middle covered with the screen.  No screen material should be visible on the sides of the lid.  Re-cut screen as necessary.  Put completed jar assembly, the index card, and pitcher full of water on display table.   

Optional: You can purchase a fully assembled jar at Steve Spangler Science.  Product is called the “Mysterious Water Suspension”, Item #: WMWS-700.  An index card sticks better than the laminated card they provide.  It just needs to be replaced after each use.  http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/product/1217

PRESENTATION:

Introduction

1. “Hi kids.” 
2. “Today I am going to do 3 amazing tricks of science.” 
3. “Each of these will be so mind-blowing you will not believe your eyes.”

Cut a peeled banana

4. “For my first trick I thought we would start with a snack.” 
5. “Here is an ordinary banana and an ordinary knife.”  Show unpeeled banana to group.
6. “It is rude not to share, so let’s just cut this banana up into pieces.”  Peel the banana and cut it into 1 inch slices onto the plate using the knife.
7. “Here, you in the front row can have these.”  Hand the plate of cut up bananas to the front row. 

Cut an unpeeled banana

8. “Don’t worry if you are the back.  I have plenty of bananas to go around.”
9. “Let’s get a volunteer from the back to come here and help.”
10. “Ok, you.” Ask a volunteer to come forward.
11. “Let’s see, I can save time and cut the banana now and let you peel it, since I do not want you using a knife.” 
12. “Ok?” Pretend to cut the pre-sliced “marked” banana into slices with the knife then pass it to the volunteer. 
13. “Go ahead . . . peel the banana.” 
14. “See, it is already sliced.” Ask volunteer to sit back down.

Definition of a miracle

15. “Wasn’t that amazing?” 
16. “Wasn’t that incredible?” 
17. “Wasn’t that miraculous?”
18. “No?”
19. “Well, was it a miracle?”
20. “Webster’s dictionary defines a miracle as ‘an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.’”
21. “So, did I break the laws of nature?”
22. “No, it was a trick.”

Powder hand demonstration

23. “Ok, but how about this?”
24. “Here before you I have a normal glass jar filled with water.”
25. “When I put my left hand in the jar and touch the bottom it will become wet, right?” Put left hand in the jar and remove it, showing the wet hand.  Use the towel to dry you hand.
26. “Ok, but I bet that if I have faith I could do amazing things like put my entire hand back in the water and keep it dry.” 
27. “In fact, the bible even says in Matthew 17:19-20 that if I ‘have faith the size of a mustard seed, (I can) say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move’; and nothing will be impossible for (me).”
28. “Well, let’s pretend that this is my mustard seed.”  Show the lycopodium powder to the audience.
29. “Can I use it to put my hand underwater and pull it out dry?”
30. “Let’s see.” Sprinkle lycopodium powder on the surface of the water in the jar, then slowly lower your right hand, keeping it straight with fingers closed, into the jar eventually touching the bottom, then slowly pull it out.  Gently shake off the powder then show the audience your ‘dry hand’.  Use a towel to clean off any residue before proceeding.

Miracle revisited

31. “So, was that a miracle?”
32. “Why not?” Wait for a response.
33. “If instead of using the pretend mustard seed I truly had faith would it have been a miracle?”
34. “No?” 
35. “You are correct.” 
36. “It was a trick.”
37. “Remember, a miracle is an event that cannot be explained by the laws of nature and must be an act of God.”

Anti-gravity water

38. “Ok, I have one more.”
39. “Here is glass jar like the one we used before.”
40. “I will first fill the jar with water.” Use the pitcher of water to fill the jar, being sure to hide the screen from the audience.
41. “Then I will cover the top of the jar with this card.” Cover the top of the jar with the index card.
42. “Ok, so what will happen if I turn this jar upside-down and let go of the card?”
43. “Do you think the water will stay in the jar?” Wait for a response.
44. “Ok, let’s see.” Using you hand, hold the card tight to the jar’s lid as you carefully invert the jar.  Once inverted take your hand off the card and show the audience that the water and card stay in place.
45. “So, who has seen this before?” Wait for a response.
46. “Do you think this is a trick?” Wait for a response.
47. “Ok, so the water must stay up because of this card, right.” Wait for a response.
48. “So what will happen if I take away the card?” Wait for a response.
49. “Oh boy, are you sure?” Wait for a response.
50. “Well, let’s choose some faithful person from our front row to be the victim, the person I will hold the jar above when I remove the card.”
51. “Ok, you will do.” Choose a volunteer.  Note: A small amount of water may leak when the card is first pulled off, so choosing the volunteer prior to the presentation and warning him / her may be advised.
52. “Why are you scared?” 
53. “I thought you said the water would stay in.”
54. “Ok, here we go.” Slowly remove the card, being extra careful not to show the screen to the audience. 
55. “Wow!” Put the card back.  Holding the card firmly to the jar, turn the jar upright.  Then, pour the water back into the pitcher, again hiding the screen.

