Tag Archive: Parable


The King’s Garden

God-Write-the-BibleEven those of us who might boldly declare our status (by God’s grace) as born again believers have a tendency to forget that we have been literally and spiritually transported out of the old kingdom and into the new one (Colossians 1:13), one where often the old worldly economy, tools, and techniques simply won’t suffice.  Although we might readily understand and openly acknowledge the forgiveness of our sins, we still need to be regularly reminded of our utter dependence upon the power of God and His glorious Word and the absolute necessity of rejecting the impotent inventions and dangerous devices of this world!

In Colossians 3, the Lord reminds us of the vital importance of not only knowing where we now live, but also of mortifying all that accompanied us from the old kingdom. We are instructed to take off (mortify) the old man and instead put on the new man who is being renewed in Christ. (Colossians 3:9-11) This is our daily duty and joy as believers, one we must perform with diligence and one that can only be accomplished by the power of the Lord Himself.

We must cease from returning to the flesh if we truly desire a victorious walk and abundant race in the strength of our Heavenly Father. I pray this simple story encourages and reminds us all to truly turn to Jesus Christ, our King, walking in the Spirit rather than the flesh.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

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THE KING’S GARDEN

Once there was a very talented and creative gardener who lived in a beautiful kingdom. All sorts of wonderful plants thrived throughout his property. He even grew plants on his roof. The gardener had flowers, and vegetables, fruit trees and even several species no one had ever heard of before. The plants were bigger and more lush than many had ever seen. And the fruits and vegetables were more delicious than almost anything anyone had ever tasted, other than the king’s, of course. People from all around the kingdom purposely planned to journey past the gardener’s house just to gaze upon all the amazing florae. He received an abundance of praise from the people and over time grew quite fond of it. Day and night, the gardener could always be seen outside trimming, planting, and planning with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.

One day there was position open at the palace garden. Over the years, many had attempted to care for the king’s plants and unfortunately most had failed. The gardener only lived a few miles down the hill from the palace and was quite confident he would make a superb gardener for the King. He immediately applied and was quickly hired. Upon starting, he was handed a letter written by the king himself, but the gardener was so excited he forgot to even open it. Instead he gathered up all the equipment from his house, loaded it onto a cart and pushed it all the way up to the palace.

As he entered the enormous garden gateway, the guard held out his hand, stopping the gardener dead in Hagi_Castle_Garden,_Western_Honshu,_+Japanhis tracks. The guard explained that there could be no outside tools brought into the king’s garden. The gardener could only use what was supplied to him by the king. For the first time in a very long time, he felt a flood of worry and bewilderment pour over. The king’s garden required tools and techniques that were entirely foreign to the gardener and this was something he was definitely not ready for.

The gardener and his family had not always lived in the beautiful kingdom. He was actually born in a kingdom on the other side of mountains, one that was much different than where he lived now. While still in on the other side, the gardener’s dad handed down to his young son all the tools and techniques he would need in order to grow amazing plants, at least until now. The gardener really thought he had all the knowledge and skills he’d ever need. Unfortunately, none of the ways he had learned from his dad would work properly in the king’s garden and soon the king’s plants began to wither and die. This was also something the gardener had not experienced in a very long time. Those walking by began to murmur and some even laughed at him. Others just looked away, feeling both sad for the plants and for the gardener. He had lost all the praise he was so accustomed to receiving.

Many palace gardeners had come and gone and many had failed. The gardener knew he didn’t want to be numbered among those who had been defeated, but also knew he would need to do something he hadn’t done in a very, very long time. He knew he’d have to ask for help. “Why is the king being so difficult anyway,” he often mumbled to himself? One day he finally humbled himself enough to ask the guard if there were any books in the palace library on tending the king’s plants. The guard explained that the only way to know how to properly care for the king’s garden was to talk with the king himself. The gardener’s heart sank. “Oh, no! Not the king,” he answered with a tone of discouragement in his voice. “How can I possibly ask the king?”

