"... he did not speak to them
without a parable" Jesus
Mark 4:34 R.S.V.
a monthly resource letter for pastors/teachers/speakers
Volume 8, Number 1 March / 1988
IMVESTING LOVE Miss Thompson was a conscientious teacher who tried to treat all her students the same. There was one little boy, though, who was difficult for her even to like. His name was Teddy Stallard. Teddy didn't seem to be interested in school. He was not an attractive child, his schoolwork was horrendous and his attitude was no better. In short, there was certainly nothing loveable about Teddy Stallard. Indeed, for some strange reason, Miss Thompson felt a great deal of resentment toward Teddy. She almost enjoyed giving him "F's." There was something about him that rubbed her the wrong way.
Miss Thompson knew Teddy's background. His school records indicated that in the first grade he showed some promise but he had problems at home. In the second grade his mother fell seriously ill and Teddy started falling behind. In the third grade his mother died. Teddy was tabbed as a slow learner. In the fourth grade he was far behind. His teacher noted that his father had no interest in Teddy's progress. Miss Thompson knew Teddy's situation, but still there was something about him that she resented.
Christmas time came and the boys and girls in Miss Thompson's room brought her some gifts. To her surprise among those gifts was a very crudely wrapped present from Teddy. Opening it in front of the other children she discovered a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. Sensing that the other children were beginning to smirk and giggle at the simple gift, Miss Thompson had the presence of mind to put on the bracelet and open the perfume. She put some of the perfume on her wrist which she invited the children to smell. "Isn't this bracelet beautiful?" she asked the children. "Doesn't this perfume smell lovely?" Taking their cue from her the children responded with "oohs" and "aahs."
At the end of the school day, little Teddy came to Miss Thompson's desk and said, "Miss Thompson . . . Miss thompson, you smell just like my mother . . . and her bracelet looks real pretty on you, too. I'm glad you liked my presents."
When Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God for forgiveness for her attitude toward Teddy. To make a long story short, from that day forward Miss Thompson became a new teacher and Teddy Stallard became a new pupil. Both Teddy's attitude and his grades dramatically improved.
Many years later Miss Thompson received a letter from Teddy telling her that he would be graduating from high school second in his class. It was signed, "Love, Teddy Stallard." Four years later she received another letter from Teddy telling her that he was graduating from college first in his class. Four years later there was another letter to inform her that the young fellow who once presented her with a gaudy bracelet with half the rhinestones missing and a cheap bottle of perfume was now Theodore Stallard, M. D. Also, he was getting married. His father was dead now, too. Would Miss Thompson be willing to sit where his mother would sit for the wedding if she were alive? "You are all the family I have left now." wrote Teddy.
Miss Thompson sat proudly where Teddy's mother would have been seated for that wedding. That moment of sensitivity and compassion many years before had earned her that right.
From Tony Campolo's Who Switched The Price Tags (Waco, Word Books), as reported in
Dynamic Preaching, January, 1988)
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 2 / 8.1.2
HANGING OUT WITH THE POWER CROWD Fuller Seminary recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with the inauguration of the President's Lectureship in early November. The four speakers included such heavy hitters as Carl F. H. Henry (theologian), Samuel Hugh Moffett (professor emeritus of ecumenics and mission at Princeton), Mary Steward Van Leeuwen, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Calvin College and Cary Wisiger III, retired pastor. Wisiger displayed characteristic humility in opening his address, in the company of such academic luminaries as follows:
I have been a pastor, by the grace of God. If I could do it all over again, I would be a pastor. I have never, frankly, regarded myself as a scholar. I have tried to be studious and I want to thank Dr. David Hubbard for including me in this program today. A farmer once put his mule in a horse race and his friends said to him, "Silly, that mule can't run with those thoroughbreds." The farmer said, "I know it, but you have no idea how good it makes him feel to be with all those horses!"
FINDING THE ROOT PROBLEMS The pastor was rather disappointed that things were not "happening" in his church and so he asked one of the leading deacons, "What is wrong with our church? Is it ignorance or apathy?" The deacon responded, "I don't know, and I don't care."
Submitted by Stan Buck, Boite U. M. Church, Ft. Wayne, IN.
