Posts tagged ‘Lord’

The King’s Corn: A Tale About Integrity

An aging king woke up one day to the realization that should he drop dead, there would be no male in the royal family to take his place. He was the last male in the royal family in a culture where only a male could succeed to the throne – and he was aging. He decided that if he could not give birth to a male, he would adopt a son who then could take his place but he insisted that such an adopted son must be extraordinary in every sense of the word. So he launched a competition in his kingdom, open to all boys, no matter what their background. Ten boys made it to the very top.

There was little to separate these boys in terms of intelligence and physical attributes and capabilities. The king said to them, ‘I have one last test and whoever comes top will become my adopted son and heir to my throne.’

Then he said, ‘This kingdom depends solely on agriculture. So the king must know how to cultivate plants. So here is a seed of corn for each of you.Take it home and plant and nurture it for three weeks. At the end of three weeks, we shall see who has done the best job of cultivating the seed. That person will be my heir-apparent.’ The boys took their seeds and hurried home. They each got a flower pot and planted the seed as soon as they got home. There was much excitement in the kingdom as the people waited with bated breath to see who was destined to be their next king.

In one home, the boy and his parents were almost heartbroken when after days of intense care, the seed failed to sprout. He did not know what had gone wrong with his. He had selected the soil carefully, he had applied the right quantity and type of fertilizer, he had been very dutiful in watering it at the right intervals, he had even prayed over it day and night and yet his seed had turned out to be unproductive.

Some of his friends advised him to go and buy a seed from the market and plant that. ‘After all,’ they said, ‘how can anyone tell one seed of corn from another?’ But his parents who had always taught him the value of integrity reminded him that if the king wanted them to plant any corn, he would have asked them to go for their own seed. ‘If you take anything different from what the king gave you that would be dishonesty.’

‘Maybe we are not destined for the throne. If so, let it be, but don’t be found to have deceived the king,’ they told him. The d-day came and the boys returned to the palace each of them proudly exhibiting a very fine corn seedling. It was obvious that the other nine boys had had great success with their seeds. The king began making his way down the line of eager boys and asked each of them, ‘Is this what came out of the seed I gave you?’

And each boy responded, ‘Yes, your majesty.’ And the king would nod and move down the line.

The king finally got to the last boy in the line-up. The boy was shaking with fear. He knew that the king was going to have him thrown into prison for wasting his seed. ‘What did you do with the seed I gave you?’ the king asked. ‘I planted it and cared for it diligently, your majesty, but alas it failed to sprout.’ the boy said tearfully as the crowd booed him.

But the king raised his hands and signaled for silence. Then he said, ‘My people behold your next king.’ The people were confused. ‘Why that one?’ many asked. ‘How can he be the right choice?’ The king took his place on his throne with the boy by his side and said, ‘I gave these boys boiled seeds. This test was not for cultivating corn. It was the test of character; a test of integrity. It was the ultimate test.’

If a king must have one quality, it must be that he should be above dishonesty. Only this boy passed the test. A boiled seed cannot sprout.’ Never!!

When the subject of how the Christian life can be perceived by others, my wife sometimes likes to tell about an unchurched friend whom she went through high school with. He once remarked to her that what he respected most about her was that she was the same girl on Friday as she was on Sunday. What she believed and lived didn’t waver, and that made quite an impact on someone who didn’t have a very positive view of “church folks.”

To live a life of holiness requires no small degree of integrity, a characteristic that is not necessarily viewed as much of a virtue these days.  Yet anyone who even begins to claim that the Bible is the benchmark by which their life is lived must see integrity as a non-negotiable. To the ancient Israelites, the Chosen Ones, to be people of integrity was a command that came directly from the Lord.

“You shall have only a full and honest weight; you shall have only a full and honest measure, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are abhorrent to the LORD your God.”  (Deuteronomy 25:15-16)

It’s clear that the biblical perspective is that integrity flows from the heart, aptly illustrated by Proverbs 4:23-27.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”

What are some ways that integrity plays out in your Christian walk?

Radical: How Much is Enough?

I recently finished reading through David Platt’s Radical. The subtitle of the book reveals quite a lot about what Platt — who pastorsa megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama — wants to say: “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” His premise is that many of the principles of what we deem “the American dream” are in contradiction to living out Christian faith. While I am not sold on everything, he makes some very powerful points.

I am particularly convicted by the sixth chapter of Radical, entitled “How Much is Enough?” Dealing with American wealth versus a world that is mostly in poverty, Platt questions what he sees as a huge blind spot in American Christianity, saying:

“Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. The attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Closs to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.”

Let me say that this is not an issue that is a new struggle for me. I’ve often looked at the amazing amount of stuff  that my wife and I have managed to accumulate in 5 1/2 years of marriage, and simply wondered, “Why we need all this? Do we need all this?” Although we’ve made some half-hearted attempts recently to rid ourselves of some of our possessions, my own materialism nags at me, perhaps for the very reason that Platt questions whether the Church can rightly call itself God’s people.