He definitely did not want that. After all, he was supposed to be the best gardener in the whole kingdom. He didn’t want to appear like he didn’t actually know what he was doing, especially to the king. He reasoned within himself that this would only make it seem as though he wasn’t really a good gardener. He strove for weeks attempting to figure out the right way of caring for each of the plants in the king’s garden. He got up early every morning and went home late every night. It wasn’t long before he grew extremely frustrated and terribly exhausted.

Soon many of the plants were dying and inside he felt the same starvation, but he just couldn’t put aside his pride to ask the king for help. So instead, he chose to return to his old house where at least he felt like he belonged. At least he could tend to the familiar plants and begin seeing success again. After a couple weeks, he was back to his old routine, but deep down he knew there was more. There was something missing in it all, but he just couldn’t quite put his finger on it. One thing was for sure, tending to his familiar garden just wasn’t satisfying like it once was.

One day, while trimming back a few bushes, something popped into his mind. “The king’s letter,” he thought to himself. “In all the excitement, I never read his letter.” He wasn’t sure if he should even bother, but curiosity and frankly, the lack of satisfaction got the best of him. After searching a while, he found it. Sitting down in front of his fireplace, he carefully opened the envelope and began reading the king’s message aloud. It simply said,

            Dear Gardener,

            If you are weak; if you are weary, then come to Me. Learn of Me and I will give you rest.

           Love,

                    ~The King

The gardener read the letter several times. Each time it was like a tiny seed was being planted deeper and deeper within his own heart. At first, it was difficult to believe, but after thinking long and hard, he realized it wasn’t the king who was being so difficult. The gardener finally understood that he was the one being so stubborn and prideful.  “How could I have been so foolish,” he wondered to himself. “After all, who could possibly have better tools and knowledge than the king?”  He immediately stood and raced to the king, never looking back, never returning to his old garden again.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

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A Celebration for Fun?

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What if a church decided to start a new celebration, one that they could teach to the lost? What if, for some unknown reason, they chose to have it take place on a very important pagan date, a day those worshipping creation (rather than the Creator) especially cherish?

The event would have children dress up in costumes magnifying man and all his vain imagination could fathom. Some could even choose to dress like wizards and witches, skeletons, zombies, and ghosts.

Once the date and costumes were decided, the church would then start sharing the new tradition with their neighbors, reaching out to the lost. To keep everyone coming year after year, they decided they’d need an incentive, so a decision was made to give out lots of candy to all the children who participate.

After the first few years, the adults might decide they too want to join in the festivities, so there is another committee formed to plan what to do for them. They decide to encourage the grown ups to  decorate their houses inside and out, but they too are asked to put up things reminiscent of darkness and death.

There could also be greeting cards and adult costumes, all to help everyone learn about and remember the church’s new celebration. Plus, the more people participating, the less likely individuals will be to stop joining in.

Just as the planning is almost done, someone in the back of the room stands up to ask a question. “What if some question the timing of our event and choice to represent so much darkness, especially since our call is to shine the Light of Jesus,” he asks. Everyone turns back again to the front to hear from the committee members sitting at the head tables.

After a brief pause, one of the members smiles. “We’ll simply explain to everyone in the church that we’re doing it all in the name of fun,” he suggests. “Then, just in case our neighbors wonder, we’ll tell them we really don’t believe any of the things we’re doing. We’ll say we’re just playing make believe. That should suffice.” Everyone nodded in agreement and then finalized their plans for the church’s newest and most fun celebration yet.

“Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-16

The Gracious Gift

Castle in FallOnce there was a kingdom with a very great king.  Every year the people of the kingdom had a special celebration filled with a wonderful time of giving to the king.  On this special day everyone from the kingdom would come to the castle and present the king with amazing presents hoping he would choose their’s as the best gift for that year. Whoever the king chose as the best giver would have the privilege of sitting with him for the remainder of the celebration. Some people enjoyed being close to the king because they believed the king made them look great. Others, although a minority, loved being by the king just to be with him. They loved talking with him and seeing how he handled the kingdom. They simply loved the king.