A LOOSE LEAF The pastor was so proud of his new "loose-leaf" Bible and decided to use it as he began preaching a series from Genesis. The second week of his series he was on the story of the fall of man and as he was reading his text he read, "And Adam said to Eve . . ." then he turned the page to complete the verse but looked puzzled for a few seconds, finally realizing what had happened he looked up rather embarrassed and said, "it looks like a leaf is missing!"
Submitted by Stan Buck, Boite U. M. Church, Ft. Wayne, IN.
A MAN OF FEW WORDS An important part of the selection procedure for Oxford University fellowships — and one much dreaded by shy candidates — was dinner at the high table with the assembled dons, who would put aspirants through their social paces. When C.S.Lewis was a candidate for a fellowship in English at Magdalen College, Oxford, he was placed next to the elderly and formidable Sir Herbert Warren, president of the college. Throughout the first two courses the president did not speak a word. Then, as the meat course was served, Warren spoke: "Do you like poetry, Mr. Lewis?" Lewis replied, "Yes, President, I do." As there seemed to be no further reaction from his eminent neighbor, he added, "I also like prose." That was the whole extent of their conversation. Lewis was awarded the fellowship.
JUMPING THE GUN When my brother was very young (about 5 years old) he wanted to answer the telephone, so he watched and listened very carefully. One day he got to the phone first. He picked up the receiver and knew just what to say, "Hello, nope, goodbye!" and immediately hung up the phone.
I think we sometimes make up our mind how to answer God without really listening to His message.
Blair Taber, Christ Church Unity, San Diego, CA.
Parables, Etc. (Copyright 1988) (ISSN 074402017) is published monthly for $24.95 per year by Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. Second-Class Postage paid at Saratoga, California. Postmaster: Send address changes to Parables, Etc., c/o Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. To foreign countries — subscription rate is $30.95 in US$ or currency of equivalent value. New phone number: (408) 252-2141
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 3 / 8.1.3
PERSPECTIVE / COMMUNICATION Several years ago I was at a dinner where one of the most gifted Christian communicators of our time was speaking. He was talking about ways to set the ideas you want to communicate into the context of the audience's lives. When he came into a new community to speak, he always bought a local newspaper and read it through. If there had been a devastating tragedy in that town, the audience would be in a very different mood than if there were an all-city celebration coming up for the high-school state championship basketball team.
The speaker said that one Sunday he was to speak in Bloomington, Illinois. He arrived Saturday evening and bought a paper. It seems that there are two small towns or suburbs next to Bloomington — one called "Normal" and the other "Oblong." As the speaker was turning through the paper, he came to the society section, and his eyes were drawn to a headline: "Normal boy marries Oblong girl." He thought this was hilarious, cut it out and read it from the pulpit the next morning. But no one laughed. The names of the towns were so much a part of their own local language that they couldn't see how funny they might sound to the rest of the world."
Keith Miller, The Becomers, submitted by Frank Barker, Mt. Vernon, WA.
DOWN TO EARTH ADVICE Will Durant, the famous philosopher and author who wrote The Story of Civilization, was asked to contribute some thoughts from a grandfather. He offered the advice below for his own three grandchildren.
1. Begin the day with cleanliness. Keep your bathroom immaculate.
2. Before leaving your room in the morning put all discarded clothing into a dresser or
3. Dress yourself neatly; other people can judge us only by what they see, until they
know us well; and their judgments will affect our progress and our happiness.
4. Enter into the life of the family and the community with good cheer; make little of
your troubles, much of your good fortune.
5. Do not speak while another is speaking. Discuss, do not dispute. Absorb and
acknowledge whatever truth you can find in opinions different from your own.
6. Be courteous and considerate to all, especially to those who oppose you.
7. Reduce to a minimum your reading, hearing and watching of material intended for
immature minds. The mind is formed by what it takes in. Don't be a wastebasket.
8. Do some studying every day; grow old while learning.
9. Combine external modesty with internal pride. Your modesty will make it easier for
those around you to bear with you; your internal pride will stir you to shun meanness and
10. You will find the Golden Rule the simplest and surest secret of happiness.
Submitted by Bruce Rowlison, Presbyterian Church, Gilroy, CA.
OVERLY HELPFUL Three men were about to be executed by the guillotine. They were a Frenchman, an Englishmen and a Kentuckian. The Frenchman was first. They asked him, "Do you want the hood on?" He replied, "No, I am not afraid." So they placed him under the guillotine, with his neck on the block and he looked up bravely at the sharp blade, about to fall. They pulled the rope — but nothing happened. The executioners decided that it was an act of God, so they let him free.
