In This Issue
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
In Mark 4:1-9, Jesus tells the parable of the sower who went out to sow seed. "And it happened as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."
Then, in verses 13-20, He explained the parable. He explained that the seed in the parable symbolized God's word. The different soils in the parable represented the attitudes of the different individuals to whom God's word is preached. Some people are like the soil in the wayside or pathway -- hardened and compacted. Before God's word has a chance to penetrate, Satan comes along like a bird and steals it away. Some who hear the gospel are like the stony soil, where the seed germinates, but never becomes firmly rooted and grounded. When problems, persecutions, misunderstandings, etc., arise, such individuals quickly stumble and fall away. Some who hear God's word are represented in the story by seed that fell among thorns. In these individuals, the word of God is taken into a heart already filled almost to capacity with worldly cares and interests, which quickly crowd out what little influence the word of God might have had. But fortunately, the word sometimes finds its way into a heart that is responsive and productive. These individuals hear God's word, accept it, and "bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."
Within this parable and the Lord's own explanation of it, Jesus took time to explain why He taught in parables. First, it had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets that He would do so. See Isa. 6:9-10 and Psalm 78:2. Second, He sought to impart to His disciples an understanding of spiritual principles by comparing them to physical matters they already understood. Third, He wanted to delay direct confrontation with His enemies until the time came for Him to lay down His life on the cross. See Mark 4:10-12 and Matthew 13:10-17.
Also, within our text, Jesus suggests that an understanding of the parable of the sower will help us to understand other parables, Mark 4:13. Our English word parable is a transliteration of the Greek word PARABOLE. The Greek word conveyed the thought of placing one thing beside another for the purpose of comparison. Jesus took that which was understood in the natural realm, and paralleled it to a spiritual lesson that needed to be understood.
--Clarence R. Johnson
"IT'S SO FAR TO DRIVE"
It never ceases to amaze this writer that people who are so meticulous concerning their physical well-being often times become so careless about their spiritual welfare.
When I lived in New Mexico is was not uncommon for people to drive the 20 miles from Portales to Clovis just to save the city sales tax of one penny on the dollar which Portales collected and Clovis did not. Of course, it cost more to drive to Clovis and back than could possibly be amassed by the few pennies of tax saved, but that did not matter as long as it seemed that there was the slightest chance to save money. However, talk to someone about driving 20 miles to worship with a faithful church and the response would be, "It's too far to drive."
People in our area will drive for miles to a little town in order to eat in a restaurant which is considered by many to have the best food and most reasonable prices. If we can save a few cents on clothing by shopping in another town, whether 10, 20 or even 100 miles away, we scarcely give it a second thought. Why, we would not think of buying our groceries at the store next door if the supermarket down the street or in the next town has the same items at a cheaper price. But when it comes to feasting on the word of the Lord with faithful brethren in a sound church a few miles away, the expression is heard, "It's so far to drive."
There must be something wrong with one's thinker who believes it all right to drive a few miles in order to feed and clothe his body but too far to drive in order to feed and clothe his soul. Brethren, is your spiritual well-being any less important than your physical welfare? Is 10 or 20 miles so far when your soul hangs in the balance? When there is a faithful church only a few short miles away where you can worship God without stultifying your conscience, is it too far?
Your soul is too precious for you to worship in a church where there are unscriptural practices just because it happens to be a little closer to where you live. If you consider your soul more valuable than money, then worship with a faithful church.
--James B. Lusby via The Proclaimer, Salinas, CA
A LETTER FROM A TEXAS PRISON
Preface: The following thought-provoking article about the peril of peer pressure is by Ricky Blackmon. He was "raised in the church" but later fell away from the Lord. His family currently attends a church of Christ in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. He fell into sin by running with the wrong crowd. He was high on drugs when he committed murder. After eleven years on death row in Huntsville, Texas, Ricky was executed on August 4, 1999. He wrote this open letter warning teens and others about the consequences of sin's rebellion, as well as the good news of his subsequent "repentance unto life." God can bring good out of tragedy, especially if this can help you or someone you know.
"Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil..., but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good...For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:4-11 NASB).
I am writing to you from prison. In a way, I hope to help you live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
First, stop and think what it is that may or may not cause one of us to end up in prison. The same thing can cause us to end up in HELL. What is that? SIN (Rom 6:23)!!!
And one of the sins I want to speak about here today is: "REBELLION"
Rebellion is what most of us don't think about very much: like not listening to our parents when they tell us something...like not listening to God when He tells us something...like not listening to governing authorities.
And one of the greatest and easiest things that cause this rebellion is your friends. Yes, your friends will try to get you to do something wrong, and if you say "no," often they will say; "Come on, are you scared?" or they'll call you "chicken". Then most people will jump right in and do whatever it is, for most people don't like to be looked at like that by their friends. Or, you may only be running around with a crowd, and they do things that are not right.
But consider this, if people see what they are like, and know that you run around with them, whether you partake of the things they do or not, people will think you are just as bad as they are. Some say; "birds of a feather flock together." If you don't pick your friends, like some pick tomatoes, you may pick a bad one. And take it from me, someone who has been there, that can cost you more than I think you are willing to pay. I know what I am talking about, for all I have said so far, landed me on death row.
ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?????
Wild women, drugs, and fast living, was the road I took and look where it got me. Don't think it cannot happen to you, for if you find yourself on any of these roads, you will sooner or later run into a situation that may hurt not only you, but your loved ones as well. And when you say, "Oh, I know what I am doing," believe me, I said the very same thing, and see where I am.
I obeyed the gospel many years ago and fell away, and now I have come home to the Lord again. I feel the Lord allowed me to end up here to wake me up from the sinful life I was living, for who knows, had I not ended up in here, I might still be living that fast life. When I obeyed the gospel I was told through God's word what to do, and I fell away. Jonah was told what to do also, but he didn't do it, and ended up in the belly of a whale. If you have heard or read the story you know that he repented and God had the great fish spit him out on the beach to give him a second chance...PLEASE HEAR ME, clean up your life if you are in the wrong way of life.
In the back of your mind, you know who you are and the life you live. And if you say to yourself, like I said many times; "I know what I am doing", the TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE has a number for you. Mine is 000893. I am only one of 340 some odd people on death row here in Texas. And if you run with the wrong people, YOU could get the death penalty. For example, say you are riding around with a friend, and you pull into a gas station. Your friend goes in to pay for the gas, and robs and kills the gas station attendant. You are only sitting in the car, but under Texas Law, a District Attorney can get a jury to give YOU a death sentence as well as the guy that did the killing. And Texas will execute people like that as if they were the one who did the crime. There is a man down here who was hitchhiking and got into the car with a guy that had just killed someone and stole his car. When he was caught, the hitchhiker was not only arrested, but got the death penalty also, because the killer did not tell them he was only a hitchhiker. So he may die for something he did not do. Do you think you can say; "I know what I am doing" NOW???
It is my prayer that you will stop and think about your life, young and old, for we are all under a law, God's law. If we obey the Lord in loving faith, then we can have eternal life, even if life on earth throws us a curve, like it did me. But I was able to repent of my sins, but I also could have been dead before I had a chance to repent, and I know without a doubt, had I done so I would be bound for Hell. But I did repent, and have the chance to meet you in Heaven come Judgment Day. So please, let's work for the goal together, OK?
Your brother in Christ Jesus.
--Ricky Don Blackmon, bulletin of Silver St. church of Christ, New Albany, IN
Clarence R. Johnson
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