This was a very special year for one little boy.  His parents had finally agreed to allow him to participate in the giving celebration.  Gregory was only seven, but it felt like he’d been waiting for an eternity.  He couldn’t contain his excitement.  He desperately desired to win the event for one simple reason. He just wanted to get to know his king. Gregory really wanted to win! He was so excited he could barely sleep that first night. He got up early to take a walk around his neighborhood.  “I’ve got to come up with a great gift,” he thought to himself.  But he had one little problem.  Even after saving his allowances for two straight years, he only had $30 to buy something. As he strolled around the familiar neighborhood circuit, he began to notice many of his neighbors had already begun working on their presents.  He saw a large giraffe in one backyard while another neighbor had purchased a beautiful fruit tree filled with ripe pomegranates. Another family had been working on building the king a marvelous flying machine. One man was hand crafting a beautiful marble sculpture in his front yard. Walking through the neighborhood, Gregory began to grow more and more discouraged.

When he arrived back home, he was almost ready to give up.  “What can I get the king for such a little amount of money,” he mumbled under his breath. Waving his hands up in surrender, he retreated to his room.  He was so sad, he even missed supper that night.  The next morning he stayed in his room, not wanting to see any more gifts he would soon be competing against. Almost a week went by with nothing but discouragement and frustration to guide his way. Then Gregory finally became so disquieted in his heart he simply started crying out to the king. He knew the king was great, but he really didn’t know if even the king would hear his faraway pleas. Then it happened.  He decided he would give it one last shot.  After all, the party was only a day away. He began pacing in his room as he tried to arrive at a winning idea.  “I have to be with the king,” he said with determination in his heart.”I just have to!” All morning he walked back and forth and back and forth almost like a soldier during marching practice.  All of a sudden, as if sent by the king himself, an idea flew into his mind.  At first he wasn’t sure, but then a big smile slowly appeared across his face.  He knew, he just knew this would be the winning idea!

Gregory sprinted over to the spare bedroom where all the boxes and wrapping paper were stored.  His parents were happy to see he was finally back on track. He spent all afternoon looking for just the right box and just the right paper.  That night he slept soundly, knowing with confidence that he would soon be sitting by his king. As the sun peered through his curtains, enlightening his room, he hopped out of bed as if a rabbit. His parents and he gathered their gifts and began the long trek to the castle.  By the time they arrived, the line was all the way out the castle doors and down the main street.  Gregory waited patiently, remaining confident even Fall Trail 1after seeing the many spectacular presents awaiting the king. He saw peacocks and plow horses, rubies and  diamonds, glistening golden vases and large lions in cages. He overheard people talking about the kinds of gifts that had won in years gone by. One year, a tremendous tiger as white as the snow had won. Another year the winner had brought a beautiful fruit tree as tall as a four story house. This tree could actually produce three different kinds of fruit.  Gregory remembered the year the tree had won. That was when he was four.

Finally, the sun was setting and Gregory had made it into castle’s throne room.  It was a large room lined with marble from floor to ceiling.  It echoed with voices as the people huddled around to see the remaining gifts.  Oohs and aahs filled the room.  Gregory had been so focused on seeing the king, he hadn’t realized until that very moment that he was actually the last person in line.  This made him a little nervous knowing if the king wasn’t pleased, there would be no one behind him to make him happy again.

There were only three people ahead of him and he could hear everyone in the huge room talking about the day’s events.  Some were even arguing over their own gifts, believing, of course, that they were the best.  His heart began to pound and knees started to shake. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” he thought to himself.  Then only one person stood between him and the king.  Gregory could now see the king’s face.  The king glanced over to the little boy and gave him a smile, as if to assure him it would be okay.  It was almost like the king had been waiting all day just for him.  That was the assurance he needed.  Finally, after waiting for almost seven hours, it was time.

The crowd grew silent, noticing the only one left was a little boy that most didn’t even know.  The people began to whisper to one another.  A few even chuckled.  “Who does this boy think he is?” a few grumbled.  “He’s wasting our time,” they complained.  They couldn’t quite make out what he had in his hand, but they all figured this would be the worst gift ever.  Gregory slowly approached the king.  This was the first time he had ever seen him this close before. The prince walked down to meet him, escorting him to his father. Gregory slowly handed the king his little gift wrapped in paper his family had saved from his birthday party the year before.  A million thoughts flew through his head.  Then the room fell silent and Gregory felt like it was just him and the king.  The king began to open his present, carefully peeling the paper. The people could not wait to see what was inside.

