Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)
TITLE: The Parable of the Gardens
By Karen Wilber
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After the king's death, the first son set about securing the borders of the kingdom. The second son had ships built and began to trade with other nations. The third son had no land or goods, so he went out among the people. He visited the manor homes of nobles and the humble cottages of the poor. He conversed with tradespeople and farmers. He listened to the cry of orphans and held the hands of widows. Everywhere he went, he spoke a kind word and planted a handful of seeds from his sack.
Years passed and the kingdom prospered. One day a stranger came from a distant land to admire the kingdom's wealth and beauty. He stood at the gates of the palace, fascinated by the king's residence with its sparkling fountains and columns adorned with marble statues. He walked through the town and marveled at the graceful houses lining busy streets. He wandered down to the docks to see great ships anchored there, heavy with goods from distant shores. He watched as the tradesmen hurried back and forth through town, loading and unloading their wares.
But the most extraordinary thing about the kingdom was its beautiful gardens. They began at the palace gates and wound their way through the town. Every street was lined with trees offering shelter and shade to passers-by. Each house bore window boxes overflowing with fragrant blossoms of pink, white, blue, and yellow. Vines climbed trellises alongside buildings of brick and stone. Baskets of flowers hung from poles in front of the shops. Even the people embodied a living garden as laughing children wove garlands and women wore flowers entwined in their hair.
At the end of the day the stranger stopped at an inn to take some refreshment. The innkeeper greeted him, “Good evening sir. How are you enjoying your stay?”
The stranger answered, “I've traveled the world and seen many prosperous lands, but the beauty of this kingdom surpasses them all. But such beauty cannot come from the hand of man alone. You have surely been touched by God.”
“Then you have truly seen the wisdom of our Heavenly King,” the innkeeper replied, “Each of the father's gifts came with a blessing. God blessed the son who received the lands with the gift of leadership. Because of him, we enjoy peace and protection. God blessed the son who received gold and silver with the gift of administration. Because of him, we have wealth and honor. God blessed the son who received the seeds with the gift of encouragement. While he planted the king's seeds in the ground, he also planted God's seed of hope in the hearts of the people. Because of his words and deeds, our hearts are joyful and our earthly kingdom, a garden to rival even Eden. We have great joy to share with others because he taught us how to refresh the hearts of the saints.”
Blessed are those who encourage believers, for they tend the gardens of Heaven.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. (Philemon 1:7 NIV)
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