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The Last of the Terrible Parables: The Flusher August 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Suffering, Terrible Parables.
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I believe all the “Terrible Parables” by Carolyn Houghton are now posted. Most of them are on the Verizon blog (see blogroll) but this and the last one posted are here because Verizon won’t let me edit my blog anymore. I’ve got to contact customer service but am quite busy at the moment.

The Terrible Parable of the “Flusher”


Diary Entry from 1968: Bryan, age 18 months and Jeff, age 4, were in a nice, warm, soaky bath when Bryan suddenly grabbed the drain lever. Jeff — horror dripping from his voice–gasped, “Oh, Mommy! Bryan’s gonna flush it!”How many times have you been in a warm, soaky, relaxing tub of life when some idiot reached for the drain lever to flush your happiness down the tubes? It’s happened to me several times. As a Christian through faith in Christ, I know God has a plan for my life. How can these flushings be in His plan for me if He is my loving heavenly Father?The Bible says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 Oh. God is different from man. He thinks differently and acts differently (and given today’s messed up humanity, that’s a REAL blessing!) He’s also “one of a kind.” This theory that “God is in everything, therefore everything and everyone is God” is not something people have picked up from the Bible. Cause that’s not in there. What IS in there is: “For I am God and there is NO OTHER; I am God and there is NONE like Me.” Isaiah 46:9Now, if God acts, thinks, and IS different from man, and if He has a plan for my life, why doesn’t He give me sunshine and happiness instead of flushings? What kind of a Father IS He anyway?

Surprisingly, He’s a lot like our earthly fathers. Tell me something…did your father always make life easy for you when you were a child? Did you have to go to school when you really wanted to stay home and watch TV? Did he make you learn how to clean out the car as well as let you drive it? Did you ever get your canoe paddled when you wouldn’t stop fighting with your brothers and sisters? Did you have to get a part-time job to earn spending money when you got older? It would have been a whole lot easier to turn a faucet attached to your dad’s wallet and watch money pour out into your hands. After all, you were a good kid. Some of the things your Dad made you do were pretty hard! And certainly not much fun. You deserved GOOD things!

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? You wouldn’t have learned anything by doing nothing! You’d have been useless. Now you have turned into a WONDERFUL person by going through hard things in your childhood! (But I’ll check with you about this, just to be sure I haven’t made a mistake here.)

The same holds true in the spiritual realm. If God never made us go through some difficulties, we wouldn’t learn diddly! We’d never grow up spiritually to be good Christians careful to do good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10. Kindly note that we are his “WORKmanship.” It takes a lot of God’s WORK to get us whipped into shape. You think you’re EASY for God to raise!!!??? I’m betting you aren’t any easier to raise than I am. And I don’t like to brag, but I’m QUITE the handful for Him!

And I’ll try to break this next part to you easy….He’s not NEAR done raising you yet. Okay, okay, He’s not done with me yet either. But He does have a goal in mind for both of us. “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...” Romans 8:29 A rather lofty goal He has set for us, isn’t it?

Now answer me something else. Did your Dad make the neighbor kids go to school? Get a job? Help around your house? Paddle their canoes when they were nasty little brats? Never! Why should he? They weren’t his.

Same with God. If someone isn’t His child yet by faith (as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born …of GodJohn 1:12, 13) they aren’t HIS to raise yet. So if your life has been all peaches and cream with no problems to overcome or rise above, don’t get cocky! You might not BE God’s child yet. If that’s your case, I’d look into it if I were you!

God doesn’t raise us JUST with discipline and hard times, of course. The Bible also says that He is a wonderful gift giver. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights….” James 1:17 He’s a really well-rounded Father!

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 28. He’s given me some wonderful sunshiny gifts since I’ve been His child and he’s also given me some pretty hard flushings – some of which I’ve failed; some of which I’ve learned and grown from. I know I’m in for more gifts and many more flushings of my happiness during the rest of my life. But since I know the flushings will be for my own growth and learning, I’m going to do my best to make Him proud of the way I’ll handle those times.

But keep a towel handy for me, will you? I HATE to drip dry.

After a long hiatus, another “Terrible Parable” from Carolyn Houghton August 1, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Terrible Parables.
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The Parable of the Jesus Tree


OLD DIARY ENTRY: December 19, 1965: I put up the Christmas tree today and Jeff, who is the ripe old age of “almost three,” put on the unbreakable ornaments. Puffed up with pride at his own importance, he diligently decorated, carefully choosing where each ornament should be placed. Finally he announced that he was finished. And he had done a magnificent job…hanging eleven ornaments on one branch, five on the branch right next to it, and a couple clustered closely in the vicinity. The rest of the tree was totally bare.

Those were fun Christmases–when my three kids were small and so excited about everything! I enjoyed watching them decorate the tree and make HUGE messes in the kitchen as they each took possession of one-third of the cookie dough to make the UGLIEST decorated Christmas sugar cookies you can ever imagine! The memories of the happy chattering that went on around that kitchen table as they rolled and re-rolled cookie dough, ate more cookie dough than they baked, and left trails of colored sugar across the floor bring nostalgic smiles these many years later. (Is there ANYTHING worse than stepping on spilled sugar?)