The Englishman was next. Once again, they asked if the man wanted a hood to cover his eyes. He replied, "I am much braver than the Frenchman." He was placed under the blade, face up. The rope was pulled, but nothing happened. They decided that this too was an act of God, so they freed the Englishman. Finally, the turn came to the Kentuckian. "Do you want a hood?" He said, "Nope. I am just as brave as them two guys." So they laid him face up in the guillotine and were about to pull the rope when the Kentuckian spoke up. "Hey, wait a minute. I think I see the problem with your guillotine."
Sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut and not be so helpful. Submitted by Doug Vernon, Catlin Church of Christ, Catlin, IL.
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 4 / 8.1.4
CLEVER DISGUISE The bride was a bit self-conscious about being a new bride and wanted to disguise the fact that they were honeymooning, so she asked her new husband while they were on the plane if there was anyway they could make it appear that they had been married a long time. The husband said, "Sure, you carry the suitcases." Submitted by Byron Erixon, Saratoga, CA.
IHK IMAGE-IDOLING 80'S This is the age of pomp over pithiness, charisma over content, style over substance. This is a time when who we are has become less important than who people think we are; when euphemistic phrases can seemingly turn wrongs into rights; when politicians are often judged more on their charisma than their convictions.
Bluntly, what you see in the 80's ain't always what you get. From the triviality of TV dinners to the seriousness of cheating on a spouse, the world is selling beautifully packaged lies — and many of us are reaching for our wallets. . . Though the media have added fuel to the style-over-substance syndrome the past few decades, the phenomenon is really nothing new. In biblical times, for example, the Pharisees were champions of exuding the image that they were pure and holy. In fact, they were merely robe-clad forerunners of the dress for success movement — people whose outer appearance didn't necessarily reflect their inner selves . . .
We've become so anesthetized by image that it's becoming more difficult to choose the real from the fake, the right from the wrong, the good from the bad . . . THE LANGUAGE WE USE. The sociologist who uses the "non-monogamous" terms says she does so because it carries no connotation of good or evil. Other examples of euphemistic smoke-screens abound: What used to be "living in sin" is now a "meaningful relationship." What used to be "chastity" is now "neurotic inhibitions." What used to be "self-indulgence" is now "self-fulfillment." What used to be "killing an unborn baby" is now "choice."
Such pre-sweetened phrases represent the foundation of the image-over-substance philosophy: Don't change your ways. Don't change your heart. And, above all, don't feel guilty. Instead, simply change the image of your action.
So, as those seeking to preserve the family, how do we combat the image-idoling 80's?
First, and most importantly, by finding a role model to pattern our lives after. We need look no further than Christ Himself, the ultimate example of a man of substance, not image. He didn't have a degree from a prestigious university. He simply did what He knew was right, obeying His Father, sacrificing for others, downplaying Himself. He was open. He was honest. He was holy. His virtue was reflected in how He lived. And so then, should ours.
Excerpts from "Image and the 80's: A Subtle Force That's Seducing the Family," Focus On the Family, January, 1983, by Robert S. Welch. Submitted by Joseph Townsend, Redeemer Lutheran Church, West Lafayette, IN.
THE COWARD VERSUS THE DARING A coward can sit in his house and criticize a pilot for flying into the mountain in fog, but I would rather, by far, die on a mountainside than in bed. What kind of man would live where there is no daring?
Quotation pinned up by Voyager pilot Dick Rutan, who with Jeana Yeager flew around the world non-stop and without refueling in a little over nine days.
FIT TO KILL. During World War II pianist and wit Oscar Levant appeared before the draft-board examiner. The official asked him, "Do you think you can kill?" Levant answered, "I don't know about strangers, but friends, yes."
A BRIEF MESSAGE ... A note was hung on the hot air hand dryer in the restroom at work: "Push here for a word from the boss."
Submitted by Alan Thompson, Crozet, VA
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 5 / 8.1.5
DON'T CLOG THE PATH In Ancient Israel, six cities were founded as "cities of refuge." The law of Moses declared that if a man killed another man — without malice or premeditation — he could flee to one of those cities and live there free without any harm coming to him until the death of the high priest. Then he was free to go to his home without fear.
The rabbis have an interesting tradition about those cities of refuge. They say that, once each year, the roads leading to those cities were repaired and cleaned of any obstacles and stones so that the man fleeing for his life would have nothing that would hinder him on his way to the refuge.
