Are We Watching?

As members of the Church militant, it is our calling to prepare for the return of Jesus.  Scripture speaks to this in multiple ways.  Possibly the most well-known such passage is found in Matthew 25.  There, Christ gives the parable of the ten virgins.  Five of them were prepared, having oil ready for their lamps, while the other five had none.  The bridegroom “tarried” late into the night, and the virgins all slept.  When he did come, however, the virgins who had no oil were forced to go and buy some.  They arrived back too late and were not admitted into the wedding feast.  Jesus finishes the parable with a dire warning: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh” (vs. 13).  We must always have the oil ready – Christ’s return could be at any time.  It is noteworthy that the parable speaks of the coming of the bridegroom being at midnight and of the virgins sleeping as they wait.  The idea is that no one knows the exact time of his return, and the virgins must remain prepared even well after the sun has gone down.  Even though they were all sleeping, the wise virgins still had their oil at the ready.  Similarly, we are not called to simply forsake and neglect all aspects of our earthly life and focus only on preparation for the return of Christ.  God knows that we are still human, and that we have human needs while on earth.  At the same time, however, we are without excuse when we become wholly consumed by earthly life and neglect the upkeep of our lamps.

The fact that the parable takes place at night also plays well into another passage of Scripture dealing with our calling prior to the end times.  In Isaiah 21, we read of a night watchman and his work.  In verse 6, God’s command is that a watchman be set and that he “declare what he seeth.”  The report is given in the following verses.  Another important detail comes out of this as well – God calls out to the watchman in verse 11: “Watchman, what of the night?”  It is not as though God takes no care for the Church as it awaits the end of this world.  Rather, he watches us just as we watch for Him.  He knows when we neglect our labors and whether or not we are truly invested in our watching.

So, brother or sister, God’s question to you and to me this day is, “What of the night?”  Have we been keeping our eyes peeled, searching out the return of our Savior?  Do we have plenty of oil with us, or have we grown lax in the maintenance of our lamps?  If so, we need to analyze our priorities.  We are not to leave all the labors to which God calls us in everyday life, but we must ensure that we are fulfilling our calling to watch.  Indeed, the words of Christ ring true: “Watch therefore!”

 

Matt Koerner

Rooting Out the Weeds of Sin

At the beginning of this summer, my family and I decided to plant a garden. We started out with really good intentions, motivated to keep it watered, weeded, and fertilized in hopes of harvesting a healthy crop of produce.  That went well for a few weeks. At the beginning, my siblings and I would walk out to the garden with watering cans and manually water our thirsty plants. Every week, I would step into my boots, get down on my hands and knees, and carefully pick any semblance of a weed that could be rearing its ugly head near my plants, threatening to deprive them of sunlight and nutrients.

But that didn’t last very long. Eventually the excitement wore off. School started and life got busier. No one wanted to go out and pick weeds anymore. Soon small weeds began to sprout alongside our flowering plants. They grew bigger and bigger, feeding off the nutrients meant to nourish our plants. Eventually those small sprouts weren’t so small anymore. They grew into huge weeds towering above struggling plants, soaking up their sunlight and water, slowly choking them out.

After just a few weeks of neglect, the garden we started with such good intentions has become so overgrown that hardly anyone dares venture into it to pick what fruit there is to harvest. The weeds have taken over so much that the thought of bringing back the neat, tidy garden we started with is too daunting to even consider.

This story about my family’s garden teaches a lesson that can be applied to our spiritual lives. Our hearts are like that garden and those weeds are the sins that creep into our lives, seeking to choke out a healthy love for God, zeal for spiritual things, and desire to walk in a new godly life. So often we start out with great intentions, motivated to keep God’s law, fight our sins, and walk holily. But soon tiny little sins creep into our lives. They may not seem like a big deal at first, and we might initially stamp them out. But eventually we grow weary. Our motivation runs thin and we get caught up in the busyness of life and the pleasures of the world. We forget to fight those little sins, or we just don’t care enough anymore. Besides, they’re just little sprouts; they can’t do much harm. Until we turn around and find that those small sprouts have grown into massive flowering weeds. By then it’s too late – those weeds of sin are so deeply rooted in our hearts and lives that we don’t even know where to start to root them out.

This illustration should serve as a warning to me and to you about the pervasive nature and power of sin in our hearts and spiritual lives. If we do not remain vigilant weeding out those small sins that persistently make appearance in our lives, they will take root and grow exponentially until they are choking out the good fruit of sanctification in our lives. How much easier isn’t it to pluck out those small sprouts when they first appear than to pull up the deep roots of a full-grown flowering weed?

But if and when we do allow those weeds to take root, we must not despair, thinking there is no hope and all is lost. Christ has given us His Spirit, Who strengthens and renews us in our godly walk. Constantly we must be examining our hearts and lives for sins that may be taking root so we can weed them out. With the power of the Spirit, we can and do fight against those sins, plucking them up at the root and tilling our garden back into neat rows. The life of the child of God is a constant battle against our sinful flesh, but we are not alone. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).

Anna Langerak

Don’t Worry

“Are we there yet?” “Where are we?” “I want that now!” “What if?…..” “Don’t forget!….” We’ve all heard and asked these questions before, and usually get answers like, “Trust me.” “We get there when we get there.” “Stop worrying.” or simply, “no.” Why do we ask these questions? Because we want to know? Because we’re curious? Because we don’t trust? Because we worry? What is worry? What is trust?

Often times I find myself in a stage of life where I’m not sure who to turn to. Worry clouds my thought and judgment. I can’t think straight. I am driven by a single thought. “What if?” I find no comfort in friends, no comfort in family. My home feels like a prison and my life, hell. Worry is all around me like the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and I am Peter, sinking slowly.

Why didn’t Jesus save Peter then and there? Why did he even let him sink? He could have kept Peter walking solidly on water all the way out to Him, but instead He chose to let Peter see the tumult around him, to lose faith for a moment, and to sink. This is where I am right now. I am sinking. I am hopelessly drowning. I see the storm around me and I lose faith. I lose sight of my goal and my savior and focus on the world around me. But wait. Peter does not sink. The story is not over yet.

Peter cries out to Jesus to help him. This is very significant. Here he is, sinking in a massive storm, thinking that he is going to drown, and Jesus gives him a tiny bit of faith, enough faith to realize that he needs help. I need help. I must humble myself to understand that I indeed need help and I lift my hands to heaven, fall on my knees, and cry in a loud voice, “Father forgive me. Save me from this tumultuous storm. Lift me into your safe embrace. Keep me from falling.” Peter found faith, the faith that Jesus gave him, and cried for help.

And Jesus responds. The Savior reaches out his hand to rescue Peter and pulls him up out of the storm. He responds to Peter’s desperate cry for help, his small amount of faith. You see this is why we must never lose faith. Even the tiniest flicker of faith, the quietest prayer, the smallest plea for help, the Lord hears it and He will respond. Jesus denied Peter the ability to walk on water in order that he might save him. God does not say no in order to reject us, but to redirect us. He has everything in the palm of His hand, your life’s story, your falling and rising. He knows what is best, what you need the most, and He will always lead you to it. He will always respond to your cry of help. Put your full faith in Him, the creator of all. You will stumble and fall, but He will lift you up again. He will answer when you cry. He will lift you up.

Jared Vandyke