The king then opened the little cardboard box lid.  His fingers reached inside, pulling out a small piece of paper. The people fixed their gaze on the king as he carefully unfolded it.  His eyes seemed to twinkle as he finished reading.  Gregory watched and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Then the king rose to his feet and lifted his arm. “Thank you all!” he began. “I have received many wonderful gifts today, but as you all know, only one can be the winner.”  The people all leaned forward with anticipation.  “This year, the winner is…”  Many in the audience were sure they would be this year’s winner.  The king then reached down and picked up the 7 year old boy still standing at his feet.  “This year the winner is Gregory.”  The people could not believe it. The crowd was buzzing with amazement!

How could this little boy with his little box and little piece of paper be the winner?  It was impossible.  The king continued… “This boy has not only given me the best gift this year, but the best gift ever!”  You could hear people gasp and complain throughout the room. “He will not only be able to be with me for today, but because of his gracious gift, Gregory will be able to visit me any time he wants for his whole life.”  The people could not believe it! Everyone was excited to discover what was on that little piece of paper, but the king chose not to tell them, at least not yet.

The rest of the evening all the people of the kingdom enjoyed great food and a festival filled with games, music, and much more. But Gregory simply enjoyed being with his king.  He couldn’t believe it.  He just loved looking and listening to the king.  They talked all night long. As people walked by the king’s table they kept asking him what the boy had given him.  The king would simply smile, reassuring them to be patient.  The next morning the king sent out invitations to all the people in his kingdom, requesting their presence at noon on the first day of the following week. The invitation explained that the king would finally reveal to all Gregory’s gracious gift. The people could not wait! The following Sunday people from all around the kingdom made their way to the castle. Right at noon the king stood and explained what made Gregory’s gift so special.

“You see,” began the king. “For many years now people have brought me many wonderful gifts, but no one has ever given me a gift quite like this one.”  One person in the crowd just couldn’t wait any longer. “Please king,” he cried. “Tell us what was on the paper.”  The king smiled.  “The paper had seven simple words on it.” The people all listened carefully as the king continued. “The paper said, ‘THANK YOU MY DEAR KING, THANK YOU!'”

The people looked quite confused.  “You see,” explained the king.  “Although many wonderful gifts have been given to me over the years, I’ve never really needed any of them. After all, I already own everything in the kingdom.  What I’ve really wanted all along is you, not your things.  I want your hearts.  I want you to willingly be my people. That’s what my kingdom is all about.  Only after you truly become my people, will you finally get to know me as your personal king.  This boy’s gift is exactly what I’ve been looking for these many years.  Gregory’s gift has revealed his deep, heartfelt thanks. It has revealed his willingness to give me nothing less than his heart.”

People talked about Gregory’s gracious gift for many years to come, reminding one another that it wasn’t the objects, but their hearts that they should willingly and humbly give the king each and every day; hearts overflowing with thanksgiving to their gracious and glorious king.  This is what the king was truly searching for all along.

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” Proverbs 23:26.  

“O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: You delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” Psalm 51:15-17.

Four Soils Dilemma

In Luke 8 Jesus is teaching the parable of the sower to a multitude of people.  There are four soils in this parable, and the seed is the Word of God. Luke 8:11.  After He finishes the parable, the disciples ask Him the meaning.  He then explains that the four soils are four hearts- the first, a hard heart, the second one is a heart that receives the Word with joy, but withers when trials and persecutions come.  The third heart is choked by the thorny worries and cares of the riches of this world, never producing any fruit.  And the fourth heart is a good heart, the heart that wants to understand (Matthew 13:13) the Word, producing much fruit. 

There is some discussion over this parable, especially the two middle hearts.  Perhaps I am just not seeing correctly, but there seems to be a dilemma I have not read or heard about before.  The dilemma I see is between the theology of Calvinism and the teaching of this parable. There seems to be a glaring issue when trying to align this parable with the Calvinistic teaching on God’s sovereignty and man’s total inability to choose Him. For those who believe man cannot choose anything but evil, and that man is so dead that he is actually unable to turn to the Lord, there should be some recognition of a dilemma in Jesus’ parable. Let me explain further. 