And the same is true with God's "Spiritual Israel," the church today. God still has it in his plan that there be a place of refuge for our mistakes, a place of hiding for our sins. Our "city of refuge" is Christ Himself. If we dwell in Him, we are protected from the enemy who would destroy us.
Thus our mission in life is to clear the roads so that others will not stumble over the trash and litter that we leave. Far too many people who have come seeking the safety of Christ have fallen out because they have seen the garbage of a so-called "Christian." They have stumbled, never to rise again.
Is it any wonder that the Hebrew writer exhorts us, "Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:12,13)
And again, John urged, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of the Lord." (Luke 3:4,5)
Lost souls need to flee to God's city of Refuge. May it never be that we should get in the way of their search or make any stumble over our examples while looking for Christ. Submitted by David Lusk, Sulphur Springs, TX.
Nothing is so beautiful as spring —
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning In Eden garden. — Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning, Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, 0 maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning, Gerard Manley Hopkins
OPPORTUNITIES Our opportunities to do good are our talents. Cotton Mather THE SHORT ROUTE A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation. Saki
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 6 / 8.1.6
CUT GLASS CHRISTIANS A flawless diamond is one of nature's most unique and precious stones. Of the gem family, its value and beauty is second to none. Its clarity, brilliance and carat weight add up to thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Interestingly, as unique and beautiful as a diamond is, it can be easily simulated by imitations such as a piece of cut-glass — worth only a few dollars. To the untrained eye, one cannot tell the imitation from the real thing — the false from the true. Yet, to the trained jeweler, the difference can be detected immediately and the false diamond is exposed as such.
Jesus predicted that false teachers of the Word would abound. Like the false brilliance of a piece of cut glass, these impostors would look and appear just like genuine teachers of the Gospel — their message would be so convincing and seemingly identical to the true message, that only the trained mind would be able to separate the false doctrine from the truth. The mind trained in the Scriptures, like the jeweler, is able to discern God's Word and detect quickly the truth from falsity. The point is: those who think so little of the investment of time in God's Word are easily misled by a piece of cut-glass teaching. They are unable to differentiate the flawless diamonds of Jesus from the useless glass of the world. They are easily misguided by an imposter.
May all of us be concerned enough to saturate ourselves in God's Word so it can be said we are, "doing our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15) Submitted by Ken Davidson, First Christian Church, Stockbridge, GA.
AMAZING The traveler was sneaking a half-gallon bottle across the Mexican border when a U. S. Customs official searched him. Upon discovering the bottle, the official asked the man what it contained.
The traveler replied, "It's just holy water. I took it from the shrine I visited."
The inspector was suspicious and opened the bottle and took a sniff. He shouted, "This isn't holy water, it's tequila!"
The traveler lifted his eyes to the sky and cried out, "Good heavens! Yet another miracle." Adapted from a story in Reader's Digest
A GOOD PRESCRIPTION A troubled man went to visit his physician with a list of anxieties and fears. The wise doctor told his patient to take a day off work and visit the beach. At the end of the consultation, the physician placed in his hand an envelope with instructions to open it when he reached his destination.
The man found a quiet spot at the beach and opened the envelope. On a small piece of paper, he read the words, "Listen carefully." Later he told of the rewards of hearing, for the first time in years, the lapping of the waves, the song of the birds, and the sighing of the wind.
Adapted from John Drakeford's The Awesome Power of the Listening Heart, (Grand
Rapids, Zondervan, 1982), as reported in Dynamic Preaching.
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 7 / 8.1.7
LET GOD DO IT I remember an evening three years ago during the middle of the five year drought which we experiencing in Zimbabwe. I was in the garden trying to keep the few remaining plants alive by pouring leftover dishwater on them — when it began to rain. Now, for days, we had been hiring a boy to bucket water on our small plot just to keep the green plants alive. It took him all day just to get the bucket full and to cover the half-acre plot. In five minutes of heavy rain the whole garden was soaked, the entire yard, all of the neighbor's yards and in fact the entire city had been soaked. If we were to calculate how many hours, how much water and how many hours of human effort would have been needed to achieve the same ends it would have taken thousands of hours, millions of buckets and hundreds of people. God did it all in five minutes of heavy rainfall with no effort on our part.