Now, however, if it weren’t for having a husband that really, REALLY wants a tree put up, I’d probably just “Bah, Humbug!” the whole decorating-the-tree routine. These days it seems to take EFFORT to drag out the decorations. And don’t you find it annoying to find stray pine needles in weird places the next July? Well, I do. Besides…Christmas has gotten so utterly COMMERCIAL these days. We’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ and I often feel the crowd of commercialism has elbowed Christ right out of view at His own birthday party.

In 1995 I was even grumpier than usual because we had opened a business. Opening the business didn’t make me grumpy, but Doug’s confronting me with a hard fact of business sure did! Hard fact: we HAD to decorate our huge showroom for the season. I knew I’d lose, but I fought ‘im to the BITTER end! “Do we HAVE to have a tree? Decorate ALL these windows? You GOTTA be kidding!!” I whined. Of course, I lost all the battles and found myself buying decorations that I really, REALLY didn’t want to put up.

I was scowling at some particularly gaudy decorations in Aisle 12 of K-Mart when, for some reason, my mind wandered off on one of its tangents and I began to “see” Christmas trees as a picture of Christ and His true Church. Oh, I hear you,– “She’s really lost it THIS time!!” (Well, you’re right, so you purists out there are gonna have to give me some leeway in this analogy, okay? It’s HARD to turn one pine tree into a whole Church!)

But look at it sorta this way: a Christmas tree grows from one tiny seed that produces a single spike that points straight up–ignored and insignificant except in the eyes of the person who planted that seed and who now tends that new growth. But, given time, that single spike grows into a beautiful pine that we bring into our home at Christmas and make absolutely beautiful with lights and evenly-spaced ornaments (since we don’t have Jeff’s assistance these days!).

Jesus, in His stint here on earth as God/Man grew from a single seed of a woman. He’s that single “spike” that points us “straight up” to God. He, too, was ignored and the world considered Him insignificant. Only a few–including Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, and good old Simeon–truly understood and believed that Jesus was the Messiah. My mind’s eye sees them as the first tiny branches in the mighty “pine” of Christ’s Church.

For the next thirty years of Jesus’s life no one else knew, or cared, who He was. “…[E]ven His brothers did not believe in Him.” (John 7:5) and ridiculed Him when He began to announce His mission on this grungy earth. Jesus’s brothers knew Him intimately but apparently saw nothing significant about Him the whole thirty years they lived together in the same household. I couldn’t believe they were so dumb!! So, since this is MY analogy and MY parable, I saw their branches as somewhat insignificant too.

THEN I realized that I grew up believing in God and knew that Christ died on the cross, but was twenty-eight before I understood that His death and resurrection provided my salvation. It was only then that I first saw something really significant about Him and became a “branch.” So… humbled, I upgraded His brothers’ and sisters’ branches to prominent branches in His “pine tree.” The “Jesus Tree” has been growing new branches for nearly 2000 years now and the current number of branches is beyond my tiny mind’s ability to count.

The lights on Christmas trees now remind me that Christ said of Himself, “I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:4. He gives us His spiritual light and, in return, asks Christians to “Let YOUR light so shine before men…” Matt. 5:15. I wonder…does my branch have any lights on it that are shining for Him? Or are all my bulbs burned out so that my life shows forth none of His light for others to see?

And then there are the ornaments that remind me that God wants Christians’ lives “adorned…with good works.” I Tim. 2:10. I’m so BAD at being good! I fear several of my ornaments have fallen off my branch and lay shattered on the ground. I’m certainly glad that living branches don’t fall out of trees, or I’d surely lose my salvation as well as make a mess of some of my “good works.”

As you gaze at your Christmas tree this year, I hope you’ll see more than branches with beautiful ornaments and twinkling lights. And may the most beautiful branch on your tree represent how God and the world sees you.

Merry Christmas!!

Converted to Christ by an Atheist July 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Atheism, Easter, Faith, Gospel, Repentance, Terrible Parables, Testimony.

Testimony Of Tom Dutton As Given on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007  

I’d like to take a few minutes, this morning, and tell you how I came to know Jesus Christ as Savior.   

My early life was one that I would best describe as running from God, but at the same time trying to find Him.  I remember trying to live up to the Ten Commandments that I had memorized in Bible School, but, at best, could only do so in short spurts.  I recall thinking that God must think of me as an absolute failure.  (If you have read the latest Terrible Parable on the Church web site this week, THE DEFECTIVE AFGHAN, you could add another person to that list!)   

When I looked at others, I saw there were some who seemed to be able to live a righteous life, at least more righteous than mine.  So I then developed a desire to meet those standards, but knew in my very being that I couldn’t do it.  But why?  If God gave us standards to live by, why wasn’t it reasonable to expect that his creatures would be able to obey them?  It only made sense that I should be able to do so, but I couldn’t!  So instead of running toward God, I ran away from Him. 