The first heart is clearly a representation of lost mankind. To many who call themselves Calvinists this first heart would represent dead men ‘at the bottom of the ocean’ unable to even reach out to Christ at any level.  The fourth heart is the heart that produces good fruit.  And to the man who holds to Calvinist teachings, this heart would be the man who has been regenerated by the Spirit of God.  This is the heart which Jesus swam to the bottom of the ocean for, reviving and bringing him from death to life.  Not that I believe that God must revive us before we can believe, but I can understand how someone could use these two soils to further their reformed, Calvinistic theology.  But here is the dilemma. 

If the reformed, Calvinistic perspective is true, then why even bother adding the second or third soil to the parable?  If men are so dead that they cannot do anything other than choose evil, and if all men truly cannot understand anything regarding the Gospel of God, then what place do soils two and three have? 

Soil 2: For some to receive the Word with gladness (Mark 4:16), then turn away when trials and tribulations come seems to imply that they are not truly saved. Even though lost and dead in their sins, they are able to receive the Word, albeit with wrong intentions, i.e. to make their lives more comfortable.  Or would you say that they were saved, but then simply turned away?  If so, the Calvinist would have to admit that God has sovereignly allowed some to actually receive the Word only to force/cause them to turn away during persecutions and trials.  Would this not be a strange action by the God which the Bible declares is love? 

Soil 3: Then there is the third soil which is filled with the worries and  cares of this world.  This man again receives the Word, but doesn’t seem to turn  away from the old nature.  Much like Lot, he moves back into Sodom instead of fleeing it.  Again the question is this- Has God sovereignly predestined and regenerated this man to receive the Word of God, then causing them to keep the worries so much as to choke the fruit of the Word from ever being produced?  And if these are true, born-again believers which God has sovereignly regenerated, then why not sovereignly sanctify them to keep from having any thorns at all? 

Soil 1: Lastly, there is the dilemma of the first heart, the heart that is so hard that the seed never enters and Satan comes to snatch away the Word.  In Matthew 13:19, Jesus reveals that this heart is hard because it does not understand.  Now to many Calvinists, this would be that all men cannot understand without God regenerated them.  Most Calvinists would say that men not only do not want to understand, but that they cannot understand.  Although the Bible does say men, in general, don’t want to understand, no where does it teach that they are not able to at least understand that God is the Creator and that they are in need of the Savior.  See Romans 2:14-15.  Are the first three hearts representations of sinful men? If so, then what is the point of drawing a distinction between soil 1,2, and 3?   And if soil 1 is the only unregenerate man in this parable, then are soils 2 and 3 sovereignly regenerated hearts that have been caused to later reject or choke the Word?  Would not both of these be strange conclusions?

Frankly, if our theology doesn’t fit the Word of God, we need to throw out our theology!  It will only benefit us and those we seek to teach.  Why couldn’t it be as simple as this- When Jesus began to teach this parable there was a multitude of people who gathered, including His disciples.  I’m sure the Lord knew that the multitude consisted of a variety of hearts.  Some had soil 1.  Others had soil 2. Still others had soil 3, and a few had soil 4.  Jesus told His disciples, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Matthew 13:15.  Two notes: First, Jesus says the people closed their eyes themselves.  God did not make them do it.  Secondly, He says every one of them has the option at anytime of seeing, hearing, and understanding so as to be converted and healed.  It truly reads as though all have the option of receiving the Word, however after hearing, some will refuse, others will hear wrongly, and others will never yield to the Word, even though they have heard. 

This parable seems to make much more sense when taken in light of man’s ability to at least be able to hear the truth of God’s Word and respond.  When the reader starts with man’s ability to respond to God’s invitation, the parable of the sower seems to serve as a warning both for the hearer to be careful he receives the true Gospel and after receiving, to take care in correctly teaching it to others.

When dilemmas arise within our understanding of the Scriptures, it might mean we need to pray for deeper and clearer understanding.  Or it might simply mean we are attempting to mingle the ideas of men with the Word of God.  May we always desire the Truth of God’s Word over any of man’s teachings! 

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days…”                   Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15

“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13 and 14a

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