I stood in the rain letting it soak into my dry skin and parched garden, realizing how many times I've wanted to take matters into my own hands and manipulate circumstances through lots of human effort when God was waiting for me to let him do it his way much more effectively.
Submitted Ilene Bradberry, Laguna Niguel, CA.
HAPPINESS AMD HOLINESS Ophra Winfrey was interviewing people on her program recently who were having affairs with married people (there's a great subject!) One woman who had a long-standing affair with a married man was saying how happy she was. But then someone raised the question of morality. "Wait a minute," the woman protested. "I am a Christian, but my personal life and my religion don't have anything to do with one another. God want's me to be happy, and if I am happy with this man, then God doesn't mind."
Is God only happy in making us happy? Is God like an eternal baby sitter letting us constantly have our way? Can we believe in God and live like the Devil? Can we sow wild oats all week then glibly go to church to pray for a crop failure?
The truth is, God is too pure even to look upon wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13). "God is light," John says, "and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (I John 1:5,6) "The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows who are His,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness. '"(II Timothy 2:19). Yes, God is concerned with happiness, but our eternal happiness! He wants to get us to heaven's pleasures, so He demands righteousness on earth. And we have the choice; good or evil; life or death. But remember, without righteousness, you will not see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14). David Lusk, Sulphur Springs, TX
TOWARD EACH ONE THE SAME If you saw the film Chariots of Fire, you probably remember Eric Liddell as the champion who refused to run on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. But those who were with him in the Weihsein Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation of China knew there was much more to him than that. Biographer Sally Magnusson writes in The Flying Scotsman: "In a camp rife with criticism and back-biting and gossip, there was no one who had a bad word to say of Eric Liddell. His attitude to everyone was the same. You would find him talking to the businessman just the same was as to the Roman Catholic priest or the child from Chefoo (a school for missionary children)."
Magnusson quotes Mrs. Isabel Herron, one of the Chefoo Children, as saying, "When Eric died, one of the women in the camp, a Russian prostitute, told my mother that Eric Liddell was the only man who had ever done anything for her, and not wanted to be repaid in kind. . . He'd put up some shelves for her . . . And it didn't matter what walk of life a person came from . . .Eric worked right across the board with everyone ... He must have been very strong, because he really did treat us all the same.
From the Adult Teacher's Guide, David C. Cook, Sept.-Nov. 1987, page 82, submitted
by H. W. Roberts-Horsfield, Ringoes, NJ
Parables, Etc. / March, 1988 Page 8 / 8.1.8
RELATING TO PEOPLE A true American success story: The daughter of a welder and the youngest of five girls, who herself always felt unpopular, who lacked a college degree and was labeled a low achiever but who nevertheless, managed to rise out of it all at the age of 20 and using a borrowed $50,000, began to build her dream. Today, at 30, Debbie Fields remains the driving force behind a company that last year had 87 million in sales. The dream is clearly alive. Enthusiasm, vision, belief and confidence have all helped Mrs. Fields Cookies, but the five steps or guidelines that each employee observes could and should be seen as responses by the church to people visiting. Mrs. Fields' guidelines for employees:
1. Recognize the person: "Good morning! It's great to see you! You look (happy, tired,
harried). I like your jacket."
2. Determine what they want.
3. Tell them what a good choice they made: "That's my favorite."
4. Tell them more you can do for them: "Cold milk goes great with warm cookies."
5. Invite them back and leave them with a good feeling about our products.
As we show a sincere interest in people — people pick up on that and want to be a part of a church that with enthusiasm, vision, belief and confidence extend themselves to others. Submitted by Keith Lamm, No. Valley Friends Church, Newberg, OR
I'M TALKING ABOUT A LONG SERMON It seems this particular pastor was really given to long-winded sermons. He often would go well past an hour, and on occasions had preached upwards of two hours. One Sunday he had been going strong for some time when he noticed one of his regular members get up and leave. After awhile, while the preacher was still holding forth he noticed the member return to the service. After the service, at the door, the pastor asked the member about his leaving and then coming back. He wondered where he had gone during the middle part of the sermon. The member said he'd gone to get a haircut.
"A haircut?" the pastor replied. If he needed a haircut, why hadn't he got one before he came to church? The member replied, "Before I came, I didn't need one."
As heard told by Pastor Todd Renegar, Church of the Nazarene, Cupertino, CA. As
submitted by Paul Forbes, San Jose, CA.