Miracle revisited

56. “So, was that a miracle?” Wait for a response.
57. “Why not?” Wait for a response.
58. “Do you think I can perform miracles?”  Wait for a response.
59. “No?”
60. “So can we perform miracles?” Wait for a response.
61. “Well, certainly many Christians have seen miracles.”
62. "But miracles are performed by God or a select few chosen people that God act through, like the ones we read in the bible.”
63. “The closest we can come to a miracle ourselves it to pray and ask God.” 
64. “He then can perform miracles, if it is His will.”

Bible is full of miracles

65. “So, where can we read about these miracles?” Wait for a response.
66. “Yes, in the bible.”
67. “The bible is full of miracles.” 
68. “Can you name some?” Wait for a response.
69. “Well, certainly creation itself is a big one.”
70. “How about Jesus’ resurrection?”
71. “Do you know more?” Wait for a response.

Do you believe?

72. “So, we can read about these miracles.” 
73. “We can hear about them in church.” 
74. “But, do you believe them yourself?”
75. “Do you think they REALLY happened?” Wait for a response.
76. “Well, I believe they happened.”

Definition of faith

77. “I have ‘faith’ that they happened.”
78. “Does everybody know what I mean by faith?”
79. “What is faith?” Wait for a response.
80. “Webster’s dictionary defines faith as ‘confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.’” 
81. “In other words, it is belief that does not need evidence.”
82. “The bible defines faith as ‘being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ Hebrews 11:1”
83. “So, faith is belief without proof.”
84. “Would you believe in God more if he appeared to you and performed miracles in front of you?
85. “Why or why not?” Wait for a response.
86. “I probably would too, but God does not do that.”
87. “Why do you think God does not provide solid scientific proof of his existence?” Wait for a response.

Three things

88. “Well, in the bible in John 20:31 it says “these things are written that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.”
89. “This tells me THREE things.” 
90. “FIRST, it tells me that the bible is the written source of Truth.”
91. “The miracles are the Truth.” 
92. “SECOND, it tells me that the bible is the written source of Faith.”
93. “Belief in these miracles is Faith.”
94. “THIRD, it tells me that this Faith in the Truth is essential to my salvation.”
95. “My faith in God is only as strong as my faith that these miracles happened.”
96. “So, God gives us the truth by His word, but also gives us a choice to believe or not believe.” 
97. “Only when we believe, though, can our sins be forgiven.”

Belief in the bible

98. “So what about those miracles we mentioned from the Bible.” 
99. “Do you believe that they happened even though we cannot explain them with science?”
100. “I do.”
101. “Why is that?”
102. “Because the Bible IS God’s word.”
103. “The belief that these biblical events occurred as written in the bible is very important to MY faith that God exists, critical to building MY strong connection to God.”
104. “Remember, YOUR faith in God is only as strong as YOUR faith in the bible as God's word.”
 
Wrap-up

105. “So, what have we learned?”
106. “Well, we learned what a miracle means.”
107. “Do you remember what a miracle is?” Wait for a response.
108. “Yes, it is an event that cannot be explained by the laws of nature.”
109. “We learned that only God can perform these miracles, because man is limited by natural laws.”
110. “We learned that the Bible is full of events (miracles) that have no scientific explanation.”
111. “However, if we believe that these events in the bible really happened, then we can grow in Christ; our connection to God as a whole increases.”
112. “Just remember, our faith in God is only as strong as our faith in the bible as God's word.”

Closing

113. “Well, I better get back to the lab.”
114. “I have lots to do to prepare for my next experiment.”
115. “You see, I think I discovered a way to levitate water, defy inertia, and harness the power of my breath.”
116. “I just need to work the kinks out.”
117. “I will see you again soon.”
118. “Bye.”

REFERENCES:

1. Concept for pre-sliced banana and more detailed instructions can be found http://borro.ws/bananas/
2. A video demonstrating the effect of the pre-sliced banana is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prU96UpekA8
3. A demonstration of the effect of the dry hand and more detailed instructions can be found at http://www.cmste.uregina.ca/Quickstarts/powderglove.html
4. Concept for anti-gravity water obtained from Steve Spangler Science.  A video of the effect is also available.  See Mysterious Water Suspension at http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/product/1217

CONTACT:

Please send comments, suggestions, and questions to Daniel at madaboutjesuslaboratories@yahoo.com

Mad About Jesus Laboratories

http://www.madaboutjesus.net

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