May 11, 2003


Jesus asked, "'Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.' And He said to them, 'Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" (Mark 4:21-25).

This paragraph contains several related matters that Jesus spoke not just this once, but on numerous occasions and in different circumstances. In the sermon on the mount, He had said, "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house" (Matt. 5:15). On numerous occasions, Jesus admonished those who had ears to hear, to do so. This same admonition was given to the seven churches of Asia minor to whom Jesus dictated the letters in chapters two and three of the book of Revelation. The word "hear" in such passages carries the thought to hear with understanding, and to pay heed to what one has heard. The statement, "with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you" corresponds to Matt. 7:2, and the statement 'to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" was also stated in the parable of the talents, Matt. 25:29.

Christ had two basic purpose in Mark 4:21-25. The first was to emphasize the responsibility of those who had come to understand His teaching. Those who had become enlightened by His parables, were in turn to use that truth to enlighten others.

His second basic purpose was to underscore the fact that he who embraces truth and makes use of it will consequently become capable of receiving even more enlightenment. On the other hand, the person who is not open to truth, and not willing to make application of the truth he already understands has at least two problems. Not only is he unlikely to increase his knowledge, but he will usually tend to forget or lose sight of the truth he already knows. There is no greater hindrance to learning God's truth than an unwillingness to obey that truth. There is no greater help in understanding God's will than a complete willingness to abide by the truths we learn. 

--Clarence R. Johnson


One of the strange things about memories is not only the pictures stored in the mind, but also the smells. I can still recall the smell of the oilcloth that covered our kitchen table. Oilcloth is a vinyl product used as tablecloths that were easily cleaned with warm, soapy water. It was waterproof and protected with a clear finish that was stain and soil resistant.

When I was about 14 years old, I recall mother calling her four children to the kitchen table. We were 14, 11, 9, and 6 years old. She opened the Bible to Matthew 26 and read the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Even though it has been 45 years, I can smell the oilcloth, hear her reading about Jesus and watching her tears falling and splattering on the oilcloth. Thirteen years later, mother died at the age of 46 and all we had left of her short life were the precious memories.

Paul wrote to Timothy to tell him he remembered his mother. "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also" (2 Timothy 1:5).

Precious memories: Four young children, an open Bible, a mother who shed real tears when she read about Jesus, and the unforgettable smell of oilcloth.

--- Tom L. Childers


"And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: And there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him" (Gen. 12:6-7).

The foregoing passage records one reason why Abraham has been called the "father of the faithful." We see that the Lord had made a promise to Abraham, both in this passage, and in verses 1-3 of this same chapter. Upon receiving these promises, Abraham immediately "builded an altar unto the Lord." This expresses Abraham's confidence that the Lord would do exactly as He had promised. An altar was necessary to worship God in Abraham's day. We are not to worship God with a physical altar with its animal sacrifices today, but the principles which governed the worship of Abraham should regulate our worship to God even now.

It is interesting to note that his altar was built entirely to honor God. It was not constructed for self-glorification. Any works that he did, were works of God (Romans 4:14). In contrast to this, we may note the rearing of a structure in Genesis 11, namely, the tower of Babel. This tower was built so the builders could make a name for themselves (Gen. 11:4). It was not to glorify God, and for this reason their work was brought to naught, and they were scattered abroad over the face of the earth. There are too many builders like this around today. Even among our brethren, we find those trying "to make a name." They do this at the expense of magnifying God's name. They want elaborate and ornate buildings to compete with the sects. They are not satisfied with a modest, yet satisfactory meeting place without "all the trimmings." These things tend to magnify the builders, and entirely too much stress is placed on the material and physical. Thus, any work undertaken is to be for God's glory, and not to exalt the builder. Such was the purpose of Abraham's altar.

The altar of Abraham expressed his desire to acknowledge the divine guidance of his past life. He appreciated and found great joy under God's guiding hand. He gladly obeyed the Lord's commands. It has been said "where Abraham had his tent, there God had His altar." In how many congregations today is the "altar" in need of repair? In how many homes does it need to be rebuilt? In how many . homes has it never even been erected? The means whereby we may serve the Lord acceptably ought to be the first concern of every congregation, every family and every Christian. Do we really appreciate the Lord's influence in our lives as Abraham did? God has revealed himself to us through His word. We need to diligently, constantly and prayerfully study it. We can show our gratitude to God in this way.

Abraham's altar expressed dependence upon God. It was used to offer sacrifices upon. Abraham believed in atonement. Too many folks today evidently have no confidence in our atonement. We read in Gen. 15:9, that Abraham's offering was designated by God, and was complied with by Abraham. We read in Genesis 22:1-13 the supreme sacrifice in the life of Abraham. He depended upon God to the extent that his only son of promise was about to be slain. Yet he never wavered. He knew he was nearer to God by his sacrifices. By our sacrifice, Christ on Calvary, we can some closer to God. In fact, Christ is the only way in which God can be approached (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). His atoning blood cleanses us (I John 1:7). Let us depend upon this atonement that was sacrificed on the altar of'the cross, just as. Abraham had confidence in his sacrifices.

Abraham's altar expressed his readiness to consecrate himself entirely to God. An altar that failed to express this would be mockery and blasphemy. To show consecration to God's cause does not require a great outward show of reverence. God is not flattered by such hypocritical acts. Such was the attitude of some Pharisees in Jesus' day (Matt. 6:1-7). He demands a spiritual service - one that shows inner, complete and absolute consecration and total commitment. Too many people want to "consecrate" themselves to God based upon conditions which they themselves institute. In order for our devotion to be acceptable, it must be unconditional and absolute.

Finally we see that Abraham's altar expressed his faith in the fulfillment of God's promises. Why would he sacrifice to God and worship Him if he had no confidence in God's ability to carry out His predictions? The Lord had promised to make of him a great nation. He had been promised a son in his old age. He had been the recipient of the land promise. Abraham was willing to leave the future part of these promises to God. The same Lord that made these great promises to Abraham, has made promises to us. He has promised a better land than that which Abraham's posterity received. We have the promise of eternal life (I John 2:25). Do we have Abraham's confidence in God that this promise will be carried out? If so, what are we doing to show our faith in that promise? Abraham did something. Do our actions indicate absolute faith that God is able to deliver as promised?

In this great man of God, we find a good example of what our worship ought to mean and what it should express. Friend, if your "altar" is broken down, build it up. If you are lacking one, construct one. All that is needed is obedience to God's will, and then "worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

--Bill Moseley, Truth Magazine, June 27, 1974



May 16-18

Bethlehem, PA

John Focht

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.  All I have to do is follow.


Clarence R. Johnson
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Those who worship God must worship in Spirit and in Truth

John 4:24