I recall reading Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven” which is an examination of the way God brought him to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  It also portrays, how God dealt with me in my earlier years.  I too, was seeking knowledge that would reveal God to me.  I too was trying to find God on my terms, in my way.  When I read the Bible, it made no sense, as I was trying to find a god (little ‘g’) that would fit my definition.  Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”, begins: 

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

A down Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears.” 

This poem could well have been a commentary on my own life; as I desired to know What God was, but didn’t want to know Who He was.  Or if I did, I wanted it on my own terms.  It was a roller coaster ride of the worst kind. 

During my mid twenties, I began to read the Bible again, this time with the teaching of a Biblical Pastor David and a couple of Christian friends Bill and Nelson.  I read passages like “there is none righteous, no not one”;  and “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”;  And, of course,  Paul’s own self examination was an echo of my own life,  

Romans 7

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 

Then a little further on in the same chapter, Paul continues:
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
19 For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do.

It was at this point that I began to realize that if the great Apostle Paul was in the same dilemma as I, then maybe I needed to listen a little more closely to what God was really saying in the Bible.  How did Paul get out of this quandary?  Paul goes on: 

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.    [So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.]

But as earlier in life, I tried to intellectualize this; How could I resolve this, How could I solve this seemingly impossible riddle?  I recall having many discussions with Nelson over this and other issues.  How big is God and where is He?  Can we really know Him if we don’t meet His standards?  How could Jesus be crucified and come back to life again?  How can I know if he died for me?  What. How, Why??? 

Then one day, In the late ‘60s, I was having lunch in a restaurant in Concord NH with a fellow worker from Dartmouth College.  He knew I went to church, as I had mentioned this to him before.  He was an atheist and made sure everyone knew it, so when he asked the question, “Tom, are you really a Christian?” I knew he was looking for more than just a yes or no, churchgoer response.   

“What do you mean by ‘a Christian’?” I asked, slowly, perhaps trying to delay my response as much as possible. 

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?” was his response. 

Uh, oh!  There it was; My life’s defining moment.  Now it isn’t every day that an atheist is the one that moves someone into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but I’m here to tell you that it happens!  Perhaps atheists know better than most that confession is the dividing line between faith and unbelief and Bob knew that if he could get me to deny Jesus, I would be in his camp.  But I also knew that Jesus said “If you will confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father who is in heaven.”  This was it!  How would I respond to life’s most important question? 

It came immediately, “Why, yes, Bob, He is my Lord and Savior.” 

From that moment, I recall, all doubt that I had harbored, immediately fled from me.  I also recall that Bob instantly changed the subject.  He had asked the wrong person the right question!  I had spent my whole life running from God and He spent it running after me, like the Hound of Heaven in Francis Thompson’s poem.  He finally cornered me and I had no way escaping Him.  I was His!  And He was mine! 

The “Hound of Heaven” poem ends with God’s voice: 

“Rise, clasp My hand, and come !”

Halts by me that footfall :

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly ?  

Then God’s voice again: 

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest !

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.” 

(You drove love away from yourself, when you repelled Me.)

[dravest: v. to repel or push away]  

John Newton described his salvation:“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see!” 

Galatians 2:16   “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  

There are many verses in the Bible that are very meaningful to me, but Phil 3:7 – 10 are my favorites: 

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

As you know, music is a big part of my life.  Music is an expression of the soul that cannot be expressed in any other way.  It’s not surprising then, that in the few glimpses we see of heaven in the Bible, that the saints are singing praises to the Risen Lamb.   

Although my musical talents are limited to strumming a guitar and singing, I began then to dedicate them to God; to use them in whatever way I could to give back to Him, a small part of the great love He has for me in giving His son Jesus Christ, who died for me.  And to express that love I have for Him, which is inexpressible in no other way than singing. 

I love to sing when I’m alone in the car; people who see or hear me as I drive by must wonder at my sanity!  The chorus, “I Love You, Lord” is a favorite of mine, one of many that I like to sing when I’m driving. 

Please join me in singing it.

THE PREGNANT NEIGHBOR MAN (a “Terrible Parable”) June 12, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in David, Forgiveness, Terrible Parables.
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This one from Carolyn Houghton should get your attention!


The “Terrible Parable” of God’s Family Business June 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Terrible Parables.
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Click the link below to visit this week’s parable. To see all the parables so far posted, see the blogroll to the right of your screen.

Carolyn Houghton’s “Terrible Parable of Dressing Right” May 29, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Matthew, Parables of Jesus, Terrible Parables.
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A New “Terrible Parable” – A CHANGE OF FUR May 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Palm Sunday, Terrible Parables.
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For other Terrible Parables, see the blogroll on the right. Carolyn Houghton thanks you for reading.

God’s Accounting Practices May 15, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Romans, Terrible Parables.
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Click the above link or “Terrible Parables” on the blogroll. This one fits well with parts of this Sunday’s sermon from Romans 6. By the way, have you memorized verse 1 yet?

New Terrible Parable: The Easter Recipe May 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Communion, Lord's Table, Passover, Terrible Parables.
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A good description of the Passover. Click the link below.