“What scares me most, though, is that we can pretend that we are the people of God. We can comfortably turn a blind eye … and go on with our affluent model of Christianity and church. We can even be successful in our church culture for doing so. It will actually be a sign of success and growth when we spend millions on ourselves. “Look how big that church is becoming,” they’ll say. “Did you see all the stuff they have?”

John Wesley had strong words on stewardship and the use of money, and Platt actually quotes one of my favorite stories about Wesley.

[Wesley] had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a Winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for possession against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left. It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he spent his money. He asked himself: “Will They Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou has adorned they walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

I have to confess that I can’t say that the Lord is pleased with how I’m spending my money. I will be seeking to be a better steward, and seeking ways that I might have less and give more. I will be examining what I have in light of the needs of others.

Has God spoken to you regarding possessions and money?

Zombie Land – Guest Post by Jeff Skinner

This guest post is by Jeff Skinner, a Nazarene church planter and pastor of EaglePointe Church of the Nazarene in Auburn, Alabama. I met Jeff when we took a preaching course together at Trevecca Nazarene University, where we’re both studying for Master’s degrees. I know Jeff to be an inventive preacher who manages to be both whimsical and entertaining without ever sacrificing solid Biblical teaching or core Wesleyan doctrines. He’d be the first to tell you that taking too many graduate courses at the same time may turn him into a zombie. 

 It seems these days zombies and vampires are all the rage. While I have not  seen any college  courses on vampires, I have seen a few on zombies. Columbia  University has a course  entitled,  “Zombies in Popular Movies.”  Baltimore  University has an English 33 course on  Zombies.  There is even an Ipad app:  “Plants vs. Zombies”. Xbox, Wii, PS3, all of them have  Zombie  themed games.  Even the Disney Channel is even getting in the Zombie action. One of  their  popular shows had a “zombie dance.”  Zombies appeared in the latest  installment  of The  Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, “On Stranger  Tides.”  There seems to be a  fascination  with zombies.

I know what you’re thinking, “What do zombies and burning hearts have in  common?” Well it turns out a good bit. In the beginning we were created  in the image of God (Imago Dei). In other words YHWH took a lump of clay and sculpted it into His own image. We are sculpted by the hands of YHWH as a testimony to the greatness of Him. Other kings had graven images/idols made in their honor, but those were made of wood, gold or something else.  Humanity was made out of flesh and blood. Humans are living, breathing, willing testimonies to our Creator. This is quite the contrast to other graven images.

You know the story. Humanity sinned and that perfect image of YHWH called human, was no longer human. Adam blames both God and Eve for his sin and Eve blames God’s creation (Genesis 3:12-13). As a result of this “fall,” our relationship with God, each other, and creation was broken. One might say the result for humanity was we became zombies — sub human. From that point forward humanity would devour everything in its path–especially each other.

Centuries later YHWH made a new relationship with Abraham. Every man child would circumcise the flesh of his foreskin at eight days old as a token of the covenant between YHWH and Abraham. This would be the beginning of the restoration of our humanity.

Then through Jeremiah the Lord told His people:

 31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people  (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

In effect, this would be the circumcision of their heart.

For Wesley, circumcision of the heart was a spiritual circumcision that removed our inclination to sin. The circumcision of the heart is “a right state of soul: ‘a mind and spirit renewed after the image that created it,’ is one of those important truths that can be ‘spiritually discerned.’”  No longer would humanity be relegated to the class of the “walking dead.”  Our image of YHWH is fully restored; making us fully human again. This is what we in the holiness movement call entire Sanctification.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10b).

It is not the will of YHWH for His creation to walk around in a zombie-like existence, devouring everything in our paths. It is His desire for us to live; not merely exist. Unfortunately millions of people choose to exist as zombies instead of living life to its fullest. In the West we are even proud of this zombie existence, referring to ourselves as “consumers.” But once you have tasted life, you will never be happy with your inhumanity.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

Third Week of Advent

“to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

As the Advent season comes to its fulfillment, it’s appropriate to reflect on what we are anticipating and to be thankful. It is with gratitude that we should realize that Jesus still comes into the lives of the plain and ordinary people of this world, people like the sheperds to whom the angels appeared. Shepherds were not astrophysicists! They weren’t high paid web designers, or Nobel Prize winners, or famous writers. They were common folk, whose lives were filled with menial tasks and significant challenges. That sounds like a lot of people I know — starting with myself.

To paraphrase Walt Kelly: “we have met the shepherds and they are us.” The sheperds weren’t unique or extraordinary, but God chose them to reveal the greatest gift He ever gave – as he chose you and me.  “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior …” I know for a fact that there are many among my own circle of church and family and friends for whom life is hard. Perhaps it is so for as well, and perhaps you wonder if God listens to your prayers. That makes you a member of the shepherd’s union, and for you also a Savior has been born.

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